What is Social Media?
Social media refers to the websites and applications that are designed for people to collaborate and share content in real-time. It is a powerful platform that is used to bring people together to connect, discuss, share, ask for help, offer advice, complain and get heard. It is a critically important business tool because it presents an excellent platform for businesses to increase their visibility, build their brand, build relationships with their customers and stand out from the competition.
Social media marketing is the process of capturing the attention of a defined audience through social media channels by communicating your authority, expertise and values. In today’s digital marketplace, social media marketing is one of the most powerful and cost-effective ways for businesses to solidify and humanize their brand, generate qualified leads, boost sales and increase customer loyalty while at the same time pushing down their cost of sales, marketing, customer service and much more.
A few years ago, using social media for business was an option. Today, it is a requirement. 55% of millennials learn about products, special sales and shopping news via social media compared to just 35% via television. As a business, you will lose market share to your competitors if you don’t have a solid social media presence, especially as the social media landscape becomes more and more significant in business and in influencing consumer buying decisions.
Many small business owners view social media as just another marketing channel that they can use to promote their product inventory or services to a wide audience. And that’s a big misconception.
Social media is personal and intimate. Sending out an endless stream of one-dimensional marketing messages about your business, products or services does nothing for your brand. It is not what social media marketing is about.
Social media marketing is about establishing authority, trust and credibility, providing value and building mutually beneficial relationships with people that can add value to your business. If you’re constantly promoting your business in the news feed of your followers, you’re actually abusing their personal space and ruining their social media experience. Not only will you be alienating your followers, you’ll also be losing business to savvy competitors who are using social media in the way it should be used.
What is a Social Media Marketing Strategy?
A social media marketing strategy is a detailed plan to guide your actions when executing your social media campaign by marketing your business, product or service on social media platforms. Your plan should clearly articulate the vision of exactly what you are planning to achieve through social media as well as the specific actions and tactics you plan to utilize in the process.
A comprehensive marketing strategy is the foundation for success on any social media platform. You need a detailed plan of action that clearly articulates the goals you’re planning to achieve on social media and the specific tactics you’re going to use to accomplish those goals. With the right marketing strategy, social media can be a formidable marketing tool for your business. Without a clear vision, a well-mapped plan and strategic approach, your social marketing campaign is likely to fail. Whatever results you do get will be random and and difficult to repeat. You may get discouraged, begin to question the overall effectiveness of social media marketing as a whole and eventually give up.
Keys required for a successful social media strategy
Set Your Goals and Objectives
A successful social media marketing campaign begins with laying out clear and realistic goals and objectives that you want to achieve on social media. It is also important to understand how those goals tie into your overall business strategy. Setting up a Facebook page just because your competitor has one is not a good goal.
You need to be clear on the specific goals you want to achieve through social media so that you can create a strategy that serves those goals, instead of simply entertaining your audience without any particular purpose or direction.
For example, if your goal is to drive traffic to your website as opposed to using Facebook for recruiting and employee communications, a completely different approach to social media marketing campaign will be required if you want to achieve the results you are seeking.
Examples of goals you can achieve with social media include:
- Increase visibility and brand recognition.
- Connect with existing customers and prospects.
- Generate qualified leads.
- Develop a large network on Facebook.
- Build an engaged and loyal community on X social platform.
- Humanize your brand and establish trust and credibility.
- Pinpoint potential customers within a specific radius of your exact business location.
- Communicate your expertise and authority.
- Attract your ideal customer using advanced targeting options.
- Drive relevant traffic to your site.
- Increase customer engagement
- Build a highly targeted list of email subscribers.
- Convert followers into customers.
Define Your Tactics and Strategies
Once you have defined clear and quantifiable goals and objectives you are going to have to work out how you are going to accomplish them using social media. You will need to think about the strategies and tactics you are going to use and they need to be quantifiable as well.
Here are some examples of the strategies you may want to implement:
- To create a free offer with built in subscriber opt-in form.
- To post content on X social media platform X times per day.
- To make X% of posts photo/ posts.
- To spend X on promoted posts per month.
- To create X number of highlighted posts per month.
- To spend X on social media advertising.
- To increase spend on social media advertising in X country/ state by X%.
- To create X number of blog posts per week/ month and post them on X social media platform with images.
- To post X offers per month/ 6 months on social media.
- To run X competitions/ contests per year on social media.
- To create X events on social media.
- To create X videos on YouTube per month.
- To spend X minutes per day liking customers pages ( B2B only.)
- To spend X minutes per day liking, commenting and sharing customer posts.
- To follow X influencers on social media per week.
- To create X number of online events per year.
Define your target audience.
Your target audience is your most important commodity as they are the people that are going to buy your products or services or spread the word by about your business. It is important to clearly and carefully define your target audience so that you can create content that caters to them. Successfully identifying your target audience is the foundation of any social media strategy.
You need to know what challenges and frustrations are faced by your audience so you can market to them based on the value and solutions you can provide for them. You want your target audience to like you and trust you. Your branding efforts on the platform must be focused on establishing and building trust with your target audience, rather than just anyone or everyone.
Every piece of content you send out should be aimed specifically at your target audience. When your message is focused on your target audience specifically, its going to resonate with them because they know you are speaking directly to them.
