In my previous post on “understanding The Social Media Channels”, I introduced the concept of social media, and detailed some of the major social media channels and platforms. This post addresses how to use these spaces strategically. While the channels and platforms available may change, the foundations of a successful social media strategy won’t. By planning and thinking strategically, while leaving room to be flexible and dynamic, you’ll be able to make the most of what social networking has to offer.
Social media channels are communication channels that can be used to solve business, marketing and communication challenges. As more time is spent by consumers online, and that time is increasingly dominated by social media usage, organisations need to incorporate social media into their marketing strategies.
According to report from Social Media Examiner, about 40% of the world’s population or nearly 3 billion people, are active on social media networks in 2019. Marketing via these networks is naturally critical for any organization selling products or services, either locally, regionally, nationally, or across the globe.
Unlike traditional platforms like television or radio, social media does not offer a one-size-fits-all solution but instead operates depending on the objective. The number of marketing strategies are as plentiful as the number of social media networks themselves — Choosing one requires a deep understanding of your target audience in order to drive value and create the strongest impact with your messaging.
Successful social media marketing is achieved when organizations create clear goals, understand what their audience wants, produce relevant and compelling content, choose the right social media platforms that suit their product or service, enable all their channels to share to social, and commit to making every marketing campaign one that is driven by social.
The questions here are: Are you ready to connect with a wider audience? Want to know the best ways to leverage social media for your small business?
If you haven’t used social media to market your products and services, you’re going to love how easy it is to get started.
In this article, I’ll show you why you should take advantage of social media for your business and understand the various social media marketing campaigns. You’ll identify the various social platforms to run your marketing activities and how they can serve you. I’ll show you the steps you can take to make social media marketing work for you and finally how to get started with your social media marketing activities.
Why Social Media? The Benefits of Social Media Marketing For Businesses
As a startup or small business owner, you know there’s a lot to accomplish with limited resources. Traditional marketing can be a drain on your funds. Social media marketing, on the other hand, is pretty low-cost and gives you a direct line to current and prospective customers.
Figure: Engaging with prospects via social media
It’s a trade-off though. What you save in dollars you’ll invest in time. You have to be smart and efficient with the resources you have to achieve the results you need.
For businesses, social media presents vast opportunities to promote their product or service. Just as popular social media sites allow users to connect with friends and family in faraway places, they also are powerful ways for marketers to create two-way conversations with potential customers.
Creating a social media strategy requires careful planning, and a strong foundation that will allow
you to be dynamic. Users now expect to interact with brands, which means that marketers have incredible opportunities to create ways to drive demand and expand the reach of what they are selling.
Social media can be used strategically in a number of marketing and communication challenges:
- Communication and outreach
- Community management
- Support and customer service
- Reputation management
- Advertising and awareness
- Sales and lead generation
- Search engine optimisation
- Insights and research
1. Communication and Outreach
Unlike other options, social media offers brands an effective two-way communication and real-time broadcast channel. This bi-directional communication is what makes social communities so exciting (and challenging). Just as consumers can communicate with each other, and send messages to businesses and brands, so businesses and brands can use this medium to communicate with and reach out to the public. Increasingly, social media is becoming a highly effective public communications tool.
Businesses, governments and other organisations use Twitter and Facebook to broadcast timely messages, allowing interested parties to keep informed in realtime. This is fast becoming a vital aspect of newsworthy and breaking news events such as elections, disasters and global sports. Many organisations also use social media tools to broadcast service updates. (Referencing: eMarketing: The essential guide to marketing in a digital world)
2. Community Management
Social media platforms are built around communities, and are sometimes virtual representations of real-world networks and communities. This feature of social media can be used to build and maintain a community around, or supported by, your organisation.
‘Community manager’ is a role that has risen to prominence as more organisations start using social media, but it has always been an important role in any community – from groups that thrive on forums to communities run on platforms such as Facebook.
Creating, building and nurturing a community means that organisations don’t just participate in conversations that are happening around and about them, but also actively lead and guide those conversations. These communities are generally made up of the organisation’s biggest fans: brand evangelists who feel as if they have a big stake in that organisation. This creates an environment where those fans can interact directly with the organisation, and where the organisation can send messages directly to those fans and solicit their feedback.
Building and maintaining a community is a long-term project. It starts with determining what the best platform is for that community: something that already exists (such as Facebook), or a brand new platform specifically created for it (either from scratch or using a service such as Ning).
3. Support and Customer Service
Social media is becoming an additional customer service channel. As consumers are increasingly comfortable transacting online, there is an expectation that the businesses with which they transact will also respond to customer queries in the social space, as they would do through a call centre or email.
Some customers have found that problems or questions on social media tend to be resolved more quickly, as brands are wary of having unresolved issues left out in public. For any organisation that runs a social community, customer service is often one of the channel’s primary functions.
Figure . MWEB responding to customer queries on Twitter.
Interestingly, customer service in social media channels starts to become collaborative, with customers assisting each other and, in doing so, reducing the reliance on the organisation for support. Collaborative support tools such as Get Satisfaction are used to great effect. According to Get Satisfaction’s website, over 70 000 communities use their service, including Microsoft and Intuit’s Mint (Get Satisfaction, 2013). Even businesses that use social media channels such as Facebook for customer support can see other community members helping each other.
4. Reputation Management
The need for online reputation management and monitoring is growing, and brands are now realising this. Through the combination of search and social media, all mentions of a brand or individual are only a quick search away, whether they are positive or negative. Social media are in one of the spaces where a brand or individual can easily respond to mentions, create a stir, or find ways to further their own agenda.
