No category of digital marketing more greatly contributes to engagement than social media. Social media channels allow brands to build and maintain a strong online presence, reach more people and interact with members of the marketplace in real-time conversations. Like search marketing, social media marketing encompasses both organic (free) and paid communication opportunities.
The paid strategies are also a component of digital or online advertising, which is discussed later in the blog post.
Pay close attention to the huge impetus on the strategy that drives effective longterm social media marketing. While some of the more prominent channels are discussed, understanding how to target the right audience, prepare impactful messages and leverage social access are keys to success.
Content Plus Social Media
Social media is closely tied to content marketing; in fact, it is typically viewed as a component of a complete content marketing system. Social media allows companies to share snippets of messages from blogs and other pieces, often with the objective of driving traffic to your website.
Jay Baer is among the key influencers in the advancement of social media strategy. The following are a few of the key quotes from a recent interview Baer gave on the relationship between content and social media:
- “Content is fire, social media is gasoline.”
- “Social media’s best relationship to content is as an amplification layer, that the content exists independent of what you’re doing in social, but you’re using social to drive awareness of your fantastic content executions.”
This collection of insights hammers home the point that social media helps a business get much greater value from the content they create. Yet, to succeed, you have
to look at social media interactions as conversations with real people and not channels to aggressively promote your products and services. The latter approach leads to follower erosion and disengagement.
Social Media Marketing Strategy
Your social media strategy is a plan for achieving key business and promotional objectives for your company and brands.
The following are some of the common social media marketing objectives:
- Build presence/awareness
- Engage audience in real-time
- Create interactive marketing experience
- Leverage opportunities for viral effect
- Provide proactive customer service
- Generate positive message sentiment
- Disrupt negative message sentiment
- Social selling
Creating and executing social media campaigns is one of the ways companies work toward these objectives.
As with other forms of marketing or advertising promotion, a social media campaign is a series of coordinates messages delivered over time as part of building a story about a company or brand. For sustained success, you need a plan on social media just as you do when using traditional channels. Part of your plan is the realization that not all channels work for every business.
As a simple example, a lot of B2B companies emphasize LinkedIn, but don’t use Pinterest as much. In contrast, B2C providers more often utilize Pinterest. A strong social media plan should include at least two or three months of advanced strategy and content development. The following are two great resources to assist in building a thorough social media marketing plan from scratch:
With a creative strategy in place, you can build a content calendar. A content or editorial calendar addresses your content execution schedule, including blog posts and other pieces, along with social media posts. It includes a day-by-day, and week-by-week outlook of the content execution tasks and delivery timing. An effective calendar allows you to map out your content plans for an extended period, ensuring that you have concrete plans for creation, and your messages are well-coordinated across all platforms. It includes the time of day for publishing, delivery channel (i.e. blog post or social media channel), content type, topic, post title and link.
Rule of Thirds
The “Rule of Thirds” is a well-known social media content strategy that generally defines the types of items to post in a complete plan. The three components, or thirds, are:
- Business and product promotion, and reader conversion
- Story and idea sharing from others (within your industry or areas of coverage)
- Direct engagement in conversations with users
By adhering to this basic rule of thumb, you help guard against over-promoting and losing your audience, while adequately integrating engagement activities with your audience.
Social Media Marketing Risks
There are risks to using social media. However, you should view these as items to note in building an effective plan and avoiding faux pas that disrupt brands. The following are common risks of social media marketing:
- Enables open forum sharing of negative sentiment
- Potential for emotional/negative messages going viral
- Limited control over dissemination of messages
- Evergreen nature of messages (even deleted Tweets get captured in many cases)
Online Reputation Management
Because of the aforementioned risks, companies need to engage in online reputation management. This concept actually extends beyond social media, and encompasses management of all digital platforms where users discuss your brand. Review sites and forums are other common places where you need to monitor brand mentions and look for opportunities to get involved.
Successful salespeople view buyer concerns as opportunities to listen, understand and overcome key hurdles to a sale. Similarly, a social media presence invites feedback, both positive and negative. View negative brand mentions as an opportunity to learn. You don’t want negativity to fester in the marketplace, so engage users by asking them to provide more information through a private message system or email.
If a simple response is adequate, try that approach as well. In some cases, a user just needs more information or access to an online resource. Managing negative mentions online allows you to quash concerns before they escalate in the public eye, and could lead to opportunities for a moment of magic.
Hashtags have been a pop culture phenomenon for several years; they even provided the foundation for some skits on the “The Tonight Show” starring Jimmy Fallon. Marketers realize that hashtags on social media, much like keywords in SEO, are more than a novelty. Usually the most common question is “What is SEO and how does it work?” They are a big part of an effective communication strategy.
As with SEO keyword development, level central themes and concepts to create a list of relevant keyword phrases that matter to your audience. Primary benefits of effective hashtag usage include:
- Increased awareness
- Campaign branding
- Search hits on content
- Improved profile analytics and user matching
- Conversation development and participation (i.e. Twitter Chats)
- Sweepstake and contest entry management
- Direct e-commerce connections
Hashtag optimization varies by social media channel and marketer. Based on general consensus, the following are an advised number of hashtags to use in posts for popular social media channels:
- Facebook: 0–1
- Twitter: 1–2
- Instagram: 5–7 (some experts recommend even more)
- Google Plus: 1–2
The following image is from a website called Hashtagify.me.
This site, along with some others, allows you to generate keywords via a spider web tool by inputting a central theme. As you use various hashtags, track impressions and engagement to determine which ones achieve the best results.