The Ultimate Guide To Social Media Marketing

One question I am often asked during my brand strategy sessions, brand building workshops or online presentations is about using social media the right away. A lot of businesses do not really understand how social media works and how to use it to take their brand to the next level. In this post, I put together a brief guide on various social media goals that every business needs to start with to make social media work for them.

Business owners often complain that social media does not work and that they have not had any results from their social media channels or campaigns. I believe the issue is not whether social media is useful to businesses or not. The issue is that most business owners do not understand how social media works and how they can utilize social media to their advantage. And all this starts with having a meaningful and informed social media strategy.

What can social media be used for?

Let us start with understanding what social media can be used for. Here are a few ways you can social media for your business:

Build brand awareness

One of the most fundamental uses of social media for your business is to build brand awareness. Identifying and getting in front of your target audience is the process of building brand awareness. This should not be confused with selling or promotion.

Wikipedia defines brand awareness as follows:

Brand awareness refers to the extent to which customers are able to recall or recognise a brand. Brand awareness is a key consideration in consumer behavior, advertising management, brand management and strategy development. The consumer’s ability to recognize or recall a brand is central to purchasing decision-making. Purchasing cannot proceed unless a consumer is first aware of a product category and a brand within that category. Awareness does not necessarily mean that the consumer must be able to recall a specific brand name, but he or she must be able to recall sufficient distinguishing features for purchasing to proceed.

Examples of building brand awareness on social media can include the following:

  • Share information, links, websites and sources related to your target audience’s worldview that gradually puts your brand in the “expert” zone
  • Engage with your audience by asking and answering questions
  • Chart the progress of your brand by sharing news, events and more
  • Start conversations about topics that are important to your brand and your audience
  • Leverage trends in your market segment and become part of them
  • Connect with influencers in your industry by sharing and engaging on their social media channels

Enable direct sales

While enabling sales through social media should not be on the top of your goals, think of ways you can enable your customers to place orders right from your social media channels. This is very easy to do with Facebook and actually quite effective. Facebook allows you to place order buttons on the business pages which can be linked directly to your order page or shopping cart.

Offer discounts and promotional codes to your loyal audience but balance this with useful and valuable non-sales content that you share. A rookie mistake that a lot of business owners make is to focus exclusively on sales and promotional messages on their SM channels which will end up alienating your core audience.

Customer Service

You can also use social media as customer service channels. This is very effective with Facebook and Twitter. Engaging your customers, dealing with their complaints and diffusing any potentially disastrous PR situations can be done effectively by having transparent conversations with your customers.

Launch promotions

Launching promotions on social media can be a very effective way to garner initial interest and awareness of your product or service. In fact, if done right, launch promotions can bring a ton of sales. Here are a few examples of how you can promote your product or service launch on social media:

  • Create teaser campaigns on Facebook that drip feed the launch process to your audience gradually building up interest
  • Post personal videos about your launch starting with informational videos that are followed by the pitch videos
  • Post coming soon graphics and messages that allow a behind the scenes look at your product or service launch
  • Post an interview where you talk about the impending launch
  • Encourage your audience to spread the word of your launch

Generate Leads

Lead generation is a big one. Write and share articles, presentations, ebooks and more on social media channels that would enable lead generation. Share educational content to help your leads understand your authority status. Hootsuite lists these 8 simple ways to generate leads via social media:

  • Share links to gated content – If the content is valuable enough, interested readers will be willing to provide some basic contact information in exchange for access.
  • Run contests – That are valuable enough that people will actually be interested in entering the contest.
  • Use social media advertising – Using highly specific target audiences to promote gated content is a great way to keep advertising costs low while ensuring the leads you collect meet certain desirable criteria.
  • Use Facebook custom tabs – Use custom Facebook Page tabs which can be a great way to highlight contests and offers used for lead generation on social media.
  • Host a hangout, webinar, or live video – Present the video as gated content, requiring interested viewers to register in advance by providing their contact information or open the video up to a wide audience and generate leads from that audience.
  • Use geotargeted search – Geotargeted social search can help you find these exact people and reach out to invite them to your business or direct them to a special offer lead generation form.
  • Use targeted social media listening – Social media listening is all about keeping a virtual ear to the ground to understand what’s happening in your industry, and who’s talking about you and your competitors online.
  • Engage in social selling – Social selling combines elements of social listening, lead generation, and sales practices, but is essentially all about establishing and building relationships.

