Social media has become the number one platform for online communication and interaction, not just between friends and family, but also between businesses and consumers. Social media marketing (SMM) capitalizes on this fact by using online social platforms to boost brand recognition, conduct important market research and generate website traffic, sales or leads. It's a complex and extensive area of online marketing and one which needs to be approached in a very different way to traditional forms of marketing. This guide takes a look at the best practices for achieving success with SMM, serving as a strategy plan for those who have already established their social media profiles and want to know how to proceed.
By far the most common mistake which novice marketers make is to use social media platforms for providing promotional updates in a similar manner to what is done in traditional forms of advertising. However, online marketing has changed the game a great deal, and achieving success is all about providing value to your intended audience, building up trust and brand recognition and encouraging engagement. While paid advertising is all about delivering promotional messages, general SMM is not. To achieve the aforementioned goals of SMM, you should focus on entertaining or educating your audience rather than trying to directly push sales.
Consider the type of content that your intended audience is most likely to actually want to take the time to read. If someone is already following you on social media, then they clearly have some interest in what your company has to offer, but this does not mean that they want to be bombarded with promotional updates. SMM is basically a form of content marketing in many respects, a process by which you deliver content of genuine value to the targeted audience. The content you publish and share on social media may be in a variety of formats such as text, images, infographics or videos. Some social networks deal primarily with specific formats - for example, Pinterest is an ideal platform for sharing visual content such as infographics.
Regardless of the format you choose, ensure that your content is relevant to both your industry and your intended audience. For example, if you are involved in the travel industry, and you offer luxury holidays in the tropics, you can produce a whole lot of content on the subject such as tips on avoiding sunburn while on holiday or the best touristic venues to visit in each destination you serve. People love lists, tips and tricks, frequently asked questions and how-to guides, as these make for very Web-friendly content.
You don't always have to start from scratch and come up with ideas all by yourself either. Being a place for two-way conversation, social media is a great platform for sharing ideas as well. Becoming a part of this conversation will allow you to glean invaluable insights into your target audience, giving you a better idea of what sort of content they want to see. Follow up with responses to people's posts and shares, and you'll have a base upon which to build your SMM and content marketing campaigns.
Certain social networks, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ are also great resources for posting non-promotional information about your company. Rather than promoting your business directly, social media gives you a platform for giving your brand a human face by giving a more behind-the-scenes look at its past achievements and its mission. Other social networks, particularly LinkedIn, are best suited to a more professional approach, making them great platforms for reaching out to other businesses in business-to-business (B2B) marketing and seeking out prospective employees.
As previously stated, social media is all about conversation, and engaging your audience and inspiring them to do the same means having a well-researched content marketing strategy and responding to your audience when they start conversations, ask questions or leave feedback. By engaging in two-way conversation, you'll be able to more effectively develop your content strategy based on the needs and desires of your audience. Following are some tried-and-tested tips for engaging your audience in the best way possible:
Listen to and monitor the social media channels that you use. You can make monitoring far easier and more efficient by using a Web-based service such as TweetDeck or HootSuite. Listen to your audience to garner insights into your audience, and treat it as your primary channel for feedback. Get into the habit of reviewing your social media channels as often as possible.
Don't be afraid to ask questions. In fact, asking questions, even if it means asking for help outright, is an important part of social media engagement. Encourage feedback by asking your audience to participate in surveys, complete polls, share your content if they like it enough or respond to your social media posts.
Don't give your audience more options than necessary. A classic example of providing too many options is when marketers add social sharing buttons for dozens of different networks to their webpages. Don't confuse your readers by bombarding them with options for networks which they aren't likely to use. Get to know your audience so that you know which social networks to target.
Make sure that all of your online content and platforms are linked together. Your entire online marketing campaign should operate like a single entity, and it should always be easy for your audience to find your website, blog, YouTube page and other social networks. At the same time, you should also provide a unique value experience for each social network that you use.
Encourage competition through gamification. Gamification is a relatively new term referring to online marketing by way of competitions and interactive games. Some companies even use an achievement system, taking from the popular trend in modern video games, which offers superficial rewards such as virtual badges, currency and medals to give certain individuals a sense of progress and achievement.
