Lots of businesses confuse social media marketing with advertising. Sure, you can use social media to advertise, and yes, because of the volume of people, advertising on social media can be effective. But if that’s the extent of your strategy, then you’re missing the point — and the power — of social media.
Social media marketing is completely different to other forms of advertising. It can be complex/overwhelming for small or medium-sized businesses that haven’t really used it before, but the key thing to remember when you approach it is this: it’s called SOCIAL media for a reason.
This is where a lot of companies go wrong. They pump out scores of promotional statuses on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, but they don’t do any socialising or communicating, which is what these platforms are about.
These 7 key aspects of a good social media strategy will enable you to rethink and repurpose your approach, quash any misconceptions you may have, and ultimately help you achieve better results and more leads.
1. Go where your audience is, but don’t spread yourself too thin
Don’t try and be everywhere. Trying to be active on all social media platforms will usually mean you’re effective on none of them. Focus on two or three different channels, the ones most appropriate for your business.
How do you define “most appropriate”? Firstly it’s where your customers are. Do some research into your industry, and find out what channels your customers are using. If you’re a B2B business, find out what channels your customers are using to communicate with their customers. It’s likely to be where your competitors are, too.
Secondly it’s what makes sense for your business. For instance, companies with a product or service that isn’t conducive to visuals or video don’t need to be on YouTube or Instagram.
2. Less talking, more listening
Too many businesses churn out statuses without taking the time to find out what others in their market are saying, or what their customers are talking about. Read and research your target audience’s social media content and join discussions to learn what’s important to them. Only when you know what your audience wants will you be able to give it to them.
You also need to remember that your social media platforms are often an extension of your customer service. More customers are now voicing their opinions on social media than over the phone or by email. You need to make sure you are responding to comments and addressing customer concerns in just as timely a manner on social media as the more conventional media.
What’s more is that listening to what people in your industry are talking about will help you to identify key influencers. Influencers are individuals, companies or publications that have some stake or interest in your industry, and will usually have large groups of followers likely to be interested in the products/services your company provides. Building relationships with influencers and getting on their radar as a source of useful, authoritative information could lead them to share your content with their followers, exposing your business to a whole new audience.
3. Engagement first, promotion second
This is the part many businesses forget. Social media marketing is much more complex than sticking an ad in the paper, because people don’t go on social media simply to read. They go to interact. To talk to people. To be effective on social media, businesses need to start and join conversations.
Granted, that’s easier said than done. It’s quicker and easier to write a quick post than read through what others are saying and commenting where and when you have something valuable to contribute. The problem is, if you end up turning into the person who talks ‘at’ people rather than talks ‘to’ people, followers and potential followers will lose interest. It goes back to point 2 — listening. If you want others to listen to you, you need to be prepared to listen to them.
So dedicate some time to sharing and talking about other people’s content. Tag their name in the post so they get a mention, and they could end up returning the favour sometime. If you happen upon a conversation you think you could add something to, leave a comment. Spend some time following other people, and liking/commenting on their pages. Some will follow and like you back.
4. Approach your social media postings like Goldilocks
In terms of writing status updates, you need a mix of promotional posts and useful posts. Sometimes they’ll overlap, but for the purposes of developing a clear social media strategy, it’s best to treat them as separate entities. And you should approach your social media postings like Goldilocks and her three bowls of porridge, i.e. not too promotional, not too useful — just right.
Generally, the ‘just right’ is more useful than promotional. Write about your products, events and latest offers by all means; just don’t make it your primary focus. Social media is more about developing and nurturing long-term relationships with your customers and potential customers, and useful content is best-placed to do that.
What is useful content? The easiest way to distinguish it is that promotional content is usually about you, and useful content usually isn’t. Useful content is news, issues, advice and insights that are relevant to the industry generally rather than your company. These sorts of statuses are more likely to spark conversations with followers, or at the very least lead to shares/likes. Shares and likes mean that people are listening, and that they find your content of value. News, guidance and instructions that are that specific to your products/company can come under the useful content umbrella, but it depends on the goal of the message; are you trying to sell something, or just provide your customers with information?
It’s also worth noting the difference between a promotional status about a new product or discount, and a promotional status that links to a new blog on your website. Regardless of your social media activity, you should be blogging. Fresh, regular, long-form content is the linchpin of any successful online marketing strategy. It’s how you build yourself up as an authority in your industry. Blogs are also one of the main ways of attracting the attention of influencers.
Therefore, if the blog is interesting, insightful and not overly salesy (as most business blogs should be), then a social media status highlighting its key points and linking to it becomes one of those statuses that’s both promotional and useful.
5. Remember to actually be engaging
If you want to engage with people, you do need to be engaging. Make sure your status updates are well-written and attention-grabbing. Keep them short, concise and to the point. Use keywords and, where appropriate, hashtags in order to get flagged in searches. To encourage comments, ask a question.
And it’s about substance as much as it’s about style. By now you should know what your audience is interested in, what they need/want, and what their problems are. Your content will be engaging if it addresses these points.
Try and establish a consistent posting and engagement schedule that takes account of optimal posting times on each platform (which I’ll talk about in a future blog). Posting on the right days at the right times consistently will maximise the reach of your content and let followers know when to expect updates from you. If you don’t maintain consistency, e.g. you publish something and then disappear for several weeks/months, then your followers will move on.
7. Measure, adjust, measure, adjust… and be patient
Social media isn’t an exact science. This is why you need to continually track your results and adjust your tactics. The sorts of things you should measure include:
- how many people are seeing your posts
- how many are commenting/liking/sharing
- how many new followers/likes you’ve had in the last 30 days
- how much traffic has been driven to your website through social media
- how many sales leads your social media activity has generated
Once you’ve analysed the results, adjust your strategy according to what’s working and what isn’t. And be patient. Social media success doesn’t happen overnight. You’ll need to experiment. What works for one company may not for another — for a whole bunch of reasons. Over time you’ll find what works for your audience, but be prepared to commit to the long haul to achieve results.
In my next blog, I’ll talk about the pros and cons of some of the different platforms, together with advice on optimal posting times on each one.
If you need any help with your social media marketing activities, please contact me on 07411331721 or firstname.lastname@example.org.