Monitor competitors

From time to time, research your competitors through their social media channels to understand what they are doing towards business development. A lot of trends can be identified by watching competitors and their social media campaigns. However, remember not to simply copy what your competitors are doing blindly. Just use them as a reference to build your own campaigns that align with your target audience and your core brand message.

Build links

Links are the currency of the web and search engines like Google value links quite highly – provided they are genuine and of high quality. By sharing your website posts and articles on your social media channels, you are more likely to have people sharing your those links and perhaps even linking back to them from their own websites.

Editorial links like these are quite valuable and will go a long way towards boosting your search engine rankings.

Establish thought leadership

By posting valuable insights, words of wisdom, valuable advice and suggestions on your social media channels, you can establish your brand as a thought leader. Michael Stelzner of Social Media Examiner interviews Mark Schaefer who talks about the steps you need to go through to build thought leadership in this article:

  • Find a sustainable interest – whatever you do has to last a long time, affect a critical mass of people to make a difference and be something you love.
  • Find your space – after you determine what you want to be known for, you need to figure out where and how to tell your story.
  • Determine content – next, you need to choose the type of rich content you’ll create, whether it’s written, audio, video, or images.
  • Develop an audience – people who successfully build their audience have a strong commitment to that audience. Those who become known put their audience first, no matter how big they become.
  • Determine if the content is working – track everything that could be a leading indicator that you’re making progress. An interview for a podcast is a sign you’re moving in the right direction. If someone wants your input for a blog post, a white paper, or an ebook or for you to speak at a local club, those are positive signs.

How to design a robust social media campaign?

Now that we are a good understanding of how you can utilize your social media channels, let us take a look at how to create a robust social media campaign.

The first thing to remember is that any kind of social media activity or endeavor should not be considered in isolation. That is what we talk about social media campaigns and not simply social media tasks.

Your social media campaign will include things like the goals of your campaign, the various channels you will use, analysis of your audience and the brand message you wish to convey.

Listen to conversations

The first step in creating any successful social media campaign is to listen to the conversations online that are relevant to your brand and your target audience. You need to start listening first before simply jumping on your SM channels and posting or sharing stuff. The reason is that social media marketing is not about pushing stuff out into the world. It is about building engagement and a conversation.

Here are a few tools that can help you listen to social media conversations:

When listening to conversations, try and ferret out if everyone is saying the same thing or if there are people who are going against the grain. Is there anyone offering advice and solutions? Can you identify industry influencers? What is being discussed that related to your brand and your message that your target audience will find interesting?

Who is your audience?

Next, it is time to define your target audience. If you do not identify the right audience, all your efforts would go to waste. Identifying and segmenting your audience is crucial. If you already created buyer personas for your business then you can start from there and then go out in concentric circles, broadening the audience.

What is your core message?

Once you have identified your audience, work out the core message underlying your social media campaigns and activities. Keep your brand message at the forefront. Keep it simple and clear. Do not try to say too much. It is ok to be lofty but also be real and stay grounded.

Long and complex messaging never works and in fact, may end up alienating your audience and tarnishing your brand.

Select the right social media channels

Although there are some obvious channels to focus on such as Facebook and Twitter, a deep analysis should be undertaken to see which SM channels are relevant to your brand and your audience and where you will have the maximum impact and align with your primary goals. For instance, if you are looking for brand awareness and you are a clothing brand, then Instagram is the place to focus your time and efforts. Twitter and Facebook may not yield the same results.