Another common question which marketers have is when and how often they should share and publish their content. This is a difficult question to answer, since it is highly dependent on a number of factors such as your industry, target demographic and the social networks you use. Although plenty of research has been conducted on the subject, you'll ultimately need to find out what works best in your particular situation, and this is why tracking the performance of your SMM campaign is essential right from the start. One certainty regarding the frequency of social media updates is that it requires a long-term commitment combined with posting consistency. Posts on social media rarely last long before they end up disappearing to the bottom of the page and out of people's views.
Your brand should have an image, and in the case of social media, something of a personification. Your brand's message and voice should be clear and consistent across all of the online marketing platforms you use, even if you have to adapt and personalize it to multiple areas of a wider audience. Even as a small- or medium-sized business, you should ultimately be working towards making your brand a widely recognizable image. Following are some important factors to consider:
How your company is represented by its logo. Your logo is the badge of your company and one of the first things people will come to identify your business with. Your logo should be used as your profile picture on every social network that you use as well as your website and any other online resources.
Your company should have a certain color scheme and style which also helps people to visually identify your brand. Although many social networks provide you with limited features for personalizing your profile pages, you should take advantage of everything available to you.
A small amount of textual content, such as a trademark, slogan or motto is also important for helping people to identify your brand and receive its message. Keep it short and to-the-point so that it fits into the limited amount of space available on many social platforms.
Determine the manner which best suits your industry and is most suitable for getting its message across. While a conversational and informal tone might suit many business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing, a more professional and educational tone is likely to be the best choice in B2B marketing.
Although each social network will cater to a somewhat different type of audience, it is still important to keep every area of your SEM campaign closely connected so that you can better solidify your brand's image. Keeping your online marketing strategies linked together will help you to amplify its effects.
In conclusion, you should remember that your presence on social media is effectively an extension of your website and your brand's online and offline image. You need to determine the personality of your brand and how it is to be consistently defined by its message and the visual styles that it adopts.
Building up a good reputation is what social media marketing is all about, and in order to achieve these goals, you will need to earn trust, familiarity and appreciation among the communities that you build around your social networks. Establishing your reputation on social media works in a very similar way to how it works in person.
Be there for your visitors. SMM requires that you be consistently present in the long term. As is the case with any form of online business and marketing, many people make the mistake of hoping for results in as little time as possible without making a long-term commitment. If you're not present, then your audience will have no one to engage with, and they'll eventually stop following you. You need to give them a reason to get connected and stay connected with your business and its social media profiles.
Avoid being too predictable. If every post or update is directly related to your business and your marketing campaign, people will quickly stop following you. To draw in viewers, don't be afraid of going a little off-topic on occasion, particularly if you are responding to a conversation which your followers are already getting involved in. SMM is all about putting a human face behind your marketing efforts, so you'll need to display all of the traits which make this possible, such as respect, empathy and compassion.
Use the tone which is appropriate for the situation. Every social network has its own set of rules and usage guidelines, some of which are written and others which are not. Get to know your community to learn the best ways in which to approach them. Maintain good etiquette which is in line with these rules as well as the general good practices of SMM. Always think before you post, avoid posting too much too frequently and avoid common pitfalls such as excessive use of capital letters or hashtags.
Be sensitive towards your target audience. Timing is a particularly important aspect when it comes to taking a diplomatic approach. For example, people will rapidly lose respect in your brand if you're bombarding them with marketing pitches or inappropriate humor and other controversial content. Although there is nothing wrong with using a bit of humor, always make sure not to offend, and err on the side of caution when trying to reach out to your audience in this way.
Respond to your audience's queries and get involved in their conversations. Being there to respond is one of the most important elements of all with any social networking campaign. Thank people for leaving positive comments, reply to people's questions and be mindful enough to address their concerns. You'll also need to deal with negative comments and other feedback on occasion, and you will earn a great deal more respect if you handle such feedback in a professional and diplomatic way.
Social media marketing doesn't stop here. In fact, it doesn't really stop at all. Once you have established your online presence, both by setting up your website and by creating your social media profiles, you'll need to adopt a long-term effort, and in the case of larger businesses, employ a dedicated team to tend to your SMM efforts.
