Social media is still a big buzzword online today. Every week we get requests from businesses to help them understand and get involved in social media. Unfortunately there is a lot of hype surrounding social media and exactly what it can do for your business, so we decided to create a helpful guide to what it is and what, realistically, you can expect it to do for your business.
The essence of social media is the ability to share information between like minded groups of people and for those people to comment, share and rate that information.
It has been proven that social media can be a viable and worthwhile marketing channel for businesses of any size as it provides a mass broadcast medium for your information.
When we are discussing social media with our clients there is one mantra that is the core of everything we ask them to do:
Social media is a mass broadcast medium, and a targeted medium at the same time. On the one hand you are broadcasting (publishing) content to a potentially huge audience (think over 1 billion monthly active users on Facebook for example), but in reality your content will only get seen by a tiny fraction of that number and is more targeted at those that already 'like or 'follow' your brand.
Your content needs to stand out from the rest of the sea of content being generated. In order for someone to want to view, read or interact with your content, it needs to have some intrinsic value.
Research shows that photos, videos, things that make people laugh, contentious ideas, emotional content are all elements that evoke strong responses in terms of likes, shares and comments.
Clearly just posting news about your business or your latest product or service is not going to get you very far.
Take some time to understand your brand followers and your target market. Think about the things they are interested in and want to know more about, then create quality and, where possible ,unique content targeted to those people. Why? Because they will interact with your content by liking, sharing and commenting, which spreads that content wider across the social network giving you greater brand exposure.
If you find that the type of content this market wants is something that is not easy for you to generate or source as a business, I would be seriously considering whether it is worth investing in social media.
Social media should be viewed as sitting at the very top end of your sales funnel. Whilst it has the potential to generate direct sales it is often more effective as a brand awareness mechanism and a means for moving people down into your sales funnel through newsletter sign-ups or page subscriptions.
By gearing your social media strategy towards brand awareness and then brand involvement you can have a more realistic goal in terms of return on your social media investment.
There are a large number of social media channels available now and it can be hard to understand which one is worth investing your valuable business time into. Here is a quick guide to the main networks and what they can do for you:
Still the largest social network, this offers the ability to build a large 'community' of followers that have an interest in your brand and what you have to say. You can create a business page from your personal account to promote and post as that business. The ability to run very targeted adverts on the platform provides a very cost effective way to raise brand awareness and, through competitions and other interactive elements, get people to like your page and/or provide sign up to a newsletter allowing you to market direct. The key to Facebook is providing consistent, good quality and targeted content to your followers which promotes likes, shares and comments exposing your brand to an ever widening audience.
This messaging network allows you to post status updates 140 characters long. While this is an artform in itself, Twitter provides business with the facility to post updates, offers, news, competitions and blog posts to a potential audience of over 500 million users.
Now owned by Facebook, this photo sharing platform provides business with the facility to post interesting and arty photos and videos. This can be used by business to help build a brand by posting photos which reflect the brand values or provide access to unusual and interesting content that your target market want to see. Instagram has the benefit of having the ability to post to other networks including Facebook.
Pinterest allows you to create themed 'boards' to which you can pin relevant photos. The main benefit of Pinterest is that all photos maintain a link back to their source, so making sure you post interesting pictures to your website and then pinning them ensures you get links back to your website content. There is a clear psychology to what sort of images work best on Pinterest and research shows that the largely female audience means it can be especially effective in marketing ecommerce store content. Make sure you sign up as a business account not personal.
The social network from Google is very similar in concept to Facebook in that it provides a mechanism for sharing information and content to a broad audience and also those in your 'Circles'. You can create any number of Circles and segment your friends, business associates etc into relevant groups. Google+ also has a growing number of 'Communities' which are themed around a subject. Google has strongly hinted that content and businesses on Google+ will potentially start to receive benefits in Google search and offer the facility to link your account to your website, so that a small profile image shows up in search results. You can also create a business page within Google+ and post to it as the business ,which can also be linked to your website and may show as additional information in Google searches.
Of course there are many other networks all with their own unique features, approach and benefits but that is the topic for another post in the future.
The first thing to consider when looking at social media is figuring out who your target audience is and then finding out what (if any) social networks they are visiting. That way you can then invest your time in the networks that have the best potential of reaching the right audience.
Spend some time considering what content works on each network. Look at your competitors to see what they are doing and what works or what you could do better / different.
Put together a plan for at least 3 months in advance of what content you are going to create and how. This way you ensure you are generating consistent, quality content and not scrabbling around at the last minute to find something to put up. You should try and ensure you have a relatively easy mechanism for sourcing or generating the content, otherwise it could end up costing you a lot of time and energy for very little return. Consider the following options:
At first you are putting a finger in the air and guessing (to some extent) what people are interested in. Monitor what the response to each piece of content is, most networks provide tools and statistics to see how your content performed. Look at what time it was posted and try different times to see which gets the most response. Learn from the data and then refine your approach to maximise return on investment.
All of this sounds complicated, but it can be fairly simple so long as it is well thought out and planned. Of course you can pay somebody else to do all this for you, which is an option, should you have the budget. Be realistic about the expected return on investment from social media and you can benefit from the opportunities it provides.
We work with a number of clients helping them to get the most out of social media. If you want some help putting together and implementing a strategy, then give us a call today to discuss your requirements, we are here to help.