Social Media Marketing

Social Media Marketing


(1) Intro to Social Media

Social media is everywhere, and people engage with it every day. Eat, sleep, Tweet, repeat. Social media is now a given in our daily lives. As a business, it can be a big opportunity for you. Social media is a great way to start a conversation with people and ultimately grow your customer base.

Online networks, or “social media” as we call it, allow people to link, interact, share and exchange information. They’ve quickly become something we can’t seem to live without. Literally millions of people connect and share on social media every single day.

Great Business Tool

But it can also be a great tool for businesses. Social media can be a platform that lets you talk directly to your customers and prospective customers alike, share content, get involved in conversations, build trust, reach more people, grow your sphere of influence, and ultimately understand your customers better.

Imagine you own a clothing shop. Your customers might already be using social media to talk about you. They might be sharing their amazing finds, asking for advice about alterations or even to post photos of celebs in the outfits. When you join these social networks, you can join these conversations and start new ones. Maybe you’ll start by sharing photos when you get new items in stock, and this will help you stay “top-of-mind”. It also give people a reason to visit, again and again. This way your network can grow quickly. Those people might see your posts and share them with other fashionistas, which can score you new followers and new connections. These are people who just might become your next customers.

Social media can also help you build trust with your audience. Imagine a potential customer reading reviews, or watching videos of real people—not models—wearing and raving about your clothes. Social media provides an opportunity for your customers and fans to promote your products, and when this happens, you earn trust. Why? When someone else says how great you are, it carries more weight. You’re not promoting yourself—your customers are doing it for you.

And, there’s one last benefit of social media for your business: You can learn by watching how people interact with your brand online. Maybe no one’s interested in a blog post about the history of brocade, but a video showing 20 ways to tie a silk scarf gets tons of shares. Figure out what people like—both online and in your shop—and give them more of it.

(2) Different Social Media Platforms

You can’t tap into the power of social media unless you’re there. First, you’ll want to get to know the different networks. Which ones are your customers using most? This will help you decide if you need a Facebook page, a YouTube channel, a Pinterest account, a Twitter handle, a Google+ page, a LinkedIn company page, or some combination of these and others. Then, you’ll need to create your profile, or what usually ends up being your “home page” on each of the sites you’re going to participate in.

Each social network is different, but whenever possible, you’ll want to add particulars about your business, like your location and contact information. Some let you add more information about your business or even photos and video. Once you “move in” to a social network, it’s time to get to know the neighbours. Making friends takes time and effort, but if they can help get the word out about your business, it’s an investment that really pays off.

It’s important to know that while you may be using social media for business gains, it’s a very different medium than your typical advertising channels. The people you interact with on social media don’t want to just to be “talked at.” Think of it more as a conversation – a give-and-take relationship that ebbs and flows. Treat this network as you would your friends and colleagues in the real world.

Making friends on social media won’t happen overnight, and it can’t be forced. Start by recruiting existing customers, maybe with a sign in your shop that says “Follow us here” or— even better—a 10% discount if they connect with you online. Follow that up with other ways to grow your network: contests, special events, members-only offers, entertaining content, or even real, face-to-face meet-ups for members of your social circles.

And remember, every member of your social network has a network of their own. Social media is all about sharing, so as you add posts and photos and get involved in conversations, it’s easy for people to connect with you. And that means more eyeballs on you and your business.

(3) The Right Social Media sites for you

New social media sites pop up constantly. There are some really big social networks that are important to know about, but there are also smaller, more niche networks that can be really valuable to your business, too. When getting started with social media, it helps to sort all the different networks into categories so that you can understand where you need to focus your attention. In the end, it’s all about understanding the objectives of each network, and the people hanging out there that you want to connect with.

Let’s start with some of the biggest social networks out there. For example, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have some very big audiences. If you’re a business, you should probably consider having a presence on these large networks so you can find them there.

But beyond the big ones, you’ll also find niche, or industry-specific players that cater to specific topics or specific audiences who really know their stuff and are looking for more detailed or insider content. Think about sites like TripAdvisor for social travel reviews, or Opentable in the restaurant space. There are lots of different sites out there dedicated to lots of different industries, and you should search around to find the most important ones for your business. And although membership on these sites might be smaller, those members can be exactly the kinds of people you’re looking to attract.

Another thing to think about when you’re deciding where you should participate, is the purpose of each social network. For example, some social networks are mostly used for personal relationships. Some are more focused on sharing content, and some are used more for professional networking.

Let’s dig into that a bit more. Personal networks are one way that people keep in touch with friends and family online, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t participate as a business: people discuss products and services all the time. You just need to be aware of the context. That means your updates should be light, interesting and useful — not salesy. For example, a vintage clothing shop could post photos of a customer carrying a fabulous vintage handbag, and that might get referenced or shared by people on the network, exposing the business to more people.