Through strategic status updates, you can let your target audience know that you understand the challenges and problems they face, and that your product or service can solve those problems for them. That should be your mindset. You can do this by sharing content that lets your audience know what you can do for them.
Aim to provide relevant, actionable and useful content.
Publishing quality content is one of the key aspects of social media marketing. Your aim is to grow your following and attract people by establishing your brand as a leading authority in your industry. It is critically important to publish relevant content that your target audience finds relevant, useful and valuable. Don’t make the mistake of publishing all types of content in order to be popular.
If someone chooses to follow you on social media because they see you’re a financial advisor, they have chosen to do so because of your expertise in finance. They expect to read finance-related messages from you. There’s no point sharing health-related content with your followers because that is not why they have followed you. Aim to share information that your target audience will be expecting from you. If your target customers are able to take action based on content you have shared with them, they will remember you.
The content you share needs to be about your audience, not about you. If you’re a mortgage advisor, you want your clients to know how the latest changes in interest rates affect their mortgage rather than posting funny cat videos that does nothing for your brand. Offer this information freely and without expecting anything in return. You are building your brand by demonstrating your knowledge and expertise, and increasing your visibility in the process.
Create a Content Calendar
A content calendar is simply a broadcasting schedule for the different types of content that followers or your blog and social media profiles can expect from you on different days of the week. One of the most challenging tasks of your social media marketing campaign is going to be to consistently deliver a high standard of content to your followers on a daily basis.
Depending on what type of business you run, you may have to post between two to four times a day on Pinterest, at least twice a day on Facebook, 5 – 10 times a day on Twitter, once a day on LinkedIn and twice a day on Google+. This does not mean you need to create numerous blog articles each day but you are going to need to communicate in some way and find unique ways for your audience to interact with your brand.
Using a conversation calendar is an extremely efficient way for your business to control and refine your conversations so that you can continue to deliver on-going and compelling communications that engages your fans and followers. It also helps to keep your posts updated regularly and consistently, and maintain an organized and structured delivery of the content you’ll be sharing on your website and through your social media profiles.
The conversation calendar is simple in form and concept: simply assign a post type (i.e. photos, video, article – including how-tos and tutorials, podcast, trivia, etc.) to each day and build a monthly calendar in advance.
Choose the Right Networks to Market on
It is important to understand the significant features of each major social media platform and how they can benefit your business because not all social platforms will be suitable for your business needs. You cannot approach each social network in the same way because each platform has its own personality.
Here are a few key factors to consider when evaluating a social media platform for your business:
- What type of people do your products or services best appeal to? A strong knowledge of your business, and product or service is essential in order to really understand who your products best appeal to.
- Who is your target audience and where are they active? It is really important to have an innate understanding of the people you are going to be targeting with your social media campaign.
- What are your goals? The most appropriate social media platform for your business will depend on your goals and what you want to achieve. For example, if you are interested in creating a community and establishing relationships with your customers where you can engage and get to know them on a more personal level, then you must use Facebook.
- What type of content do you want to share? You should consider the best platform for the type of content you are planning to share with your target audience. For example, the posts that get the most engagement on Google+ are lengthy, resource-type reports, articles, how-to’s and tutorials, while Pinterest is a real advantage for businesses who are very visual in nature.
- Where is your competition active? Competitive intelligence is crucial in business, and knowing where your competition is active will give you meaningful clues on where you should be active. Analysing your competitor’s presence on social media can show whether you should be active on a particular platform.
- How much resources do you have? Since most social platforms can be used free of charge, time and energy are the primary resources to concern yourself with when choosing one. However, being active on social networks is a very time-intensive process.
You have to account for the time and energy it takes to plan your strategy, set it up, get yourself trained, execute your plans, build your relationships and take care of the new customers you will acquire through social media.
Create a Social Engagement Schedule
Engagement with your fans is the single most important activity required for success of your social media marketing campaign. If you do not have a strategy in place for how you will engage your followers, it will be very difficult to achieve your goals.
It is always useful to always bear in mind the end-goal of your social media campaign. Having a large, targeted network of fans who are interested in your business and industry is a powerful asset and great for social proof. However, your end-goal is not just to grow a large fan base. Your network is only a means to an end. Your actual end-goal is to engage with those fans and convert them into customers.
There’s no point in building a large network with thousands of targeted fans if you don’t have a plan in place for how you are going to engage or interact with them. If your fans are not engaged, then you will achieve very little on the platform, and all of the hard work and resources you’ve put into acquiring those fans will have been a waste of time.
Monitor and Measure Your Success
As your campaign develops, you will need to adjust certain aspects to achieve what you originally set out to achieve. For example, you may find that you need to spend more on promoted posts to increase your reach, you may need to spend more advertising to increase the number of fans or you may need to change the type of content you are posting to increase the amount of engagement. The only way you can do this is by constantly monitoring and measuring your results against the original goals and objectives you set and adjusting your campaign accordingly.
Google Analytics provides in-depth reports and metrics you can use to track and analyze the actual performance and effectiveness of your social media marketing campaign. You can easily determine which of your content is generating traffic, subscriptions, and conversions and which content is not effective for your business.
You can find out which of your content is resonating best with your audience, whether a particular campaign is meeting its defined goals, and if not, why not, and what you need to do in order to improve performance.