Businesses: Get the word out, every way you can

Chris DeVargas

Kassi Belz, President of Mass Media Marketing, Monday July 7, 2014.

When children’s after-hours urgent-care clinic Good Night Pediatrics made its initial foray into Southern Nevada in 2010, the company turned to Henderson-based MassMedia Marketing, Advertising and PR to get the word out.

Working on a shoestring budget, the firm created a marketing plan that relied predominantly on Facebook and Twitter, MassMedia President Kassi Belz said.

“They did not have a huge marketing budget, but they knew they wanted to target mothers,” Belz said. “Because the clinic is open from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m., we strategically timed our posts during the evening, when parents with sick children may be looking for services offered by Good Night Pediatrics. By putting the news out there when it’s relevant, Good Night Pediatrics more than doubled its patient volume its first year of operation, just by using social media and a little outreach.”

As social media began to grow, Belz recognized that it wasn’t just a fad, but an interactive — and free — platform that allows businesses to connect with customers and potential customers. When the recession hit and companies were forced to cut marketing budgets, social media really took off as businesses added Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and LinkedIn profiles.

Today, as the economy continues to improve, social media remains just as essential for most companies.

Why businesses should use social media

• Timeliness: Media outreach used to mean sending a postcard and waiting a few days for snail-mail to deliver a message. Social media is immediate.

“It provides instant gratification and allows companies to touch their customers more often with quality contact,” said Neal Weisman, CEO of Las Vegas creative Internet marketing firm i2net.

• Targeted reach: Social media allows companies to reach specific markets, Belz said. Modern applications allow users to connect with pinpointed demographics, such as mothers who attend church, male millennials who play soccer or seniors who like to travel.

• Branding: Social media can boost a company’s brand, Weisman said. Videos, photos, testimonials and other types of content can help bolster a business’s corporate profile.

• Peer influence: Shares, likes and similar positive social media acknowledgments can boost a company’s recognizability and steer customers its way.

“Our peers — family, friends, co-workers, neighbors — have traditionally been our No. 1 influence when we make purchasing decisions,” Belz said. “For example, if you see a buddy’s cool vacation photos on his Facebook page, you might call that same resort and make a reservation.”

With blogs, chat rooms, review sites and other forums, “that peer group has expanded to people you may not even know,” she added.

• Hiring benefits: Not only will customers likely look at a company’s social media presence, potential employees will, too.

“Some of the major traffic coming to websites is through the employment pages,” Weisman said. “Particularly ... people in their teens and 20s are looking to see how good of a company you are based on your social branding, so you always want to present a consistent, comprehensive message. They are our new employee base, they are very media-savvy, and they are interviewing us as we are interviewing them.”

Do’s and Don’ts

• Do monitor regularly: Because sites such as Yelp, Angie’s List and Facebook allow customers to post feedback about the quality of services they received — be it from a restaurant, auto repair shop or accounting firm — consumers have become web-savvy and often consult online reviews before doing business with a company. Owners and staff who ignore negative reviews can lose business, sales and customers.

• Do humanize your brand: People like to connect with companies on a personal level and are more inclined to react to funny or interesting pictures, videos and testimonials, Belz said.

“If you utilize social media in a fun way, customers will share your posts and your reach will grow,” she said. “It’s not always just sell, sell, sell.”

• Do pay for Facebook advertising: Belz said companies absolutely should pay for advertising on Facebook. She cited a recent study by Simply Measured, a social media analytics platform, that compared engagement rates for Interbrand’s Top 10 Facebook pages, which shows a year-over-year decrease in Facebook page engagement rates, despite an increase in the number of posts.

• Don’t block employees: Belz said companies that block employee access to Facebook in the office may be alienating one of their biggest online fan groups.

“Your employees can be your biggest advocates,” she said.