Content sharing networks give potential customers information they can sink their teeth into: facts, figures, graphics, reviews, and things like that. For example, YouTube, where that same clothing store could publish videos that show “how to wear it,” or Pinterest, where beautiful photos of ‘street style’ outfits could be featured.

Professional networks tend to be aimed at the business world and attract people looking to network, find jobs or hire people. Again, it’s important to know your context here: you’re not likely to get much of a response by trying to sell clothing here, but you might be able to locate your next employee.

On the other hand, if you’re a business that sells to other businesses, this might be exactly where you want to advertise your products and services to other professionals in very specific industries or job roles.

(4) Setting your goals for social media

Once you’ve learned the law of the land when it comes to social media, it’s time to figure out what you’re trying to accomplish. Social media offers some great opportunities for businesses, but it can also be overwhelming. To help you formulate your social media plan, you’ll need to start with your business goals.

Are you ready to figure out what you’re going to get out of social media? There are lots of social networks out there, and lots of ways to use them, to achieve lots of different objectives. But before you start signing up and posting all over the place, start with a simpler question. What are you hoping to accomplish with social media?

Maybe you’re looking for a faster way to respond to customer inquiries. Maybe social media’s a way for you to reach your existing customers and encourage them to buy from you more often. Or maybe you’re looking to grow your business by finding new people who could become new customers.

These are all good examples of goals that social media can help you achieve, and there are plenty more.

Remember our clothing shop? Say you’ve just opened your shop. You want to get more customers through the door, but in order to do that, you need to generate some buzz and get in front of as many people as you can. So that’s your first goal: raising awareness about your business. Keeping this goal in mind will help you map out your next social media move.

For starters, you’ll need to have something interesting to say, and you need to find people to say it to. Since you know you’re trying to find people who haven’t heard of you before, think about what they would be interested in or likely to respond to. Maybe you just got in a new line of hats or you’re having a big grand opening sale. Once you’ve got something to say, it’s time to figure out how you’ll find people to say it to. Because you’re looking to grow your network, you’ll probably want to start with some of the big networks. So maybe you’ve decided to join Facebook and Twitter. Once you’ve established yourself there, you can reach out to a group of your loyal customers or even your friends and family and ask them to connect with you. As you share with them and they share with their own networks, you’ll start to grow your own connections, and you’ll be achieving your business objective!

Remember, social media isn’t a one-way street. You also have to participate and give back to your new network of friends and followers. Engage with the network by re-sharing some of their content, or maybe you can spark some discussion by commenting on other people’s content around current fashion trends, or a celebrity who put together an amazing vintage look.

The last thing you’ll need to plan is how you’re going to speak to the different audiences in the different networks you’re using. This will depend in part on the function of the networks themselves, but it’s worth thinking through the tone of voice you want to use, and the interactions you want to pursue. Are you going to be professional and authoritative? That might work well if your target audience is formal and professional, or for specific networks like LinkedIn. Or are you going to be light and friendly? That might work better in less formal or personal networks, where you’re interacting with a more casual consumer. And again, don’t forget your business goals. If you’re looking to attract more people to your networks and your business, then make sure to use an engaging and inviting tone. And if you’re trying to engage your existing customers, make sure you speak to them with gratitude for being your loyal customers.

(5) Getting on social media

Joining a social network usually starts with opening an account and creating a profile. First, social networks for businesses can be a little different than social networks for individuals. For example, you might have a personal Facebook account where you connect and share with your personal friends and family, but the platform also offers pages specifically designed for businesses. Other networks don’t look all that different whether you’re a business or an individual.

Before you sign up, check into whether the network you’re joining distinguishes between businesses and individuals, and make sure you set up the right one. Once you’ve got this figured out, it’s time to sign up. This usually means creating an account. Generally, it’s best to use your business email address to do this so you can keep your personal and professional accounts separate.

Next, start loading up information. Now, every social network is going to be different, but there are some universal things, like your business name, a description of who you are and what you do, your address, your email address, and your phone number. These are all pretty standard, and you may even be able to upload an image of your business’s logo. Many networks will use this information to create a profile page for you, which is kind of like your homepage within the network itself. Different social networks offer different things, so take some time to explore your options, not forgetting your plan.

Remember the tone of voice you decided to use and the business goals you want to support. This will help you as you write the descriptions of your business, as you list your products, choose the images or videos you want to showcase, and even personalize your profile page with background images.

Your profile page is often the place where you’ll be sharing your content, having conversations, and displaying your activity. Generally, all that information you’ve entered about yourself will be accessible to people when they visit this page, and all the things you’re posting and sharing, along with the comments and activity on those posts, will show up here as well. This creates a kind of living history of your business’s virtual life in the network.

