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Is Social Media an Effective Marketing Tactic for Businesses in Kelowna?

Social Media is a hot marketing topic this year in Kelowna! The number of inquiries we get about using social media for marketing has quadrupled in 2011. We have seen some media coverage in the traditional press too (see Face to Face is a click away). In the past year, we've had a chance to leverage social media as a marketing tactic for a number of businesses in Kelowna have witnessed very positive results in general. This article digs into some stats about social media's effectiveness vs. other forms of online marketing. It's interesting to see how the different tactics stack up, as well as the shifts over the last year. In a recent survey by, small to medium businesses (SMB) in the U.S. were asked several questions about their online marketing efforts and their effectiveness.

Small Business Still Prefer "Traditional" Online Marketing Tactics

From the survey, SMBs are still more likely to say they found new customers by using websites (85.8%), over email (74.3%), and search marketing (74%). Web sites are considered a more "traditional" online marketing tactic and are well entrenched in the marketing programs of most companies whether a site operates as an online brochure, order system or supports the full sales cycle

Is Satisfaction in Online Marketing Decreasing?

Despite the rise in the use of online marketing, SMBs surveyed indicate that satisfaction with many of these channels is decreasing. Specifically, large decreases in satisfaction were seen in audio podcasts (-53%), webcasts/webinars (-44%), Twitter (-38%), Linked In (-36%), Banner/display ads (-34%) and Blog (-32%).

Are Internet Users Changing Their Behaviour?

While new online marketing programs by inexperienced marketers are going to be less effective, this doesn't account for such a huge decrease in so many of the online marketing tactics.  Instead these decreases suggest a change in behaviour by Internet users in obtaining information. This change in behaviour is both a reflection on the increased maturity of the average Internet user, the amount of time users are willing to spend looking for something, as well as the ever increasing use of mobile Internet devices.

  • Users are more aware of paid advertising including banner/display ads and search marketing (PPC);
  • Users are less tolerant of lengthy sales pitches such as podcasts and webinars however informative. Instead users are turning to quicker ways to obtain the information they need, often on a "just-in-time" basis.
  • Use of mobile Internet devices has increased to the point where users aren't looking for information until they actually arrive at their destination, often using tools like Gowalla and Foursquare which alert you to sales and deals near your current location.  This focus on location based marketing is also seen in the popularity of coupons like Groupon and Twongo, as well as the increased use of Google Places.

In fact, the survey statistics show that new channels made up for these decreases, including emailing offers, Google Places, Groupon and other coupon sites, mobile marketing, and location services like Foursquare. These are all new entries on the list for 2011 and yet they all have between a 25% and 50% effectiveness rate according to the SMBs surveyed.

A Key Advantage When Marketing Online: (Nearly) Everything Measurable!

Many of these new marketing tactics are more measurable than some of the earlier tactics. It is far easier to measure the number of Groupon coupons sold or Foursquare discount coupons used over the number of sales resulting from Blog and Podcast consumption. Similarly, savvy Kelowna businesses are taking more interesting email open rates, click-through rates to gauge newsletter performance.  Perhaps this is why small businesses are jumping on these new tactics in such large numbers. Popular email management tools like Constant Contact have great tracking and measure the number of email opens and internal link clicks on each email campaign. Website analytics software like Google Analytics enables business to see the number of visitors, clicks, time spent, and online purchases.

What does this mean for Kelowna businesses?

The move away from less measurable and out-of-vogue methods of communication towards new and often more measurable methods of communication will help businesses track the effectiveness of their online marketing efforts.  It's easier to justify spending $ on marketing when you can measure the results!

It's Free, right?

Since many of the new digital marketing channels like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and so on are seemingly cheap, small and medium sized businesses in Kelowna should certainly consider them.  Beware that "cheap" and "free" are not really good descriptions of these tools.  Your time is worth money! Here's a few pointers to get started...

  • Create clearly defined goals for your online marketing plan
  • Identify your audience (Hint: Use the marketing channels, tools, and websites that your customers are ALREADY using)
  • Understand that social media is a 2-way communications channel... it's a party line, not a megaphone
  • Do a batch process (eg. write a whole week's worth of content for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn on Monday morning and schedule the release using a tool like Hootsuite)
  • Measure the results (Who is clicking on your links in the updates? Do people ask more questions? Do they call for an appointment?  Do they walk in the door?)
  • Integrate social media efforts with things like blogs posts, email blasts, in-store contests, special events, radio, print, and video
  • Consider hiring a company if your time is better spent elsewhere!