Every man and his dog are on social media these days, and while you've got to be in it to win it - simply having a presence on a network is no guarantee of success. A lot of organisations establish a social media profile out of a sense that this is something they should be doing. However, approaching social media in this way will yield poor, if not damaging results.
In this guide, we'll take a look at the ways you can turn your in-house PR team into a galvanised social media machine and take advantage of the many opportunities provided by this new and exciting format.
Why Go Social?
If you're reading this, you're likely to have at least a passing knowledge of just how effective social media marketing can be. However, there are a lot of misconceptions around the field and when you're attempting to get the buy-in from your colleagues who may be sceptical about its suitability as a marketing tool, it's worth arming yourself with some key stats:
- More than 90% of marketers are using social media for business right now
- Middle-aged people are now the fastest-growing segment of social media users
- Social media is increasingly ubiquitous, with Facebook and Google+ boasting more than a billion users each
- Social media has a 100% higher lead-to-close rate than outbound marketing
- Nearly 85% of marketers place a high value on the power of social media, with the top benefits identified as increasing exposure and generating website traffic
- While word of mouth remains the top source of information for consumers, social media sources have quickly come to match and even out-perform traditional media in terms of importance
- LinkedIn and Twitter are two of the most popular channels for B2B marketers
- 65% of marketers are using social media to increase customer retention
- 55% of UK businesses have adapted their marketing strategies to become more social in the past year.
Resources and Research
Whether you're a complete newcomer to social media marketing and the medium in general, have the occasional flitter on Facebook or are an accomplished operator on several networks - the best place to start is education.
Get to grips with navigating the major channels as a regular user - make friends, contribute to discussions and develop a feel for the platform. But most importantly, get your team up to spec on the latest trends and techniques. There's a vast amount of resources out there, but some of my particular favourites include:
Social Media Examiner - For a range of guides, tips, reports and news on social media marketing topics
Search Engine Watch - Great news on internet marketing, social and search in general
Mashable - The latest news on social topics from around the world
Copyblogger - A vast amount of useable tips on getting your content in tip top shape
Hubspot - For all the inbound marketing insights you could ever hope for and more
SEOmoz blog - A great resource for newcomers to online marketing, as well as a source of insightful studies into various search and social issues.
Prior Planning and Preparation Prevents Poor Performance
It's easy to get excited about social media - after all, it's a format with reams of potential - but trying to do everything at once is a sure-fire way to fail. Social media is many things, but it's not a silver bullet for all your marketing needs.
Fortunately, social media marketing isn't like the fire-and-forget methods of days gone by and you can base and tweak your strategy based on quantifiable insights and concrete intelligence. Some key issues to investigate include:
- What networks your target audience uses
- What type of content they're receptive to
- What techniques your competitors and peers are using
- Your budget and available resources
- What analytics you will use to measure performance and what metrics you'll use to judge success
- After what period you will evaluate your strategy and make amendments based on your analytics data.
Tools and Technology
If a bad workman blames his tools, should a good workman credit them? Navigating the complex substrates of social media is nigh-impossible without the right tools and while there's a raft of options out there, some of the best I've come across in recent years include:
TweetDeck - A dashboard application that enables you to manage Twitter and Facebook accounts with ease. Unfortunately, mobile versions are being phased out, but this will still be supported on desktops.
Competwition - Promotions and offers are a brilliant way to attract followers on social channels and Competwition simply provides an easy way to manage these via Twitter.
Buffer - An excellent and easy-to-use time-saving tool, Buffer allows you to queue up posts on a number of channels and schedule them in advance.
Twitter Counter - This is a must-have for those seeking a way to easily gather stats on social media usage.
Dlvr.it An ergonomic tool that lets you syndicate content across multiple channels.
Brand Watch - An unparalleled tool for letting you go all 1984 on social media, Brand Watch enables you to track conversations on topics and measure sentiment.
Social Bro - A great tool for managing your Twitter community and analysing your engagement levels on the platform. It also offers great visualisation tools, allowing you to demonstrate your reach and influence in a straightforward, jargon-free way.
Grounding Your Goals
Using social media for marketing purposes can be a deceptively resource-intensive activity and it pays to start small. Even if you identify the potential to engage with prospects over many channels, begin by picking a couple of key platforms.
This will give you the opportunity to gauge the amount of time and effort you'll need to spend on your social efforts, as well as letting you hone your ability to engage your audience and find out what sort of content they're receptive to.
Blogging is Social
When speaking about marketing via social media, many people picture slaving away in front of a browser, responding to tweets and endlessly regurgitating content they hope their audience might find interesting. However, social media doesn't stop with Twitter and there are many other avenues to explore.
For instance, running a company blog can be an easy way to show expertise in your chosen field, create or curate engaging content and drive traffic to your site. It'll also help you build a stock of relevant content and indexable pages (which are beneficial in terms of SEO), as well as giving you something to post regularly on social media.
Similarly, if you've got the capability (and your chosen field lends itself to it), video is an increasingly popular and efficient way of reaching out to prospects. And with the barriers to production and distribution falling all the time, there's no excuse for failing to get involved.
But what to post?
Of course, this is the perennial consideration for any blog or video channel owners. Although curation is a valuable strategy, when it comes to original posts - you can't just regurgitate the content and concepts of others. My best advice would be to blog and post with a view to meeting the common concerns, queries and issues that your target audience faces.
However, avoid being overly-promotional and try and take a down-to-earth tone (without being condescending), so that whatever you're trying to get across is done so in a way that adds value to the visitor and builds trust between you and your prospects.
Be sure to check out this post we put together if you're looking for more tips on how to get the most out of a business blog.
Analyse and Eliminate
After a pre-defined period you set out in the planning stage of your social media marketing campaign, it's time to evaluate your progress. At this point, you'll want to identify your best-performing items of content (and reward those responsible), find what engagement-building strategies your target audiences have been receptive to and which have failed.
Based on these quantifiable insights, you'll be able to ditch anything that isn't working and set out a proactive plan that will define the direction you take through the next period.
So there you have it, hopefully these tips will help get you started on the path to social media marketing success, but we always love to hear from you - so let us know how you're getting on in the comments!
And if you're having difficulty convincing your PR team of the benefits of social or simply want to arrange some media training to get them up to spec on analytics tools, why not give us a call or drop us a line today?
Images used courtesy of Keith Ramsey and Notions Capital on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons.