Social media marketing is a divisive strategy. Because it's relatively new and based on a technology that didn't previously exist, many business owners continue to believe that it's a fad, or that it's a waste of time. Other business owners believe they exist in an industry that can't possibly benefit from social media marketing. The remainder of business owners rest somewhere between "I'm sure it works for some people" and "I can't believe how much success I'm having."
So what defines "success" in social media marketing? That could be a topic for a completely separate post, but here I'll reduce it to three main goals, all of which lead to higher revenue:
- Getting more traffic to your website
- Improving your personal relationships with your customers
- Increasing your visibility to grow your audience (and brand recognition)
That being said, some businesses can certainly benefit from these items more than others. For example, a company with a strong, conversion-optimized website stands to benefit from increased traffic more than one with a "coming soon" landing page and nothing more. Personal relationships matter more for ongoing consulting relationships than they do with one-and-done product purchases. Accordingly, some industries are naturally better suited for social media marketing:
1. Real Estate. Real estate is an industry that depends on visibility and charisma, both of which are available in spades on social media. Most real estate agents get their business through references, and references are that much easier to make when your friends are only a button-click away. When considering different potential agents, the strength and personality of your profile can make a big difference, plus as your audience grows, you'll have an instant outlet for syndication of all your new listings.
2. Human Resources/Recruiting. If you're in the recruiting game, you know how hard it is to find the "perfect fit" for an open position, especially on a national scale. It's not enough to find a candidate with the right skillset--you need someone who's a culture fit, who's willing to leave their current position. Accordingly, you have to cast the widest net possible and showcase the best side of your personality--both of which become possible when you throw social media into the mix.
3. B2C Retail. Countless B2C retail brands have taken advantage of the mass marketing potential of social media. You'll be able to make good use of your brand evangelists, who will read everything you post and naturally attract more people to your brand, and start building brand recognition with total strangers, who might happen across an image of your product they otherwise would have been unacquainted with. Facebook and Twitter are almost custom-made for reaching large numbers of individuals at once, making them ideal for retail companies.
4. Technology. Tech companies also have major advantages on social media. First, the industry is "hot"--it changes quickly and people are especially interested in it, so they're naturally more attuned to what's going on in the tech world on social media. Second, you'll get the opportunity to show off everything that makes your technology special. Finally, you'll have an arm of support on your social media presence, helping people with useful tips or walking them through troubleshooting steps.
5. Legal. Law is another area where charisma and reputation count more than anything else. People want to work with someone they trust, and someone who knows what they're talking about. As an attorney, you can use social media as a platform to show off your knowledge, provide (limited) information to answer user questions, and establish your working personality.
Three Surprise-Hit Industries
Still, you'd be surprised how many traditional and counterintuitive industries end up performing well on social media. Here are three great examples:
1. Manufacturing. Manufacturing is not a "hot" industry--not many people care about it and it doesn't change very quickly, so most people write it off as a possibility. However, there are two distinct advantages manufacturers have today; first, there's almost no competition in the social media space, making it ripe for the picking. Second, social media has a national reach, putting you in contact with businesses you might never have thought to contact.
2. Science and Engineering. Science and engineering industries don't benefit much from "customer relationships" in the conventional sense, but they are "hot" industries (at least, relatively speaking). This gives scientists and engineers the ability to generate massive followings, which serve as almost a kind of resume for future partnerships and career opportunities.
3. B2B Consulting. Any B2B service immediately seems to be a bad fit for social media, since it's often seen as a mass-marketing platform. Don't underestimate social media's potential for building strong, individual relationships--and that's what you really need to attract new customers and keep your old ones happy in a B2B environment. Leverage the power of LinkedIn and Twitter especially to make new industry contacts and engage on a personal level.
Ultimately, social media marketing is more effective for some industries than others, but all industries can take advantage of it if they approach it with the right goals and the right strategies. And remember: unless you're building up a paid advertising campaign, social media platforms are almost universally free. You don't have much to lose by giving it a try. Establish a foundation with a good content strategy, focus on one of the three main goals I referenced above, and start building something.