Over the last decade, social media marketing has become an indispensable tool in the arsenal of brands and businesses of all kinds, with opportunities to build relationships, engage with customers, and increase sales like never before – and the stats back it up. A January 2014 survey by PewInternet revealed that 74% of adults in North America used social networking sites, including 82% of 30-49 year-olds and 89% of 18-29 year-olds.

In addition, research from social media analysts Digitas predicts that the growth of social commerce could make it a business worth $30 billion before the end of 2017. And in a Social Media Examiner poll conducted in 2015, 91% of respondents said that social media marketing – worked on for at least 6 hours per week – increased exposure for their business.

If you’re not using social media at all, or your current strategy isn’t working for you as well as you hoped, now is the time to make a change. You are about to learn expert hints and tips to effectively market your business across all of the most popular social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, and Pinterest.

Success in social media marketing results from building strong and long-lasting relationships with customers and professional contacts, and sharing the type of content and expertise that they will want to share onwards to their friends, family, and colleagues. This approach will help to attract and keep loyal customers and connections, and encourage brand ambassadors to sell your business for you – a complete reverse from the traditional marketing model!

While this approach is a world away from the way traditional marketing works, this open, two-way communication is now what billions of consumers around the world expect from the businesses and brands to whom they invest time and money.

Direct selling does have a place, but as you’ll learn, it isn’t the “front and centre” where social media marketing is concerned. I hope you find the following advice helpful, whether you’re a complete social media novice or a savvy individual looking for some extra expert tips to drive your business onto bigger and better things.

Do let me know how you get on by getting in touch via my social channels!

Key Considerations for All Social Media Marketing

Peer pressure, success stories in the media and general hype tell today’s business owners that having a presence on social media is essential. That’s not to say a business couldn’t do well without utilizing social networking, but they’d certainly be missing out on a myriad of opportunities to build and grow.

However, one of the biggest mistakes that a brand can make is to leap into social media marketing with no real clue of what they are going to do with it; only the vague hope it will somehow make their fortune. While there is a possibility that you get really lucky, in most cases this kind of unplanned approach will lead to unrealistic goal-setting, poor results, a huge waste of time, and ultimately a defeatist attitude that puts you off the idea of social media marketing completely.

To ensure that this doesn’t happen to you – and to give you the best chance of success – I urge you to digest the key considerations for social media marketing detailed below. By the end of this chapter, you will have a firm understanding of what kind of approach works for business on social media, and how to take your efforts in a well-planned, logical direction.

Decide which social networks will work best for you

Unless you’re a big company with the resources to plow full speed ahead into every potentially viable social platform, chances are you’re better to focus on one or two “core” social networks first. It’s better to excel on a couple of social networks than be mediocre on five or six, and while social media is (mostly) free, your time is valuable.

Indeed, depending on the type of business you run not every social media site is going to suit your marketing, your audience, or what you are trying to achieve. To help you decide where to begin, identify which social networks your target audience already “hangs out” or use customer personas and research of social network demographics to judge where you will best be received.

Joining Facebook and Twitter is often a given for brands simply due to their sheer size and influence, but more “niche” communities with their own unique attributes – still with hundreds of millions of users, mind you – like Pinterest, Instagram, or LinkedIn, might be where you find can make an impact more successfully.

You’ll learn all about what each particular social network brings to the table as they are introduced in the chapters to come, but to start off, experiment with a couple of social networks where you can invest some significant time, track your progress, and then either build on your achievements with them, or steadily begin to experiment with other platforms on which you might have additional (or better) success.

Define and assess your goals

Before you start posting content to social media, it is useful to define the guiding themes and overall goals of your strategy, as these will help you shape the way you approach what may well become the linchpin in your marketing machine. I’m a fan of the SMART technique for creating actionable social media goals. Here’s a breakdown, hopefully they’ll help you too:

Specific: Be specific in what you want to achieve. Do you want to raise awareness of your brand? Increase sales? Improve customer service? Strengthen loyalty?

Measurable: How will you know that your goal has been achieved? What analytics tools will you use to track your progress?

Achievable: Is your goal realistic? When you are just starting off, don’t aim too high at the risk of being deflated if you don’t hit your projected goal; getting really adept at all this stuff (particularly if you are approaching social media marketing seriously for the first time) takes a while.

Relevant: Is your goal aligned with your company’s mission, vision and values?

