Whether you care to accept it or not, social media is here to stay. It is becoming a powerful marketing tool for businesses all over the world to connect with their customers. The questions is no longer, “should we be doing social media?” It is now, “are we doing social media right?” One way to do it right is to have a strong social media strategy.
Many brands are simply using social media as a way to promote themselves. They’re not using it as it was designed: as a communication platform.
Social media is a two-way street of dialog between a brand and the consumers. Unlike traditional marketing platforms – like billboards, radio, newspaper, or TV ads, where the message only goes one way, consumers are now on the same level as the brand. Their voice can be heard and amplified faster and farther than ever.
It’s great that you’re posting on your social media profiles, but are you doing it with a purpose? There’s nothing worse than starting a race when you have no idea where the finish line is.
How To Develop a Social Media Strategy
The single most important part of a successful social media strategy is having a goal. A clear, defined point in which your entire team can point to and say, “This is why we do what we do.”
Standardize Your Social Media Metrics
Once you have a goal for the entire team is working towards, you must have a way of measuring it. Social media metrics can be measured in several ways. For example, you could use the number of fans on your Facebook page, the number of retweets on Twitter, or the number of sales leads generated by your social media platforms.
I recommend using analytics tools that are powerful enough to measure where your traffic is coming from, which of those users convert to trial members for paid members of your product. Further, understanding which users to become long-term paying members of your product or service.
For example, if Twitter users make up only 6% of your overall leads, however they make up 25% of your total sales, it is a worthy platform to continue your investment. On the other hand, if your Facebook users make up 50% of your overall traffic, but only 2% of your overall sales, it would be worth reinvestigating how much you budget for Facebook advertising and marketing.
Understanding your metrics, and how it impacts your bottom line is critical to calculating an ROI (return on investment) with social media.
Have a Clear and Consistent Voice
Everything about your brand should be consistent. Is your brand fun and friendly? Or serious and straightforward? Can it laugh with other brands aligned with you? Or do you just stick to the facts?
OREO did a wonderful job of jumping into the news during Super Bowl XLVII. When the stadium lights went out, Oreo was quick to publish this image playing on the blackout, yet maintaining the voice of their brand.
Their image got more publicity than any other ad in the Super Bowl, yet cost them next to nothing to produce (compared to the $3.7 million for 30 seconds paid by other brands during the televised event).
Naturally, you might assume the Skittles brand would also be a fun brand. Their use of funny tweets exemplifies their brand voice across all of their marketing platforms.
Understanding Your Customer Profiles
Over my 15 years of working with brands in online marketing, a common theme is the lack of a clear customer profile. Better yet, is a lack of multiple customer personas. It is foolish to think that all of your customers fit into one category or segment.
For example, within the real estate industry, eligible personas could be:
- First-time homebuyers
- VA loans
- Jumbo loans applicants
- Land Developers
- Mortgage brokers
In my favorite industry, the specialty coffee industry, we may target:
- Coffee Shop Owners / Managers
- Equipment manufacturers and dealers
- Barista schools
Understanding the unique needs and terminology used in each of your persona categories will help dictate what you write on social media and which platform you use. Customers may be on Facebook and Twitter, while venders, suppliers, or investors may be on LinkedIn.
Timing & Tools
Nothing is more frustrating to me than inefficiency. Day in and day out, I see business owners weighed down by the burden of too much to do and too little time to complete it. I have yet to meet a business owner that got into their business to handle the marketing, accounting, human resources, and general maintenance of their shop. They got into business because they are passionate about 1) the people or 2) the product.
Using tools to schedule your social media posts helps with maintain an efficient use of your time and a consistent message to your customers. By scheduling your social media status updates, you are freed from the burden of always being online.
WARNING: Just like your business, auto-posting to social media is not “set it and forget it”. Use common sense when approaching your schedule and pre-loading status updates. It is meant to free you from being absorbed in the socialsphere 24 hours a day. Make sure you maintain a human-to-human relationship with your customers.
For social media scheduling, I recommend tools such as:
HootSuite is arguably the most popular social media management app with a slew of options, settings and dynamic features to backup it’s reputation. You can monitor and post to several popular networks including both Facebook personal profiles and business pages, Twitter, LinkedIn and others. With a built-in custom analytics system, the ability to monitor selected keywords and the option to conveniently schedule posts–HootSuite sets the bar high for competing social media management tools.
CoSchedule is an easy drag-and-drop content marketing calendar that allows you to plan, create, and promote your content all in one place. It saves you time and helps you grow your audience through smart marketing plans and efficient team collaboration. It is what my team and I use for our own social media publishing and planning.
Buffer makes it super fast and easy to share content that you’re reading without overwhelming your audience. Chances are, you’re a busy person who wants to keep their social accounts updated with great posts, but you don’t want to take a break every hour or so to post them to your account. Buffer allows you to stage social updates to be published over time.
