Social Media Marketing (© tumsasedgars / Fotolia.com)
Social Media Marketing (© tumsasedgars / Fotolia.com)

Social Media Marketing is one of THE most critical components of digital marketing and encompasses many more strategies and options. This post is a detailed introduction to the subject that will help you to better use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more – and to avoid the most common pitfalls.

Social media is one of the main tools that any business owner with an online presence has available to them. If you want to improve your visibility online but you aren't on at least a few social networks, then you're seriously missing one of the best tricks in the internet marketing book.

But with such a variety of different options out there, how do you know which sites to join up to? Maintaining a social presence is time consuming at best and there's no point signing up if you aren't going to make the effort to post regularly – no profile at all is better than one that looks as though it was abandoned sometime during the dark ages…

And when used well, social media marketing has the potential to completely transform your business – to leverage the power of social commerce, to help you create viral content that will spread naturally through real-life personal networks and to target and communicate directly with your most important customers.

This guide will explain social media marketing in detail and provide you with all the tips, details and information you need to succeed and thrive.

Social Networks to Target

There are lots of social networks out there and one of the keys to success is to ‘be everywhere’ (meaning to be on as many of them as possible!). But of course you only have so much time. Here then are some of the top social networks to consider:

Facebook

In terms of sheer numbers, Facebook is the king of social media with more users than any other site. This right away makes it worthy of your attention, as does the fact that it presents so many different opportunities for businesses. Advertising on Facebook is targeted and affordable, while creating a 'page' and generating likes will let you tap into the pre-existing networks between friends and families. Reportedly over 75% of businesses rate Facebook as highly important to their business strategies, so presumably they can't all be wrong.

Instagram

Not many people realize this, but Instagram is actually the second largest social media network in terms of users (though it is actually owned by Facebook). The big difference is that Instagram is entirely visual and based around images. This makes it ideal for aspirational brands and lifestyle blogs.

Twitter

The other heavy hitter in the world of social media is undoubtedly Twitter. Twitter also has a huge user-base and lets you gather users easily and then message them directly. Around 51% of Twitter users will follow some kind of brand or company, giving you a very quick, easy and effective way to communicate with a large audience.

Google+

Google+ might not have achieved the mass appeal of Facebook or Twitter but it is still a powerful tool thanks to the fact that it's owned by Google. Signing up to Google+ will let you to add 'authorship' to articles meaning that your profile will be shown right on the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). Likewise, getting your profile into more 'circles' means the content you share will show up in personalised search results. Google+ is likely to play an even bigger role in Search Engine Optimisation going forward, so make sure you're involved.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn can best be described as the 'professional' version of Facebook where profiles contain more about a person's work experience than their pet cats. The company has had a few setbacks in the media lately but the site is nevertheless a great place to connect with other companies and hopefully forge valuable partnerships. You can even use LinkedIn for hiring.

The Rest

Those are the sites that every business should look into, but beyond those big four there are many others you should take some time to look into. Pinterest for example is ideal for showing off products that will appeal to creative types, Tumblr is a great spot if you want to appeal to a more 'hip' audience, while Instagram uses tags in a similar fashion to Twitter but lets users upload photos rather than written posts. Vine will allow you to share short videos. And Meerkat and Periscope are useful for ‘live streaming’ (though Facebook and YouTube now also offer this feature).

Social Media Marketing: The Basics

So how do you get started with social media marketing?

The key, as with all digital marketing, is to provide value. This means filling your pages with things that your users (and your targeted audience) will want to see. You can provide value by:

  • Offering tips and advice
  • Providing entertainment
  • Sharing deals and discounts
  • Inspiring and motivating

Whichever of these options you choose, you need to ensure that you are giving your followers a real reason to keep following you. You can also use this as a way to get closer to your audience, to share stories from your business and your life. This is ideal for a personal brand.

The format of the content will vary of course depending on the platform.

  • Facebook is ideal for sharing articles and blog posts (check out IFLScience for a good example of how to do this, or BuzzFeed, or UniLad) – Make sure to use highly sharable titles!
  • Instagram is great for sharing inspirational photos/lifestyle imagery
  • Twitter is ideal for insights into your life and promoting your personal brand

Incentivize sharing and create the kind of content that people will want to share with friends and discuss.

Make sure that you post and share regularly. Only around 10-15% of your Facebook page followers will see each post you make, so you need to keep creating content and keep sharing it. Even posting the same content multiple times is a viable option.

Expert Tips: Dos and Don’ts of Social Media Marketing

Dos

1 Get Your Branding Straight

Before you begin a full on social-media assault, it pays to first make sure you have the right branding and identity sorted out. This means you should have a logo, perhaps a jingle, a by-line and a mission statement before you begin pushing your company online. This way you can ensure you remain consistent across all channels, and that you are sending the right targeted message to the right people. If you don’t have a branding strategy before you go online, then you can end up sending out mixed signals that only serve to confuse your audience. Here’s a good resource that can help you to develop your branding skills before moving onto the next stage.

2 Metrics

Metrics are incredibly important for monitoring your success on social media, setting targets and using split testing to fine tune your approach. The old saying goes that ‘that which is measured, improves’ and this is very much the case for social media campaigns. Here’s a guide from MOZ looking at the best use of social media metrics.

3 Be Everywhere

While certain social media sites have certainly gained an upper footing when it comes to popularity, it’s still important to recognize the power of the smaller, more niche networks – and more importantly the power of being everywhere.