Here are the major SM channels categorized:

Bookmarking

Interact by tagging websites and searching through websites bookmarked by other people.

PinterestDeliciousStumbleUponScoop.it

News

Interact by crowdsourcing, voting for articles and commenting on them.

DiggRedditSlashdotNewsvine

Networks

Interact by adding friends, commenting on profiles, joining groups and having discussions.

FacebookLinkedInMeetupXingGoogle+SnapchatTwoo

Media Sharing

Share content, presentations, documents, photos, and videos. Interact by sharing photos or videos and commenting on user submissions.

YouTubeVimeoScribdSlideshareInstagram

Microblogging

Post short updates, photos, and videos to your followers.

TwitterTumblr

Determining measurement criteria

Before you embark on any social media campaign, you must establish a benchmark for measuring success. Without a plan to measure the results of your campaigns, you will be driving in the dark. Here are a few examples of metrics you may want to measure depending on your goals defined by Kissmetrics:

  • To measure awareness – use metrics like volume, reach, exposure, and amplification. How far is your message spreading?
  • To measure engagement – look for metrics around retweets, comments, replies, and participants. How many people are participating, how often are they participating, and in what forms are they participating?
  • To measure traffic to your website – track URL shares, clicks and conversions. Are people moving through social media to your external site and what do they do once they’re on your site?
  • To find advocates and fans – track contributors and influence. Who is participating and what kind of impact do they have?
  • To measure an increase in your brand’s share of voice – track your volume relative to your closest competitors. How much of the overall conversation around your industry or product category is about your brand?

To run campaigns in-house or outsource?

Another critical aspect of social media marketing is to evaluate whether you want to run them in-house – either by using existing staff or recruiting new members or to outsource the endeavor. Both have their pros and cons but unless you have someone who has knowledge and experience with social media in your company, I would suggest outsourcing your social media marketing to an experienced company.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when hunting for an experienced social media agency:

  • Make sure the agency can back up their claims with real-life examples
  • Look for engagement in their campaigns – not just metrics
  • Make sure they give importance to business and brand goals and not just numbers
  • Do they understand your niche and your target audience?
  • Do they sound like they would care about your business success as opposed to just hitting some metrics

Often, social media agencies are much more expensive than hiring someone but the investment will pay for itself – if you get the right agency.

Is your social media branding on point?

Nothing could be worse than amateur and half-baked visual language on your social media channels. Every graphic element, every image, and photos should align with your brand guide. Even the tone of your messages and engagement should follow the guidelines set by your messaging strategy.

Typically, if you hire a professional agency to manage your campaigns, they would provide the creative and graphics. Just make sure they follow your brand guidelines and strategy. Make sure your logo design is used effectively to create brand awareness. Make sure your website and landing pages are designed professionally and are effective.

Work out a budget

Finally, think through and work out a budget for your social media marketing. This may be determined by your social media agency if you hire one. If you are braving it in-house, then you will have to make sure you set aside a budget that is based on research and informed insight into what it would take to achieve the goals you have set up.

The Content Factory came up with a study that the average business spends between $4,000 and $7,000 a month on social marketing.

They said that creating a new Twitter account from scratch costs an average of $2,000-$4,000 a month. To maintain an existing Twitter account, businesses pay an average of $1,000 and $2,500 per month. Social media agencies charge an average of $2,500 and $5,000 a month to set up and run a Facebook business account.

Running at least two social networks costs an average of $4,000-$7,000 a month. Hiring a freelancer to take care of the campaigns can start from $1,000 a month and a full-time employee can start from $3,000.

Conclusion

The topic of social media marketing is a vast one. In my previous article, I touched upon creating a social media strategy. In this one, I discussed the steps in putting together a social media campaign. Hope you found this information useful. There are a lot more articles on our blog related to social media marketing. Here are a few that you may find useful:

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