Social Media Marketing can be a specter—an effort that feels all-encompassing and a black hole of time with little return. It is forever-changing, always mysterious, and daunting. It's impossible to know which network or platform to invest in, not knowing if it will collapse, become the victim of sociopolitical fallout, or even if it targets the right audience. But as tumultuous as social media is, and as uncertain and overwhelming marketing on these platforms can be, they continue to be the most effective place to reach audiences directly. So how can you get the best out of social media marketing with confidence that you are doing the right thing, with the right time investment, and the right budget?
The best method to approach social media marketing is always to have a strategy in mind and assess where you're most comfortable in your activity level and your ability to commit the time and resources. Social Media can be something like a black hole that can easily hijack your time and money if you are not careful.
Chances are you can't be like an influencer and spend 24/7 on every possible social media site because you need to also focus on your business. Fortunately, with the right strategy in mind, you can optimize your time and engage in the best way that's appropriate for your brand and its goals.
Regarding strategy, begin with the basics: Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How?
• Why do you want to be represented on Social Media?
• Who is your target audience?
• What do you have to share?
• Where is the best place to share it?
• When can you share and be involved?
• How will ROI be measured?
While all are important, #1 and #6 are critical. Still, their placement at opposite ends provides an appropriate format for defining our social media marketing strategy and how we can assess our success.
Author Simon Sinek wrote a fantastic book that all brands and companies should ask themselves when defining who they are: Why? Why do you exist? Why do you build what you build? Your company's task will be to address the subsequent questions (what are we building, how are we building it), but start with Why it is necessary).
So why do you want to be represented on social media? Here are a few reasons:
• Brand awareness: Get your name out and showcase your products and services to as many outlets as possible. Social media was a gold rush for brands in the early '00s because it was a free marketing and publicity. There is now much more saturation across the networks, but you should still have a voice.
• Ownership of the brand: Even if you're starting, or don't want to engage fully in every network (nor should you), you should at least reserve your brand name where you can. This way, you can better control your content with a canonical account. Search for your brand name on Namechk and reserve your account where you can.
• Drive traffic: This can either be for direct traffic (where you share a link back to your product or site) or referral traffic (where your users or customers can link back to you).
• Talk to customers: Communicate with your customers or potential customers. Although a website can update their homepage to address an issue they're running into; it is far faster and easier to post an update to a social network. Major brands often have dedicated customer support accounts for their services but engaging with users or potential users is an excellent social media use.
If you have an established business, recognize who your existing customers or users are, and seek out more to fit into the same category. If you are a new business or want to branch out to new audiences, it's essential to define who they are and how you can communicate with them.
Some advisors and agencies will dig down into hypothetical people, creating an amalgamation person that fits into their demographic. While one may think this excessive, it helps to recognize your target audience's demographic or characteristics that make sense.
If you're starting your target audience definition or altering your reach, you can start looking at appropriate hashtags or social media collections that best align with where you're reaching. If you know your audience or the audience you're reaching out to, you'll be able to identify tastes, aesthetics, and content that seem to resonate with whom you're reaching out.
Any media can be utilized for sharing, but sometimes it can be tough to recognize what you have at your disposal. Suppose you have a library of photos and videos available. In that case, you can use a service like Canva to reappropriate assets into deliverable content- they have templates for well-designed Instagram posts and stories, or infographics that share well on LinkedIn.
If you don't have many visual assets to choose from, you can use a service like Unsplash or Pexels to gather free, high-quality photo and video assets. You can then use a service like Lumen5 to generate them into videos optimized for social media sharing.
When you have established why you want to get into social media marketing, whom you're reaching out to, and what you're going to share, the next step is to know where is the best place to share it.
Many social media networks like to tie in other social media networks to push out what you published on their platform (i.e., create original content on Facebook, which gets auto-posted to Twitter as a link back to the original Facebook post). Still, studies have shown that these automatically created "cross-posts" get demoted in the algorithm for other users to see.
