There still seems to be a lot of confusion around social media in general and whether businesses should be using the channel for marketing or networking purposes. Companies in the construction industry wonder what social media platforms and tools are the most effective, how to go about forming relationships, what conversations to engage in and how to measure campaign results.
Social media networking is the process of interacting with other individuals through a specific social media tool or community. Networking is crucial for increasing awareness and encouraging people to talk about you and your company whilst listening to what others say about you and your brand. Business leads can be generated from networking on professional sites such as LinkedIn where industry knowledge and expertise can be shared by engaging in group discussions. But is this type of exchange suitable for brands or rather for individuals (employees) representing the brand?
Business or brand profiles tend to be geared towards social media marketing rather than networking purposes. Sure, you want to engage in conversations and share interesting content with customers and prospects, but there is still some formality that remains because you are representing your business. Brands can use their social media profiles for brand building purposes and increase their company reputation by positioning themselves as experts within their field. Publishing relevant content in the form of blogs or articles builds up trust amongst industry professionals by showing them that you ‘know your stuff’.
Brands and businesses should set up company social media profiles but also encourage employees to do the same and act as brand advocates. Through employees, construction companies can make marketing more personal by speaking to industry peers on sites such as Twitter. Employees can use their social media accounts to network on behalf of the company and use this to drive people towards the company website/profile so that conversations can hopefully turn into business prospects. However, all interaction should have a strategy behind it so that every action is geared towards a set measurable objective or goal.
I think there should be a slightly different strategy for the main brand/company profile, focused on marketing activities such as brand building and reputation management, whilst employee profiles can be used for networking to build relationships and trust (through recommendations and testimonials) amongst industry peers who will then seek out the company profile when wanting to do business with you.
Whether you are using social media for networking or for marketing purposes make sure you set measurable goals, targets and objectives so that time spent on social networking sites is not wasted. Social media, like other forms of traditional marketing should involve strategy development. You wouldn’t create a print campaign without first establishing how it ties into your overall strategy and knowing what tactics to use to implement it. So why are you not using the same approach for social media?
I therefore pose the following question: Is social media networking more appropriate for individuals and social media marketing better suited for brands? And how can brands use their employees to do the networking for them? What do you think?