What it is and How to Use it
At its very simplest, social media marketing means using real-time communication tools to create a social presence and an identity for your business via the modern-day version of word-of-mouth. Social media tools function by luring potential customers to your website, where they can become buyers. That is their purpose, in simplest terms.
As recently as three years ago, social media marketing was pretty simple to understand: it meant getting views, likes, fans, and followers. It was free, it was easy, and it worked. Today, social media has become clogged and complicated. It’s an out-of-control smorgasbord of discounts and deals, where algorithms and metrics are king. It’s no longer enough to simply be out there. To stand out from the crowds, you need a strategy that is based on a clear understanding of your customers’ needs, the kind of content you should share, the tools best used, and how you measure results.
Understanding Your Customers
Before you can decide how you are going to target potential customers, you need to understand who they are. The more you know about the customers you’re trying to reach, the more successful you’ll be in connecting with them via your marketing efforts.
The easiest way to paint the portrait of your ideal potential customer is to look at your current customers. Study them. Take polls and interview them. Your goal is to understand and define their needs.
The most important lesson in any social media marketing campaign is that content matters. The content you put out there must be worthy of sharing. Remember, it’s a mad world and gone are the days when you can be assured that your fans or followers even remember you exist. In order to be heard, to stand out from the masses, you must attract attention with information that your customers find valuable, either in terms of its usefulness or its memorableness. A good rule of thumb: If it isn’t something you’d say to someone in real life, say at a cocktail party or over a beer, it probably isn’t good content.
Use the Right Tools
When it comes to social media tools, you have a myriad of choices. Each week, it seems, more pop up. How do you know which applications to employ? Don’t choose randomly. Your decision should take into account which channels are used by your current and potential customer base and which are best suited to communicate your content!
Below is a rundown of some of the most common social media channels and their most common applications:
The most basic choice when it comes to social media channels, blogging can be used in a social media marketing campaign in a couple of ways:
- You can create a blog for your brand, usually connected to your company website, where you regularly post valuable content, such as how-to articles about your industry.
- You can draw traffic to your blog, and thus your website, by participating in the blogging community by posting comments on other blogs and in forums. Your comments link back to your blog.
Facebook allows you to promote yourself in a number of ways:
- By setting up a Facebook page you can establish a presence complete with short messages, photos, and videos.
- Using Facebook also employs testimonials in the sense that fans or followers can “like,” comment, or re-tweet info about your product or brand.
- You can also buy advertising through Facebook Ads. Facebook Ads employ targeted marketing, meaning your ads are are targeted to users whose profiles indicate they may have a special interest in your service or product.
Probably the next big thing in social media, Pinterest is an online bulletin board that allows you “pin” and organize images. If your brand can be visually communicated, you can use Pinterest to create a sort of online catalog.
In order to know whether your social media marketing campaign is successful, you must measure it. Here’s the thing, though: measuring social media can be a bit tricky. The most common methods take into account the following:
- Number of friends, fans, followers,“likes”
- Traffic driven to your website
- Engagement (including retweets, comments, replies and participants)
- Actual leads generated
- Brand awareness
Many social media channels have some form of analytics built in. Sometimes, though, you may need to engage third party tools or even build your own using APIs. Search online or ask around: there are tons of options out there!
Once you have gathered your numbers, you must be careful to interpret them. Take your number of followers for example. In theory, more followers means more success. However, this isn’t necessarily the case. Imagine Company A has 100 followers while Company B has 1000. You might think Company B is doing better until you realize that Company A has a 5% conversion rate (followers who become customers) to Company B’s 2%.
Once you know how well your social media marketing campaign is working you can troubleshoot. What changes can be made? What might work better? Adjust your strategy and repeat!