Every social media network likes exclusive, original content. Fortunately, some tools allow you to create one article of content that gets "natively" posted to multiple social networks, saving much time in the process. Buffer is an excellent tool for understanding and utilizing this.
It's essential also to be mindful that each social media network is suited better for particular content:
• Instagram is optimized for pictures and videos.
• Facebook is better for engaging with videos and articles.
• LinkedIn is ideal for professional articles.
• Twitter is better for short messaging and customer support.
Although it is possible to create one item of content to be shared across all social media platforms, it is better to select the content that suits the audience.
Imagine having lunch on a Tuesday at a new restaurant that you enjoyed. You ask to meet with a friend for lunch; the pair of you go to the same restaurant the following Tuesday and find the restaurant is closed. Their store hours are now listed as Wednesday-Sunday. The following Wednesday, you arrive to find the restaurant closed again, with store hours labeled 6-9 pm Friday-Tuesday. You are likely never to visit that restaurant again.
In some cases, this is how users will feel about social media marketing that is inconsistent. If content publication is treated as a passive activity (only posting when time is available), users will only passively engage with the brand. Prepare a regular schedule that is most realistic to stick to- it is better to post fewer times with regularity than to post a lot of content in short periods.
Social media networks reward accounts with regular content publication. Users will be frustrated if an account has been neglected for months or years at a time (for example, a YouTube account with no new videos in over six months will look abandoned to a user, even if the account has 2,000 unique videos). It is better to publish content slowly but reliably than it is to publish sporadically.
As of May 2019, more than 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Facebook claims over 2.45 billion monthly active users to their platform. It is impossible to master social media marketing across any individual platform, let alone fully engage with the top ten platforms.
Time spent on social media marketing is essential to measure Return On Investment as money spent in your business. Just as the first step in social media marketing is to establish a reason to market on social media, the last step (but equally important), is to know how to know your social media marketing efforts are working, and what exact adjustments are necessary to make them work.
While always bearing in mind the business' bottom line, develop a plan on how social media marketing can maximize profits or boost profits in lower-margin commodities if possible. For example, consultants earn a lot of money in advising clients, but they can only fill so many hours in a day.
Meanwhile, selling advice in e-books may have historically brought in little revenue, but e-books require no time from the author to sell after the book has been written- sales can increase without an equal amount of time commitment. The consultant can only work during waking hours but can sell thousands of e-books while they sleep.
Goals are important, but your goals depend on your business. Be fair to yourself to establish upfront what you want to achieve from social media marketing and its relation to your bottom line. Don't chase after more followers (fake followers can be purchased easily and will instantly be punished by the social network), chase after better followers- boost your engagement numbers and lead conversions, as an example.
Once goals have been established to define success or failure on existing organic campaigns, you will be better positioned to budget media buying to promote your content.
For example, suppose a video posted to Instagram resonates with many people (a noticeable increase in sales on the day the post was published). In that case, that post can be used as an Instagram ad to drive further traffic to new audiences. If engagement happens more frequently at specific times of day, or days of the week, take advantage of the patterns and use that time to traffic advertisements.
Create more content similar to the content that gets more likes and comments. Likewise, if there is a consistent pattern of content that does not get engagement, or too much time and money to produce than is bringing back to the bottom line, scale back that kind of content. Follow your audience.
There is a lot to social media marketing. As stated before, social media is ever-changing, and audiences are changing with it. It would be superfluous to devote all attention to any one platform.
Instead, the goal should be to develop an overall strategy that works best for your brand or company. Strategies can fluctuate and adapt based on the needs of the business and the audience. Identifying goals and measurable results will always define whether the strategy at hand is the right one.
The truth is that there can be no definitive "complete guide" for social media marketing at any one time. The right strategy is to do what's right for your voice and your company. But having a goal in mind from the beginning, or reassessing the strategy already in place, will help your brand and business in all social media marketing campaigns moving forward.