Also, don’t forget many of these profile pages are also accessible by search engines, so the more great content you provide here, the better the chances that your social pages might even show up when people are searching on search engines!

Whether people find you through search or by seeing something they’re interested in that you shared, they’ll likely click over to this profile page, and it can give them a great overview of who you are and what you offer. Even better, they’ll be able to easily interact with you, and hopefully become your next customer!

Finally, many social networks offer advertising opportunities, or special features for a price. For example, you may be able to pay for the right to see who else in the network has been looking at you, or you may be able to pay to put the content you’re sharing in front of specific groups of people on those networks. Have a look at the paid programs offered by your social networks, and see if they’re valuable to you.

(6) Your long-term social media plan

Once you start engaging with social media, you’ll realise pretty quickly: it helps to get organised. Putting together a serious plan for how you want to invest in social media will really help. The key is to sit down and sketch out a formal plan for what you want to post, when you want to post it, where it makes sense to post, and even who at your business should be posting.

Well, if you just assume that you’ll have enough free time to come up with creative, compelling posts “on the spot,” the odds are that you’ll end up disappointed. Life gets in the way, other things take priority and, without a plan, your social pages might end up being silent for too long, or your posts might be lower quality, because you’re feeling pinched for time.

Alright, so what should a social media plan look like? Consider the next 6 to 12 months, and start creating a calendar. Sketch out details like what topics it makes sense for you to post about? What’s your audience interested in? Then take it a step further. When does it make sense to post about those topics?

If we go back to our clothing shop, think about when there might be major fashion shows, special shopping seasons like back to school or the holidays, or other timely events that you can “piggy-back” on. Whether you post daily, hourly, or weekly, laying out your calendar will help make sure you’re consistent in your sharing.

What and when is a great start, but you also have to consider where you should be posting. For example, if you’re sharing some awesome pictures of the new line of dresses that just came into the shop, that might be a great update to share on social sites like Instagram or Pinterest. On the other hand, if you want to share a special offer for your biggest fans, you might share that with your connections on Facebook instead. And finally, don’t forget about the why. Why are you posting all of these updates? Which business goals are these posts meant to support? If social media is all about raising awareness for you, make sure your posts are designed to do that. On the other hand, if social media is more of a way for you to deepen relationships with your existing fans and customers, your posts are going to look quite different. There’s no right or wrong approach, but again: make sure you know why you’re sharing what you’re sharing.

So that’s a social media plan. Once you’ve got all these tasks spread out across a calendar for the next several months, all of a sudden, it’s much easier to see how you’re going to tackle the brave new world of social media. You might be thinking “wow, that’s a lot of work! How am I going to actually do it?” Well, wouldn’t it be great if you could block out a day in your calendar, write up all the things you’d like to post for the next six months, and then queue them up so they automatically get shared when you’re ready?

The good news is there are tools out there that can help you do that and more. With social media management tools like Hootsuite, Buffer, and Everypost, you can create the things you want to post and share in advance. You can decide which networks you want to share them on, and you can collaborate with your co-workers to let them help you along the road to social media success. On top of that, you can use tools like these to listen to what people are saying back to you on social media. After all, social media is a two-way conversation, not just a megaphone for you to use to broadcast your message.

(7) Advertising on social media

If you want to reach specific audiences online, advertising on social media sites is a great option. Many social networks offer paid advertising opportunities that can give you access to very specific audiences and get your message out there.

We’ll use the clothing store as our example. Perhaps you’ve noticed that your best customers seem to come from certain demographics… let’s say women, aged about 20 to 35. Wouldn’t it be great if you could focus your advertising on people who fit this profile and are more likely to become your customer?

Social media sites can help you target basis Demographic (Gender, Age), Psychographic (Interests), Geographic (location)

That’s because social media sites often know a lot about their users. Think about your Facebook or Google+ page, for example. Have you included your age or gender on your personal social media pages? Many people do, and that’s why social media sites are able to offer businesses the ability to reach such specific groups. Sounds pretty good so far, right? Well, it gets better.

Not all women aged 20-35 are going to be interested in clothing. So if we can avoid spending money advertising to people who aren’t interested in vintage clothing, that’s a win. Luckily, social media sites can help you narrow down your audience even more. For example, you could target women aged 20-35 who are interested in a certain fashion designer. Or who have posted about fashion in the past. That would be a great way to focus your advertising only on the people who are most likely to be interested in your shop.

And we can take that even further. Like other online advertising channels, you can also target your ads to a specific geographic area. That means, you could use social networks to advertise to women, aged 20-35, within 25 miles of your shop, who are interested a specific fashion designer that you care about. Pretty cool, right?

Social media sites provide great options for targeting ads or content to very specific audiences, and that’s a great way to make sure we’re investing our marketing budget wisely.

