Social media is more relevant than ever. Its influence has become such a staple in our culture that going without it is practically a fringe idea. Across the United States alone, 77% of people have a social media profile. On a worldwide scale, meanwhile, the number of social media users has now surpassed 2.3 billion with projections saying that that number will grow to almost three billion by 2020.
Social media is important to people. Which, by extension, means that social media is important to marketers. Over 90% of B2B marketers in North America are using social media in their marketing efforts right now, but are they extracting as much value from their social media presence as they could be?
While anyone can make a social media account by simply downloading an app on their phone, designing and implementing a successful social media strategy requires a bit more effort. The brands who most effectively use social media are the brands who have done their research, outlined their buyer personas, and prioritized their target audience. Social media should speak to your audience in ways that are meaningful to them, so the better you understand who your audience is, the more effective your social media presence will be.
However, with so many people, personalities, and companies all producing social media content across every platform, standing out from the crowd is harder than ever. If everyone is shouting, no one is going to be able to hear your voice, regardless of how valuable your words may be.
As a result, you won’t find success on social media by simply doing what everyone else is doing, or even by doing what you may have grown accustomed to doing. To really thrive, you need to find a niche that aligns with your brand and target audience and become an expert in it.
A good social media marketing strategy should guide prospects to your brand’s content, earn you highly-qualified leads, and then convert them into committed customers. Along the way, it should also be helping you build the kind of relationships with your target audience that will act as the foundation for all your future successes.
Whether you’re already in the trenches of social media marketing or are still teetering on the edge, debating whether it’s a jump worth taking, then you’ve come to the right place. With the extensive information and analysis below, you’ll understand why social media is one of the most important tools in your marketing toolkit and how you can put it to good use.
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To Partner, or not to Partner?
The terms “influencer” and “influencer marketing” are not new concepts. They’ve been around for some time, but until recently, they haven’t been recognized as being of much value to marketers. However, as internet personalities and brands continue to enjoy the spotlight of public opinion, this has begun to shift.
As a result, the term “influencer marketing” has more-or-less become “co-branding,” which HubSpot defines as being “a strategic marketing and advertising partnership between two brands wherein the success of one brand brings success to its partner brand.” What this means, then, is that one brand (that’s you) partners with another brand (usually an influencer, in this case) to share their respective resources and pre-existing audiences in order to improve their mutual visibility.
To help you make better sense of this, take note of the tips and strategies below, as they will further illustrate and explain why co-branding partnerships can be a valuable addition to your social media marketing efforts.
Making Sense of Social Media Partnerships
Making use of co-branding can be a strategic opportunity for your marketing and advertising strategies, as it effectively doubles the size of the audience you’ll be interacting with. It also earns you the immediate trust of new prospects, as your partnership with an “influencer” will be effectively vouching for your brand’s quality.
Because of this, co-branding must be mutually beneficial. When two brands crossover like this, any imbalance or lopsidedness will lead to a quick collapse of the relationship, ending any chance of either brand benefiting from the other.
This is where things can become tricky, as it is all too tempting to try and jump into a partnership with whatever big-name is willing to work with you. When done right, co-branding can provide you with a significant boost of attention, leads, and engagement. If done wrong, however, co-branding can paint both you and your partner in a less-than-ideal light.
Instead of letting your enthusiasm get the better of you, be patient with the process. Take the time you need to research potential partners, find one whose interests and expertise could overlap with your own, and then see if their audience could benefit from the products and services you offer. Any good relationship needs a solid foundation, and taking the time to research a prospective partner before approaching them can go a long way towards establishing a solid base for you to build off of.
A Symbiotic Relationship
When anyone shares your content, they’re effectively providing you with an instant boost of visibility for you and your brand. It doesn’t guarantee that you’ll suddenly be inundated with new and qualified leads, but it does dramatically increase the odds that your content will find the right people at the right time.
Partnering with an influencer takes this reality and magnifies it. If you’ve done your homework, then anyone you partner with should have an audience whose values and needs are in alignment with the services your company offers. When this kind of partner shares your content, then, they’ll not only be providing their audience with a relevant and valuable resource, they’ll also be providing you with a wealth of prospective leads to work with.
But how can you find the right kind of influencer for your brand? It’s not like there’s a handy list that miraculously outlines all of the best people your company could work with, so where do you start? The first step towards finding the right partnership is recognizing that you’re not looking for a quick, one-off interaction, but a long term relationship with an industry peer that’ll require mutual investment, resources, and care in order to nurture.
You want to start by laying the groundwork for something bigger. Pay attention to your industry, and take note of anyone who is making a name for themselves amongst an invested audience. Learn about them from the work they do, and if you think they would be open to working with you, then reach out to them on their website, or even better, on their social media profile.