Finally, it cannot be stressed enough that your SMM strategy should work in harmony with your content marketing campaign and other areas of your online marketing. Your social media profiles should ultimately serve as a front for your website or blog, drawing in more traffic and nurturing your visitors in the hopes of turning them into valuable leads or paying customers. When you're ready for a complete online marketing campaign, call GMF.
People are communicating, socializing, and networking on the Internet more than ever before. Just ten years ago, social media networks were a novelty, but today more than 70 percent of Internet users have social media accounts. If you're not yet using social media for marketing, it's time to get on board. Without it, you could be missing out on a large portion of your target market.
Social media marketing is one of the most cost-effective ways to reach potential customers, research the market, increase brand awareness, generate new leads, and boost sales. Your customers are already using social media channels every day to communicate with friends and share content. Your business deserves a share of this network of consumers to build a social presence that will help your business grow for years to come.
Depending on your particular business, some social media channels will be more beneficial than others, but there will always be one that can meet your marketing goals. Here are just a few ways social media can help:
The social media landscape is growing all the time; it is now more valuable to businesses than ever before, and it is likely to become an even more essential tool for businesses in the future. An increasing number of people are using smartphones and tablets to access social media networks, and this means businesses can reach potential customers at home, at work, and even when they're on the road or on vacation. Here are some more reasons why an increasing number of businesses are relying on social media:
If you're new to social media or you just want some more tips to make your online marketing more powerful, use some of the following social media strategies to make sure your business doesn't lose out to the competition.
If the majority of your present customers are on LinkedIn, there's not much point in publishing lots of content on Facebook. This sounds obvious, but it's surprising how many businesses still spend too much time on the wrong social media channels. To ensure you reach your target audience, find out where they spend most of their time online, and focus your efforts on these channels. When in doubt, just ask some of your present customers.
Think about the type of content your ideal customer wants to read. Give your audience a reason to like your brand through delivering entertaining, informative, and useful content. If you give people a reason to return to your social channels, you're more likely to attract a more loyal following and build a vibrant community around your brand.
If you fail to meet audience expectations, it can be a struggle to survive on social media. This is why it's so important to have a plan and stick to it. Create an editorial calendar to make sure you publish relevant messages to the right channels and at the right times. Do this consistently and you'll get more commitment and engagement from your followers. Try using social media management tools to help you schedule posts ahead of time.
Content marketing is an essential part of SEO. Publishing great content on a regular basis will not just build your reputation; when more people share your content it's a powerful signal to Google that your content is useful and this will improve your search rankings. Make sure you include relevant keywords in your content to help you rank higher in related searches.
Try not to fall into the trap of preaching at your audience. Social media is about having a conversation with your audience, listening to their concerns, and building trust. If someone asks a question, try to give a prompt reply. Respond to negative feedback to show you're listening, and turn negatives into positives. Listening to what people are saying on social media channels is a great way to monitor your reputation.
There are many analytics tools available to help you optimize your social media activity. Do you know the best time to post on Facebook, or what day of the week most of your Twitter followers are online? By analyzing various metrics, you can find out the best times to deliver content to your audience, which will ultimately lead to more brand engagement.
Research has shown that Facebook posts that include images are more likely to be shared than those without. It's likely that this tendency is consistent across most social networks, so it's worth publishing more visual content when it's appropriate. Photographs, videos, infographics, and illustrations can all help to make your content stand out.
Most social networks have their own analytics tools to measure social media performance, but there are also many third-party tools available. These are just some of the things they can help you monitor:
Many businesses just don't have the time or resources to focus on social media. If this is the case with you, it may be wise to invest in hiring an outside agency to handle your social media marketing campaigns. This will give you more time to focus on the important day-to-day tasks of running your business.
As the Internet becomes increasingly populated with more social media channels and consumers, it's becoming more of a challenge for businesses to get noticed. However, if you follow some of these suggestions to expand your social presence and continue to connect with your audience in meaningful ways, you can make sure your online marketing takes your business from strength to strength.