When it Comes to Social Media Marketing…

Toronto marketing firm a5MEDIA founder, Yusuf Gad, says most businesses will take at least six months to a year before they begin seeing the effects of online marketing and social media use translate into a sales uptick. And, although it has become an important niche in the marketing world, Gad says social media is only equally as effective — if not less so — than traditional advertising.

“People assume online marketing is a panacea for marketing solutions and it isn’t, it’s simply another tool in your arsenal,” he says, suggesting small business owners look into radio spots and outdoor signage to supplement an online presence.

It’s not as easy as it looks 

Gad says the number one mistake most entrepreneurs make is thinking they can run a social media campaign themselves.

“Managing social media has the illusion of simplicity, when it’s actually very complicated and time consuming,” he says, advising owners outsource to specialized social media consultants, or — if financially viable — a marketing firm. “It can bury an entrepreneur and detract from actually growing their business and driving sales.”

Jack Shapiro, President and CEO of The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada, learned this firsthand after a number of failed in-house marketing attempts.

“We found it tough to find someone who was well-rounded enough to handle all of the online platforms we had,” says Shapiro. “We made many mistakes before deciding an external company with many experts would be better value for our money.”

Shapiro’s marketing firm conducted in-depth research before rebranding the company’s message, rebuilding the website and implementing a social media campaign to reflect those changes.

“Looking at our old website, it seemed like we were trying to sell people something, which is not what you want when you’re running a healthcare-type business,” he says. By changing their message and implementing a social media strategy based on practical advice and user engagement, Shapiro’s business grew from near anonymity to more than 1500 followers on Twitter and 1000 likes on Facebook.

Still, Gad says, successful marketing involves much more than online popularity.

“There is no magic solution, but marketing begins with the fundamentals,” he says. “Understand your market, develop your brand and message, and ensure your website and sales materials reflect that message.”

Check out more: Social Media Is Big