Social Media Marketing Guide

Social media marketing has become one of the most important marketing techniques. Facebook now has over 1.5 billion users, Instagram has 400 million, Twitter has 320 million, and LinkedIn has 100 million members.9 There are over 2.2 billion active social media users worldwide10.

Social media traffic has accounted for almost all Internet traffic growth in the past five years. As newspaper readers and TV viewers decline, social media usage continues to grow rapidly. Today, 65% of the United States’ online adults use social media—a nearly 10-fold jump in the last 10 years. 11With so many users on social media sites, there’s no question that your target audience is using social media.

Social media can be a very powerful tool for every organization, from the very large to the very small. It lets you drive more traffic to your website, and engage with your customers and prospects in a more personal and powerful way. Because of all of this, social media marketing should be part of every high-performance marketer’s toolkit.

Social Media Marketing Goals

A high-performance social media marketing program is focused on leveraging the power and reach of social media platforms to achieve your business goals. The best social media goals are measurable and are tied to actual metrics such as “achieve 100 mentions of my brand on Twitter and blogs by the third month of the program,” or “increase traffic to my site from social media sites to 1,000 visits per month and convert this to 50 leads.” Or better yet, “get 50 leads that convert into 15 new clients in the next three months.” Once you have a good understanding of your goals, you’ll be better able to organize your activity around them to achieve business results.

When you focus on your goals, you’ll learn which posts drive the most leads and sales. You’ll also be able to grow the number of fans and followers with people who are most likely to buy your products. This approach is different from an activity-based social media campaign that measures success by the number of social media posts. It gives you the data you need to make good decisions that will bring in more customers over time.

Social Media Strategy

In order to create an effective social media strategy, you need to have clear goals, listen to what your customers and prospects are saying, understand your customers, and assess your own team and content. Once you have the strategy right, you can develop your platforms, create content, grow your followers, and engage your audience.

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Understand your Audience

Once you understand your goals, it’s critical to understand your audience. Will you be speaking to a B2B audience or B2C? Which industry, demographic, and locations do they represent?

Since social media communication can be personal and informal, it’s helpful to create several profiles or personas that represent the different segments you’ll be communicating with. By using the Persona development process I discussed earlier, you’ll be able to create a more nuanced view of your target audience and create better content for them.

For example, if you are selling to the IT market, you might invent “Susan,” the 45-year-old CIO of a medium-sized company, and “Terry,” the Database Consultant. When you start to think about the content that your market needs, it’s easier if you can personalize it by thinking of what Susan and Terry might need.

Active Listening

An important step in preparing to launch your campaign is listening to your market. What are they saying about your company, your competitors, and the issues you care about? To get a pulse of the market, subscribe to groups on LinkedIn or Facebook, and set up Twitter lists to get a constant stream of what the market is talking about.

Competitive Analysis and Benchmarking

Since most of the Internet is public, you can get a good understanding of what your competitors are doing with social media and learn from them before you launch. To get started, look at their Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube Accounts. Look at what they are saying, how many fans and followers they have, and who is following them.

Identify Available Content

Social media programs require a lot of content, so instead of planning to create everything from scratch, take an inventory of what already exists that you can use for this program. Do you have video, white papers, presentations, case studies, web pages, articles, or even press releases that can be repurposed for your social media campaign?

You may not want to take a two-year-old case study and pass it off as new content, but there is no reason you can’t repackage key facts in the case study for a series of Tweets, or even promote it again on Twitter. You should build as comprehensive an inventory of content as possible so that you can avoid recreating the wheel and hit the ground running with a stream of strong content.

Identify Internal Leaders & Spokespeople

Social media is very personal. Your readers will want to know who they are talking to, and learn as much about them as possible. It’s important, therefore, to recruit a group of internal leaders who can act as spokespeople for the campaign. It’s wonderful if your CEO is a gifted writer and can invest time for the social media campaign, but it’s also fine to have a group of other executives who will participate in the program over time.

Identify Influencers and Leading Sites

To get leverage in a social media program, you’ll want to get other industry influencers to talk about you and share your content with their audience. You can find these people by searching for Twitter or LinkedIn users in your industry.

You can also search for people in your industry in a service called Klout, which ranks their overall influence. Since you have limited time to build relationships with influencers, spend your time getting the most influential people in your industry with the highest Klout scores to like and promote your content.

