More Than a Post: Developing a Social Media Marketing Strategy
Grow Your Business with Social Media Marketing
Everything Old is New Again
And that includes the concept behind social media marketing. Social marketing is itself not a new idea. In its most basic form, using social media for marketing purposes involves you and your customers talking about your business. It’s age-old word-of-mouth advertising with the new twist of digital technology, and digital platforms give your customers—and you—a much larger audience when they’re bragging about your customer service or the best pizza they ever had or the fact that you are knowledgeable and dependable while keeping your services affordable.
Businesses have always wanted customers to tell their friends about their good experiences because happy customers attract more customers. According to Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising survey, word-of-mouth advertising is trusted above all else: we give more credibility to a friend’s recommendation than to any other form of advertising and even highly value recommendations from other consumers even if we don’t personally know them. Because of that trust, word-of-mouth advertising has a huge impact on lead generation and sales conversions. A good social media marketing strategy can take your word-of-mouth advertising to a higher level and make a strong impact on your company’s bottom line.
Before social media, crucial word-of-mouth advertising happened totally outside the earshot of the business in most cases. A business owner would never have known what one customer told a friend, and that business owner certainly couldn’t take part in the conversation in any way. With digital technology in the mix, there’s a new twist. Now, as a business owner, you have the ability to know what people say, when they say it, who the audience is, and you can participate in or even start the conversation. Participation in and management of the social conversation brings tremendous opportunity, but you should be aware that social media marketing involves much more than simply publishing a post on a social media platform.
A Social Media Marketing Plan in Four Steps
Like any other tool, social media marketing should be part of an overall marketing strategy. Social media marketing isn’t just about publishing a post on social media or only about the number of followers you have or post “likes” or “shares” you get. Following these four steps will help you develop or re-think the strategy behind your social media marketing and will have you on your way to building an effective social media presence.
1. Define Your Goal(s)
While that may sound obvious, many people overlook this primary step or get distracted by focusing solely on the number of social connections they have. Social media can be a great way to boost your brand recognition and to let people know who you are and what products or services you provide. Social media can promote and build a company culture. Social media can bring business to your door. Setting long-range goals for your social media presence at the outset will ensure that what you do on social media aligns with your overall business plan and marketing strategy, and your social media marketing efforts will likely bear more fruit.
Is your ultimate goal to get “likes” and “shares” to promote brand awareness and recognition? Or are those interim steps and measures toward reaching your goal of growing your business? Hootsuite’s blog on “How to Create a Social Media Marketing Plan in 6 Steps” suggests using the SMART acronym when determining social media marketing goals to ensure each objective is “specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.” Hootsuite also advises against relying on “vanity” measurements such as “likes” and “retweets” when developing your SMART social media marketing objectives.
UnMarketing expert and speaker Scott Stratten explains why relying on those vanity metrics is a bad idea. In his article “The Vanity of Going Viral On Facebook,” Stratten details the results of two videos he posted. One went viral; however, despite being viewed and shared at an impressive rate, those views didn’t bring Stratten leads for his business. A second video, shared and viewed less frequently, but with the right message targeting the right audience, brought Stratten more business leads. A strong social media presence is great as long as it’s grounded in an overall plan and working toward reaching identified goals. Using social channels can yield positive results, but, as Stratten says, social media marketing “needs to move the right needle. If it’s not increasing booking requests for me or increasing sales/sign-ups for you, it’s just vanity.” Your social media marketing strategy should produce content that generates leads and drives new revenue, and, while getting caught up in a viral whirlwind may be an ego boost, it doesn’t necessarily increase your bottom line.
2. Know Your Audience and Pick Your Platform(s)
There is a vast difference between the target market for a new frozen yogurt shop downtown and the target market for homeowner’s insurance. You know best who your audience is whether it’s teenagers or newlyweds or aging baby boomers or other consumer segments, but do you know which social media platforms are best to reach that target audience? Instead of trying to spread your brand across every social media channel, you may find that it’s more effective to focus on creating a productive marketing strategy and presence on a few or even on one social media platform. If the bulk of your customers are using Snapchat, for instance, focus on that platform instead of trying to reach customers on a social media channel they aren’t using. Hone your skills and develop a social media marketing strategy that achieves results on a small scale before branching out.
If you’re not sure which social media marketing tool is the best fit for your particular customer base, do a little research. You can always survey your customers to find out how they use social media. Hootsuite has done some homework for you already and has compiled data regarding different social media outlets and user demographics that you may find helpful.
3. What’s Your Message?
While we all love seeing cute pictures of animals or the funny videos of babies dancing in our social media feeds, as a marketing strategy, your social media presence needs defined parameters for your messaging that adhere to your branding. Using social media platforms effectively requires following editorial policies (informal or formal guidelines you develop), and those policies will depend largely on your business niche and the makeup of your brand community.
In his article “How To Build An Effective Social Marketing Strategy,” business consultant and speaker Greg Satell gives examples of companies that have developed exemplary social media marketing messaging because they have a strong understanding of what their brand means to their consumer community. Satell cites Harley Davidson as standing for “friendship and camaraderie” and Apple as standing for “design” and Red Bull standing for an “extreme lifestyle.” These firms have capitalized on social media marketing opportunities because they first built a community around what their brand stands for, and their messaging engages that community. Harley Davidson and other companies were building a social community among their consumers long before social was digital. The digital platform, again, broadens social reach and can strengthen social and brand identity.
Your social media marketing messaging should, then, spring from your brand identity. What culture or purpose does your business identity convey to your clients and to your employees? The answer to that question will inform the type of content you share on social media. Some businesses can publish more humorous, irreverent social media messages while other businesses want to be more polished and professional on social media. Let your brand identity and overall marketing strategy guide what you share, and always focus on the benefit your messaging will have for your audience. You might share tips and advice as an expert or leader in your industry. You might share personal stories of success for your customers. You might share information about your company’s involvement in the community.
4. Remember: It’s Interactive
Don’t forget the “social” part of social media. It’s supposed to be interactive. Again, the twist digital platforms bring to word-of-mouth advertising is a powerful social interaction that allows businesses to be involved in the conversations customers are having about them. With great power comes great responsibility. You can’t simply put a message on social media without taking responsibility for and participating in the resulting conversation, and it’s generally not a good marketing strategy to ignore people who mention you on social media.
A social media conversation is an opportunity for you to interact with your customers, but if no one is monitoring these digital conversations, you are losing opportunities to connect with people and promote your business. Not only will you want to monitor the social media conversations, but you will also want to be timely in your responses. A timely and personal response when customers mention your business can generate a lot of goodwill among your social following. People feel a closer connection to you and your business—and feel as if they belong to your brand community—when they know you’re paying attention to them, and that connection promotes word-of-mouth advertising that grows your business.