The biggest reason why I enjoy social media marketing work (and the same reason why I suspect many others hate it) is because it’s the opposite of a sure thing. What worked a month ago may not necessarily work this month (as you may have noticed, the trends change rather quickly). You can’t create a formula that is guaranteed to generate success on social media the way you can generate a formula that is guaranteed to tell you what 2+2 equals.
Much like socializing itself, social media is a careful balance of interactions with other people who all have their own opinions, biases, and preferences. There is no blanket-statement way to please everyone on any social network because that’s not how social interaction between humans works.
There are, however, a number of ways we can tap into people’s general interests and ramp up engagement with a brand (and I promise you that it’s not by spamming them with 20% off coupons every other day). There are several guidelines for marketing your brand and product on social media that have been proven to work effectively in many cases. And if you follow them, you certainly won’t please everyone, and you certainly won’t have become a social media superhero who is able to harness the full power of the internet with a single post. (I’m not sure those exist.) But you will be more successful at inviting users to engage with your brand and at helping them on their path through the conversion funnel. And as digital marketers, that’s what we’re all about at the end of the day.
1. Know Your Clients
How do you see your brand? How do your customers see it?
Is it strictly professional? Or is it a bit more fun and relatable? (Or perhaps something in between?)
- For example, McKinsey & Company’s twitter account is professional and straightforward:
Discovery CEO Adrian Gore describes how innovation has played key role in the South African company’s success: http://t.co/A5oPASbdhG
— McKinsey & Company (@McKinsey) May 22, 2015
- Whereas Pizza Hut takes a more friendly, trend-conscious approach to their brand.
The Big Flavor Dipper Pizza. So big you can spell stuff with it. pic.twitter.com/P1UEGuLpEE
— Pizza Hut (@pizzahut) May 22, 2015
Both approaches bring something to the table, and both appeal to their respective audiences. It’s important to know the difference (and understand whether you intend to reach a McKinsey audience or a Pizza Hut audience).
Where is your audience hanging out?
A Pizza Hut audience, for example, might be on Instagram, but an AARP audience might not (because 76% of Instagram’s users are under the age of 35). It’s important to push the content you’ve worked hard to create to where it can be seen by the right people.
What time is your audience online?
For bigger companies, posting at peak hours (usually around 9pm) drives the most engagement. But for a business with a smaller following, it can be worthwhile to post at non-peak hours so that posts don’t get lost in a slew of other activity.
2. Plan Engaging Content
When trying to figure out what content will do well on social media, it can help to consider:
- What’s something you would be interesting in learning or reading about that pertains to the industry?
- What is being shared on the web in topics related to your brand? (Buzzsumo.com is a useful tool for getting a feel for what people are interested in.)
- What are your customers asking? Or your competitors’ customers? What information seems to be missing?
You should also think about how often to post material from your site versus how often to post material from outside sources. While it can be tempting to share only content that will drive traffic to your website, in reality that will often deter people from clicking on your posts once they sense the trend.
Experts usually cite the 80/20 rule for content ratios – 80% of the content you share should come from outside sources, and 20% of it should come from you.
Another important factor to keep in mind is that each network is slightly different and deserves as much individualized attention as you can afford to give it.
Once you understand your brand and your overall content strategy, it’s important to narrow down your tactics for each social network and its respective audience.
- Share visually. If you have attractive videos or photos you can use on Facebook, share them generously. They’ll stand out in people’s feeds and are much more interesting than text or a link.
- Dress up your text. Images with words on them also tend to do better than just words themselves. So, rather than simply sharing a text post that says “Google updated its Panda algorithm yesterday!” on Boomtown’s Facebook page, we might find a photo of a panda and put that text over it.
- Boost posts. If you are having a sale, or if you’ve posted a blog post that you want to draw particular attention to, you can essentially pay Facebook to show that post to more people.
- Shareable, visual content rules. Include memes, images, infographics, etc. in your tweets and they’ll get shared infinitely more.
- The more, the merrier. Posting often on Twitter is the best rule of thumb because content goes by so quickly on a user’s feed. You’re more likely to get people’s attention if you post frequently.
- Use mentions and hashtags. With mentions you
can specifically tag people whose work you are sharing and get their attention, and with hashtags you can target specific groups of people who are interested in what you are trying to sell or promote.
- Keep up with trends. Here‘s a great site for seeing what’s trending worldwide at any given time.
- Share daily. You won’t find as much user engagement on G+ as you will on other networks, but you will find that posting here boosts your visibility in search results (especially in branded searches). There is also some evidence that suggests that Google indexes blog posts faster when they are shared on G+.
- Target Communities. These are small yet very targeted forums within Google+ where you can get your content seen by people who are interested in the topic and far more likely to click on it than your Average Joe.
- Post consistently, but sparingly. LinkedIn is the opposite of Twitter in that content goes by very slowly, so overcrowding a person’s feed is a real concern. A good rule of thumb I’ve discovered is that posting once or twice per week here gets your content seen by your followers, but doesn’t annoy them.
- Target Groups. Posting in LinkedIn’s groups tends to be really worthwhile, even in small groups, because people do read so much of what is posted on LinkedIn. (LinkedIn also notifies users via email that there is new content in one of their groups.)
- Reach out to fans, respond to their concerns, and reply to their comments. Your brand will feel more personal to them, which will increase their sense of loyalty to you.
- Social media is not merely a customer service tool, but it can help in that department. If people remember that you took the time to address their concerns when they posted on your Facebook wall, they’ll recommend you to their friends, write reviews, and help you improve your brand’s reputation.
5. Report Your Success
Social media does not often turn over immediate conversions. Instead, it is used as a way to acquaint users with the brand, draw them in to look at top-funnel content, and eventually help them make their way down the funnel. But it takes lots of time.
Measuring success on social media is more complicated than reporting success on SEO work. There are a number of places to draw your information from when you report back to your client or your boss.
- Reports from the networks themselves. Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ all have their own analytics dashboards that show stats like follower increase, post reach, engagement, etc. All of these metrics are extremely valuable when reporting your success.
- Google Analytics. Unfortunately, Google Analytics and Facebook do not always get along, especially if you have complicated Facebook Pay-Per-Click campaigns running. However, Google Analytics does have a Social Acquisition report that can give you a solid idea of how much traffic your social efforts brought to the site, how many conversions social media was responsible for, and whether those conversions were first-click or assisted.
Although there is no one size fits all method of social media success, these tips can help you create a solid foundation for your brand’s social presence (and keep it on track). To learn more about some of our trials and errors with social media marketing, check out our experiment: 15 Minutes a Day with Social Networking.