Develop Policies and Workflow

The final step of preparation for a successful social media campaign is to develop the internal policies and workflow you’ll need to manage the program. For some companies, this is a simple as using the popular motto, “do no harm,” and setting them free to connect as they think best.

Other organizations, especially large ones, will need to create a social media policy document which defines what can and cannot be shared on social media. If you have multiple people involved in the program, or if you are working with an outside vendor, you’ll also need to create an approval workflow to make sure that the right people approve content that is posted on social media pages.

In a simple example, your Director of Marketing may be empowered to create and post content as she feels is appropriate, assuming full accountability for results. In a complex example, you may have a copywriter or outside agency create content, send it to the Director of Marketing for content approval, then to your in-house counsel for legal approval before it’s sent back to the agency to be posted. Obviously, the second approach won’t be as spontaneous and responsive as the first, but if legal approval is important in your industry, then you’ll need to live with it.

Whatever your policies or processes, it’s important to document them so that employees are protected and everyone is on the same page.

Creating Social Media Platforms

Now that you’ve build your strategy, you are ready for the next step of creating the actual social media properties. Many people think this is the fun part since it’s when your ideas turn into designs, graphics, content, and web pages on the social media sites.

The first step is to decide which sites you are going to use. The most popular sites are Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest are gaining major popularity among brands. Even though these are the top sites, you don’t need to use all of these, and you can add others if you feel that there is a site that’s more appropriate in your industry. B2C firms often skip using LinkedIn and B2B firms often skip using Instagram. I believe that both of these sites can be used for any industry, but if you have limited resources, this is a good guideline.

With each of these sites, you’ll need to register and secure a page with the name of your company. If your preferred name is already taken, then choose something close that is short, makes sense, and is easy for your readers to remember.

Most of the channels allow you to create custom designs and graphics to improve your branding on otherwise bland pages. You should definitely take advantage of this option by creating a strong design that engages the user.

Each of the social media sites needs to be thought of as a unique “micro site” with special design and content needs.

Twitter and YouTube both offer the opportunity to create a custom design background to reinforce your brand and give the user additional information about you. Facebook lets you create banners and graphics that tell your story.

LinkedIn lets you create custom product pages that give more detail on your company, products, and services. In all of these sites, make sure you provide the user with all of the information you can. Writing the content for these sites is a little like writing a small website, so plan time to create the content you need.

Create Your Editorial Content Calendar

Once you have the sites set up, it’s time to develop a plan to create and distribute the content. For some companies, that means creating all new content, while others have a great deal of content that can be repurposed for the social media campaign.

Some organizations take a casual approach to creating content, while others are much more deliberate. In the casual approach, you may look at your accounts every day and decide what content to write and post. This approach allows you to be very dynamic and responsive to content you see across the Internet. Your content will be very fresh, but it can also be stressful to think of new ideas for content and posts each day.

A more deliberate approach would be to create an editorial calendar that will become your guide to the themes for each day or each week. You can organize your editorial calendar around content like white papers and webinars, or around events such as conferences and trade shows. By knowing what your core content or themes are each week, you’ll be able to be more thorough in covering your subjects. It’s also easier to include others in the content creation process, since you can schedule specific contributors into your schedule.

It’s helpful to manage the editorial calendar in monthly and quarterly views. By planning one to three months ahead, you can take into account new product launches, events, and other activities that will drive new content for you.

Just because you have an editorial calendar doesn’t mean that you won’t be dynamic or responsive to the market. It just gives you a framework to guide all of your content creation activities.

When you build your content plan, remember that you won’t need to develop all of your own content. It’s perfectly acceptable to repurpose other people’s content within your campaign. This serves two purposes. First, by posting links to other good content, you’ll position your company as a thought leader and expert in the industry. Second, the organization whose content you promote will recognize the traffic you are sending to them and be more likely to repost your content. This is a very important way to get broader distribution for your content.

Before you launch your social media properties, make sure you set up tracking so that you can see the impact of your work. Two tools that are very helpful here are URL shortening tools and website analytics tools.

URL shorteners allow you to track the number of people that click on the links in your Tweets and posts. They also shorten the URLs you use to make them fit in sites like Twitter that impose character constraints on the content you post.

Website analytics programs like Google Analytics enable you to see the impact of your work on website traffic and your goals. Once you set it up properly, you’ll be able to see how much traffic comes back to your website from each social media site, what those visitors did once they got to your site, and how many goal conversions resulted from your social media activities.

