Any business that is serious about creating a successful brand needs to utilize social media to the fullest. This applies to both online and brick and mortar businesses. Even if you think that your target audience are not on social media (which I would be very surprised to hear), your brand needs have a strong social media presence.
There are two ways of putting your brand on social media. The first is the more common method we see with over 80% of businesses going down that path where they simply create their social media channel pages and post updates on them sporadically about their services or products, discounts and sales cries.
The second way is to really understand what social media is and how you can leverage it to take your business to the next level by listening to the conversations online and creating a robust and custom social media strategy which includes crafting tailored messages to each social media channel and building a relationship with your target audience rather than using the channels as a megaphone to shout out discounts and deals to the world.
In this article we look at the second path and understand how to create your social media strategy with an actionable plan and steps.
Why Social Media Marketing?
So why do you need to focus on your social media strategy? How can social media marketing help your brand and your business? Here are a few ways social media marketing can help you:
Consumers of any business, these days, head straight to the internet to research before making a purchase. By creating useful content for your target audience on your website and by promoting this content on your social media channels like Facebook or Twitter.
Build Brand Awareness
Creating brand awareness should be one of the fundamental goals of any business. Social media makes it easy and effective to build brand awareness. One effective way is to run contests on Facebook where users submit photos of them using your product or service and other users voting on them.
Rather than simply blast out sales discounts with out building a relationship with your audience first, think of ways to interject your sales promotions into campaigns that are primarily designed to engage your audience. Do not think of social media channels as sales outlets. They do not work like that.
On some channels like Facebook or Pinterest, you can actually have a store and sell your products directly to your audience. If you build the right kind of community on our channels then selling directly on them becomes a powerful strategy.
A lot of brands use their social media channels as customer service help desks. This is a bit of a double edged sword since your customers may air their complaints publicly which may be a source of embarrassment. But if you intercept such complaints properly and diffuse the situations with empathetic customer service, these channels can become a great way to build a transparent brand.
Employee and Partner Recruitment
Your social media channels can be a great place to find potential business partners and rock star employees. In fact one of our clients specialises in this type of requirement too. These can be as important as building sales. In fact at SpellBrand most of our business partners came through our social media channels – specifically our own SpellBrand Twitter channel.
So how do we go about creating a meaningful social media marketing strategy that will allow your leverage all the above mentioned benefits? Here are 6 steps that can help you with creating a winning social media strategy:
Step #1 : Determine Social Media Goals
The first step is to identify your social media goals. This goes beyond simply having the desire to have social media channels and into identifying what you intend to do with them and what you expect to gain from them.
You can choose one or more of the following as your social media goals:
- Build brand awareness
- Facilitate sales
- Service customers
- Interact directly with customers and the market
- Launch promotions
- Distribute news
- Generate leads
- Monitor competitors
- Build links
- Connect with thought-leaders
- Establish thought-leadership
- Gather market research
- Find out how the market perceives them
Picking the right goals depends on the business you are in and on your target audience. For example if you are a mortgage broker then perhaps launching promotions through social media may not work well with your target market. Perhaps establishing though-leadership may serve you better.
A great social media strategy should be designed to meet one or more of these goals.
Step #2 : Determine Audience and Message
Once you have established the business goals of your social media marketing, it is time to understand and segment your audience. This will allow you to craft your message with laser like precision. Most business fail at social media marketing because they fail to create audience specific messaging.
But with out understanding your target audience, you can not hope to have a messaging strategy that connects with them in a meaningful way. If you have already created buyer personas for your brand, then use can start from there.
Different audience segments determine the need for different messaging styles and content. For example if one of your buyer personas live an avid outdoor lifestyle then your messaging on social media should reference this lifestyle.
Armed with your audience profiles, you should try and find where they hang out and which social media sites they prefer to use. For instance, if you’re primarily targeting women over 50 years old, Instagram may not be the best option. You should consider Facebook or Pinterest.
Messaging also depends on your business goals. If you are looking to build brand awareness then content marketing would be your tool of choice and blogging is one of the best ways to create quality content. However, if you are direct sales is your primary business goal for your social media campaigns then contest and giveaways may be the right way to go.
Step #3 : Determine Channels To Use
Now that you have your audience segments and custom messaging for each segment laid down, it is time to determine which social media channels you should focus on. Here are a few of the major social media channels and what kind of messaging would be effective on them:
This is the obvious first choice when starting your social media campaigns and for most businesses this channel is a de facto standard. Effective Facebook campaigns can help with the following:
- Driving online sales
- Increasing local sales
- Increasing brand awareness
- Promoting your brand
- Finding leads
- Social customer service
With Facebook you can have both organic and paid campaigns. In fact Facebook advertising is one of the most effective ways you can do all the above successfully.
This channel is playground for people who want to communicate, voice their opinions and listen to opinions. If your primary business goal was to create brand awareness or to become an authority in your field then you must focus on Twitter. Because of the restriction of the 140 character limit on Twitter updates, it forces brands to be clear and concise in their messaging and communication.
This channel is for the visually oriented. People who love photos and prefer a visual form of communication tend to gravitate towards Instagram and hence it is a great channel for lifestyle brands. It works well for brands that have a robust visual language and use creative direction to define their brand message.
If you are a fashion brand than Instagram should be your primary channel and you must invest in creating great content through high quality photos that tell your brand story.
Another channel that focuses on visual storytelling is Pinterest. It has become a tour de force in the visual marketing sector. You can create boards where you curate visual pieces from around the internet and from your own content marketing initiatives to create a rich tapestry.
Once again Pinterest is great for lifestyle brands or those that have creative content at the core of their brand marketing.
Continuing on with channels the focus on visual content, Youtube is behemoth of video marketing and the second largest search engine. Effective Youtube marketing has changed the fortunes of brands and took them from being virtually unknown to being household names.
Video marketing may not be suitable for all brands but with a little effort and investment you can incorporate video into your marketing mix and reap the rewards of the power of Youtube.
This is a great channel for businesses looking to connect one on one with other businesses and professionals. Although LinkedIn has an advertising platform, the power of this channel comes from the network of professional who use the channel for business rather than for personal use (as with Facebook, Instagram or Twitter).
To use LinkedIn effectively you would be better off building your personal brand on the channel since people connect bette other people and not brands.
Step #4 : Listen To The Conversation
Once you have identified your primary and tertiary social media channels, it would be worth the time invested in listening to conversations on these channels. Spend a week or two simply observing and listening to what is being said. This will enable you to understand what conversations your brand should join and who are the industry influencers.
You have to understand that social media marketing is all about participating in conversations and engaging your audience. You should share information that will add value to these conversations. But how do you monitor and keep track of all the important conversations.
Here are some popular monitoring tools that you may wish to utilize to listen to the conversation:
Here is a great video on how to turn social media monitoring into research!
Step #5 : Develop Creative Assets
Developing social media creative assets should be a top priority. Posting attractive and on brand visuals is fundamental to starting a successful social media campaign. Here is a useful article that I wrote recently on improving your brand imagery. There are a ton of useful tips in that article which would come in handy when creative your social media visual elements.
At a minimum you must brand your social media channels properly. This includes:
- Figuring out the tone of your channels
- Coming up with creative visuals that are “on brand”
- Creating custom graphics and visuals for each channel
Who is managing your social media?
Social media is one of the best tools in a marketer’s arsenal, but also one of the most dangerous. Because it’s a more direct form of communication, there are no built-in ways to screen messages for offensive or inappropriate content as there are in print advertising and public relations (granted, mistakes are still made in those mediums, but it’s far less likely to happen than in social media).
What it boils down to is that you have to be extremely careful about who manages all your social media accounts. Even responsible employees can make mistakes, but some are more prone to risk than others.
Giving C-Level executives access to a blog or twitter account is a great way to build credibility in B2B clients, especially if their tweets and posts are relevant and thought-provoking (bonus points if they write it themselves).
But there are still executives who can’t string together a coherent written sentence, or have no idea how to use a company Twitter account responsibly. This can result in irresponsible tweets, horrible blog articles, and embarrassing posts on LinkedIn groups.
Because they are placed so highly, it reflects badly on the company as a whole.
It’s common practice to hire a third party to do your social media, whether it’s an agency or an individual. This arrangement definitely has some advantages, especially if social media is the contractor’s specialty.
You should, however, be realistic and accept that the contractor is not part of your company and is not as immersed in your brand as you are. Some of the messages might be off-brand as a result.
Also, they may not provide the right answers when questioned about your product—especially if it’s highly technical. Also, being in another location slows the contractor’s response time in case of time-critical situations like emergencies.
At the face of it, handing your social media to an intern is a good idea. They work for free (or nearly so), and are probably young and well-acquainted with the technology.
The problem is that interns are also temporary, and any connections they make will be gone the moment they leave the company.
You could mitigate this by giving them a generic company-branded profile, but you still have to make sure they properly document their activities so you know exactly where they’ve been, who they’ve been talking to, and what they’ve been saying.
You might be thinking, “if you want something done right you better do it yourself”. Nothing’s stopping you from doing so, but keep in mind that you’re just as prone to mistakes and oversights as the next person.
Handling multiple social media accounts in addition to your own can make you vulnerable to accidental tweets, and being your own voice means nobody will second-guess you as to whether your message is appropriate or not.
You just need to ensure that if things do go wrong, you are proactive to prevent the brand falling from bad to worse.
All of the problems above are indeed possible, and have already occurred in other organizations, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t give these people access to your social media.
The advantages of each person still outweigh their risks, which are easily addressed by establishing some procedures and guidelines that will help your social media people do their jobs safely and effectively, such as editorial calendars and pre-approval procedures.
Who handles your social media? What challenges have you encountered in managing them? Share them in the comments below!
Once you have a robust social media presence and you are gaining some traction do not stop there! Make sure that the traffic you are getting from these channels is being taken care on your website and properly guided through the sales funnel. It is best if you can create a unique landing page for each of the social media channels so that audience who come from them are shown content that is consistent with the campaigns and messaging you have been broadcasting on that channel.
Here are a few articles that go into marketing on social media:
How a focused brand strategy got 1.2 million hits on social media
This article is one of the lessons from my Ultimate Brand Builder Course. By completing the course you will have built a robust and stunning brand that will be poised to attract your target audience and dominate your market space.