Updated: Apr 26
Social media marketing can be overwhelming. There are so many media channels and businesses often underestimate what it takes to create and cultivate an effective social media marketing strategy. Don’t be discouraged! Social media marketing works. With a little research, planning, scheduling, consistency and patience, businesses can use social to build their brands online and reach their marketing goals.
The social audience continues to grow - especially as mobile use explodes in every age demographic from preschoolers to seniors. Facebook still tops the social media chart in 2020 with more than 2.2 Billion monthly average users followed by YouTube with 1.9 Billion monthly average users. In the past few years, there has been a notable shift in other channels, presumably related to increased access to mobile. WhatsApp is now the #3 channel with 1.5 Billion monthly average users followed by Messenger (1.3 Billion), WeChat (1 Billion), and Instagram (1 Billion).*
WHERE TO START?
1. Build Your Website - Build Your Brand
Before you can create a cohesive message, you need to define who you are, what your business does but more importantly, what your business does for your customers. Brand colors, images, logo and messaging all communicate who you are and help consumers identify how your business may serve their needs and expectations. Solid branding is an effective way to communicate the personality of your business - an advantage when seeking to authenticate your marketing and promotions.
2. Choose a Social Media Marketing Channel (or two)
Not every social media channel is right for every business. It’s not only about demographics of users, although that’s an important consideration. It’s also about the quality of content your business can produce. Most businesses can generate effective images, but few are prepared to create quality video. YouTube may reach billions of users but cringe worthy or long, boring videos may not be the best way to influence your audience. Don’t try too hard to be “cool” or funny. Do what feels natural and authentic for you and your business.
Channels such as SnapChat generally attract an audience under age 30 while Facebook and Instagram reach the widest age range of 13-65+. Users aged 45+ are Facebook’s fastest growing demographic while Instagram’s average age user is 34. Businesses that sell only to other businesses may prefer a business platform such as LinkedIn although plenty of managers, CEO’s and other corporate decision makers use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Choosing the right channel for your product or service is important to reach the appropriate target market.
3. Research Your Competition
This is an important step to differentiate your business from your competitors. What do you do better than anyone else in your field? Why do your customers choose your business over a competitor’s? Answers to these questions will help identify your unique value proposition to develop effective and influential messaging and content.
4. Identify Your Ideal Customer
Who are your ideal customers? What are their ages, genders, interests, income levels? Where do they live? What other products and services do they purchase? Answers to these questions will help you select a target audience when purchasing paid social media promotions to ensure you’re reaching the people most likely to respond to your promotions. Investing time to truly understand your target market will help you to get the highest return on investment for your advertising dollars.
5. Cultivate Your Website and Social Media Content
This is where many businesses lose their audience. Posting direct sales promotions 24/7 or an endless stream of memes or photos of puppies (cute as they are) is a sure way to lose your audience’s attention. The best content is a mix of education, information, entertainment and direct promotion - focusing on content your audience would find valuable, helpful or interesting. This content can be shared magazine or newspaper articles, original content or purchased content relevant to your target audience’s interests and needs.
For example, a realtor’s primary goal is to generate leads and promote property sales but that target audience may also be interested in how to improve the curb appeal of their home, attractive interest rates or the latest decorating trends. A good ratio of direct promotion to other engaging content is about 20-25% direct promotion to 75-80% everything else. Over time, content presented under your brand will engage your audience and keep your business top of mind when they are ready to purchase your line of products or services.
6. Plan & Schedule Your Social Media Posts
There are many ways to plan and schedule posts and this should be driven by the type of business and the days and times your target audience is most likely to be online. This data is available within each social media channel’s data insights and becomes more valuable to your business as you build a data history. Businesses should plan to post at least 3 to 5 posts per week, including paid promotions. Quality is more important than quantity. Seasonal businesses may find they increase posts and promotions during peak seasons but social media is momentum based. All businesses should plan to post throughout the year to maintain that momentum. Posts may be scheduled out weeks or even months in advance but be aware some content can become dated quickly.
7. Establish a Social Media Boost (Ad) Budget
Long gone are the days of reaching thousands of people on social media for free. Social media filters how many people see your posts so even if a page has 2,000 followers, only a small percentage of those fans are going to see your content. The good news is, social media is measurable and affordable. For some businesses, $100 - $200/month is enough to get started with boosted posts on Facebook and can generate a reach of up to 3,500 targeted users or more within a 30 day period. Since Facebook owns Instagram, those paid promotions can be scheduled to run concurrently on Instagram, even if you don’t have an Instagram account. The important thing is to create a reasonable, consistent budget so you can measure your return on investment. Key performance indicators will help determine if you need to increase that budget, modify your content, adjust your target audience or make other adjustments to reach your goals.
8. Be Consistent
Businesses that complain they have not succeeded with social media marketing generally make common mistakes. One mistake is they post random content intermittently without any thought to the message, the purpose or the people they are trying to reach. Social media marketing must follow basic marketing best practices to work well. It also requires careful research, planning and constant monitoring. Another big mistake is ignoring engagement from fans and followers. Are you responding to comments and questions consistently? Answering private messages? If not, you’re losing the value of social media marketing. Social media requires consistent work to generate consistent results.
9. Engage & Respond
Many people forget about the “social” part of social media marketing. The magic of social media is not generating hundreds of posts or thousands of dollars in paid ads - it’s how audience engagement generates exponential reach. For example, you may pay for a post to reach 3,000 targeted Facebook users but that number can quickly double, triple or quadruple when your audience likes, comments on, shares or tags a friend in the post. That’s because Facebook rewards businesses whose content is relevant and interesting. Look at it their way, the longer they keep their visitors interested and engaged, the more successful their platform (and the more likely a business is going to pay for more advertising).
The point is, when someone comments on your posts, it’s important to respond. Thank them. Ask them a question. Encourage them to visit again. Answer their questions or concerns. If it’s a negative comment and the person is making a reasonable complaint, urge them to contact you offline so you can address the issue personally. That kind of response not only tells your customer you care about their concerns but it tells anyone else reading your response that you care about good customer service. Afraid of trolls? Don’t be. Trolls are troublemakers who post inflammatory comments. Their comments can be deleted and they can even be banned from accessing your page.
10. Analyze Your Results
Tracking results over time is important to determine if your campaigns are successful. It can take six months or even a year of consistent posts to build momentum to generate a following and new leads. Factors such as your industry, competition, marketing skills, commitment, customer habits and other factors can influence how quickly you can succeed on social media.
Using data generated from within the marketing channel is important but if you have a website, the Acquisition report in Google Analytics is a great way to evaluate how well your social media marketing generates traffic to your website. For many businesses, a review of social media performance data quarterly and annually are an effective way to evaluate performance trends.
Whether you manage your own social media campaigns or hire a professional, with the proper preparation and commitment, social media can be a cost effective, measurable way to market your business. It’s an insightful method to learn more about your customers and potential customers with the opportunity to see results in real time. It’s also a fun way to stay connected to your community. Happy posting!