As consumers increasingly base their buying decisions on Google and other online searches, businesses of all sizes without a social media presence could suffer, warn some publicity professionals.
“We live in a world that’s oriented to social media,” said Stacey Bender, CEO and founder of Bender Group, a boutique public relations firm based in Montclair. “Your competitors are in the game, so you need to be, regardless of your business size or type. If someone’s thinking about buying your goods or services, the first thing they’ll do is Google you to see what you’re about and find out what’s been written about you, and they’ll check out your website and social channels.”
The major channels of social media include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and of course, a traditional website. “You can also repurpose your traditional media coverage on social media,” she said. “The goal is to stand out online and make the experience an interactive one, so you can get closer to your consumers.”
Bender helped Abeles & Heymann, a Hillside kosher deli meat and hot dog manufacturer to do that. “We worked with A&H to set up alliances with nonprofit and disaster-relief organizations,” she said. “For example, after Houston was battered by Hurricane Harvey this summer, we established a program that let consumers purchase a salami to donate to Houston; and the company matched the donations with salami from its own inventories and took care of all the shipping,” Bender said.
A&H also recently staged a social media campaign for “the best-dressed hot dog.” It encouraged people to enter an online drawing for a chance to compete in a hot dog trimming contest at Kosherfest, a kosher food trade show at the Meadowlands that was held the weekend of November 14.
“All of these online activities create a point of difference that helps the company to stand out,” said Bender. “They help to drive people to the website and share stories about the business. The nonprofit and disaster relief activities also help to promote the company’s image as a caring organization,” she said.
Bender advises companies to develop a strategy before launching a social media campaign. “You need a PR, social and digital marketing strategy in place. Develop your message, and determine what you want to accomplish, and who you’re trying to reach,” she said.
Bender also advises that programs should be designed to be compatible with financial and human resources. “Choose a few initiatives and do them well before you expand. So maybe start with Facebook and Instagram, then add Twitter and Pinterest later,” she said. “And keep focusing on your activity and analyze your results, so you can make adjustments as needed.”
Even traditional companies may benefit from a social media presence, according to John Cashman, president of Princeton-based Digital Firefly Marketing. When Parsippany-based All Jersey Moving and Storage asked Digital Firefly to set it up with social media, he started by using Facebook advertising to “target people with a life event—like a wedding or graduation—who are likely to move.”
Facebook’s ad manager program lets businesses target their paid ads by characteristics such as location, age, occupation, gender and what they like. “So if someone ‘liked’ the real estate site Zillow, it signals they’re looking for a new residence, and will likely be looking for a mover,” Cashman said. “We purchased Facebook ads for All Jersey Moving and Storage and targeted people likely to move within 25 miles of the company.”
Cashman said his company of 17 employees also helped the client create online posts, including “need to know moving tips” and other blogs designed to engage customers.
“Let’s say you’ve got a plumbing company,” Cashman said. “And on your social media you repeatedly say, ‘Joe’s Plumbing Company is awesome.’ That won’t attract many people, as it’s overly ‘salesy.’ But what if you post a list of plumbing tips on your site, like how to prepare for cold winter weather. It might not bring in new business immediately, but it is content people find useful and will consume, share and link to, and could move you up in search engine rankings. Also based on your expertise people are more likely to think of you when they do need a plumber,” he said.
Once people are on the site, they can be sent follow-up posts, coupons and other communications designed to keep the relationship going, he said. “A bonus is that with more audience on your website, your exposure can lead to higher ranks in a Google search, which is incredibly important, since 50 percent of the clicks of an interested consumer go to the top spot on a Google search, and 90 percent of searches go to the top 10 search returns,” Cashman said.
He and his cohorts offer keyword research services that can identify phrases and individual words likely to show up on a customer search. They’ll also integrate the keywords across a client’s website, reinforcing the site’s chances of getting picked up.
“We also provide weekly analytics data to monitor new traffic, leads, clicks and conversions to assess progress and further refine search engine optimization strategy,” he said. Good SEO requires regular maintenance. For example, users change their search behaviors and search engines periodically adjust their algorithms. “In a bid to give users the freshest, most relevant content, search engines also note how often your website receives updates,” Cashman said. “So if you want to rise to the top of the search results and stay there, you need to take a responsive approach to SEO as part of your overall digital campaign. It’s one more piece in the digital puzzle.”