Social Media is the Status Quo
Over the past 5 years, social media growth has been explosive and has transformed our culture and the way we communicate, shop, and interact with others. Social media traffic accounts for most of the Internet’s traffic growth, and it continues to grow as newspaper readers and TV viewers decline.
What does this mean for your business? With so many users on social media sites, there’s no question that your target audience is using social media to learn about companies, products, and services and make buying decisions. How do you use social media to engage your audience, encourage action, and track results? Social media can be a powerful tool for any organization, from very large to very small. Imagine if you could leverage social media so that you can be found more easily on search engines, drive more traffic to your website, and interact with your customers and prospects to connect in a more personal and powerful way?
Below are 14 key steps you can take as a marketer to leverage social media for your company, grow your influence, and engage with potential customers in order to be more successful in your business.
1. Understand Your Goals and Investment.
Since many of the tools used in social media marketing are free, the majority of your investment will come from time utilized in creating content, syndicating it across the appropriate social media sites, and then measuring and optimizing the program. When planning how much time you will invest in your program, consider mapping out your investment for activities such as listening, engagement, creating and syndicating content, tracking and reporting, and team training. Your level of effort and the cost of that time will become the denominator in the Return on Investment, or ROI formula.
In order to calculate the ROI of your social media marketing program, you also need to quantify the “return” part of the ROI formula. Again, ROI = Return on Investment. Since most of your social media activity will result in more web traffic, you can easily measure this traffic and the business value behind it. Using a tool such as Google Analytics, you can set up a segment report that shows the visits from specific social media sites. You can also see who made or purchase or filled out a call-to-action form with contact information.
Additionally, you can measure the brand impact of your social media program through the number of positive and negative mentions you receive, or the number of times your content gets shared.
Of course, it’s okay to have intermediate goals for the social media program, but rather than developing general goals such as “Generate exposure for my business,” or “Increase website traffic,” get specific. Develop goals that are measurable and tie to actual metrics such as “Achieve 100 brand mentions 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.” Better yet, make your goal results-oriented, such as, “Get 50 leads that convert into 15 new customers in the next 3 months.” Once you have a good understanding of your social media goals, you’ll be better able to organize your activity around your goals to achieve business results.
Key Takeaway: Good tracking of social media metrics will allow you to both justify your efforts to your company and allow you to make changes to the programs as necessary.
2. Get to Know Your Audience.
Once you’ve quantified and stated your goals, you can begin to create your social media campaign. Before you create your Facebook Page or write your first tweet, however, it’s critical to understand your audience. Which industry, demographic, location does your audience 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. Many of our clients identify their audience by giving names to the people in the segment and thinking through their unique characteristics.
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”, a 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.
Key Takeaway: Social Media is about people, so it is important to get to know your audience and their unique needs and interests.
3. Listen Actively.
A critical step in preparing to launch 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, you can subscribe to groups on LinkedIn or Facebook where you can connect with and directly hear from your target audience.
Key Takeaway: Active listening on social media activity lets you understand your audience so you can communicate with them personally and professionally.
4. Analyze the Competition.
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 your own campaign. To get started, look at their Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube accounts. Read what they are saying; see how many fans and followers they have, and who is following them. When you are doing your research, remember to write down the key metrics so that you can compare your growth to their growth over the coming months and years.
Key Takeaway: Since social media is public, you can easily monitor your competitors’ activities and track their key metrics against your own.
5. Identify Content and People.
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 videos, 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 five-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 a comprehensive inventory of content, so you can hit the ground running without having to recreate the wheel.
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 to recruit a group of key communicators within your company who can act as spokespeople for the campaign. It’s wonderful if your CEO is a gifted writer and can invest time in the social media campaign, but it’s also fine to have a group of executives who will participate in the program over time.
To get more leverage out of your social media program, you’ll want to get other industry influencers to talk about you and pass along your content to their audience. You can find these people by searching for Twitter users who are talking about you or your keywords with the most followers. You can also search for people in your industry using a service that ranks their overall influence. Since you have limited time to build relationships with key influencers, spend your time getting the most influential people in your industry to promote your content.
Key Takeaway: Leverage the good content and communicators within your company to ensure quality conversations.
6.Develop Policies and Workflow.
