Trying to reach an audience only through organic search results leaves gaps in your potential reach and marketers should look for alternative solutions to gain maximum visibility online.
92% of marketers Say Social Media Is Important For Business
According to socialmediaexaminer.com, a leading authority on everything social media, a whopping 92% of marketers give a big thumbs up to online networking.
Social networks have had a major impact on our lives and is changing the way companies can connect with customers. Although social platforms were never intended to be used for commercial purposes, they do have a major role to play in company-customer interactions.
So let’s take a look at the top five most crucial benefits social media networks offer online businesses.
Benefits of using social media for your business
1. Drive traffic
Although social media is not seen as an advertising platform per se, social networkers use it to discover content. By linking your blog with your social media networks you instantly post content in your account for others to access.
Providing you are publishing great content with clickable titles, you will drive traffic to your site which helps to boost SEO. If you have a user-friendly website and excellent products, you should also expect to increase conversion rates as well.
2. Raise brand awareness
The worldwide web does exactly what it says in the title. As a result your brand name is seen by more people. And social media is an ultra-fast courier. By interacting with followers, giving advice and making intelligent comment, your brand name and expertise will be noted by more people than traditional advertising can ever hope to achieve.
3. Developed customer loyalty
Customer loyalty is important for the success of many online businesses. A core following enables you to build a strong fan base which will eventually earn you more reach.
Social media networks are arguably the best tools available for marketers to connect with customers to provide customer support and customer service. All of which of course enables you to ensure customer satisfaction.
4. Market insight
Another valuable asset social networks give you more than other marketing tools is market insight. By analysing what people are talking about and what content they are sharing, it is possible for brands to determine needs and desires of consumers.
Innovative firms can use this information to their advantage, either by filling a gap in the market with a new product, or designing a marketing campaign around an existing product that can solve a problem or benefit customers in some way.
5. Lead generation
Social media has without doubt, huge potential to improve lead generation. However, brands need to tow-the-line a little before you reach that stage. It doesn’t happen overnight.
Online consumers are not the most trusting of people. You have to earn their trust by raising your online creditability – which you can do by using social networks to provide customer support and service, even fielding complaints.
The survey shows that lead generation does work. 51% of companies that took part in the study reported increased sales as a result of a social media marketing campaign.
Although online networking can take some effort, once you work social media management into your working day, and break through the barriers, you will eventually be rewarded for your efforts. It takes time, it can be frustrating, but statistics show social media marketing does work.
Merely having a website and a couple of high-profile social media networks on the marketing landscape is not enough. You need to build a web presence.
Fortunately, there is plenty of scope. An array of social networks capable of hosting a variety of media content, and numerable opportunities to contribute to third party websites provide a platform for online firms to be seen and heard.
So, how do you go about marketing via social media channels?
Be socially active
Using your string of social accounts to host your content is ineffective. Now social networks have stemmed the flow of organic reach, only a small portion of your audience receives your work.
In order to be spread content evenly among your followers, you have to interact with them. If there is no communication with members in your community, access to your content is cut-off or denied completely.
Marketers also need to be active on social media to raise brand awareness and actively help followers find information they need. It’s all part of modern day online digital PR. It’s also important to be aware it’s not the number of people you are connnected to or who follow your brand through social media, but ensuring they’re the right type of people. Whilst it’s a cliche, the only effective message is the right message at the right time to the right person. Find out who your ideal target customer is, where they hang out, the subjects they are interested in and the language they speak.
Using emerging social platforms
Now that leading social platforms are choking organic reach, a spate of alternative social networks has grown in importance over the last few years.
Sites such as HubPages, Quora and Medium are providing companies with digital space to publish content and reach an audience.
The advantage the emerging networks have is that their users can actively find content they want, so like search engines there is user-intent you don’t get with the major social networks.
These new social platforms are also beginning to gain traction in search engine results and are appearing on page #1 of Google for content searches, far more often than Facebook or Twitter. Their question and answer format often meets the informational need of search engine users looking to find solutions to their problems.