If you are on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest and Tumblr, then you will be able to reach potential customers and clients even if they don’t have accounts on all those sites. Furthermore, if the same users see your content repeatedly across platforms it will help to build brand identity, recognition and authority. If you are providing information in particular, then it might take someone to see your branding several times before they begin seeking you out for

4 Don’t Forget the Smaller Networks

There is also real value to using both bigger and smaller social sites. While the bigger sites bring a larger audience, the smaller networks are less crowded allowing you to make a name for yourself. And if you find a social site before it takes off, then their success can translate into your success. Here are 7 emerging social networks to keep your eye on.

5 Provide Quality Content

As with running a blog, the secret to success on social media is to provide quality content. Whether this means providing behind-the-scenes insight, industry news, entertainment or special offers, you need to give your subscribers a good reason to stay subscribed and to share. Don’t use social media as a giant spamming-machine; consider your accounts as products and put the same care and attention into them as you would any other product. This means high quality posts, great images and videos and real social interaction.

Don’ts

1 Spamming

A lot of companies use social media profiles as a place to spam their subscribers with constant updates and adverts regarding their products and services. From a user’s perspective, this is a little bit like tuning into a radio station that’s just advertisements (like the one in Demolition Man…). The question you have to ask yourself is: are you providing value? And would you want to be subscribed to your account? If the answer is no, then rethink your ratio of ‘marketing’ posts and try to be a little less ‘on-the-nose’.

2 Auto Posting

There are various different tools like the incredible IFTTT.com that allow you to post automatically to Twitter. Even WordPress gives you the option to update Twitter each time you make a new post on your blog.

These are fine, and in the right context they’re useful. But if you’re sharing automated Tweets on a daily basis every time you ‘like’ a video, then your followers are going to very quickly get tired of you and unsubscribe. Not only is this another example of the above point, but it’s also very obvious in most cases that the posts weren’t hand-written.

3 Being too Opinionated

Your business’ Facebook account is not the place for you to complain about politics, religion or competitors. Nor is it the place for you to make controversial statements that could alienate your followers. Make sure that your employees and business partners get the memo…

There is a fine line here, as in some cases a controversial Tweet can actually get people talking about your business and thus provide free marketing. Likewise, it’s fine to have values as an organization.

At the same time though, it’s important to maintain a professional image, to avoid offending customers, and to behave in a moral and conscientious manner. More to the point, people don’t follow their favorite brands because they want politics rammed down their throats: keep that for your personal profile.

4 Being Silent for Long Stretches

As with a blog, having a silent social media account is almost worse than having no account. Not only will this lead to people unsubscribing but it will also lead to questions regarding the status of your business.

It doesn’t inspire much confidence if a company you want to hire has a Facebook profile that looks like a ghost town… If you struggle for time or inspiration when it comes to regular posts, check out a service like Buffer. Or consider hiring someone to manage your social media presence even.

5 Being Out of Touch

Using social media effectively is all about getting feedback and creating a sense of community around your brand. This way you can listen to your customers and improve your business. At the same time, by creating a sense of involvement, you will create much more loyal followers.

Some SMO gurus put it this way: you don’t control the message. You can’t really force your audience to see your business in a particular way, so being ‘fake’ or stubbornly repeating the same message isn’t going to win you any friends. Be adaptable, listen to your customers and indulge in the spirit of collaboration and community.

 

The Most Important Secret to Great Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing is potentially an incredibly powerful tool, and something that can be used to turn a small site with no traffic into an overnight sensation if used correctly – particularly when combined with SEO and other online promotion. But that’s not the experience that everyone will have with it, and there’s a good chance that you’ll be reading this and feeling sceptical. If you’ve been tirelessly posting away on social media sites and finding yourself none-the-better-off, then you might understandably start thinking that social media is all just a lot of hype.

If that’s how you feel though, then it’s more likely that you simply aren’t using the right strategies yet – and once you get this figured out you’ll find that it can in fact be an incredibly powerful tool. And that successful strategy really comes down to one powerful secret. Want to know what it is? Then read on…

The One Thing You Need to do to Make Your Social Media Marketing a Success

The single most important trick for social media marketers is just to get involved and to genuinely use social media rather than just posting on it. The question you need to ask yourself is whether you ever contribute to these sites for a reason other than to promote yourself. If the answer is no, and you’re only ever on these sites when you want to post a link to your latest article, then you can’t be surprised that no-one is paying you attention. Would you pay attention to a poster like that?

And likewise, if you’re someone who joins a forum merely to post a link to their site, then you shouldn’t be surprised if you a) get ignored, and b) probably find the post is deleted and your account is banned.

What’s critical then is that don’t just go to these sites when you want something, but that you actually contribute and that you form relationships. It’s then that you’ll find you start seeing results, not only because people will be interested in what you have to say, but also because most of the networks themselves have ways of rewarding loyal use. When you contribute well on Reddit for instance you increase your ‘karma’ which in turn means your posts are pushed to the top more quickly.

OpenPR-Tip:  And finally, you’ll find that there’s actually a lot more to be gained from social media too once you start using it properly. You won’t just be able to bring people to your sites, you’ll also start meeting people you can work with, finding sites that want to let you guest post and even get free promotion from your new online friends. The more you put in, the more you will get out.

How to Get Involved

The question then is how do you go about becoming an active member of these communities rather than just a freeloader? And the answer is simply to put in time, and to consider this as one of the main activities in promoting your site – even though what you’re posting is not going to be directly related to your site most of the time. Every morning this could mean checking a few of your accounts and responding to a few questions, and it could mean uploading a new article or picture occasionally too. It might feel frivolous, but like seo services the ROI should speak for itself.



         



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