Think HBR

Is social media the answer to marketing on a low budget

social media
Steve Graham
Lake Macquarie City Council
Social media marketing has revolutionised the corporate world. It has changed the way in which businesses engage with their target markets to increase brand recognition, and customer loyalty, and has assisted governments to open doors to communities that were previously hard to reach. It has become an integral communication tool, not least it can reach people in their lounge room, office, or kids’ soccer game, but it is not the be-all-and-end-all solution to marketing and shouldn’t be treated as such.
It is often assumed that social media will solve all communication or marketing objectives of an organisation, especially for those with a limited budget. However, while 70% of Australians use some form of social media, 30% don’t. For this reason using social media as a core marketing strategy will fail to deliver. Yes, you can benefit from using social media, but its impact is greatest when it complements traditional forms of communication. To reach the most people as we possibly can Lake Macquarie City Council uses a combination of communication methods including media, advertising, direct marketing, events, and social media.
When utilising social media it’s also important to remember that this is not a popularity contest. With growth in social media numbers, comes growth in audience and community participation, and with that comes greater reach. In the past six months, Lake Macquarie City Council’s Facebook page ‘likes’ have increased by almost 50 per cent, and the expectation is that they will grow to more than 10,000 by June 2015. For a regional council, that is impressive, but achieving targeted growth is more important to us than rapid growth because it’s a more rusted-on following. 
Social media growth needs to occur within the markets that will, or might later, benefit from engaging with you. We engage on multiple platforms, use a personalised approach to posts, tailor content for audience segments and, when we can, we invest in paid boosts to our social media where we are likely to get a return on the investment. We also aim to offer several topics or services at a time, to ensure we don’t lose a particular audience by ‘bombing’ our platforms with one subject.
As is the case with traditional media, putting something up online doesn’t necessarily mean it will be read. Without planned communications, you will fail to make impact. The solution to balancing the benefits with the amount of effort needed to manage social media platforms comes down to knowing what you want to get out of it in the first place. Our strategy is to deliver information about our plans, projects, activities events and decisions as promptly as possible, to as many people as possible, to an audience that has chosen to interact with us on social media. In a nutshell, keep it relevant, don’t try too hard or not hard enough, know what you want to get out of social media, and tailor it to the widest possible audience not with generic posts, but with multiple topics in a reasonable amount of time.
For further information contact Steve Graham on 02 4921 0587 or email
Steve Graham Steve Graham
is Manager of Lake Macquarie City Council’s Customer Service and Communications Department. He has extensive experience in all forms of media and communications including time as Media Advisor to the Minister for Local Government and editor of Mt Druitt Standard, Mosman Daily and Hornsby Advocate.