Understanding social media

2nd of October 2015
Understanding social media
Understanding social media

Marketers often struggle with the best way in which to integrate their business with new technology and how best to stay front of mind. It feels as though there are new types of social media platforms appearing every week, but not all of these will be relevant to you, nor your customers. Christopher Nicholas at SumwotSocial offers some guidance.

Marketers often struggle with the best way in which to integrate their business with new technology and how best to stay front of mind.

There are now so many different technology platforms that can be used to communicate with your prospects and customers. It feels as though there are new types of social media platforms appearing every week, but not all of these will be relevant to you, nor your customers. No point fishing in a pond with no fish - however good your tactics - you will never catch that infamous fish!

Every successful business is following a plan. Having goals and objectives is essential to measure both your success and improvement areas. Social and digital marketing is no different and be assured, your plan or goals could be as simple as:

• ‘I’m going to drive more people to go to our website’

• ‘We will actively recruit more people to sign up for our monthly newsletter‘

• ‘We want to build our brand awareness through online channels’

These can then be broken down further into smaller bite size junks and can be applied to different strategies:

•  Driving traffic to your website - an email footer can be changed every week, to highlight and promote different parts of your website or various offers

• Targeting key audiences – you will have an awareness that certain decision makers and industry sectors are more likely to use a particular form of communication and digest that information through varying channels. Use your customer insight and knowledge of their preferred communications methods. For example, don’t suddenly feel pressure to start using Instagram because it the latest trend if you haven’t researched the usage by your current client base

• Building your brand awareness – the easiest way of building your brand online it to follow and implement what you do in the real world, in the virtual one! So if your mission statement is to add value to your customers in the real world, continue to apply that principle in the virtual sphere. Human beings are drawn to helpful and knowledgeable people.

Use social media… to listen

“Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens” – Jimi Hendrix

The internet can be put to work for you in very simple and cost effective ways:

•  Google Alerts https://www.google.co.uk/alerts

• Look at what competitors are doing with social media – check their Twitter, Facebook, Instagram accounts and try to own a real niche area in that online discussion

• Monitor and take a note of what your current clients are doing with digital and social media as well as your potential clients. They are likely to be at differing points in their decision making process and will therefore be digesting differing content that you’ll need to cater for within your marketing activities

• Look at what your favourite brands and companies are doing to stay in touch with their customers. It doesn’t even have to be related to your industry, but if you have real passion for interior design or angling for example, check out the way in which they staying in contact with their customers. There will be things that you can learn from and adapt for your industry

• Twitter lists https://support.twitter.com/articles/76460-using-twitter-lists

Reviews and feedback matter

Pre-internet we used to rely much more on our own network for advice – but like so much else this network has moved online. A traditional network might be your friends, colleagues and family. In the modern world, we are now very happy to listen to complete strangers for advice as well as this more traditional network. This offers us reassurance in our decision-making.

Trip Advisor is an excellent point in question. Think of how often we will consult this website for advice on booking holidays or dining out. It is very unlikely that we will ever meet the people who leave these reviews but we will often book a holiday or meal based on their words or rating.

It is also true that online reviews can make or break a business. Only now are people seeing the potential to really understand their business and the business of a competitor.

Want to know what your competitors are really good at? Look at their product and service reviews! Want to know what they are really bad at? Look at the reviews their patrons have left them.

Start with a search in Google or Twitter and you will often be amazed by the sheer volume of reviews or comments on products or services that you will find.

What is even more amazing is the number of businesses that don’t respond to the reviews left by their customers. But feel free to get involved in the online conversations! This applies to both good and bad reviews.

In ignoring this online debate in the real world, it would be the equivalent of going into a shop and the sales assistant turning their back on you! I’m sure we have all had a variation of this, perhaps not to the same extreme but it always has the same outcome - we end up having a lasting negative impression of that brand/company/individual.

There is a reason why the likes of John Lewis responds to all of the reviews placed on its website. It understands the power of what these reviews can do. An excellent book on this subject is  ‘Everyone’s A Critic: Winning Customers in a Review-Driven World,’ by Bill Tancer.

Use social media to ask questions

Leading on from the above, feel free to use social media to ask questions of your customers. It doesn’t need to be so dramatic nor direct as: “Why don’t you buy from me anymore?” It can be as subtle as gauging opinion on a subject related to your industry.

For example, to post such a question as: “With so much being written about personal protective equipment and the rise of counterfeit equipment, what do you think could be done?”

It can also be used in the development of future products or services, so questions could focus on ascertaining whether prospects prefer ‘Option X’ or ‘Product Y.’ You will be amazed at how much an engaged audience will help.

