When companies tell me they aren’t using social media in their marketing efforts, I always tell them, “Social Media is not mutually exclusive to lifestyle brands.” Over the past several years, there has been a serious misunderstanding of social media and its uses across different industries and different audiences. Before I dive into B2B applications and recommendations for businesses in equipment finance, let’s set up some ground rules.
THE GROUND RULES
First, non-lifestyle brands (such as finance-oriented businesses) need to understand that social media can be and should be included in their marketing efforts. It’s easy for lifestyle brands to use social media because, over the past several years, they’ve been able to successfully share their narrative across a number of platforms. Non-lifestyle brands typically fail at using social media or disregard it completely because they’re looking at social media through the lens of a lifestyle brand.
A lifestyle brand like Apple or Nike can easily share content on social media that reinforces the connection between their products and their audience. A non-lifestyle brand, say a business in the equipment finance industry, may find it difficult to create or share content that accomplishes this same effect. It’s impossible to use social media successfully if you’re trying to accomplish lifestyle brand goals for a non-lifestyle brand.
Second, assigning a millennial to create and manage your content is a common marketing mistake. The most typical practice that I’ve seen is when a business finds the lowest ranking person in its organization, which is usually a millennial, and assigns them the responsibility of creating and managing content on behalf of the entire business. The second most common practice occurs when a marketing team whose entire mission is everything but social media, try to use social media. These two practices, in other words, are the most half-baked efforts we currently see today among the digital disruption.
Let’s compare this to other areas of your business. Imagine hiring or promoting employees based entirely on age and tenure instead of performance and qualification. Marketing teams within a business that have specialized for many years in legacy mediums like print, TV, outdoor advertising and email are not likely to pick up a dozen new mediums on social media overnight. These practices are formulas for failure. Simply put, businesses need to take social media more seriously. Non-lifestyle brands need to hire new talent to join their marketing team or work with creative agencies to successfully implement social media into their marketing strategy.
Third, non-lifestyle brands need to understand content versus context. How do content and context apply to social media? Content is the most effective way to market a product or service today. Provide value to customers by creating informative or educational videos about your industry, product, service, etc. Give the audience something they actually want. Rich content can build a strong relationship that then allows you to ask for the sale. The sales aspect is every bit as dependent on how well the audience knows you as it does how much they need your product or service. So share more content about who you are and what you can provide the audience.
On the other hand, content is predicated on context. The reason Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and other platforms can all co-exist is because they serve different functions for the same users. This means that the content you produce has to be in the context of those individually different platforms. Your audience’s behavior is different on LinkedIn than it is on their personal Facebook. So why would you post the exact same content without understanding the context of user behavior on those platforms? For example, a user will typically spend an average of 3.5 seconds consuming a piece of content on Instagram compared to an average of 15 to 30 seconds on Facebook. Are a few seconds significant enough to change the context? Absolutely! Facebook and Instagram would not co-exist if it wasn’t significant enough to change the context entirely.
So what does this mean? The content created to post on various platforms should contain the same message but should be constructed differently for each platform. Know the two sides of social media: content helps build a relationship, while context effectively delivers your message.
NON-LIFESTYLE BRANDS NEED TO ADAPT
So how do non-lifestyle brands in the equipment finance industry apply social media in their marketing efforts? What are the applications? The first step is to understand where your audience spends their time. Don’t waste your resources building content for places where your audience doesn’t exist. I’ve had businesses tell me that their audience isn’t on social media. That’s always the biggest indicator of how far removed they are from their audience when they make such a blanket statement. Your customers are somewhere on social media, maybe not professionally, but definitely personally. You just have to find out where.
Once you’ve found where they are, you’ll need to create native content. Find simple and creative ways to introduce your team, showcase your products and services and educate and inform them about your business and industry. After all, a sale is more likely to happen when a customer is well informed about not only the product or service but when they’re informed about you. As far as the conversions from a social media marketing effort, you’ll want to avoid playing the vanity game with numbers. In the current toxic environment, the number of followers or the size of the audience on social media allegedly defines the success of your business. But at the end of the day, sales conversions are the most important metrics. It’s better to have 500 followers and a conversion rate of 50% than to have 1000 followers and convert 10% of them.
Non-lifestyle brands should also avoid being ”salesy”. The most effective content is authentic content. You will want to focus on being informative and educational with your content.
And lastly, social media requires patience and a lot of it, especially if you keep your social media marketing efforts in-house. Be prepared to invest plenty of time and patience while your business builds a following on social media.
Social media can and should be used by non-lifestyle brands, especially in equipment finance, where no one is currently taking advantage of this marketing opportunity. My final note to businesses in the equipment finance industry is to not look at social media through the lens of a lifestyle brand, don’t half-bake your marketing efforts, know the roles of content and context, create native content, be authentic and most importantly, be patient.
And for anyone who says their audience isn’t on social media, just remember that there was a time when businesses refused to use email because they said their customers didn’t exist there. Whether we like it or not, the marketing landscape changes with or without you.