My career in marketing began when I was hired as a social media intern for a PR firm in New York City in 2008. I can’t even begin to count the hours I’ve spent on Facebook pages, retweeting, liking Instagram posts, commenting on YouTube videos and repinning pins. I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of some incredible social media campaigns and I’ve also had the unfortunate circumstances of learning when social media does not work for brands and businesses.
The truth is, I don’t think it’s smart for brands or businesses to completely avoid social media. It’s too much of a proven tool to ignore. In the days where everyone is online and there are new products, brands and businesses popping up everyday, you can’t afford to give up a place to establish your business and give value to your audience.
There is an art and science to social media and following these tips will help you blend both without going insane.
- Know your audience
Knowing your audience is my #1 tip for almost any type of marketing activity and it’s incredibly important for social media. Know your audience and know where they hang out, what platforms they like and how they want to interact with you. Are you catering to teens and tweens? Then get on SnapChat and Instagram? Do you offer gorgeous visually pleasing products to women? Get on Pinterest. Does your audience prefer long-form content that offers ton of value? Start a blog and promote it on LinkedIn or Twitter. Understand your audience first then get social with them.
2. Start small
The best social media teams I’ve been a part of are the ones that decided to start small and grow one thing at a time. Get really, really good at what platform, learn how to automate it and then move to the next. It’s hard to build up three-four different platforms from scratch. But if you focus on just growing your Instagram so that you have a fan-base of raving fans, you will be able to more time and energy into it. Then when you decide to spread to Facebook or Snapchat, you can already leverage the success you’ve had on Instagram, making it easier and smoother transition.
3. Plan ahead
The biggest problem I see most small businesses and entrepreneurs making on social media is that they are not consistent. Consistency might be one of the hardest things about marketing. It takes time, energy, focus and patience to consistently post on social. And when things are busy and you’re slammed, it’s frequently the last thing on your list to get done, if it gets done at all. That’s why I always recommend planning ahead. For my clients, I take one day a month to map out their content and their campaigns for the month. I organize ideas, outline them and then keep track of them on a calendar. I use Trello for this but you can use Excel, Google Drive, Evernote or any type of calendar app. Then at the beginning of every week, I write and schedule out the content for the week. I use Sprout Social but you can use a free tool like Hootsuite or Buffer to get started. It helps keep my content consistent, it helps keep my content strategic and it helps me measure my goals.
4. Recognize the funnel & have a goal
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it hundreds of times: social media (and marketing in general) is not a silver bullet. Too many smart businesses start experimenting with social media, don’t see a return on investment right away and then give up. Creating a Facebook page is not going to help sales start rolling in. The market is too crowded. However if you recognize that social media has a proper place in your marketing funnel and you can recognize and analyze how it’s contributing to the goal of the funnel, then you’re on the right track.
For example, one of my clients is a product based business. We use social media more as an brand awareness tool than a lead generator. While we do track traffic from our posts, we rely on ads to bring traffic back to the website and use our social pages as places to post brand information and entertaining images and content. But for a service-based client of mine, we use social media as a lead generator. We use it to promote their resource-filled blog, which leads to email subscribers and consultations. We focus less on ads and more on providing and sharing high quality content. In both situations, we recognizes that social media is not the last step before purchase and we’ve built out the path to purchase it works with each respective audience.
5. Be of value & engage
This tip goes hand in hand with the tip above. Whatever you are doing on social media, you want to make sure that you are being valuable to your audience. I try to follow Jeff Bullas’ four goals of content marketing with social media posts. Everything should either educate, inform, entertain or inspire. This is why the planning stage is so important. Content matters and taking the time to actually think of good, valuable content will help you a part in the online world where too many people are willing to post cat videos and memes.
Engagement is the second part of the tip. You can’t expect anyone to connect with you if you don’t connect with others. Respond back to comments. Retweet others in your industry. Like photos your followers share Instagram. Engage in dialogue. Yes, this takes time but if you’ve already planned everything out in advance than you can take 10-20 minutes a day to engage on your social channel.
One of the reasons that social media is popular is because you can really see what’s working and what is not. The data you can receive from social media is valuable and so is knowing what to do with it. The trick is not to get frustrated if the data is showing you that your social media content is not resonating with your audience. It’s to figure out what is working and what’s not and then make changes as you go. You have to be willing to look at the data to see: is it the content that’s not working? Or is the posting schedule? Are you using the right hashtags? When I first start out with a client, I generally take the first few weeks to do some tests. I’ll keep a constant (say hashtags) and then mix up the type of content between photos and videos. Or I’ll keep the type of content and experiment with the time of day. The best advice with analytics is to always look at them and then to let your curiosity take over.
Yep, you knew it was coming. At some point, you are going to want to invest money into social media. Unfortunately, nothing was meant to be free forever. Organic reach has been slowly declining over the last few years and that trend isn’t going anywhere. You don’t need to invest right away but if you want to take your social media efforts to a higher level, you will probably have to shell out some money.
And this does not always mean ads. It could mean investing in influencers to write or promote your products. It could mean investing in social media tools like BoardBooster for Pinterest or a social media monitoring platform like SocialClout.
8. Be patient
I feel my own eyes rolling whenever I give this tip. I know it’s cliché and over used but honestly, it’s probably the best advice I can give. Social media is definitely an investment in time and energy and yes, it can be frustrating if you don’t see results right away. But if you learn to play a little, be curious and recognize that this is not a passing fad and trust that your efforts will pay off if you focus on them, you will end up seeing success with social.
Remember, social media is just one part of a fully developed marketing strategy. When you combine it with a clear, concise strategy, it’s bound to bring back higher return on investment. Without a marketing strategy, you won’t be able to see consistency in your business. Stop wondering when you’re next client is going to come in and schedule a free 30 minute Mini Marketing Planning Session with me to discuss how you can actually feel like you’re marketing your business and that it’s working.