Brands can use social media in two ways to manage their online reputations – first, by monitoring what customers and fans are saying to identify issues proactively; and second, as a means of communicating and getting their side of the story out.
5. Advertising and Awareness
Where there is an audience, there is advertising. The more time people spend in social media, the more brands want to advertise there. It’s not just the time people spend on social networks that make them appealing to advertisers – it’s also the rich demographic and psychographic targeting opportunities. Adverts can be targeted based on the profile information that individuals provide, either overtly or through their actions on the social network.
Most social networks offer advertising options that are accessible to both the small advertiser as well as the big spender. This is a dynamic space, as the networks experiment with different formats and models. The advertising opportunities for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn are covered in full in my Online Advertising post.
6. Sales and Lead Generation
Adding a social layer to a commercial transaction can create a richer experience for online consumers. These can be based overtly on social connections, or on inferred connections based on behaviour. Levi’s Friends Store is an example of the former. Visiting the website while signed in to Facebook allows you to see which of your friends like which styles. Levi’s can then present this information with data that includes your friends’ upcoming birthdays. This is useful feedback for you, as you can see which styles are more popular among your friends, as well as users in general. This provides insight for Levi’s on which styles are more popular than others.
An excellent example of the layer based on inferred connections is Amazon’s collaborative filtering. If you’ve browsed on Amazon.com, you will no doubt have seen product information such as “People who bought this also bought that”. In real time, based on consumer purchase behaviour, Amazon presents products that you are likely to have an interest in, based on people who browsed and purchased products that you like. Although you may not realise it, this is a social layer on the online shopping experience. (Referencing: eMarketing: The essential guide to marketing in a digital world)
Social communities can also be lead generation or sales generation assets. Within Facebook, for example, applications on brand pages can allow eCommerce transactions or lead generation within the Facebook environment.
7. Search engine optimisation (SEO)
Social media plays an important role in SEO. It provides additional assets that can be optimised so that a brand ‘owns’ the results page for searches for their brand. A savvy SEO strategy will also make use of social media assets, links and likes for strengthening the position of other web assets in the search engine results pages.
Figure. Branded social media platforms appearing in Google search results.
With a little bit of planning and keyword research, a brand can use social assets effectively to own searches on their brand name. This ties back neatly to managing their online reputation, too.
8. Insight and Research
Social media can be a very powerful insight and research asset, but the information needs to be judged in its proper context. When you are planning a campaign, social media can provide a rich source of data, both demographic and preference based.
You can use the information people share freely to understand more about your market, brand or product. ORM tools help you to track mentions and sentiment, giving you insight into how you are perceived. Using social network ad planners, such as Facebook or YouTube’s offerings, can give you rich information about the size of your market, and things that they like. You can measure sentiment and the changing number of mentions to help you understand the impact of other campaigns. These can be offline or online campaigns.
Building your online community also gives you a group you can reach out to for information and feedback, creating an always-on online focus group. However, bear in mind that they are inherently biased just by the fact that they would join your social community.
Doing a Twitter search of branded keywords can reveal what users are saying about your brand. You could also use communities such as Flickr to see what people are sharing about their lives, without even realising. Head over to flickr and search for ‘in my fridge’ for a snapshot of this in action.
This social data can be very valuable, but must be treated correctly. It is qualitative and quantitative information, and is in many ways secondary research. For research purposes, it can and should be used to help form research questions for further evaluation.
Let’s Simply Put That Through Social Media, Marketers can:
- Engage their audience: Engagement is a great way to establish trust with customers and build a relationship that can develop over time.
- Foster brand loyalty: Engagement leads to loyalty with the brand. Users can get to know the brand more intimately through news updates, informational and entertaining videos.
- Integrate with other channels: Because social media integrates so well with other channels, it gives marketers the ability to boost campaigns in ways that were not possible in the past.
- Control the message: When crisis strikes, marketers can serve as their own newsroom by publishing releases that control their side of any story.
- Create new leads: Marketers can raise awareness and generate traffic among general users, and some of that buzz can develop into tangible leads.
- Close More Deals: Creating brand awareness can lead prospects to get interested in business offer’s, with great relationship nurturing, there may exist instant sales and these prospects continuously get converted to clients.
Organic Versus Paid Social Media Marketing
There are two types of social media marketing: organic social and paid social. The difference between the two primarily has to do with budget.
1. Organic Social Media Marketing
Organic social is when users take advantage of the free elements of social media, such as post sharing on Facebook or two-way conversations with users on Twitter. This may be perfect for independent businesses looking to stretch their marketing dollars.
- In this scenario, businesses can build their social community and then direct them to websites for further engagement.
2. Paid Social Media Marketing
Paid social involves sponsored, or paid, advertising content delivered on social networks in the form of images, videos, and carousel ads. Depending on the platform, ads can be targeted to users based on location, buying habits, or personal interests.
- Unlike organic, paid social directly puts your content in front of users who will most likely show interest.
Types of Social Media Marketing Campaigns
Marketers have different options when it comes to planning campaigns on social media. The one they choose should depend on the desired outcome. The best campaigns support and reinforce those on other channels so the conversations marketers start with consumers is sustained over time. The main campaigns that do that best are:
1. The Prospecting Campaign
Prospecting is all about reaching entirely new customers who, in the past, have not interacted with your product or service. These campaigns are driven by outreach through content that makes users pause to learn more. The ideal outcome at this stage is not a purchase, but simply to have these new prospects join your community.