Another key step before you launch is to make sure that your website and landing pages are integrated with your social media program. It’s easy to put social media sharing tags on your landing pages, emails, and home page to allow people to share your content with their network. You should also give people the ability to follow you from your website and emails.

Grow your Followers

While you are posting content and interacting with your audience, it’s critical to build a base of fans and followers or you may find that your social media work will have very little impact on your business. Unless you have thousands of fans, it’s unlikely that your posts will generate much of an impact.

Let’s use a simple example to illustrate the math here. If you are posting two Tweets every business day (40 Tweets per month) and have 500 Twitter followers, then you have the potential to make 20,000 impressions per month. (In practice, you may get more because of retweets and search, but we’ll leave that out of this example.) If you can increase your follower base to 10,000 followers, then you have the potential to get 400,000 impressions with no additional effort.

If your click-through rate on Tweets is .1%, in the first example you’ll generate 20 clicks to your website per month and in the second example, you’ll generate 400. In order to make an impact on your business, you’ll need to get a large number of fans and followers.

Here are four ways to build you follower and fan base:

  1. Follow the right people. When you follow people on Twitter, they often follow you back, so the key is to follow the right people. Start by searching for people with the right titles who are working for the companies you are interested in, and follow them. You can also follow people that post content at one of your industry trade shows or events. Another strategy is to follow people that follow your competitors or industry luminaries.  After you follow these people, monitor whether they follow you back. If they don’t, stop following them and start following others. You can repeat this process over and over as you build up your base.
  2. Create content that is worth sharing. Great content can build your follower base exponentially, and we call this “going viral.” If you create a video, coupon, article, white paper, or other content that people get excited about, they will share them with their own friends and followers. This means that even if you only have a few thousand followers, your offer can be seen by millions of people within a few days. It’s often hard to predict the content that will go viral, but you should try to be a creative as possible to develop content that will reach this threshold, because it can dramatically accelerate your social media growth if you do.
  3. Other Promotions. There are many ways to promote your social media presence in order to build your follower base. Before you use these other promotional techniques, be sure to think about what’s in it for the user, not just what’s in it for your company. Will they get access to great content, coupons, or inside information? If you have something special that you can offer them, then you’ll have a better chance of creating a meaningful and powerful call to action. One obvious place to promote your social media presence is on your website. It’s easy to put the icons for your social media sites in a prominent place on your website, but you should also consider ways to promote the social media icons to help improve the click-through rate and your overall followers. Email can be another important way to promote your social media presence. You should put the social media icons and links on every email to encourage content sharing and more followers. Another great place to promote your properties is by integrating them into your direct customer contact. By training your sales and customer service teams to point people to your social media sites, you’ll build up a base of very high-quality followers.
  4. Advertise. If the previous three ideas don’t produce enough followers fast enough, then advertising can help. You can advertise on social media sites and link the ads back to your social media properties. The chapter on Social Advertising has more detail on this subject.

Engage your Audience

Now that you’ve created your presence on social media sites, you are ready to start syndicating your content and building your followers.

When you post content to the various social media sites you’ve created, it’s a good idea to customize it whenever you can. If you are posting to Twitter, you need to limit your post to 140 characters, but you’ll have more room on LinkedIn or Facebook, so use it if you have something important to say.

You can also take advantage of tools that allow you to post content once, and then have it automatically flow to other sites. For example, you may want to set up your Twitter account to automatically take your LinkedIn posts and display them there. This will save you time and make it easier to leverage the work you are doing to build content on various sites at the same time.

Most of your content will be appropriate for you own properties, but don’t forget to post content to groups or blogs where it’s appropriate. This can often give you much broader reach than posting only to your own properties, especially at first when you don’t have many followers and fans.

As you get more engaged with groups, you may want to alter your content calendar to develop more content that’s appropriate for groups, since it often needs to be less self-promotional. These groups can be wonderful places to build your reputation with your target audience and encourage them to follow you.

Interaction on social media sites is much more than a one-way conversation. In many ways, you should think of this as two-way conversation in a live group setting. If you walk into a networking event and only talk about yourself, you’ll be soon considered boring and self-centered. The result will be that you’ll have few friends and you’ll spend most of your time talking to yourself.

In a social situation, you’ll do much better if you listen as much as you talk, and if you’re as interested in commenting on others’ success as you are interested in your own.

These same principles apply to social media. The more interactive and interested you can be with others; the more engaged people will be with you.

