Social media remains a hot topic in the world of business – and rightly so. No other marketing platform gives brands such direct access to consumers and vice versa. Consumers love following their favorite brands, seeing what their friends are interested in, and finding new brands or products.
There are some basic stepping stones brands should keep in mind when starting their social media strategy.
Here, I’ll outline 6 key steps every company should make a priority before using social media to reach their customers.
1. Know Your Audience
It may sound simple, at first, but do you really “know” your audience? Do you know if they are primarily male or female? Single? Married? Do they have children? Do they work outside the home? What are their hobbies? Are they old or young?
While not all of these questions are relevant in every industry, knowing the basics about your customers is an absolute, indisputable first step in using social media for your business. So much of your marketing strategy relies on your audience, that you are setting yourself up for failure if you do not factor for them early.
For example, one of the companies I consulted for is a major home appliance dealer. When asked, “Who is your customer?” The response was an extremely common one, albeit wrong.
The owner said, “Everybody.”
Within a few minutes of conversation, we quickly divided his target audience into the following segments:
- New construction home/apartment builders
- First-time home owners
- Vacation home owners
Upon seeing this list, the needs and pain points of these segments was evident. My client realized that each audience is looking for a distinctly different product within his store.
2. Understand Their Pain Points
A pain point is synonymous with frustration or need. A customer has their own set of needs and problems. When brands can align their product and services to solve the problems facing the customer, the customer is much more likely to pay attention to the marketing messages. It is as if you, as the brand, are speaking directly to the consumer.
Using the same appliance dealer example again, we began discussing the needs of his audience segments:
New Construction Builders
This segment often purchased in bulk, meaning they needed 30-50 units each of refrigerators, stoves, dishwashers, washers, and dryers. Financing is important to them as their orders are so large. Further, they were not interested in the highest quality products, but something that would last many years to work within the guarantee limits to their end consumer.
The landlord segment needed only a few pieces every once in awhile. They often targeted the lower end units and installation services are important. Landlords do not want a lot of overhead or headache when it comes to the maintenance of the appliances they had installed; so they wanted something reliable and dirt cheap.
First-time homeowners often do not have a lot of cash, but want something that fits their personality and are likely to not keep these appliances for a long period of time before they upgrade. Style and price are most important to this segment.
Vacation Homes & Remodelers
For this example, I’ll lump these two audiences together. Their needs are quite similar, they are typically more affluent and are very intentional about their selection. They usually choose higher-end brands and products, cost is less of an issue.
As you can imagine, understanding what is important to each of these groups helps us tremendously when crafting our marketing message. Imagine our failure if we hawked the highest quality/priced appliances at the landlords. Our efforts would go to waste.
3. Know Where They Reside Online
Each social media platform has a personality of its own. Knowing the “culture” of each platform is important to fitting in and not interrupting the conversation that is already happening.
For example, LinkedIn is often associated with more business connections and less personal sharing.
Instagram is very visual and great for storytelling with images. Hashtags work very well on Instagram. Further, food and drink does very well on IG.
Pinterest is also very visual and helps a great deal to attract website traffic back to your website/blog. Pinterest’s audience is primarily female, more affluent, and likely to buy online.
SnapChat is a highly popular social platform used to share images for a limited amount of time. Images “expire” after a few seconds and disappear. It is great for real-time marketing for highly-targeted groups. For example, Taco Bell and Jack In The Box have used it to send disappearing messages to their younger audience base late at night on the weekends – when they are likely to be out on the town and prime for Fourth Meal (coined by Taco Bell).
While Facebook is the most popular social media platform on the planet, they are making the job of marketers much harder and more expensive. I consider Facebook a safe “catch-all”. Your marketing mix should include Facebook, but your results will vary and will likely require more time and money than any of the others. I recommend using FB still because they will likely keep adjusting their algorithms back in the favor of the brands.
Your brand does not need to be on each platform, carefully understand your audience to know where they are spending their time. Use your website analytics to determine where visitors are coming from and which social sites produce the highest quality visitors for you.
4. Know Their Emotional Triggers
Knowing how and why your audience reacts is a huge competitive advantage. It starts with Step #1 (above) – “Know Your Audience”. More than just knowing the emotional state of your customers when they are shopping (are they buying out of emergency? Are they happy to buy? Do they want to buy?), understand what “clicks” with your fans. Follow your fans on sites like Pinterest to see what types of images resonate with them. Are there phrases, quotes, images, or products that are highly popular with your audience? Use trends like this to craft your marketing.
Further, know the timeline of your customer’s buying cycle. Are they needing to buy now? Are they a week out? A month? What happens if they don’t make a purchase? How is their life affected? Are there penalties or bonuses if they make a purchase?
More to Consider When Creating Customer Personas:
- What are their values and goals?
- What experience/authority are they looking for?
- What is their role in the buying decision?
- What problems are they facing in this decision?
- What does their daily schedule look like?
- Where do they get most of their information? News? Watering holes?
- What are their most common objections?
5. Know Their Voice
Speaking to a customer in your “industry speak” may be alienating. By knowing your customer, you can use proper language on social media. If your customer is just starting their buying process, they may not be educated on the proper terminology – use language they are familiar with!
If your audience is more professional, match this when you speak to them and post social media updates.
6. Know It’s Not About You
Since social media is a relatively new media, many brands are still using older, more traditional, one-way marketing blasts at the customer rather than creating a conversation with the customer. Social media is not a place for a lot of self-promotion. Rather, it should be a platform where brands have an authentic desire to educate their prospective customer to make the best decision for them – the customer.
Brands would do themselves a great favor by making it more about the customer than about themselves. Your marketing mix should be roughly 80% education/conversation and 20% promotional. It is quite alright to have a sales message in your marketing efforts, but customers will quickly evacuate if they are constantly being pitched to.
Aside from not knowing their audience, this is where most brands get their online marketing messages wrong. It is not about you. It is about the customer.
Do your brand’s social media efforts a favor and following the following rules:
- Clearly define who your customer is; create a buyer persona for each segment
- Clearly understand the needs and problems (the pain point)
- Target social media platforms that are popular to your audience segment, don’t worry about being everywhere all the time
- Speak in terminology familiar to your audience. Avoid highly technical industry jargon and lingo if your customer does not speak this way
- Don’t dominate the conversation with self-promotional content. Aim to educate prospects and your existing customers by talking with them and not at them.
Getting a Social Media Strategy
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