Here are some tips to help drive your prospecting campaign:
- Research to Identify Prospects: Create a list of keywords that will appeal to this target audience and embed them as hashtags within your post. Search pages and create a list of potential prospects and observe their social media behavior to determine how best to approach them.
- Be Relevant: Don’t approach prospects with a hard pitch. Create content, such as blog posts or videos, that may be relevant to them that will invite them toward you. Open conversations that they will feel comfortable interacting with.
- Show Interest in Prospects: Observe their posts and respond in kind with content that they might find useful. This way you’re presenting yourself as a solution provider opposed to someone who just wants a quick sale.
- Be Consistent: Establish a voice that remains the same. Make it authentic, sincere, but always make sure that you’re always providing value and not just trying to chit-chat or waste their time.
- Be Responsive: Once you establish contact, don’t disappear. They may have a question or a comment on what you shared with them. Be aware that they are talking with you and respond with timeliness so they have the satisfaction of being heard.
2. The Retargeting Campaign
At this stage, a prospecting campaign can turn into one that retargets users who you’ve engaged with but who neglected to take further action. Retargeting is about identifying users who showed interest in your product or service on social media and gently circling back to them to see if you can engage them in a way that gets them to engage on a deeper level.
In general, the users you want to target are those who have:
- Visited your site sometime in the past.
- Clicked on links from previous postings.
- Started or responded to conversations on your social media page.
- Added an item to the shopping cart on your website but never checked out.
- Became a fan of your social media page.
- Subscribed to your marketing emails.
The way to structure your website for retargeting is:
- Place a small piece of code, commonly referred to as a pixel, on your website.
- Each visit the code will drop a cookie into their browser.
- Now when your visitors browse online, they will see your retargeted ads.
- They will then be redirected to your site.
3. The Conversion Campaign
The conversion campaign is focused solely on converting users into either paying customers or getting them to take action in other ways such as:
- Downloading a white paper, presentation, or case study.
- Joining an email list.
- Completing a form or a survey.
- Engaging in an online chat with a customer representative.
These conversions are valuable, not just because it shows deeper engagement but because users are providing valuable information such as email addresses and more. That data will help refine your online targeting, but it will also give you more opportunities to craft your social media outreach through conversations designed to build trust, familiarity with the product and service, and ultimately moving them further down the sales funnel to purchasing.
Creating Your Social Media Marketing Strategy
It is important to create a strategy before jumping into the practical details of engaging prospects on social media. This involves taking the time to understand your audience and what they care about. That way you can:
- Determine what kind of content will work, whether it’s video, graphics, images, or text.
- Establish the tone, style, and even the repetition of the content.
- Figure out what topics will resonate with your audience. You may know your audience likes video but you might not know what kinds of videos will keep them engaged.
- Understand how they consume content. Do they like deep dives into long white papers or just quick-hits? Demographic information will help you focus on the types of content that will lead to the best results.
Once you build a persona of your audience, spend time figuring out what you ultimately want from them. Other questions to ask:
- What is your ultimate goal for them in your campaign?
- What is the definition of conversion for this campaign? Is it brand awareness, a purchase, or development of brand advocates?
- How do you want to continue engagement with your followers during the campaign and when it’s over?
Picking a Social Media Platform
The next step for marketers is to pick which social media platforms work well for their target audience. The first step is creating a user profile, but because most of the leading platforms, particularly Facebook and Instagram, are designed for both individual users and businesses, it’s important to determine which one is right for you.
The pros of having a business profile are obvious: They’re a great way to find new connections, customers, and partners. Members of your community are a targeted, highly-receptive audience.
Your business profile gives you access to analytics, a tool that allows you to refine messaging to target audiences.
Harnessing your business profile to analytics via Facebook or Instagram gives you the ability to:
- Glean insights to your audience such as buyer behavior, and demographics.
- Leverage those insights to optimize your content so the right content is seen by the right audience at the right time.
- Read reports that deliver information about every ad, event, and other collateral you post that together leads to a more targeted strategy.
- Create cross-channel funnels to figure out the best conversion rates.
- Determine the specific return on investment of your total marketing spend via social media.
There are fewer cons to have a business profile: Managing a business page can be time consuming and your business page is automatically subject to the platform’s ad policy, which means your ads may or may not be approved under it.
Facebook is the dominant social media platform in the world and is the third most visited site online behind Google and YouTube. Businesses have the ability to market to 2 billion people on Facebook every month.
Figure: Facebook as a Marketing Tool
Facebook allows businesses to target audiences through self-serve tools like Facebook Analytics that gives them reports that track the performance of each ad. The reach and visibility can help level the playing field for independent businesses that want to compete with companies with much larger budgets.
Among the tools that Facebook offers marketers:
The Facebook Group feature helps you demonstrate your company’s expertise in a topic and connects like-minded people to share ideas and insights. Here, brands can drive conversations involving their own interests. The more members in your group the more the group gets promoted to their friends and networks, increasing its reach.
The data contained in Facebook Insights helps you learn how your audience has responded to your marketing. But analyzing it can be a difficult task. Insight data includes “likes” and “like” sources, new “likes” vs. “unlikes” and video statistics. There’s also the post data file, which gives information on reach and engagement for individual Facebook posts.
The Facebook Analytics dashboard gives you access to insights about your business and its audiences, such as past purchase behavior/habits, online activity, relevant interests, and more. Reports are the bread-and-butter of any analytics software, so it’s no surprise that Facebook has extensive reporting capabilities. From the dashboard, you can generate a report containing information about nearly any activity or event. It also allows you to create cross-channel funnels to figure out the best conversion rates.