Be a contributor – contributing to industry magazines
Guest posting has all but died a death – at least in the eyes of some digital marketers. The malpractice of publishers trying to manipulate rankings by paying for inbound links damaged the reputation of contributing to third party sites. Even the larger sites such as Forbes, Huffington Post et al have a whole host of guest bloggers selling links in the blog posts they contribute and Google have said they are likely to ignore links out of sites known to have abused blog posts. You’re literally throwing away your money if you pay some blogger who offers to add you a followed link from one of their posts to some of these sites.
These kind of activities certainly damaged the inbound link system for reputable writers contributing to industry magazines. But even though contributors are only awarded no=follow links, writing for industry magazines is still worth the effort.
Because industry magazines carry a fair weight of authority, publishing content with third party editors raises your trust score with readers and possibly even search engines, although Google has never, and maybe never will, acknowledge this. However, Google have confirmed they do carry out some kind of sentiment analysis when they decide which sites to rank and this is where contributing and showing authority really helps.
Industry magazines are managed by editors that have some knowledge of their subject, and demand a higher quality of writing and knowledge before they will accept a piece for publication. Position yourself as a subject matter expert and offer to contribute.
Contributing to authoritative third party websites not only raises your online profile, but also positions you as an expert in your industry. And trust carries a lot of weight with online consumers whether you are a B2B company or B2C. B2B decision makers are after all consumers themselves so don’t think because you’re dealing with B2B markets your contributions will go unnoticed.
Now paid advertising is taking up screen space in search results, marketers have to find new opportunities to increase visibility. And building an online profile across multiple platforms is the best option.
Interrupt the conversation on social networks
Social media networks were never intended to be used as online advertising bill boards. Still, this is what they have become. And social networkers do not particularly like it.
It seems that avid users of social networkers are not interested in receiving “noise”. This is what they call content they don’t want. They prefer to know what friends they haven’t seen for years or do not even know are eating for dinner. Too much noise gets blocked, or they unsubscribe altogether.
So marketers need to be socially savvy in order to get followers interacting, talking about them and purchasing products.
Social media users are not so against receiving adverts. They actually recognise that following brands gives them easy access to assistance that will answer their queries. How convenient is it to contact your local sports store and ask, “Have you got any Nike Air Max in a size 9?”
This would be great of course, if all of your followers were approaching you with questions you can answer in their favour. In reality it does not work like that – primarily because social media users are savvier than marketers.
Brands have to be visible on social media networks, and that does not mean simply posting content and sharing the content of others, but actively engaging with followers. Comment on their wall, compliment their posts, like their comments. You know the drill.
This may all seem superficial, but by building relationships, you build trust, and that is an important aspect consumers consider before they opt to purchase from brands online. Furthermore, you eventually want to make them want to approach you, so show followers you are approachable.
Finding the right followers
Building an audience on social networks is easy. Finding followers that are genuinely interested in your brand, your content and your products on the other hand is not.
And what is the point of having thousands of followers on social media sites if they are not engaging with you?
If you do have a huge following you may want to consider culling followers that are not engaging with your content or visiting your store. If you do not have customer profiles to determine which followers are most likely to show an interest, write a quick message asking if they are interested.
You could this by making an offer. Followers that reply you can keep on-board and everyone else can go. Culling followers is an essential exercise on Facebook since they limited the number of fans that receive content through organic reach.
Encourage customer reviews
Remember earlier we mentioned building trust? Well, there is no better platform than social media to win over the trust of your faithful. By encouraging customers to leave comments on your wall you get digital word-of-mouth marketing, far and away the best form of advertising.
Some companies even take social interaction with customers to the next level and use their social accounts as a platform to conduct customer service. Large companies know that not every customer will have a good shopping experience with them, and they also know that people are more likely to talk about their bad experiences than they do the good ones.
And this is why companies have reverted to practicing customer service on social media, otherwise their wall would be plastered with complaints that go unanswered – which looks really bad. Show other customers you care and resolve complaints satisfactorily.
Social media marketing provides companies with ample opportunities to interact with customers and raise the profile of their brand. But the best way to use social media is not for self-promotion, but for getting your followers to promote you by giving praise and recommendations.
Social media etiquette
Social media is an important tool that allows online businesses to connect with customers and drive traffic. But not every company is achieving results from social networks.