The final preparatory step for a successful social media campaign is to develop internal policies and workflow to manage the program. For some companies, this is a simple as using the popular motto, “Do no harm,” and setting your communicators free to connect as they think best. Other organizations will need to create a social media policy document that 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 sites.
In a simple example, your Director of Marketing may be empowered to create and post content as he or she feels is appropriate, knowing that they are fully accountable for results. In a more 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 process may be, it’s important to document them so that employees are protected and everyone is on the same page.
Key Takeaway: Create a social media policy appropriate for your company to head off any potential problems.
7. Creating Social Media Platforms.
Now that you’ve done all of the work to prepare for your social media launch, you are ready for the next step of creating the actual social media site. This is where your ideas turn into reality with content and web pages on various social media sites.
The first step is to decide which sites you are going to use. The most popular sites are Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube. 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. Often B2C companies choose not to utilize LinkedIn, and B2B companies may opt not to use Facebook. Both of these sites can be used for any industry, but if you have limited resources, make sure you choose the sites that are most relevant for your target audience.
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 graphics to improve company branding on other otherwise bland pages. You should take advantage of this option by creating a strong design that engages the user and then regularly update your imagery to showcase that your page is active on the platform.
The social media sites offer the opportunity to create a custom-designed background to reinforce your brand and give the user additional information about you. Facebook lets you create banners and other graphics that tell your story. LinkedIn lets you create custom product pages that give more detail on your company, products, and services. On all of these sites, make sure you provide the user with all of the information they need. Writing the content for these sites is a little like writing a small website, so plan time to create engaging and keyword-rich content.
Key Takeaway: Set up the appropriate social media sites and leverage design and content tools to effectively communicate your company and brand.
8. Create an Editorial Calendar.
Once you set up your sites, it’s time to create 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 or webinars, or around events such as conferences or trade shows. By knowing what your core content or themes are each week, you’ll be able to be more thorough in covering subjects. It’s also easier to include others in the content creation process since you can build 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 the thought leader and expert in the industry. Second, the organization you repurpose content from will recognize the traffic you are sending to them and be more likely to repost your content. This is a key way to ensure the broad distribution of your content.
Before you launch your social media sites 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. These also shorten the URLs you use to make them fit in sites like Twitter that impose character constraints on the content your post.
Website analytics programs like Google Analytics enable you to see the impact of your social media sites on website traffic and 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 at your site, and how many conversions resulted from social media activities.
Another key step before you launch is to make sure 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 homepage to allow people to share your content with their network. You should also give people the ability to follow you from your website.
9.Engaging 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 240 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. 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 your own sites, but don’t forget to post content to other groups or blogs where it’s appropriate. This can often give you a much broader reach than posting to your own site, especially in the beginning when you don’t have many followers and fans. As you get more engaged with groups, you may want to alter your content creation calendar to create 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 should be a two-way conversation. 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 limited opportunities for good conversation and connections.
These same principles apply to social media. The more interactive and interested you can be with others, the more people will respond to 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 more meaningful 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 sites as you would email to say “thanks” or “nice work”, but remember that others will see this and it will enhance your reputation as being approachable, positive, and easy to work with.
Key Takeaway: 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 other’s success as you are on your own.
10. Build your Audience.
While you are posting content and interacting with your audience it’s critical to build your follower count, or you may find that your social media work will have 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 this out of the 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. Here are four ways to build your follower and fan base:
- 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 titles or who work for the companies you are interested in and follow them. You can also follow people that post content about you. 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, then stop following them, and start following others. You can repeat this process over and over as you build up your follower base.
- 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 another offer that people get excited about, then 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 as creative as possible to create content that will reach this threshold because it can dramatically accelerate your social media growth if you do.
- Leverage 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 leading-edge 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 during your direct customer content. By training your sales and customer service teams to point people to your social media sites, you’ll build up a base of high-quality followers.
- Advertise. If the previous three ideas don’t produce the results you’re looking for fast enough, then advertising can help. You can advertise on almost all social media sites and link the ads back to your social media properties. One effective technique on Facebook to gain followers is to put your best, most special content behind pages that they can only see if they like you. By driving more traffic to this type of landing page through advertising, you can dramatically improve your follower base quickly.