Facebook Video allows you to connect with prospects and customers on an intimate level. Facebook amplifies that intimacy via personal interactions in the comments on both native and live video. Facebook live video, which streams in real time, is another feature that can combine with Facebook Ads.
Facebook ads allow a business of any size to promote its products and services to local and global audiences. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced marketer, you can create a Facebook ad campaign to collect leads, drive website traffic, generate sales, and increase brand recognition. These ads include video, offers, leads, and carousel.
Instagram allows users to share photos and videos and has expanded to give businesses a way to market their products and services to the world. By June 2018, the network reached 1 billion monthly active users, up from 800 million in September 2017.
Figure: Instagram as a marketing tool
Every year Instagram makes business marketing easier and more targeted through an extensive list of features and analytics tools that help business owners create profiles, attract followers, build engagement, and develop insights into their customer base and, of course, sell their products and services with speed and efficiency.
Among the tools that Instagram offers marketers:
This is the platforms analytics tool that lets you see details on the impressions and reach from your Instagram posts, plus the number of website clicks you’re getting from your profile. These will link to your Instagram business account so you can assess the impact of your marketing efforts, find out more about your followers, when they’re engaging with Instagram, and what your top posts are, and which ones don’t resonate at all.
This is the platform’s advertising tool that collects valuable contact information from potential customers without pushing them off the platform. These integrate with Facebook by appearing on Facebook news feeds.
Stories appear above the user’s Instagram feed and are available for viewing for only 24 hours. Ads in Stories on Instagram are perfect for driving brand and product awareness, calling for user-generated content, and announcing discount sales.
Live video streams within your Instagram Stories are great ways to attract followers, build excitement, and deliver information. Instagram Live is a streaming feature that puts your video on top of user feeds for 24 hours, which means it’s the surest way to get noticed within a short period of time. You can tease new products, promote a social contest, and gather questions for a live Q&A. All of these will help you collect emails and generate genuine excitement you can use for following up.
Twitter launched in 2006 and today it has more than 321 million active users per month. Posts, or tweets, allow only 280 characters. They give companies the ability to engage in conversations with users, drive awareness of a product or promotion, and participate in public discussions.
Figure: Twitter as a marketing tool
Among the tools that Twitter offers marketers:
These can be a mixture of entertaining, educational, and promotional, but the key is to post regularly so they appear at the top of follower streams. Marketers can guide followers to promotions, demos, downloads, their website, and more, as well as engage one-on-one with followers.
These are public conversations linked by a unique hashtag. Depending on how they work in a strategy, chats can center around special events or may be recurring. In either case, these are good opportunities to engage followers at a higher level that is more direct and intimate.
By creating unique hashtags, companies can attract followers by topic, making it easy to get discovered. Hashtags are a great way to promote and track campaigns and to connect with potential prospects.
This is a helpful tool for prospecting campaigns because it allows marketers to mention and engage with specific Twitter users within a tweet. By mentioning their Twitter handle (which are all proceeded by the @ symbol), these followers will be alerted that they’re being called into a conversation.
These allow marketers to curate content for special groups of users in an effort to target them with special content. This makes finding the content easier and creates more of a direct relationship with followers as well.
Periscope is Twitter’s live video streaming platform that allows users to broadcast from their phone. Brands can connect with users immediately, which works for Q&A live chats and more. Like Snapchats, the videos vanish after a set amount of time.
YouTube is a video-driven social media network that, since its launch in 2005, has become a dominant way people publish video online. Owned by Google, which bought YouTube in late 2016, the platform is now responsible for 11 percent of all global video traffic, second only to Netflix. Currently, YouTube has more than 1 billion users, and more than half of all views come from mobile devices.
The dominance of YouTube means businesses now have an opportunity to establish and groom their brand through interactive videos that can build followers.
YouTube offers users:
- Their own channels they can use to develop and execute their marketing strategy.
- A way to advertise on YouTube video content that streams on channels besides their own.
- Google Analytics works with YouTube to measure conversions from your ads. In other words, tracking where people are coming from before they land on your website. Besides Google Analytics, the other two ways to measure YouTube performance:
- Assessing video watch behavior. This powerful analytics data lets you evaluate how your videos are performing. You can access it within Creator Studio. There you can go through the data found in the “Watch Time” reports
- Evaluating audience engagement. This is the most straightforward way to find out how your video is performing. Just count up the number of subscribers, likes and dislikes, shares, and comments.
YouTube is also a useful lead generator. The platform has several tools to capture and collect leads so you know who is watching your content but also who might be interested in your company’s products or services.
For example, YouTube Cards can be added to videos, creating a clickable call-to-action that prompts viewers to respond. The cards allow you to add more visual components so that they are more interactive and engaging with viewers, therefore attracting more eyeballs. They also can appear during any point during your video and can include downloadable content and outside links.
LinkedIn is a professional networking platform that was launched in 2003 for professional development and networking. While it serves individual professionals, it also provides opportunities for businesses to create a profile, share content, showcase new products and services, and network with potential prospects. A messaging feature also provides two-way communication between users.
Figure: LinkedIn as a marketing tool
For businesses, LinkedIn is an effective tool for collaboration, sharing best practices, and targeted marketing efforts. Independent organizations can participate in various groups to expand their network, and executives and business owners can position themselves as thought leaders in their industry.
LinkedIn is helpful in prospecting campaigns to generate new leads:
This gives marketers an edge in lead generation, business development, and brand awareness on the platform. It takes about an hour to set up and, once ready, offers a predictive search so the more you use it the faster it will work to tailor your results to your needs.