Another factor you want to keep in mind when considering social media partnerships is whether you’re trying to appeal to business-to-business or business-to-consumer groups. You always want your content—even your partnered content—to speak directly to your target audience, so aligning yourself with a partner who’s pursuing a different audience would be a waste of bandwidth for both parties.
It’s also worth noting that partnering with a competitor is rarely recommended. You may share an audience and industry with a competitor, but that doesn’t mean partnering with them would be useful to either party, as it’ll likely divide your audience and confuse them with content that’s too similar to differentiate between.
Instead, hyperfocus on your audience’s behaviors and values and use that data to pursue content creators who can deliver on your audience’s expectations.
Interact with this prospective partner on their turf; become a familiar voice or face in their community; reply to or share their social media content; interact with them on their blog. Anything you can do to draw attention to yourself while also spotlighting their achievements will help you successfully build the scaffolding needed for a later partnership.
As an example, let’s take a look at the 2016 collaboration between CoverGirl & Lucasfilm, which HubSpot highlighted as a benchmark example of a successful co-branding campaign.
When Lucasfilm was doubling down on marketing for the 2015 film “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” they partnered with CoverGirl to broaden the scope of their audience and emphasize the value of their female fans. This kind of co-branding benefited Lucasfilm by expanding their marketing outlets for the upcoming film, and it benefited CoverGirl by helping them tap into a large and passionate audience of consumers.
This should be the goal of any good co-branding partnership. The two partners don’t necessarily have to be in the same industry for it to work—as the deal between Lucasfilm and CoverGirl brilliantly examples—but rather, they should have a shared interest and willingness to branch out from the norm. There’s always going to be some level of experimentation in co-branding, so try to find a partner who is willing to take a risk and join you on a new and exciting marketing venture.
While co-branding often involves working with an influencer, the influencers of old are still around and employing them in your marketing can have its own unique benefits.
Unlike co-branding, which emphasizes a mutual partnership between two companies, influencer marketing tends to involve a single, trusted individual in an industry. What makes this individual relevant, however, is their audience of loyal followers, who will often follow the influencer whether they go.
Influencers also work independently, and the content they produce is self-driven and geared towards a narrow niche of people. While this does mean that an influencer’s audience may not be as broad as a whole company’s, they’re usually deeply loyal and willing to take risks on new products or services if the influencer vouches for it.
Like Forbes says, “The influencer is in control of the brand's message, choosing how they would like to portray it. This promotes authenticity and can help reach a specific target audience.”
By nature, influencer marketing tends to be more casual than co-branding is. This means that you probably don’t want to use it in your broader marketing efforts, but paying an influencer to sponsor your products on their platform of choice can often be a fairly low-cost way to expose your brand to a whole new audience of people.
Paying Versus Sharing
Social media partnerships can look a variety of ways, but ultimately, they can all be boiled down into two basic categories: sharing and paying.
When you and your new partner decide to share each other’s content, then the payoff will come by leveraging the other’s followers in order to increase your own exposure. You can think up creative ways to share—like producing a video based off one of their blog posts—or simply have the other write a guest post on your blog. This type of partnership works best when you and your partner have a similar reach and follower count, but as always, there can be exceptions.
If you’re a smaller, less established brand, then you can consider paying an influencer to promote your content, which will expose new people to your brand and the services it offers. If you do go down this route, make sure you have the funds to devote to it, as these kinds of paid sponsorships can get pricey depending on who you partner with.
The Best Bios and Profiles
Your social media bio and profile are usually the very first things someone will encounter when they come across your brand’s social media presence. If you have a boring, predictable bio, then you aren’t likely to retain anyone’s attention and convince them to get to know you better. If you invest in a clever, compact bio, however, then you can entice visitors to stick around and see what your brand has to say.
A good bio is a memorable bio, and a memorable bio is one that shows off your brand’s personality, speaks specifically to the audience you’re targeting, and makes use of the space you’re given. For example, take a look at the Twitter bio for UberFacts. It’s super brief, so it’s respecting the character limit, but it’s also clever, pithy, and sets a clear expectation for what audiences can expect from the brand’s Twitter content.
Another notable example of a brand with a good social media bio comes from Airbnb’s Instagram. Where UberFacts takes a compact, comedic approach, Airbnb makes use of the platform’s character limit to be direct and informative.
Airbnb summarizes their brand’s basic mission—to open “the door to interesting homes and experiences”—and then backs it up with a convenient CTA that makes it easy for their audience to do business with them.
You want to be selective with the kind of messaging you use in your social media bios. Too much information will be distracting, and too little information won’t convince anyone that your brand is worth looking into. It’s all about the right kind of information presented in the right way. Focus on understanding who your target audience is, pinpoint what kind of tone your audience would appreciate, and then go from there.
