You cannot ignore the opportunities provided by social media marketing for connecting with prospects and customers. If done well it will not only help you reach these people, but help them reach you. With the average age of print buyers getting younger, engaging these digital natives via social media is as important for your business as it is completely instinctive for them.
Plucky Marketing is a digital marketing agency created to help start-ups and SMEs manage their online presence through effective Web design and email marketing as well as social media. Here’s its insight on the latter.
Employing social media to useful effect requires serious thought and attention. Here David Packman, managing director of Plucky Marketing, shares his insights on making it work for you.
- Gain an understanding
First up, get to know the functionality of the main social media sites, their main user bases, and the relative strengths and weaknesses of each. Only then can you start planning on how to effectively reach your target audiences. For example, LinkedIn is a professional network that enables you to search for your target audience by position, company and industry. But there are also photo-sharing networks out there such as Pinterest and Instagram that could hold a lot of value for the print industry with printers now able to show off their services and creativity online – potentially reaching a whole new audience.
- Do it properly
If you are going to engage on social media, you have to invest resource; social media is high maintenance and can be very time consuming - in the beginning a lot of time is needed to build up your presence and community online. Doing it well requires more than the time necessary to set up a new page or handle. Set aside time to manage your company’s social media and organise your team and resources accordingly. Depending on the size of the company and its marketing strategy, it may be appropriate to have a dedicated social media manager. If your social media work is a success, great - but high engagement on your social channels takes a lot of time and effort to manage – sometimes these requirements can be too much for a marketing manager with other responsibilities. Doing it properly also applies to your social media strategy – you need to have one in place to get the most value out of social media. Why are you using social media? What are you trying to achieve out of it? What are your goals?
- Planning is key
Plan your social media to avoid reliance on ad-hoc posts. Social media should not be a silo marketing operation, it needs to be fully entwined with your overall marketing plan – indeed the most successful social strategies are those that are embedded at the heart of the company’s culture. When planning your social media, don’t just look at the week ahead - you need to be putting a content plan in place for the coming six months – and the full year ahead if possible. Successful plans have a broad range of content to feed the social channels, with as wide a number of relevant contributors as possible. A word of warning though; social media can just as easily damage your brand as enhance it. A school-leaver will likely have an intuitive understanding of how to use social media for personal use, but using it effectively to position your business as a thought leader is a different kettle of fish. Access to your social media accounts needs to be limited by management - for purposes of accountability and quality control of your content.
- Listen first
Social media is an engagement tool, not a megaphone. Before you create new social media channels, listen to gain perspective and formulate a sound strategy. Creating successful social communities depends as much upon your ability to monitor and respond to incoming messaging as it does on your ability to craft interesting and outgoing content. You never know what insights you might pick up about your target audience just by listening to them online.
- Know your audience
How are you supposed to tailor your content - to give it the best chance of success - if you don’t understand the audience you want to engage with? It is proven that social media updates containing images and other rich media perform better than static updates - but what kind of rich media does your audience most identify and engage with? If they engage with a certain type of media, what social channels can you utilise to take advantage of this?
- Messaging strategy
Your social media activity shows prospects who you are, what you do, and how and where you do it. It is really important to build a strong messaging strategy centred around content, frequency, and who you are targeting. Another strategy to consider, especially when you start out on social media, is how to get your content seen outside your immediate community. One way of doing this is to use hashtags (which denote topics in social media) to get your content seen by those who are monitoring those topics but who don’t necessarily follow you already. Taking the time to listen and see what hashtags are being used by your target audience and how they are used, will give you an idea of how best to formulate your content to give it the best chance of being seen online by your target audience.
- Use management software
There are many tools out there - both free and paid for - that can help you manage your content by scheduling and posting content across multiple networks, and monitor the relative performance. Be warned, however, that it can be all too easy to duplicate content across channels without taking into account that each network you use might require a tweaked version of the content you’ve posted. For example, to tag someone in a post on Twitter, you would use the ‘@’ symbol before their handle, but on Google+, you must use a ‘+’ symbol before their name in order to mention them. The limited character count of 140 for a tweet in Twitter also needs to be taken into consideration when using software like this.
- Identify your advocates
Look for people who are already talking openly and honestly about the topics that matter to your audiences and influencers and think about how to engage with them online. Building up an effective social media presence with an engaged community is an organic process and can’t be forced. There is little value in boosting your followers overnight through the ‘buying’ of ‘likes’ and other engagement metrics – this will do more harm than good to your brand online in the long run as there is little value in fostering a community of zombie accounts. As with everything in social media, there needs to be a focus on quality over quantity.
Integrating social media initiatives across different properties – websites, landing pages, and microsites – can amplify visibility and expand the reach of social media content. As mentioned above, social media should not be a silo activity. Having it integrate with your website and other marketing efforts will make it more impactful if done correctly.
- Measure your impact
It’s not enough to build thriving communities. In order to maximise your effectiveness, you must know what to measure, how to measure it, and how to analyse the results. The good thing about social media - and digital marketing in general - is that everything is measurable. But you could drive yourself mad analysing the metrics of each post on a daily basis - the trick is knowing exactly what to measure so that you can make the best use of your valuable time. Once you have identified your KPIs, you need to agree your headline objectives up-front and then measure against them. Even then there is no point measuring unless you then go on to act on your findings and adapt your social media activity accordingly.