This platform lets a company manage and measure the impact of their employee advocacy campaigns.
Snapchat (aka Snap) was launched in 2011 and has nearly 190 million active users per day. The platform allows users to send messages, images, and videos that disappear after a few seconds. Marketers can use Snapchat the following ways:
- The platform’s “My Story” feature collects snaps over a 24-hour period which allows businesses to tell a cohesive story related to a specific promotion or event.
- Geo-filters can help companies brand big events where users can interact with the company within their own network.
- 3V, or Vertical Video Views, are ads that appear in premium and curated content that allows companies to promote their brand within the full space of the screen.
Pinterest is a digital scrapbook that launched in 2010. Currently, the platform reaches 250 million active users every month. Businesses can curate visual content ranging from videos to infographics to images.
Marketers can use Pinterest the following ways:
- Have their Pinterest pages double as landing pages for email campaigns or presentations.
- Use the Promoted Pins feature to target users based on keywords as well as user interests, location, language, device, and gender.
- Use the Buyable Pins feature to allow users to purchase products through the Pinterest app.
- Generate awareness as Pinterest allows users to search for content, which can include your product.
- Post content ranging from informational to entertainment, both in a combination to promote products and services.
Other social media platforms that are available to marketers to a lesser extent include:
This forum-hosting website gives marketers the ability to host “Ask Me Anything” forums where they can answer questions from users, as well as promote links. Opportunities for target marketing exist in reaching users found in “subreddits,” forums for niche subjects or themes.
A platform that optimizes information through a Q&A format. A self-serve advertising feature allows marketers to target users by location, device, and the topic of their question.
When people talk about social media marketing, Tumblr typically isn’t mentioned. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value. The social network and multimedia microblogging platform has more than 345 million users. It’s more than just a place to share life updates, GIFs and pop culture memes. On Tumblr, you can write long blog posts and share photo sets and videos. Unlike on other platforms, there are few limits to what you can share on the site.
Understanding Social Media Algorithms
Social media algorithms are how social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram filter, rank, and organize content based on criteria unique to their platforms. There is no universal standard for all platforms, and they often are changing, so marketers need to learn strategies to get the most out of their social media strategy. (Referencing: Social Media Examiner)
Instagram’s algorithm involves three core elements:
- Interest: How interested users are in certain posts based on search history and engagement.
- Recency: Posts published within the last few hours will most likely be seen as opposed to older posts.
- Relationship: Posts that get the most play are those that are engaged with the most.
Less relevant are how many accounts a user followers or how long they spend time with a particular post.
Facebook’s algorithms are designed to highlight content that is generating the greatest number of conversations.
That may involve:
- Content receiving the most comments, shares or likes.
- Facebook Live video that tends to get the most engagement on Facebook than most content.
- Content produced by users who themselves are actively engaging other user content across Facebook.
Twitter’s algorithms are based on:
- Recency: More recent posts mean the more likely users will see it appear on their feeds.
- User credibility: Those accounts that have proven to be the most credible will have the most visibility to users.
- Native content: Posts that are designed to work exclusively for Twitter and don’t just link to external websites get the most promotion.
- Engagement: The more users engage with a specific account, the more they will see posts from that account.
LinkedIn’s algorithms are based on:
- Relevancy: Content that contains keywords that are also within a user’s profile means that user will see that content.
- Credible sources: Content that shares links from trustworthy websites will get more visibility than those from websites outside the mainstream.
- Widely shared content: Posts that are shared widely, reaching users from outside one’s network will make that post more visible to others.
- Engagement:Posts that drive likes, comments, and shares within one hour will rank the highest on the site.
Ways marketers can use social media algorithms to advantage to drive visibility of their content include:
- Create content that solicits interaction, such as polls, questions, surveys, and more.
- Tag users so they see the post and are encouraged to respond.
- Embed content with hashtags so a greater number of people see the content.
- Make sure what you are sharing is credible, relevant, and recent.
Use live video whenever relevant; this especially works for special events or one-on-one interviews.
- Make sure that at least 80% of your content is native to the social media platform itself and doesn’t just drive people away to other sites.
- Build a network of followers who have a history of sharing content so what you are sharing travels the furthest.
Creating Content For Your Social Media Marketing Strategy
Once you have established the type of campaign, strategy, and social media platform you plan to use to execute it, you’ll need the right content to put everything into action. Content that works best on social media offers values to users through each stage of the buyer journey.
In order to differentiate your content from the unending amount of messages out there it needs to be:
Just like the social media platforms themselves, there are many different content choices to choose from. Those that work best for business marketing are:
- White papers
- Case studies
- Thought leadership articles
- Blog posts
- Quizzes and surveys
The value of photo and video content helps businesses create images that tell their stories as well as opportunities to present recorded documents of special events. Even more than traditional text-driven content, video and photo content allows marketers to:
- Create intimacy with users. Visual content is the most effective way to humanize a brand.
- Offer testimonials of products or services. These can come from: fellow customers, paid spokespeople, and company principals.
- Engage with users through visual content like quizzes and contests, or user-submitted photos and videos.
- Appeal to users’ emotions. Unlike text, the simplicity of a photo or a video gets to the heart of the message.
- Create demos of products or services.
Understanding When To Post Marketing Content on Social Media
There is no set time of the week or month when it’s best to post text-driven or image-driven content. For obvious reasons marketers want to make sure that they respond to comments, questions, or concerns about posts as soon as possible because that’s a sure way to affirm trust with their users.
Timing in your social media strategy should be more about consistency. Users will take notice of your content if they become conditioned to expect it to appear at certain times throughout the day.
