You’d have to be living in a cave to have been unaware of the huge boom in social media marketing in recent years. A very deserted cave, with no WiFi connection. When it comes to business, social media is an incredible market – never before have business owners had such a potential brand reach sitting literally at the end of their fingertips. The big question is then, how on Earth do you even begin to harness that power?
That’s where our Digital Marketing Director Meg is here to help. She’s running a fantastic course at Goldsmith’s University, London all about how to run brilliant social media campaigns, and has written some blogs going into some of the points she’ll be making on the course.
You’ll have seen the way that so many big corporations have used social media for their advantage, gaining a huge number of likes, retweets and comments every day from followers all over the world. An initial glance could put it all down to budget – which, though having a good budget set aside to fund your digital marketing efforts is naturally very important, is not the be all and end all. It’s perfectly plausible to get these effects without throwing all your money away… it just all comes down to planning and strategy.
When you get used to navigating social media accounts as a punter, just uploading the occasional photo album to Facebook or tweeting moments of unbridled comedic genius (come on, we all do it), it can be easy to forget that the same doesn’t go for business accounts. Uploading a post as and when you think of it won’t cut it – at least, not if you want to use social media to reach specific business goals. Admittedly, it can be a time consuming task, but forgoing social media in this age of all things digital could put your business way behind your competitors.
Because of social media, people all over the world can communicate instantly, 24/7. Things just got personal. As a result of this, the businesses with the most social media success are the ones that specifically make the most of this new intimacy – communicating with customers not just as a faceless corporation, but as a person. A person that doesn’t simply want to sell, sell, sell, but that is interested in a real conversation. That’s the magic of social media.
However, fear not! We’ve come up with our top 5 tips to get your social media strategy down – all you have to do is come up with the winning concept.
1. Set yourself goals (and actually fulfill them)
We’ve all made the mistake of embarking upon a new marketing venture without really thinking about the specifics of what it should achieve. This can quickly turn into your downfall. Without setting objectives, your efforts can become a bit pointless and lose their focus. Plus, by creating measurable goals you will be able to calculate the effectiveness of your social media, thus allowing you to change things up or celebrate your success (which can be particularly useful if you’re trying to convince someone of the importance of a good social presence). Think about why you created the account in the first place. Is it to gain brand awareness? Or as another platform on which to promote your products? Either way, your focus is going to affect how you use social media. Make sure you place a time constraint on them as well. This way in the future you will be able to see how things have changed over time and work out when you have been most successful. Plus, a time frame will ensure you actually reach your goals – in this line of work we all know the danger of having no deadlines to work towards! Never lose sight of why you’re doing what you’re doing.
2. Be at one with the people
It may sound a bit flower-power, but ultimately if you can’t place yourself in the mind of your target audience then your social media will never work. Presumably you will have already conducted some form of market research… and if not, DO IT NOW. As mentioned earlier, the whole point and attraction of social media is in its intimacy, so if you’re completely out of touch with what your audience actually need from you then you have a bit of a problem. With something that relies so heavily on other people’s perception of your business, this is where getting your brand ‘voice’ comes into practice. Once you have worked out the kind of person that is interested in what you have to offer, you’ve got to start talking directly to them. The only way this will work is if you tailor the tone of your content and communication to fit in with your audience. It may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised how often this can go wrong. It’s time to shake off the overtly businesslike tone that often characterises websites. This is social media, and while naturally you must remain polite and friendly, there’s a little more room to be yourself here. The rules are different. People don’t want to talk to someone that sounds like they’re typing from a script when they’re on social media. They want someone that’s, well, social. Basically, if you understand where your customer is coming from and what they need, you’re going to be in a much better position to help them.
3. Stalk your competitors
When we say ‘stalk,’ we’re not suggesting you track down their home address and start rummaging through the rubbish. This is all about social media stalking. Once you’ve worked out who your main competitors are – even if they’re not in direct competition with you, but are a company you aspire to be (e.g. you may be an independent sports retailer looking to the social media of Nike) – find out which social media platforms they’re on and check out their approach. Not only can this spark your imagination for things you could be doing with your own digital marketing (especially important if you’re just starting out), but it can give you ideas on how you can be better than them. Noticed that one of your competitors hasn’t responded to some comments on their Facebook page? Make sure you’re always quick off the mark with your own page, engaging not only in query-handling but in friendly banter. A rival doesn’t have Instagram? Start a profile and gain followers by giving them an insight into your company. Try to schedule in time to do this at least once a week – that way, you’ll be up to date with what everyone else is doing and can keep yourself ahead of the game. By setting yourself apart from the competition and really going the extra mile, you’re sure to be noticed and hopefully this should show in your figures as well.
4. Make your calendar your new best friend
Once you’ve done all the initial planning, it’s time to start scheduling your content – a particularly good tool for this is Hootsuite. You’d be surprised how much time you save simply by planning ahead and having a couple of posts/tweets all set to go. Plus, if you’re working with a good calendar you’ll always know when important dates and events are coming up, so you can respond to them accordingly. For instance, a pretty common task of anyone working in social media is doing an in-depth search for any quirky national holidays coming up in the next month. It may seem silly at first, but these are exactly the kinds of things that will be trending on Twitter, so if you can get in on the popular hashtags you’re much more likely to get noticed. Plus, certain events in the year that affect your business can’t be missed… it can be easy to forget things like Mother’s Day in your normal day-to-day life (sorry, mum), but if you’re a flower retailer that gets caught up in other things and forgets to do a social post on that day, it’s not going to look great. Good quality content is so important, so try not to leave it until the last moment and just post any old thing. There’s also the fact that a good calendar will allow you to see both your overarching goals, as well as the smaller campaigns within them, so you’re always on top of what’s happening.
5. Test, test, test!
Last but not least… in any good social media marketing strategy, you’ve got to make time for testing and analysing the results of what you’re doing. It’s no good coming up with a kick-ass strategy and then just keeping that formula in place for the next decade. Social media and digital marketing are a relatively new phenomena and as such are changing all the time. To stay at the top of your game, flexibility will be key, so the more you know about the effectiveness of your campaigns the better off you’ll be. It’s all about trial and error – for instance, experiment with different timings for your social posts. There’s lots of information available about when are supposedly the best times to post, but do some research yourself. All companies are different, so by trying new things as you start out you’ll be able to see what works best for you. It will also be necessary for you to familiarise yourself with programs such as Google Analytics, as well as things like Facebook Page Insights and Twitter Analytics. That way, you can see directly how well your hard work is paying off, and it will provide you with useful data to improve on.
So that’s about the sum of it with our top 5 tips for a great social media strategy. You don’t need to be on every single social media platform out there to be successful – just use your initiative and think about what is going to work best for your business. Social media can be an amazing tool when used effectively, and while it may seem time consuming the results can really pay off. Your brand voice is so important when it comes to gaining loyal followers, so if you make the most of it social media can be the perfect tool to get across the heart and soul of your company.
The vision is yours, so it’s time to get social.
If you’d like to hear more of Meg’s insider knowledge about social media, you can book a place on her course here!
Image via Anil Jadhav on Flickr