Time Specific: When do you want to have achieved the goal by? To add a focus to your marketing, stick to one overarching goal at a time, e.g. “I want to increase traffic to our website by 15% in the next 3 months”.

For example, if you’re a shoe store owner and you normally sell 20 pairs of shoes a day, why not aim to use social media to help you sell 25 per day? After a good amount of time (at least a few months), evaluate where you are by using analytics tools, social insights (likes, followers, comments), and other metrics to help you track and measure your activity – you’ll find lots more information on these shortly.

Perform an audit to help shape your content strategy

Carrying out an audit is one of the best ways to get an idea of the kind of social media content strategy that will resonate with your audience, and a great way to decide upon what you want to post to your audience.

Take time to identify your audience’s needs, desires, and interests on social media – ask yourself what problems you can help them overcome, what questions you can answer, what type of content they prefer (e.g. text, photo, graphics, video), and when they are most likely to be around to see it.

Tools like SEM Rush and TrueSocial Metrics are two popular paid options if you want to dig right down into the details, but you needn’t spend a penny to get a good, general idea… especially if you use your competition to help you out! First, identify your competitors (you’ll probably know them already, but a simple web search will tell you), then visit their websites and social media profiles for a nose around.

Make notes on how often your rivals publish blogs and status updates on social media, and which content seems to perform best for them based on the number of likes, comments, and shares. You can gain further insight by identifying how much of this content appears to be original versus shared from other sources, and what the topics and tone of voice used are like.

Use the information you gather to mirror successful types of content in your own social media strategy, but also to identify gaps and opportunities where you can do better.

Note: See the Premium Content Bundle chapter of this book to download a ready-made 24-question template to help your business plan and execute your social media strategy, and perform a simple competitor analysis.

Plan ahead with a social media content calendar

One of the stiffest tests facing brands on social media is to consistently publish high quality content for their fans. A company’s social media presence that appears abandoned is the digital equivalent of turning your lights off.

Because you’re not updating online, people will assume that you’re going out of business, even if the opposite is true. Since it’s this consistency that can really help to boost levels of engagement (by enabling fans to anticipate your next post) and foster a stronger relationship with your audience (who will keep coming back for more), one of the best ways to help get it right is by compiling a social media content calendar.

An editorial calendar will allow you to plan your activity for weeks – or even months – in advance. This foresight will allow you to build seasonal themes into your updates, and prevent you from posting sub-par stuff just because you need to publish something.

As well as planning for the big holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, you will also be able to map out a strategy for “mini holidays” like July 4th or Valentine’s Day, occasions where fans are actively searching on social media for deals, discounts, advice, etc.

The ability to scan a social content calendar regularly will also provide you with a way to step back from day-to-day posting and reaffirm your wider strategy. Of course, spontaneous posting to social media still has a place, but for the foundations of your strategy, a content calendar is highly recommended.

One simple way to plan a content strategy (that can be used to populate your calendar and prevent yourself from becoming overwhelmed) is to create a daily theme across your social networks. For example: sharing a new blog post on Monday, asking a question on Tuesday, an infographic on Wednesday, a quote on Thursday, etc.

Note: you can get my ready-to-use social media content calendar templates for a price. You can contact me.

Re-purpose content across social media

It is worth emphasising that something that might be distributed as one piece of content in the real world (a press release, say), can be marketed as four or five content pieces for social media: blog about it, tweet, make a video, share on Facebook, turn it into an infographic for Pinterest, etc. This is a fantastic strategy for making the most of your content creation, particularly if you are strapped for time or low on resources.

Drop old-style communication methods and get social – find and define your social voice

Successful social media strategy requires just that – a social strategy. Traditional marketing techniques like TV and newspaper advertising worked because the direction of communication could only go in one way (from brand to consumer) with little chance for reply, but social media means that this is no longer the case.

Now that a two-way dialogue is firmly established and your brand is under the spotlight 24/7, you must resist the urge to talk at people, and adapt your tone of voice and communication methods to connect with them on a human level – speaking to them in a personable manner and listening with intent, rather than just hearing and doing nothing about it.

This lesson applies the same whether you are a small business employing a handful of people, a multi-national company with thousands of staff, the owner of a “fun” business like a karaoke bar, or something more “serious” like a finance company.

Brands that define their social voice (and strive to maintain it in all of their social interactions) can cut through the noise and deliver a clear message that, ultimately, will deliver more improved results.

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