However, those posts need to be coordinated so they bring users along on a journey.
- For example: Many marketers follow the standard “4-1-1” rule: For every four posts that are either educational or entertaining, they can share one solution-focused piece of content and another that is more direct, like a demo.
This pattern is helpful in making them feel they are being overly marketed to when they scan through their social media feeds.
Just make sure your content is rolled out in a manner that keeps users interested and engaged enough that they may even have their expectations raised each time they see the next post.
If you can do that, you’ve established a relationship that is unique, dynamic, and sustainable.
The Steps To Establish and Build Your Brand using Social Media
Step 1: Do Your Homework
Behind every exceptional social media campaign is a great strategy. Social media is all about connecting with your audience on an authentic level. To do that, you have to intimately understand your current and potential customers.
Start by defining your audience. Distinguish individual character profiles by age, gender, interests, profession, etc. Don’t just say it out loud. Write down the details and find images that represent your target audience.
Next, crystallize your message. Based on your defined target audience, what are the key problems or concerns you can address or solve? Expand on and define those pain points for each character and write it under each profile.
Below that, write down three key marketing messages you want to communicate to that audience. Now that you’ve defined your audience and message, take the time to find out which social networks they prefer.
All social media channels are not created equal. Each one has a different primary audience, cadence and focus. It’s important to understand the differences so you expend your efforts on the right channels.
Step 2: Coordinate Your Social Channels
If you treat each social media platform as a stand-alone effort, your success will be limited. Your networks should work together to help you achieve your goals.
Your website is your brand’s home base. Coordinate your social media efforts to push people to your website where they can buy your product or service.
Use your blog to establish your brand’s voice and share information. It’s also a valuable opportunity to engage with your site visitors and lead them through your sales funnel.
If you want visitors to follow your various social profiles, make sure you display social icons prominently in your header or sidebar. They should link directly to your profiles so your readers can follow you immediately.
Include a call to action (CTA) at the end of your blog posts asking readers to like you on Facebook or follow you on Twitter (or whichever platforms you’ve determined are best for your audience).
Integrate live social media feeds (e.g., Facebook and Twitter) so visitors can see your recent activity. When your audience can see what you’re sharing, they may be more likely to follow you.
Incorporatesharing buttons on your pages and posts to ensure that your content is share-friendly.
When people come across valuable content, they want to share it with their friends and followers. If you don’t have sharing buttons, your visitors will likely click away and you’ve lost that opportunity to reach a wider related audience.
Figure: Here’s how Rebel Mouse’s content feed displays across multiple social media channels.
Tool Tip: Socialize your website with Rebel Mouse, an all-in-one, real-time publishing, advertising and analytics platform.
Rebel Mouse aggregates all of your social media content and hosts a real-time feed on your website.
If you haven’t started an email newsletter, I encourage you to start one now. They’re an important way to stay in front of current and prospective customers.
Your newsletter’s design should display social icons prominently and include a CTA inviting your audience to join your social media communities.
I suggest also featuring social media content that highlights community members or shares promotions or giveaways.
Figure: The Social Tribe eNewsletter displays all of its social media icons prominently.
Tool Tip: ClicktoTweet is an easy way to promote sound bites of your content, whether it’s through your website, blog or newsletter. It auto-populates a tweet with your message. Users just have to click on the link and hit send!
Step 3: Get Started, but Start Small
You’ve defined your target audience, you know where to reach them and you’ve optimized your other marketing touch points. It’s time to get social.
This is one of the most important pieces of advice to keep in mind, so listen up! Start small.
Social media takes time and energy, which are precious resources. Set yourself up for success by starting with a manageable load. I suggest you choose one or two platforms to start with.
The best way to guarantee consistency is to incorporate social media into your daily routine. Block out the time on your calendar, turn off all distractions and dedicate time to managing your social media accounts. Do this in one or two different time slots every day.
In your first month or two, expect to spend a minimum of 15-30 minutes a day on social activities. You can increase the time as you see fit.
Figure: Use a timer to track your social activity time.
Remember those audience profiles and sample messages? Use them to determine what original andcurated content you’ll share and create an editorial calendar to keep track of that content.
Your aim is to help your readers, so give them a tip they can use or share information that helps them solve a problem. When you give out relevant information, people come to view you as an expert.
Tool Tip: You’ll need a social media management tool to organize and manage your daily social media activities. HootSuite is a social media dashboard that offers monitoring, scheduling and analytic services. Sprout Social is another cost-effective tool that helps you find and schedule content and track social media performance.
Step 4: Listen and Share
Social media conversations are happening all around in real time.
Social listening is an excellent tactic to monitor what people are saying about your brand. Respond to comments, mentions and feedback even if they’re negative. You want to turn that negative into a positive!
Tool Tip: Mention app monitors the web, including the major social media channels, and tells you every time somebody mentions your name, brand or target keywords.
Figure: Mention app is one of many tools you can use to listen for mentions of your brand on the web.
Content is the crux of social marketing. Unfortunately, combing through the Internet for good content to share can be slow and time-consuming.
To avoid getting bogged down, set up a process for organizing and aggregating quality content that provides value to your audience. Add the content to your editorial calendar and you can share it when you’re ready.
Tool Tip: Feedly is a magazine-style newsreader that aggregates content from different sources and organizes it for you. It’s a big time-saver when you’re looking for timely, relevant content to share!
Figure: Feedly is one way to aggregate content from around the web that’s related to your brand.
