I recently helped out with a college project – the aim was to look into Social Media marketing, particularly it’s use by one company based in Inverness. I had my best shot at answering the questions, and thought they might well be useful to others. Have a look below – I hope it’s helpful!

Can you briefly describe what it is you do in relation to social media marketing?

Search Engine Optimisation

I use social media marketing (SMM) to promote my own small business, which includes 5 separate websites and ongoing consultancy. I also advise on social media marketing methods to regular clients. Some examples include: 1. using a Facebook page to build a community around my Mountain Biking website and drive traffic to particular spots on that website.  2. Using Twitter to grow customers for my Podcast Hosting and Training service by monitoring for relevant questions and answering them quickly. 3. Increasing click-through-rates on articles on all websites by engaging with Google plus, building authorship rank and implementing that on each article published.

What is your perception on social media marketing?

It’s effective if done right, but doing it right is very difficult. The full process involves planning a strategy based on proper research into your target audience and their preferences. That’s asking REAL people too, rather than just going on what you assume they’re like. Then it involves sticking to that strategy religiously, and finally evaluating how effective it is. Without those two you’re mostly wasting your time. It’s very easy to spend a lot of time on SMM without knowing how well it’s working. The ‘getting it right’ bit is doing those evaluations, figuring out what small percentage of the whole really works for your context, and then doing lots and lots of that particular thing, while dumping all of the rest.

For example, in marketing my Podcasting service, I’ve found by far the most effective way to get customers is to monitor twitter for questions on podcasting, and try to be the first to answer them. Posting articles, asking questions, retweeting, etc, don’t do the trick in that context, but answering targetted Qs does, so that’s all I do for that profile.

In your opinion, what is the best social media platform for a small business and why?

It’s a cop-out answer, but it true: it depends entirely on the business. There’s definitely no one-size-fits-all. General trends would tend to be along the lines of: Facebook for really personal, creative, local businesses (community, images, discussion works well for them). Twitter for larger, worldwide, content/information based businesses (reach large audiences, get your content shared with more people very easily). PInterest for female oriented, creative and product based businesses (anything with good looking products aimed at ladies since that translates to great pictures that are shared a lot). And LinkedIN for consultancy/B2B focussed (that’s where business men hang out and search for new contacts…). That’s all very sterotyping though, and many will find a good combination of two or more that works well. Google Plus suits technology based businesses, but has the added advantage of SEO and authorship benefits, so is actualy useful for anyone creating content.

Do you think it is more beneficial to use several social media platforms rather than just one?

It can be, but only if you do your evaluation and make sure each one is effective and delivering a return on the time/financial investment you’re making. Some might argue (me included) that it’s better to choose one, concentrate on that and build your community there. It’s the community you build that has the effect in a lot of cases and it’s pretty hard to spend enough time doing that in more than one place.

In your opinion,  would you say Facebook is more about building a relationship with your consumer as opposed to turning the ‘likes’ into pound signs?

Yes! I’ve found that Facebook actually converts pretty badly – ie. the people who ‘like’ you don’t necessarily buy from you very often. But, that community WILL build a relationship with you, share your content, talk about you with friends, etc, and that’s how you grow instead. Of course, that’s just one or two contexts I’ve tried that with – no doubt there are some companies who are selling very well via Facebook, but I think, if they are, it’s in a subtle way. I don’t think people want to be sold to on Facebook, but if they like you through the great content and community you provide, they might well choose to buy anyway.

There are thousands of businesses using Facebook now.  Can you suggest anything that may make a business stand out?

Personality and value! There are a LOT of companies just creating pretty generic pages, posting their own content and assuming folk will ‘Like’ that. But I think the successful ones are being really genuine on there – there can be a real person’s face there, alongside the content, someone to identify with, and they inject that personality into everything rather than being corporate. Or if it’s not one person, it’s a brand personality – Innocent smoothies are a great example. They don’t have a person representing them, but the brand has a huge personality through the way they write and the graphics they use. And the value thing comes in through the things you share on facebook – so, don’t just promote your own stuff. Offer great stuff, like videos people would love, content from other sources that they’ll find really valuable, free giveaways that don’t cost anything, special editions for facebook community members only. Make them feel valued and a real part of the community.

The business I am researching doesn’t run a website.  Its only internet marketing is through its Facebook page.  Do you think it’s vital to have an online presence through both a website and social media?

Yes, definitely. Facebook’s all well and good as a support mechanism, but having that as your only home on the web is akin to building a real shop on someone else’s land. They can decide to knock it down at any time, change the rules so you have to pay a fortune to stay there or start putting other people’s adverts at your front door. Businesses should use Facebook to build a community that is then encouraged to go and visit the real website which actually houses the content, the products, the resources, etc. At a basic level, you need to own your resources – and you don’t own your Facebook page, Facebook does.  Start building your own space as soon as humanly possible – just get a domain and a 1 page landing page if that’s all there is time and money for. Direct people there for whatever purpose you want, whether it’s a mailing list, a contact form, etc. At least then people start to recognise that as your resource, so they can find you if Facebook changes the rules.


Colin Gray is a web designer, internet marketer, small business development advisor, elearning lecturer and current PhD student. Find out more about Colin Gray, or contact him on Google+