All users, of course, are not equally influential, so pay special attention to people with large groups of fans and followers. It will make a much bigger impact if you can engage a person with 25,000 followers as opposed to a person with just 500 followers. Focus on the most important people, but engage with everyone you can, and you’ll be seen as a friendly, easy person to connect with.

As you interact with people, it’s also important to notice and respond to what others are saying with personal comments. These types of posts can make you seem real and approachable. It may feel like you are using social media site as you would email to say “thanks” or “nice work,” but remember that others will see this and it will enhance your reputation.

Optimize the Campaign

Once you have the campaign up and running and you’re gaining fans and followers, it’s time to start optimizing the campaign in both quantity and quality. By this I mean that you should look at the most important metrics and use what you learn to improve the results of the campaign.

To improve the campaign quantitatively, you’ll need to collect important metrics, including the number of content posts, followers and likes, website visits, and conversions. By tracking these metrics, you’ll be able to see how effective you are at driving fans and followers, and how people respond to your content.

Social media, of course, it not just about the numbers. You also need to see which content is most effective at driving results. You can track the click-through rate for various types of posts and then see which drives the best results.

For example, do press releases, product announcements, free content, or coupon offers drive the best results? Or is there a specific topic or message that people respond to? By tracking the response rate for these various types of content, you’ll be able to see which work best and adjust your editorial calendar accordingly.

Another important part of managing an ongoing social media program is responding to comments and feedback. The more interaction you have with your audience, the more effective the campaign. The interaction may take the form of comments on your blog or Facebook page, or direct messages on Twitter.

Whatever the interaction, it’s important to personally address each one to make people feel like you are listening and interested in what they have to say, since those people may be important influencers who could help spread your word to thousands.

Maximize Your Impact

In any social media campaign, you will create an impact through both high-quality and a large quantity of content. Every program starts with listening to the conversations about your brand and the issues you care about. Once you understand how and where to engage, you’ll be able to create and syndicate content to a variety of social media properties in order to drive traffic to your website.

As you work this engine, you’ll see that your social media marketing program can produce a measurable ROI. To start, you need to take your general business goals and translate them into specific, measurable goals that can be tracked and reported on. You also need to organize your activities and content to drive the traffic and the results you want.

Integrating Search with Social Media

Search marketing is critical to the success of any social media marketing program because you must be found in order for your content to have an impact. Social media can be a powerful accelerator to any paid or organic search marketing program.

Here are eight ways to integrate your social media program into your search marketing campaign:

  1. Leverage video on search landing pages. If you are creating video for your YouTube program, you can also create short videos to promote the offers on your landing pages. Those offers might be white papers, free trials, offers for a consultation, or even a coupon, and they can all be promoted using a video. Video makes it more personal and engaging and will improve the conversion rate on the landing page.
  2. Leverage offer comments and ratings on search landing pages. Just as people rate travel sites and other online content, you can let people rate the content and offers on your website. This builds trust and engagement. When people see the rankings on your content, they will have a much stronger sense of where to spend their time. Naturally, some of your content will rank high and others not so high, but this honesty will build trust with your readers.
  3. Advertise on Facebook and other social media sites. Most of this chapter has been about using content to connect with your audience on social media sites, but you can also complement this free content with paid advertising. Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and most others accept advertising and allow very specific targeting since they have detailed information on their users. You can use these ads for a variety of purposes, including bringing users back to your website, increasing engagement, and building your follower base.
  4. Leverage social media sharing on landing pages. Most landing pages are designed to “convert” the user from a visitor to a customer or lead, so they are short and promote a specific piece of content. If the content is valuable, people will want to share it, so make it easy for them by including sharing tags on your landing page or thank you page.
  5. Embed your SEO keywords into video posts and other content posts. It’s important for your social media content to get found, so use the keywords you’ve identified on all of your video posts or on specific social media content. When you include these keywords, add them to links if possible to make them more prominent to the search engines.
  6. Write keyword-filled content for social media sites with links. Keywords are also important when you are writing content for your own sites, or posting as comments on other blogs. By including the keywords with links back to your site, you’ll be telling the search engines that you are an authority for these keywords. When you do this well, you’ll get more traffic from both the links you embed in other social media sites and also from the increased keyword visibility that comes indirectly from getting better link popularity.
  7. Build links from social media—optimized press releases. Another great source of links are press releases. When you distribute a press release through a tool such as Business Wire or PR Newswire, you can include social media content such as videos and photos with links that will improve your search engine visibility.
  8. Buildlinks from articles, blog comments, and content distribution. Along with press releases, you can also embed links in articles and blog comments that you can distribute for free. These articles can be repurposed from your blog or as part of a white paper or webinar. When you distribute them to article sites, include links with keywords embedded that make you look more powerful with the search engines.