There is a code of conduct – social etiquette, let’s say. Knowing how to correctly use social media is the first challenge marketers need to master. So to get you started, here are some top tips from social media marketing experts.
Mine Twitter to Grow Your Audience
The first objective of a successful social media campaign is building a community of followers that engage with your content and have a genuine interest in your products and brand.
Easier said than done, and a fair amount of research is involved building customer profiles. And time is not a luxury many online businesses can afford to flitter away.
According to social media consultant, Mark Schaefer, the quickest and most effective way of accruing valuable followers and developing an audience is by mining Twitter.
Look for specialist communities and follow influencers in your field of expertise. This will allow you to tap into users engaging with the people you are following.
Influencers are bloggers and celebrities that show an interest, or are affiliates of a specific brand, most of whom use Twitter as their social tool of choice. They like quick tweets, it’s fast and efficient.
And mining the followers of influencers enables you to tap into people that already have an interest in your services and products, thus are more likely to engage with your content. This is best practice for businesses that are new to online marketing or if your social media strategy is not working.
Use images as visual gateways
Visual images are eye-catching and tend to get more clicks and shares than any other type of content. Although images are typically used in written content, they do not become the stand-out feature.
But by making images the main feature of your content, you increase your chances of attracting traffic. But image-only content alone will not help you improve conversions – so it should be used as a stepping stone to richer content.
Using visual content as a gateway to services or product pages, or even detailed blog posts, becomes a vital part of your purchasing process, and given users are reluctant to engage with advertising content on social networks, is a user-friendly approach to lead consumers along the path.
To maximise the potential of social media networks you have to be visible. You can do this by publishing content on a consistent basis. Don’t panic, it doesn’t always have to be your own content – unless you have the resources to publish high volumes of content of course.
But most companies do not have time or money to invest in publishing content through social networks on a consistent basis. Which is why sharing the work of others is so popular. Experts have been saying this for years and it still features on their list of social media strategies.
According to Peg Fitzpatrick, author of “The Art of Social Media,” using hashtags willy-nilly is not a strategy. Well, not one that works. What she recommends is to use hashtags that tie your pieces of content together.
That means curating content for a social media marketing campaign that correlates with one another – a series of articles that reveal stage-by-stage processes for example.
Once you create hashtags, they can be picked up by other users searching or posting content on the same subject. Hashtags that are easy to spell and remember are the most effective.
Linkedin Publisher reach
The Linkedin Publisher feature has turned out to be an effective platform for online professionals. Perhaps more than any other social media network, Linkedin enables you to target the right people, especially B2B users.
And because social media marketing success relies on brands increasing visibility and positioning yourself as an expert in your field, Linkedin publisher enables you to your content in front of more people that will take an active interest.
Every time you publish a piece of content on Linkedin Publisher, your connections receive an alert. The social network may also notify users of your content through the Linkedin Pulse feature if the user has shown an interest in your content or the subject matter in the past.
According to senior content marketing manager at Linkedin, Jason Miller, writers publishing long-form content that is detailed, well-researched and offer rich value to readers are having the most success on Linkedin Publisher.
There are many strategies you can use on social media, and what you do next depends on your company interests and what state of affairs your social campaign is currently in.
Regardless of which social network you prefer, there is always a key strategy. What you have to discover and decide is which social network best suits your company, and which strategies will be most effective to promote your content and interact with prospects.
Essential elements of successful social media marketing campaigns
Social media has been hyped up as a golden ticket to better business and bigger brands. Over the last few years it has been easy to get the impression a Facebook and Google+ account is the proven recipe for online success. But business owners have found reality proves much more difficult.
Turning social media into profit is a tricky and time consuming process – one that takes a lot of planning, execution and fine-tuning. Above all it takes enough patience and investment to find the right formula for your business. But to make this process faster for you we’re looking at the essential elements any social media marketing strategy needs.
There is no such thing as too much research and this is always stage one of every digital marketing strategy. It’s the most important part too because you can’t make a success of social unless you know exactly what your audience wants and where they hope to find it.