Key Takeaway: Take time to follow the right people and create valuable content.
11. Optimizing Your Platforms.
Once you have your social media platforms up and running and you’re gaining followers, it’s time to start optimizing the campaign in both quantity and quality. By looking at the most important metrics and using what you learn, you can improve the results of your social media programs.
To improve your efforts 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 driving followers to your social media, and how people respond to your content.
Social media, of course, is 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 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 better? By tracking the response rate for these various types of content, you’ll be able to see what types of content work best and adjust your editorial calendar accordingly.
Another important part of managing ongoing social media programs is responding to comments and feedback. The more you connect with your audience, the more effective your results will be. 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 of other people.
In any social media program, you will create the greatest impact by posting high-quality content frequently. Every program starts with listening to the conversations about your brand and the issues people 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 incorporate feedback, you’ll see that your social media marketing program can produce measurable ROI. To begin, 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 in order to see the results you want. By blending strong content with solid metrics, you can create a social media marketing program that delivers a strong ROI.
Key Takeaway: Social Media is an ongoing effort to build followers, content, and results.
12. Integrating Search with Social Media.
Search Marketing is critical to the success of any social media marketing program since you must get 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:
- Leverage video on search landing pages. If you are creating videos for your YouTube program, you can also create short videos to promote the offers on your landing pages. Offers that might be white papers, free trials, offers for a consultation, or even coupons, can all be promoted using a video. Video is personal and engaging and can improve conversion rates for offers.
- 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.
- Advertise on Facebook and other social media sites. You can also complement your free content with paid advertising on social media sites. Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and most others accept advertising and allow very sophisticated targeting since they have detailed information on their users. You can use these ads to bring people to your website or your social media sites.
- 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 specific content. If the content is valuable, people will want to share it, so make it easy for them by including social sharing tags on your landing page or thank you page.
- 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.
- Write keyword-linked content for social media sites. 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 drive more traffic from both the links you embed in other social media sites, but also from the increased keyword visibility that comes indirectly from getting better link popularity.
- 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.
- Build links 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 part of a white paper or webinar. When you distribute them to article sites, include links with keyword-embedded links that make you look more powerful with the search engines.
Key Takeaway: Social Media activity can drive great improvements for your search engine results if the two are strategically linked.
13. Optimizing Your Website.
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.
Another way to add interaction to your website is to let your website visitors share and bookmark your content with AddThis or ShareThis social media sharing tools. These should be persistent links out to social networks from every page of your website. Make sure that your brand and social media presence is consistent on both sites.
You can also build transparency and the human element into your website with videos, photo sharing, profiles of your team, customer’s profiles, video case studies and/or product reviews. People generally feel like they know the person they are interacting with better when they see a picture and/or know something about their personal and professional interests. Most websites are very sterile and tell you very little about the people behind the company. By including more content about the team, you will make the website seem more authentic and approachable.
Since you will be producing a lot of social media content, you can bring it all together on one gateway by building a “hub page” or “newsroom” on your site that will bring together the latest social media content from a variety of sources.
Key Takeaway: Your website can be an essential gateway to all your social media activity.
14. Use Social Media Across Your Company.
Social media can be effective as a marketing tool, but keep in mind that there are also very productive ways to utilize social media for customer service, product development, sales, purchasing, and recruiting. By thinking of social media holistically, you’ll see how 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, but 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 terms on social media sites and then interact directly with these people in or 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.
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.
Sales can effectively utilize 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 prospects’ professional backgrounds 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 gain a better understanding of their needs and wants. However, be prudent with your sales-oriented social media usage. 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.
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 vetted references that were all positive. 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 their background 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 Success in 14 Steps Checklist
Designing and implementing a successful social media strategy is not easy, but the payoff can be huge. Take a few weeks and go through this checklist of 14 steps. Let us know if you found the content of this white paper valuable for your company. You can reach us on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.
About Nowspeed Marketing
Nowspeed is an internet marketing agency that drives leads for companies like yours. Our packaged services include a blend of search engine marketing, website design, social media, lead nurture and marketing analytics so that we can deliver complete end-to-end solutions to our customers.
If you’d like to learn more about the strengths and weaknesses of your current social media profiles, contact us for a free social media consultation today. We look forward to starting a conversation with you!