Step 5: Create Your Daily Plan
With a steady stream of content in the pipeline, you’re primed to post and engage on social media.
Make a list of the activities you plan to do every day. For example, comment on and/or link content on three different Facebook pages. On Twitter, tweet and retweet 3-5 times per day (you can schedule these).
If you’re using Pinterest, pin and repin 3-5 images per day. If LinkedIn is the best platform for your audience, share a link and like other people’s links.
Figure: Make an action plan for your daily social media activities—and stick to it!
When you’re comfortable with those daily activities, join groups and communities to target specific demographics. Initiate and participate in more conversations by asking questions and posting comments to updates by others.
Continue to personalize your brand by welcoming new followers and thanking them for sharing your content or offering a compliment.
Above all, be intentional about your social activities. Success isn’t about chance, it’s about strategy and tactics.
Step 6: Boost Results With Social Advertising
If you want to accelerate your social media performance, it’s worth your time to explore paid advertising options.
Facebook offers a robust number of advertising solutions to help garner more sales, website traffic, brand exposure and audience engagement.
If Twitter is one of your main platforms, you have two advertising solutions: promoted content and promoted accounts. Promoted content helps you cut through the noise and serve your content to tailored audiences. Promoted accounts help increase the size of your Twitter following. (Referencing: Social Media Examiner)
Explore paid options to boost your visibility and success on social media.
LinkedIn also offers opportunities to reach specific audiences. You can buy advertising or use the sponsored updates feature to increase your brand’s visibility.
Even if your budget is small, don’t dismiss social advertising. Used strategically it can produce great results.
Step 7: Lather, Rinse, Repeat
The last step is the most critical: Measure and analyze your results.
Tracking performance data is the best way to identify which tactics are working and which aren’t. A few things to watch are growth, engagement and sharing.
Most social media networks have tools you can use to track and measure your performance.
Google Analytics is a popular and easy-to-use option for monitoring traffic and interactions on your website or blog. Keep track of which social media channels are driving the most traffic to your site.
To stay on top of your social media plan, review your metric reports regularly (at least once a week). Every 2 or 3 months, step back and evaluate the big picture. Make adjustments for anything not working, and try to recreate the things that are.
Tool Tip: Sprout Social creates easy-to-understand social media reports that can help you evaluate your social media performance. You can even compare your success to your competitors’.
Sprout Social has excellent reports to help you track and manage your social media performance.
How To Get Started With Social Media Marketing
1: Start Slow
Don’t try to do too much, too soon—you’ll end up overwhelmed. There’s no need to dive head first into a long list of social networks, or even the top four, right out of the gate.
Pick just one or two. Each has a learning curve, but none is so complex you won’t be able to grasp the basics and begin.
The question is which social media networks make the most sense for you? The answer: The networks your customers prefer. Dig around a bit to find out which networks they’re using—visit their websites or simply ask them.
2: Find Out Where People Connect
Identify a handful of companies in your space that are active in online marketing and visit their sites. Are they blogging? If so, look at the number of shares for each post to see which channel is most active.
Do they have social media icons? Look for the f, g+, in, P, bird and camera logos (Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram, that is) and click through to their social media pages. Do they have sizable followings on particular social channels? Is there a lot of activity there or do things look a bit static?
Find the right social network to reach your perfect audience.
You want to be where the conversations are happening. After looking into several competitors, it won’t be hard to figure out where the action is. Go along with the crowd. Get started with the one or two networks where you’ve determined competitors and the market at large are connecting. (Referencing: Social Media Examiner)
3: Watch Influencer Activity
In addition to competitors and customers, look at the social media activity of industry influencers. The most influential social media players are generally writers and publishers. Which websites, bloggers and authors have authority in your industry?
The experts in your field are likely to have established audiences, which should help you make smart choices—and provide good examples of how to interact on various media. You may find that influencers aren’t just blogging, Facebooking or tweeting; you may discover some are active with video and podcasting as well.
4: Create a Thoughtful Profile
Every social media network offers you the opportunity to create a profile. You can get by with just completing the required fields, but you’ll be sabotaging your success if you do. Take your profile seriously and do your best to fill it out completely.
The rules vary widely across social media profiles—from Twitter, where you’ll have only 160 characters to work with, to LinkedIn, where you can write a lengthy bio and post any kind of media you choose.
On his Twitter profile, marketing professional Michael Brenner wisely includes numerous keywords and links and presents a professional and friendly portrait.
The main thing is to be professional, but personable. Avoid applauding yourself unnecessarily. Be humble, but confident. Your profile plays a large part in swaying others to follow you (or not), so be authentic and interesting.
As you create your different profiles, include keywords that are most relevant to your profession to enable others to find you via search. Frequently, you’ll find hashtags (the # symbol) preceding keywords. Include links, where possible, to your website.
5: Upload a Nice Photo
Too many social media users are inappropriately creative when it comes to their profile picture.
Don’t use family photos, pets, landscapes or any odd depictions of yourself or your professional persona. In my opinion, you should also avoid logos if possible. In a physical social situation, you wouldn’t introduce yourself by whipping out a picture of your dog.
Your online profile is a social situation—show visitors your smile. Use a simple headshot of you looking into the lens, cropped closely. People want to connect with a person, not a logo.
6: Upload Headers and Background Images
Options for headers and backgrounds vary across different media. However, most social networks have followed Facebook’s lead by offering a space to upload an additional image that acts as a page header (sometime called a cover photo). On Twitter, you also have the opportunity to customize your page’s background.