The two key areas of research to start with are audience and social network research. You need to understand your target audience better than you know yourself if you can hope to create the kind of content that makes them tick. And you also need to know your social networks so you can determine which ones will help you meet your targets.
#2: Clear goals
Which brings us on to setting your goals. Too many social marketing campaigns start without clear targets in mind and this is a sure-fire way to waste time and money. The more specific you can be with your goals, the easier it is to measure your success and improve performance. So don’t settle for vague goals like increasing brand awareness – target specific increases in traffic, conversions and social engagement.
This is just one example of what your social goals may be, but be specific and put down numeric targets with deadlines. This way you can assess your performance along the way to check you are on target. If you’re not then you know something needs to change and specific goals make it easier to diagnose issues.
#3: Network specific content
We’ve already mentioned the fact you need to know your networks to choose the most effective channels for your social efforts. With your initial research taken care of and your goals in place you should have everything you need to select your networks with confidence.
You only need to start with two or three networks and you can always add more as your marketing campaign matures. The most important thing at this stage is that you create a successful stream of content that specifically targets your audience and the networks they use. Content across LinkedIn differs greatly to Facebook and you need to tailor yours accordingly.
Planning a campaign
#1: Set your budget
One of the biggest mistakes business owners make is thinking social media means free advertising. In reality, social media marketing takes a huge investment of time and money to make things happen – and you need to set out a realistic budget. You need the people power to run and maintain your social presence – something that doesn’t come for free. and if Facebook is part of your social plans you need to think about paid advertising.
Organic reach on Facebook is almost non-existent, which means you need to pay up if you want people to see your content. And money aside, you need someone (or a team of people) to run and maintain your social networks if you want to effectively engage with your audience.
#2: Decide your schedule
A regular schedule in social media marketing is important for two reasons. Firstly, you want your audience to know when your content is published so they don’t miss out on anything. But you also need to be aware that different networks have various peak times to post social content. Don’t expect to catch many LinkedIn users on a Friday, for example, and early mornings won’t get you very far on Google+.
Get to know the nature of your chosen networks and when users are most likely to find your content. You want to engage with new prospects as well as your loyal audience so do your research and post at the peak times for each platform.
3#: Integrate social into your wider marketing strategy
Social media isn’t a standalone technique and you need to integrate your social efforts into a wider marketing strategy. Social plays a key role in building your brand, targeting relevant traffic and generating conversions – but it can’t do it all alone. Your entire content strategy, search optimisation and inbound marketing efforts need to work in sync to hit targets.
Create a journey from your social media posts to the pages on your website that generate conversions and use social micro content to grab your audience’s attention. Invite them onto mini blog posts, infographics, videos and other forms of content so you can keep them moving along the sales process and guide them towards a conversion.
Action and measurement of campaigns
1#: Visual content
Visual content gets the most engagement on a majority of networks and bags more likes, shares and comments than text-heavy alternatives. So visuals have a huge role to play in your strategy – with videos, infographics and images as key elements.
LinkedIn is the exception to the rule and the text-orientated network is a place for you to build authority in your industry with articles and professional contacts. While micro-content should be a prominent feature on more visual networks to grab attention.
2#: Social customer care
Social media has risen as a new platform for customer service, where people can speak directly to brands and resolve issues. It can be a scary concept to wash your laundry in public, but transparency is a key theme in social media and showing your fans how much your care about customers is a chance to make a statement.
Social customer care also brings you and your customers closer together – a vital part of creating a social community where people want to be. Outside of your customer service efforts you want to include happy customers in the equation too. Encourage them to show how your brand pays a role in their lives with images and videos, while competitions are a great way to invite new members into the community.
3#: Analyse, test and fine tune
As with every part of your digital strategy it’s vital you measure and optimise your performance to get better results over time. If things could be going better you need to address issues and find a resolution. While things change quickly in this industry so you need to keep an eye on your metrics to make sure you don’t get left behind.
Social media also has this stigma about proving ROI and data is the only way to show business execs that your social efforts are profitable. It takes time and money to make social pay off, but the results aren’t clear unless you have the right numbers to prove it – so tools like Google Analytics are essential as well as the built in analytics provides by each platform.