Social Media Scheduling
A best practice, when creating a successful social media strategy, is the use of an editorial calendar. It is simply a way to map out your future social media posts and campaigns. It can be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet, or a paper calendar printed out accessible to your entire team. Regardless of the medium, make sure that you take the time to schedule out your posts.
Remember that social media is a very real time environment. Make sure you leave room to adjust on-the-fly to events happening in real life, just as Oreo did. There was no way for their social media team could have been aware of the Super Bowl block out, but they were able to react quickly to real-time events and take advantage of it. Internally, we call this news jacking. More on that in another post.
When mapping out your next 3 months (or so), take note of specific events that will require planning. For example
- Product Launches
Internally, you know when a hot new product will be hitting the shelves. Schedule a pre-launch campaign across your social media platforms that can help drive sales, early bird signups, or generate buzz for your upcoming release.
- Company Milestones
Is your company anniversary approaching? Are you making a significant acquisition? Participate in new training? One client we worked with had a significant tragedy occur in their store; the event reached international news outlets within hours. Every year, on the anniversary of the tragedy, a special event was held on-site. Knowing and planning for these types of events puts you in the driver’s seat, rather than playing catch up every year.
- Social Milestones
The socialsphere is unique. It is highly personal. Consumers are looking for a way to connect with a brand and will quickly become “emotionally involved” if the brand reciprocates the love. It’s human nature; we want to be wanted. Have a game plan for social milestones like reaching 500 Instagram followers. Tacoma-area photographer, Benj Heish posted this thoughtful image (one of his own) when his Facebook Fan Page reached 5,000+ fans. The “shareability” of such images are contagious. Each of those 5000 fans was a part of his accomplishment and wants to share the image with their friends. It’s a way of saying, “I was there.“
- Community (both real life and social media) Events
Every community hosts events (car shows, carnivals street fairs, block watch parties, etc). Have a plan and map these into your editorial calendar. How will you take advantage of a parade right in front of your door? What about tie-ins with local sports teams to celebrate their championship win?
At the time of this writing, Valentines Day is right around the corner. Now is the time to customize cute heartsy messages, Timeline covers, Instagram photos, quotes, email templates, and holiday specials. Holidays happen the same time every year, yet year after year, brands rush to complete marketing messages tied to the occasion.
Using Instagram and Pinterest
Using social media tools that “everyone else” is using, is not always an effective strategy. Many brands have overlooked the popularity of tools like Pinterest and Instagram to market to their customers. With a little creativity, it is easy to showcase your products in a visual manner. These platforms are widely popular because consumers love to digest content visually.
Starbucks has knocked it out of the park by using Instagram. The coffee giant does not post frequently, but encourages brand advocates — customers who are absolutely wild about their products — to post their own images using the #starbucks hashtag. This makes is easy for other customers and fans to get connected to the community.
When Starbucks does post images, they are often of their products, which are easily recognizable with a fraction of the green siren or trademark green straw. They are not overly flamboyant when it comes to advertising – they are showcasing their products in the environment fans are accustomed to seeing them. In every day settings.
When it comes to Pinterest, brands like Stella & Dot are seeing success connecting with customers. The boutique-style jewelry company targets “strong, stylish women everywhere.” Their social media platform choice is spot on. With nearly 80% of Pinterest’s 11 million users being women, fashion, DIY, lifestyle, and food brands do exceptionally well.
Linking To Your Own Content
If you are blogging on a regular basis, focus on creating “evergreen content”. Meaning content that is relevant for a long period of time (this article for example). Often, the best evergreen content answers common questions about your brand, product, service, or industry. Perhaps you wrote a blog on the benefits of using Product A verses Product B. Opposed to the Oreo example above, which will only be relevant for a short period of time before the reference is missed.
When you have a solid library of evergreen content, it is easy to sprinkle links, quotes, or examples within your everyday social media posts. This helps expose new customers to older content that is still relevant to their needs. I encourage you to share older (and popular) tweets, quotes from older blog posts, and dig up older photos used in your marketing. This shows both your brand personality and pays homage to where you’ve come from.
There is a careful balance between overly self-promotional and educational. Your audience’s preference will vary, especially based on the quality of the content you are sharing.
Linking To Others
Retweeting content from others is a fantastic way to get noticed (heck, who doesn’t like to be mentioned or recognized for their work) and attract new followers. Make sure you are sharing content that is valid and appropriate for your audience (remember your personas!). You can also use hyperlinks in your blog posts to reference material from other sources. Not only is this a great way to get the attention of the original author, it is proper internet etiquette.
Social sites like Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook make it ultra easy to share the work of others. You can schedule this into your content calendar to ensure you have a good blend of original content, your own evergreen content, the work of others, and marketing posts.
In the end, having a plan of attack can save a lot of time and energy. By not posting willy nilly (does anyone say that anymore), you can measure the ROI of your social media efforts.
Would you like to find new customers through your social media strategy? Contact me today and find out how I can help.