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Marketing with Facebook and Twitter

How not to use social media
(Reprinted from The Standard)

Facebook and Twitter are everywhere you look. If they are not already part of your agency marketing plan, they should be. But don?t make the mistake that most agencies make and treat them as just another way to advertise.
Facebook and Twitter, along with Linked-In, MySpace, Flickr, Ning and others, are collectively known as social media websites. Unlike traditional media that focuses on presenting content to the user, social media focuses on creating an environment where users can connect and provide content for each other.
Why should you care about social media?

In the past five years, social media companies have risen from nothing and have created a completely new dimension to the way that people communicate.

There are over 500 million active users posting on Facebook and there are about 65 million tweets sent per day (750 tweets per second) on Twitter.

The growth of Facebook in particular is unprecedented. In 2008, at age 23, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg became the youngest person on the Forbes list of World Billionaires and was recently the subject of a major motion picture.

Clearly, there is something big going on here that you can?t afford to ignore.
How is social media different from traditional media?

Think of Facebook as similar to the
local soccer field on a Saturday morning. On the surface, parents are just bringing their children to practice and play, but there is also an enormous social component to the experience as well.

Looking around the field you?ll see old friends or acquaintances, some you will know intimately, some only by sight, and some only by name or reputation. There are also people that are completely unknown to you, but you have a common bond in the soccer field experience. It?s easy to strike up a casual conversation with these strangers and you?ll probably discover that you share additional connections through a common friend, team, school, neighborhood, etc.
People find this social experience interesting and useful. Through casual communication, there is sharing of information, news, and gossip. It?s common to exchange requests and recommendations for things like restaurants, home repair contractors, orthodontists, and even insurance agents. Because you have a common connection, there is a high degree of trust in the information. This exchange of trusted information is the basis for creating new relationships and strengthening existing ones.
What are the benefits of marketing with social media?

First of all, it?s free. Sure, you can pay for advertisements on these sites and get placement in front of potential customers that match very specific demographic data that you have chosen. But, most of the real power of these sites is in the functionality that you get at no cost.

In addition, your message is more likely to get heard. Social media is built on the concept of friendships and connections. Like the soccer field example above, people that you reach via social media are connected to you in some way. Everyone you communicate with is a friend or a friend of a friend. Your message is not just broadcasted to anyone within earshot. Instead, your message is ?friend-casted? only to people that you are connected with. People give more weight and attention to information they get from a friend.

Also, if your message is interesting and useful, it is much more likely to ?go viral? via social media. The term ?going viral? is used to describe electronic information that, like a virus, reproduces exponentially when all of your friends forwarding to all of their friends and so on. By ?going viral? you can reach the numbers of people you reach broadcasting, but your message gets more attention and will have significantly more impact because it came from a friend.

Finally, social media is an easy way to keep track of distant connections and not lose touch with people you may not otherwise communicate with on a regular basis. Insurance is about trust and relationships. Building relationships is the foundation of your business. Social media can let you build and maintain more relationships more efficiently.

How not to use social media
Much has been written in the past year or so about using social media for marketing your business and hopefully by now you realize its potential impact. If you are not already marketing with social media, you probably should be. But, if you are already marketing with social media, chances are you are doing it wrong.
One mistake I?ve seen is caused by the casual nature of the medium. People forget the wide reach of their actions and post embarrassing photos or make off-color, insulting, or polarizing comments. You should certainly express yourself and your personality and treat your on-line presence as an extension of your physical presence. But remember that social media is public by nature and you should compose yourself accordingly.

By far the biggest mistake I?ve seen using social media is illustrated by how the following two agents approach Facebook in different ways. Agent number one has frequent posts like:

  • Free insurance quotes
  • We can save you money on your insurance
  • Let us quote your insurance
  • Combine your policies with us and save
  • We represent lots of companies

Agent number two has occasional posts like:

  • A new texting while driving law has gone into effect
  • Good turnout at the charity fundraiser ? here are some pictures
  • Mortgage rates are near all time lows, maybe it is time to refinance
  • Homecoming day parade is this Saturday
  • Interesting article on what cars are safest ? check out this link

The first agent is trying to use social media to broadcast his message. He is treating social media just like traditional advertising. Imagine him up at the soccer field on Saturday morning talking like this to his friends. In the real world, just like the on-line world, he will quickly be ?un-friended?.

The second agent gets it. He is sending potentially useful or entertaining information that increases the value of having him as a friend. Because of the relationships he is creating, people will be more likely to trust him and seek out his services.
Social media is not the place to do a ?hard sell?. Unlike traditional marketing through print/radio/TV ads, direct mailing, sponsorships, etc., social media is about building relationships. Your post must add value, enlighten or simply entertain.

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