If you really want to know what your customers think, employ a specialist business to undertake a telemarketing fact-finding mission. Or you could use a service like Survey Monkey to create your own surveys. Surveys with 10 questions or less are free – these are then sent out to your customers using email or even by having a clickable link on your website.

Get involved with LinkedIn – but use it in an old fashioned business way. It’s not all about getting a new job (although it will help with this). As you will know, LinkedIn is one giant networking opportunity, although this is normally as far as people take it. They join LinkedIn, perhaps connect with a few people, perhaps join a few groups and leave it at that. These same people are normally heard saying, “I’m on LinkedIn but I don’t use it or get much out of it.”

Well, by spending as little as five minutes a day on this platform you will be begin to see results – but use it in an old fashioned, common sense way.

Some suggestions…

1. Before the Internet, if someone got a new job, you would perhaps congratulate them by phone or the next time you saw them. However I’m sure you have seen that LinkedIn tells you if someone changes their position and it even suggests you congratulate them!  Here is a bit of advice… when you get this notice, rather than congratulate them on their timeline, write to them directly and congratulate them in an email via LinkedIn.

Clearly, congratulate them, but also mention other things in the email, such as a suggestion to meet up. They will have lots of new things to tell you but being at a new company they are likely to want to make a good impression so your trusted expertise might be needed?

2. Comment on news stories through Pulse on LinkedIn. Pulse is LinkedIn’s rolling news service which allows other to comment on different news items. Only ever comment on an article if you feel you can add to the conversation without selling anything – that switches people right off!
After you have done this a few times, you will find your profile begins to get noticed more inside LinkedIn.

What does this mean? It means that if you are adding value you are increasingly seen as a trusted individual within the LinkedIn community and forging your position as a subject matter expert.

Another tip is comment on stories related to the industries you want to work for. So for example, you are in the cleaning sector but you work within the airline industry - you need to be commenting inside this arena and building credibility slowly but surely.

3. Keep people front of mind through using LinkedIn. If you happen to  spot an article on a website that you believe a client would find interesting use the https://www.linkedin.com/bookmarklet

This allows you to share with your connections, interesting articles that keep you as an individual front of mind. (It is the tab that sits on your web browser tool bar that allows you to share things without actually being on the LinkedIn website).

Don’t forget email

It seems old fashioned these days with so many people now using social media to communicate but really, don’t forget email.There is a reason that huge businesses spend millions of their budget on sending targeted email campaigns. The reason? They work.

For everyday use, make sure your email signature is fit for purpose. Having your name and contact details on there should go without saying but if you regularly use social networks, it could be prudent to include links to these as well. Make it clear what you want people to do, for example: “I’m also on Twitter, please follow me here @..” or “My LinkedIn profile can be found here”.

A website that allows you to build a great email signature for free is called http://www.wisestamp.com. It is quick to implement and makes your email signature look very professional.

When sending targeted emails, you are likely to use your dedicated database of clients that you have steadily built up through transactions or interactions.

In my experience buying an email list, however much that sales rep might say is ‘targeted’, is usually worthless. You know your customers and prospects.

In addition, many email software providers will not allow you to upload a bought database into their system. They will often ask the specific question to ascertain if you have bought this database. You could say ‘no’ – but beware! They have very clever systems that will be able to work out through the amount of unsubscribes, and number of people reporting you as a spammer. This will have a negative impact on your perception within your client base and result in lost opportunities.

One of the best tools to use is http://mailchimp.com. This allows you to create professional looking emails, quickly and simply. There are free options if you want to test something out first and also paid-for versions, which allow you more scope to send to big databases.

The major advantage of systems like Mail Chimp is you can measure exactly what is working and what isn’t. So for example, you can tell how many people opened your email, how many clicked through on your links, where people opened your email in the world, and also, what type of device they used, ie, a tablet, smartphone or a desktop computer.

From this information you can modify your next campaign based on what you have learnt. Continuous improvements will have positive impacts for you and your organisation.


There are no wrong and right answers to the use of social media and other forms of digital marketing. The only broad rules I would encourage you to follow are to treat social media channels the same as the real world and meeting and talking to people in the real world. Don’t go changing the tone of your message just because it is online rather than face to face. If you feel that you probably wouldn’t say something like that to someone’s face – then clearly you shouldn’t be saying it on Social Media.

There are so many great resources for finding out more about the subject and how it can be implemented with your business. I have listed a few below which I hope you find useful.



Christopher Nicholas: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/chrisanicholas


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