How to Social Media Optimize your Website

Your website can also be an important way for people to get involved with your social media program. The first step is to let your website visitors share and bookmark your content with “add-this” or “share this” There should be persistent links out to social networks from every page of your website. When you do this, it’s important to make sure that your brand and social media presence is consistent on both sites.

Another way to build social media into your website is to build transparency and the human element with videos, photo sharing, profiles of your team, customer’s profiles, video case studies, and/or product reviews.

A prominent feature of all social media properties is that you feel like you know the person you are interacting with better when you see their picture and know something about their personal and professional interests.

Most websites, however, are very sterile, and tell you very little about the people behind the company or the website. By including more content about the management team (or others), it will make the website seem more authentic and approachable.

Social media programs are very dynamic, with new content being added every day. Websites, however, are often static. One way to leverage social media content on your website is to add unique RSS feeds from social networks like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and blogs in categories that align to your website’s content, and open your thought-leadership content like white papers and articles up for discussion on those networks. This will bring fresh content to your website automatically and give your users yet another reason to visit your pages.

Social Media is More Than Just Marketing

I’ve discussed a number of ways that social media can be effective as a marketing tool, but keep in mind that there are also very important ways to use it for customer service, product development, sales, purchasing, and recruiting. By thinking of social media holistically, you’ll realize that it can permeate every aspect of your company’s work.

Your customer service team is focused on responding to customer issues and resolving them quickly and cost-effectively. Today, customers may not only complain directly, they may also complain publicly on Twitter or other sites, so that their frustrations can reach thousands of other people who follow them.

It’s important for your customer service team to monitor your company’s brand on social media sites and then interact directly with these people to resolve the issues. One benefit of this approach is that their followers will see how you respond and may feel better about your product or brand. People often expect problems with products or services, but they can be completely blown away by excellent service to fix a problem.

Product development teams can monitor the same stream of content for insight into product usage issues or frustrations that may lead to new features, products, or services. They can also monitor what your competitors or their customers are talking about, and gain insight into their future plans. Social media can also be a great resource for getting feedback from the marketplace on potential new product features or service changes.

The sales team can effectively use social media in many ways. When prospecting, they can use tools like LinkedIn to identify potential customers, connect with them through their network, and then reach out to them. They can also learn more about their professional background and personal interests, which may make it easier for them to build a relationship and turn the prospect into a customer. By listening to their social media comments and posts, they will be able to get a better understanding of their needs and wants, which should also help build a relationship.

A note of caution here: if people feel that you are stalking them or they are being “spammed” because you’ve found them on social media, you can create a very negative backlash. People don’t want to feel that their privacy is being violated or that they are being manipulated, so be careful with how you use personal information.

Your purchasing team can use social media to find reviews and feedback before making important selections for products and services. Once they find relevant comments, they can also find other users and get personal feedback.

In the past, vendors would provide a list of references that were vetted and happy. Now your purchasing team can go beyond this sanitized list to find other customers and get the real story. This puts a lot of pressure on the customer service team of any company to manage their digital reputation to make sure that there are no lingering, unanswered negative comments, reviews, or ratings.

Social media sites can also be used by your recruiting team when they are looking for candidates. Just as the sales team can find potential customers on LinkedIn through targeted searching, the recruiting team can do the same. They can identify potential candidates and then approach them by phone or email to see if they are interested in exploring opportunities with your company.

Once you find people, you can learn more about them through their social media postings. Recruiters will want to see if the candidates have the kind of reputation that will make them a good employee or if there are any red flags that might need to be discussed during an interview. Candidates should make sure that they understand their privacy settings on sites like Facebook, so that they only share images and information that they want to share with the public—including potential employers.

Social Media Marketing Strategy

Because of its broad reach and immediate impact, social media marketing should be part of every marketer’s strategy. You can use it to broadly engage with your market, build your brand, drive leads, increase sales, and grow your business. If you take the steps I’ve outlined here, I’m sure you’ll soon be building a solid program.

Need Help Improving Your Digital Marketing?

Need Help Improving Your Digital Marketing?