Now, let’s talk about how paying to promote your messages to social network users can complement your other efforts on social. Building up your presence on social networks is usually a gradual process. Over time, you post interesting, unique content, and gain more and more visibility. But what if you want to accelerate that process? That’s another great reason to try paid advertising on social networks. Say you’ve got a Twitter page with a few hundreds of “followers” so far. What if you wanted to reach a lot more people – people who aren’t necessarily following you yet? You could try a “Promoted Tweet.” This is a way for you to get your shop in front of potential customers – fast! For example, your Promoted Tweet could be shown to people who have “tweeted” vintage fashion in the past, or people who follow an influential designer. All of a sudden, you’re potentially reaching a lot more than your 200 followers, and hopefully growing your network with even more followers as a result.

(8) Measuring success in social media

Knowing how effective your social media efforts are is invaluable to your business. Tracking the impact of a social media campaign is really important, but it can get complicated. That’s when analytics and tools can help. Using the data and tools available from the social networks themselves, using social media management and monitoring tools, and using web analytics to see what social visitors are doing on your website will help you understand exactly how and where your efforts are paying off. That way you can keep improving your social media strategy.

Let’s assume our clothing business has established accounts on a few social networks – Facebook, Twitter, and maybe even some smaller, fashion-related social networks.

First, it’s important to take a look at the social networks themselves. When you log in, many provide data about what’s happening on those networks. For example, you might be able to get reports about how many people you’re connected with and how that’s been trending over time, which of your posts are getting shared or interacted with the most, or even who your biggest fans might be.

By looking at the data and reports available in many social networks, you can learn a lot about who your connections are, how they behave, and how they consume or interact with the content you’re providing. But logging into every single network and looking at the data and reports in each one separately can be time-consuming and tricky. Remember those tools that can help you schedule your posts and consolidate all of your logging in to just one place? Well, many of those tools can also track and provide data that can compare the different networks against each other, and give you all that reporting in one place.

Tools like these are really helpful, and you can investigate them by searching for social media management tools. There’s also another kind of tool that might help you: social media monitoring. There are lots of them out there and a wide range of features and pricing, but basically, these tools will scour all the social networks out there looking for mentions of you, your competitors, or even certain themes being talked about. These can help you identify new social networks you might want to participate in, and let you join conversations about your business or your industry.

But these reports and tools typically only measure what’s happening on the social networks themselves. So if you want to know what’s happening after someone decides to click on a link you shared, or a piece of content you posted and ends up on your website? For this, you’ll need a separate tool dedicated to tracking what’s happening on websites, like Google Analytics.

Web analytics tools will generally pick up the trail as soon as someone hits your website, and many of them will automatically track when visitors are coming from social media sites. That means that if you’re tracking what people are doing on your website, you can see how many visitors from Facebook or Twitter are not just arriving on your website, but also submitting your contact form, buying items from your online store, or downloading your monthly PDF newsletter. Lots of web analytics tools also let you track not just what network visitors are coming from, but even the specific posts or pieces of content that got them to visit your website.

(9) Avoiding social media pitfalls

Social media can be a powerful tool, but it’s also been known to cause some issues for businesses. Pitfalls that could end up hurting your efforts and maybe even your business, Stuff like boring, repetitive sales messages, posting once every three months, or, the opposite, spreading yourself too thin with far too many posts.

The first rule of social media: It’s not all about you. People go online to share news, how-to tips and funny cat videos. They’re not there to hear your sales pitch—and brands that have nothing else to say tend to get boring and ignored fast. If you’re a business, remember that anyone who follows you on social media is already interested in you. There’s no need to aggressively sell. Just focus on providing a good experience and keeping their attention. So if you own that clothing shop we’ve been talking about, let your followers know what’s new, what’s coming soon and how you do what you do. You don’t have to recreate your product pages and try to push them down people’s throats.

Building on that, people don’t want one-way pushes crowding up their feeds. They want to be on a two-way street. They want to know that you’re listening. Make sure you ‘man the phones’ online to monitor when people are responding to you, and have a plan for answering comments. Be understanding, be considerate, but most of all be consistent. Follow up on complaints, and give people the information they ask for. Negative feedback doesn’t necessarily have to end in disaster. It can be an opportunity to show your customers – and everyone else who might be watching – that you truly want to help them.

The next pitfall: Don’t spread yourself too thin on social media. With all the networks out there, there are almost unlimited opportunities to talk to customers, but those conversations take time. If you’re not careful, you’ll get overwhelmed trying to juggle too many sites. Focus on the ones that matter most and branch out as it makes sense and as you can handle it.

Have you ever checked out the social media page for a brand or product you’re interested in, only to find nothing’s been updated for months? Another big mistake. It might make people wonder if anything’s stirring over there or if you’re even in business anymore. Growing, innovative, exciting businesses have a lot to say. Stodgy, slow-moving ones might not say much. Which would you rather be?

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