Put some thought into your cover photo and your profile page will become that much more welcoming. You might elect to show your city, workspace or the like. Commonly, marketers will use graphics from their website or something representative of their brand, which is wise. It’s unwise to neglect your header image because a generic one will be automatically placed there creating the impression you don’t care.
7: Learn the Network’s Features
Yes, you’re going to need to learn how your network of choice operates. Each network has much in common, but they differ in significant ways. Invest a little time learning the ropes. You don’t have to read books or enroll in a course (though you have that option). Instead, acquaint yourself with the network you’ll use by asking for help from a friend, downloading an ebook or guide and searching for blogs that offer guidance from experts.
8: Follow Others
Your path to engaging on social media begins by following others whose updates will appear in your feed when you sign on. Don’t overthink this process. You can always revise your decisions later by unfollowing people, so fear not and simply begin following folks.
Whom should you follow? Start by following people you know, as well as current customers. If you want to find influencers or others with common interests, do a keyword search on each network. Consider following those who follow the people you follow. (You follow me?)
Based on your profile and your follow list, most networks will suggest additional people to follow. In a short time, people will begin to follow you. Follow them back.
9: Listen for Best Practices
In social media, the word “listen” really means “look.” Translation: though it’s tempting to start posting immediately after joining a social network, you’ll do yourself a world of good if you step back first and observe how others behave and interact.
You’ll pick up on nuances of the network. You’ll figure out best practices and etiquette. There’s no formula for how long or how much listening you should do, but you do indeed learn a lot by watching from the sidelines for a bit.
10: Share Others’ Content
The best thing you can do to build relationships via social media is share content you discover and enjoy. Social media is very much reciprocal. People notice and appreciate it when you take the time to share their blog posts, images, videos, etc., and will likely return the favor.
Social media experts often claim as much as 80% of your updates should be shares. I don’t wholeheartedly agree, but I do suggest making thoughtful sharing a regular and large part of your social media activity.
11: Endorse Others’ Updates
Endorsing other people’s updates may be slightly less significant than sharing, but it’s thoughtful and won’t go unnoticed. It’s also easy and can be done with just a click.
Of course, the most well-known of all endorsements is the Facebook “like”—a thumbs-up icon. Each network has one or more forms of endorsements including a “+” on Google+, “like” on LinkedIn and “favorite” on Twitter. Don’t endorse every update you read, but do it when you mean it. You’ll find plenty of content and comments worthy of a click.
12: Comment on Updates and Articles
The heartbeat of social media is conversation, so while sharing and endorsing can be thoughtful and smart, commentary is better still. When you get rolling and your network grows into the hundreds or thousands, you won’t have the time to comment on every update you see. However, the best content you come across will provoke thoughts, just like any conversation.
When you comment, express yourself. Agree. Disagree. Answer questions. Ask questions. Cite examples. Offer links. Say thank you. Again, at its best, social media is a conversation and when you put something into it, you get something out of it. It’s fun. Enjoy it.
13: Join Groups
The social media you joined are big networks with hundreds of millions of members. You have the option to interact with more like-minded people by joining (or creating) far more focused groups, communities, chats and so forth. Don’t hesitate to try them.
Along your journey, you’ll find some of the most valuable exchanges occur within groups, and as result of your participation, opportunities continuously present themselves.
14: Be Consistent
You need to budget time to do social media. How much time is up to you, but understand you’ll be taken far more seriously if you’re active on a daily basis. Yes, you can shut it down for a day, weekend or take a break without threatening your good standing. The caution I aim to make here is if you merely check in with a post now and then, you probably won’t be taken seriously.
15: Don’t Pitch
If you want to buy advertising on social media, do it. Most networks offer advertising options, and many are quick to attest to its effectiveness. However, outside of the sponsored opportunities some social media networks offer, your fans and followers won’t tolerate relentless sales messages. The more you pitch your products and services, the more they’ll reject you.
I’m not saying social media isn’t for marketing. In fact, it is. The trick is to market with a utility mindset. Try a softer approach to selling. Think of your offers as friendly invitations.
Promoting an event, special offer, sale, new product or the like is all fair game. You simply need to strike a balance so as to not put people off. Your updates should be valuable.
It’s far more effective to pull than push on social media. When you teach, advise and help people, your contributions are embraced.
16: Tell People Where to Find You
As you surf the web, you come across social media icons everywhere—as it should be. If you’re going to participate in social media, you’ll want to take advantage of every opportunity to let people know where they can find you, so include the icons on your site as well.
Consider showcasing links to your social sites (usually represented by icons) across all customer-facing touch points, including your:
- Online properties (including other social media)
- Email signature
- Business cards
17: Be Real
Your digital presence is not a veil. Don’t try to be anything other than yourself on social media. Write as you would speak.
When you let the authentic you come through, you’ll attract the right people, make the right connections and accomplish what social media is really for: building relationships.
Social media is not a fad. It’s essential. Just as your customers rely on the phone and email, they rely on social media. It’s where you connect. To believe otherwise can limit and threaten the growth of your business or career.
But if you’re new to social media it can seem like another language. Foreign. Frightening. You may be thinking, “Will I look lame?” Am I too late to the party? Will anyone care what I have to say? Relax. Social media is a friendly place. Use the advice in this essential how-to guide to get started with confidence.
Use this social media guide to start your social marketing efforts. Define your audience and choose the best platform to reach them. Do your research, integrate your social media icons and links, share your (and others’) content and keep track of how things are going. Follow those steps and you’ll be positioned for success!
What do you think? What tools do you use to reach your target audience? What challenges have you had to overcome? Do you have tips to share? Comment your thoughts so we can learn together.