Why Use Social Media?
Twenty-first century marketing is not like the marketing of your grandfather's day. No longer are we confined to one-way communication with our audience. Now we have the audience talking back to us—and that can be a double-edged sword. Social media allows you to reach out to the people who buy your product and ask them for insight into how to improve your product or simply engage them with your branding. Developing a social media marketing strategy around understanding your audience is a foolproof method of utilizing social media to your company's benefit.
The crux of the matter is that social media is just too large to ignore. Even though you may not impact all of the nearly two-billion users of social media, you get access to a wide audience that you can tailor to fit the demographic you're marketing for. Never before have marketers had the ability to get their message out to exactly the people it's meant for. Social media makes creating a campaign to promote a product or a brand so much easier than it was thirty years ago. Social media also has a high probability of spreading via virality. Viral marketing uses the power of social media to encourage people to share something that affects them on a personal level; something that picks at their emotions and that they can identify with personally. The science of viral media marketing is multifaceted and complex, and deserves a discussion in its own right.
How to Build a Social Media Marketing Strategy
Every building starts with a blueprint. A properly designed social media marketing campaign starts with a marketing strategy. These strategies are not the same as the ad campaigns or print and radio ads of the former generation. They require a new kind of thinking for a new kind of media: the kind of media that talks back to you when you tell it something. There are a number of different aspects you need to consider which can help you narrow down the audience, type of content, and frequency of content production that your social media marketing strategy will encompass.
Always Remember - Keeping it Simple is the Best Option
One of the most important things to keep in mind for a social media strategy is that it evolves. As your business' presence on social media grows and changes, so will your social media strategy. At the start though, keeping it simple is your best bet. You're not a company that has access to an entire room full of content producers and a gaggle of advertising executives to help you place that content strategically. You're going to have to be smart about your time and monetary investment. What you're looking for is how to get the most social media mileage out of your dollar. A good example of this is seen in the architectural blog Freshome. By focusing on design elements and keeping their posts simple and to the point they managed to build a following of 1.35 million poeple.
Step 1: Which Channel?
Social media networks have sprung up all over the place and now there's a network for almost any type of person. There are networks dedicated to crafting (Pinterest), professionals (LinkedIn), as well as for the everyday user (Facebook and Twitter); all of which play host to many varied subgroups of people. What you will need to do before you go any further is to try to figure out which social network is most likely to contain your target demographic. You'll also need to figure out if you're going to invest time and effort into more than just one social media channel or if you're going to try to cover multiple arms.
An interesting thing to keep in mind here is that although there will be the temptation to find yourself on a number of different social media networks, your aim at the start should not be to cover as many networks as possible. It should be about focusing your energies on doing one social media network well. Your content, if it is good enough, will spread from one content network to another without you even being present on those other networks. The amount of time and effort you dedicate to a social network is directly proportional to the amount of manpower you have to spend in social media marketing. If your marketing department is small, then keeping the amount of social obligations they have online should also be kept at a minimum. Start small and grow into your social media campaign.
Martell Home Builders utilizes social media to their benefit to create a direct-to-customer system where they can interact with their clients directly through Twitter and Facebook. They even incorporated their Facebook Like Box into their blog site so as to feed in to their Facebook page.
Step 2: Create a Profile
Your profile should represent your business front and center. Someone who doesn't even know who you are should be able to recognize your business almost immediately as they scroll by it. Depending on which social media network you decided to go with, the type of impact you make may vary. Some sites (such as Facebook) have specifically designated pages for businesses and organizations. These can be used to promote the business directly and even encourage online sales to grow the clientele of the business. Sites such as Twitter don't really offer you direct business pages, but you can promote using an easily recognizable handle to attract users to the fact that you're on the social media network.
Your profile should contain a logo image or banner image of your business' logo. This is important, because it represents the face of your business to the rest of the network. You should focus on customizing the bio or info section in order to draw attention to what your business stands for. Avoid using buzzwords and make sure that the relevant keywords are used in your descriptions. Write as if you're describing this to a friend, make the page fun to read. Most importantly, don't let your information become stagnant. Keep refreshing your bio/info every couple of weeks to keep it new and fresh.
Step 3: Develop a Voice and Tone
The voice of your content determines what you say. The tone determines how you say it. To develop a voice, you have to consider what your brand would say if it were a person. How would it address the customer? What relationship is it trying to build with the client? Looking at companies that are similar to yours can give you a hint as to what your company should be aiming for. The main aim of this exercise is to develop a way for the customer to see your business and from there you can build it into your content. This stage of your social media marketing strategy tries to reconcile the way the client sees your business with the way the business interacts with the client.
One of the most common ways of doing this is to simply come up with a set of adjectives that best describe the company. From this list you can create a general picture of the tone your company will have online. That tone relates to how your brand addresses customers and the way it deals with social situations and feedback. That tone can then be carried forward to developing your content, and you can build it around these adjectives. Together, voice and tone make up the persona of your brand and that persona can go a long way towards helping consumers identify with your social media account.
Beer Genius Sam Adams’ online voice sounds just like it would if you met the guy in person on the street. This brand’s Facebook posts don’t seem unnatural in any way, and encapsulate the kind of colloquialism that makes Americans charming.
Step 4: Develop a Posting Strategy
Posting is where your social media marketing strategy stands or falls. Posting for social media success depends upon three related factors: Type of Content, Frequency of Posting, and Timing of Delivery. Each one of these has a major impact on how successful your social media campaign is in getting to the right people and making the desired connection with them. Your posting strategy tries to incorporate each of these successfully:
Type of Content: Content can be developed as text, images, video, music, or anything else that you can use to promote your brand. However, one type of content will obviously work better than the others when it comes to your particular business. In order to ensure that you don't bog down your audience, you should seek to mix it up a bit, interspersing your posts of a certain content type with other types of content. Ideally, for every four posts of the dominant content type you post, try to follow up with one of a different type. Modern strategies usually use a 4-1-1 rule, where you post four pieces of content, one repost from someone else and a self-promotional post to build your audience.
Frequency of Posting: Different social media networks have different levels of interaction with the audience. For a massively interactive audience such as Facebook, it's not unheard of to see some pages post between five and ten items per day. On more professional networks like LinkedIn, most posters cut down their content posting to once per day, sometimes twice per week. Engagement is what you're looking for, but inundating your audience with posts may not be the best way to get it. Depending on the activity of the network and its demographics, you can figure out the best amount of posting to be done in order to drive your social media marketing strategy.
Timing: Just like individual networks vary in how much posting is ideal for them, they also vary when their members are most active. Facebook and Twitter users are usually very active in the early afternoon (between 1PM and 4PM) whereas Instagram users tend to be more available around 5-6PM. Pinterest users usually come out around the 9-11PM mark, so engaging them would best be done at night. Knowing when your users are most active allows you to streamline your posting so that it impacts the most people.
Step 5: Analysis and Improvement
No social media marketing strategy is ever complete. They are evolving campaigns that build on the information that you get from analytics. Through your engagement statistics (such as the amount of people reached per post and the demographics that follow your page, etc.) you can determine if your social media strategy is working. If it isn't, you may want to consider revamping it or changing the way you do your social media content. You can also get insight into which content impacts your following audience the most, which helps you to create content that is more likely to attract the attention of your audience.
IBM states that a company using analytics in order to power their marketing strategy is usually 5.4 times more likely to succeed as compared to their competitors. That seems like a pretty compelling reason for a company to use the information provided by their social media platforms to improve their outreach and impact.
Social Media can be a Powerful Force
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