Marketing as a concept was first introduced in US business where it was recognized as an essential function of business which has customer needs to its core. Thus customer demands were made the starting point of business and it was duly realized that marketing must be introduced at the beginning rather than at the end of production cycle. A decade or so later, saw mushrooming of marketing agencies in US markets. Now that in the twenty-first century, we are living in internet age, where we ‘live’ through social media, is there even an iota of doubt that firms need to mark their presence in the online world? Social media is a reality, businesses have to come terms with. There is no choice, but to embrace it with open arms. Most importantly, social media is not about the number of likes one gets on Facebook, or number of followers, its much more than this. Social media is a platform which enables interactions, conversations and discussions among people. This has been optimally harnessed by businesses to build brands, to build trust and relationships among stakeholders.
Another point of thought is why is social media the life which it is? The answer is simple, its an outlet of people’s emotions and feelings, people want to be heard, to be listened to and accepted for what they are. Social media thus becomes an inevitable part of marketing these days. Firms may not possess the necessary skill-set to be able to specialize in social media marketing. A large number of digital marketing agencies, digital marketing experts, social media consultants are available out their. Firms need to understand that digital marketing and social media marketing per se are best left to professionals and firms need to concentrate on areas they can do the best. But here are 3 steps which should compulsorily be undertaken before outsourcing digital marketing to agencies
Formulate social media policy- Just as every business has a mission and a vision document, it should also clearly state its priorities and guidelines in social media space. This is something contemporary; creating a mission and a vision statement has been a norm for quite a long time, but social media mission and vision statement is the necessity of the day. Social media policy is as important in today’s age as is any other policy and any negligence here is bound to have long term repercussions. This social media policy has to clearly percolate down at the lowest level of employees because even a security guard these days knows at the minimum how to use Facebook. The same thing extends to contractors and vendors of business. The policy should also be lucid in terms of what is strictly not permissible. A major share of the work gets done when an articulate social media policy is devised. Now assigning work to agencies becomes simpler as even agencies know the line of action.
Incorporate digital/social media strategy- The ultimate goal of social media marketing, whether it is attain new customers or build on existing ones has to be the starting point.Understanding online marketplace, its dynamics which are surely going to be in contrast to the traditional channels; customer behavior and attitudes and customer profiles is another factor which needs to be kept in mind. In the numerous social network platform out there in the market firms need to decide which ones to put their step on, not every platform is made for everybody, depending on the type of business B2B, B2C, type of clients-niche or masses, communication strategy adopted, firms should determine which platforms could be better harnessed. Looking at competitors strategy can be a guiding factor, but copying everything and being present on all those platforms where competitor has made a mark is a strict no. But that said, putting all eggs in one basket may also be risky. For example, for a B2B firm, LinkedIn is naturally more important than Facebook, but this does not mean that B2B firm is completely absent from Facebook, occasional updates and a business page should be given due importance. Now, for a firm who is a new entrant in online market, the firm should spend time in understanding the dynamics of this industry, learn about the various acronyms the digital marketing agencies would randomly use and at least have the basic knowledge of working of the industry without which the firm would not be in a position to measure the results achieved by any digital agency to whom the work is outsourced. Both short term plans which consist of contests, campaigns, pledges etc and long term plans which may extent upto an year ought to be consistently planned and any tendency towards ad-hoc actions should be strongly avoided. Appropriate funds has to allocated without which entire plan may just break-off.
Who is going to actually make it happen- Most organizations these days have a separate marketing departments, but these marketing departments is concerned with designing strategy, execution may or may not be their job. We have a range of specialized marketing agencies in the marketplace. Similarly, for digital space. Digital marketers, digital platform experts can be hired in-house or digital marketing may be outsourced. The decision depends upon scale of business, budget allotted to digital space, and most importantly digital media strategy. Before outsourcing, checking the testimonials and years of experience of agencies in the industry is mandatory. Don’t immediately enter into a long term contract with any agency, let them show some results, suggestively for consistent period and then make a final decision of a long term thing. Another way could be to make existing marketing personnel well versed with digital marketing with a dedicated training and workshops. What ultimately matters is leads, sales and profits for the firm.
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