Make an Impression
No one has ever made an impact by doing what everyone else has already done, so be bold and unique in your social media bios and try to break the mold in clever, delightful ways. This can mean utilizing humor to humanize your brand and showcase its personality, or it can mean succinctly listing your notable accomplishments.
Whatever you do though, try and avoid passivity. Action and surprise are more effective at grabbing people’s attention, and even a clumsy-but-well-meaning attempt at action will often be more valuable than a passive, static social media persona.
For example, take a look at this HubSpot list of notable Twitter bios, which helpfully pinpoints some of the features that help a good bio stand out from the crowd. Each example they list underscores the value of humor—self-deprecating, niche, etc.—to make a good first impression on someone. In some cases, they even find ways to include links to their personal websites, which backs up their personality with a tangible action a user can take advantage of.
Have Something to Say
According to a 2012 study by the Missouri University of Science and Technology, it takes an online visitor less than two-tenths of a second to form an opinion of your profile. That’s not a lot of time for you to make a positive impression, so make sure you do whatever you can to make that split-second impression a good one.
Brevity will be your secret weapon here. When you’re writing a bio, get snappy with it. Say who you are in as few words as possible, and use those words to set a tone that will run throughout the entirety of your brand’s social media persona.
Don’t worry about covering everything; your bio shouldn’t be a mission statement—save that for your actual website—but it can and should be a snapshot of who you are as a brand. The goal of any good bio is to prove to an audience that you have something to say, and if your bio isn’t convincing at first glance, then you won’t often get a second chance to prove otherwise.
In a similar vein, it’s worth noting how some brands have started using their social media platforms to advocate for or against a specific cause, campaign, or political movement. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing, and in some cases can go a long way toward engendering stronger audience investment, but it’s a difficult and risky balance to pursue.
For example, consider the primarily user-generated “Unlike Any” campaign that Under Armour launched in 2017. By partnering with several spoken word artists, Under Armour combined poetic messages with videos and photos of professional female athletes to help support the key distinction that is, “Not female athletes—just athletes.”
The image above—showcasing professional athletes Natasha Hastings, Zoe Zhang, Jessie Graff, and Alison Désir—is just a small snapshot of the #UnlikeAny campaign that Under Armour launched. Not only is this campaign in alignment with the companies brand, but it’s also directed at empowering its audience.
In other words, Under Armour used their brand’s social media to say something that resonated with their existing customers while also speaking to a broader demographic with the intent of expanding and deepening its audience of followers.
In some cases, however, a brand might want to just stay a “brand” and keep itself out of the political and news-based discourse. In other cases, the opposite may be true, especially if a certain brand has a predominantly millennial audience, as 91% of adults in that demographic have said they would switch brands if it meant associating with a particular cause they felt strongly about.
As always, there’s pros and cons to both approaches, and the best option is the one that is most in alignment with your brand’s established identity and the audience it speaks to.
A good social media profile or bio is one that has something to say. What that “something” is can be a variety of things, so it’s ultimately up to you and your company to discover exactly what that looks like. Pay attention to audience engagement and focus on a company persona that is in clear alignment with your overall goals, hopes, and dreams of future expansions.
Consider the Platform
Finally, a good bio should always take its platform into consideration. Different social media networks attract different audiences, and it’s important for your bio to reflect the preferences and trends that that particular platform leans towards.
If you’re on Twitter or Instagram, for example, then there’s an expectation that your brand’s voice will feel more authentic and personal. The limited character count can work in your favor here, as it forces you to be snappy and precise. Use appropriate keywords and hashtags to improve your profile’s visibility, but avoid anything that could be seen as generic.
While a Facebook bio is similarly limited to a 155 character limit, you have other areas that you can use to further develop who you are as a company. For example, a typical Facebook business page includes sections such as:
Ratings & Reviews
Going overboard with these isn’t recommended, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take advantage of the space they offer. Pinpoint the areas that will be valuable to your audience and fill them out. You can afford to be comprehensive, but providing too much information can overwhelm an audience, so show restraint whenever you can.
The same mentality goes for LinkedIn, which is far and away the most professional of the social media platforms and the most important one for B2B businesses. Unlike Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, however, LinkedIn has a 2,000 character limit for its “About Us” section, meaning you have far more space to craft a bio that’s detailed and precise. You should still exercise restraint, but use the extra space to clearly outline what your company offers, why it stands out from the crowd, and how it can improve the lives of its customers.
How to Develop a Great Content Strategy
Even if you write the perfect bio and have the best partnerships, your social media isn’t going to get you very far if you aren’t releasing great content. Your social media followers won’t hesitate to unfollow or unsubscribe if you flood their feeds with boring or repetitive content, so it’s important that you understand what kind of content your target audience wants and how they want to receive that content.
Make a Plan
The first step in creating the best content for your audience is to set up a plan that will keep you organized as you walk through the creative process. To do this, you need to start by asking yourself some questions like the ones below:
What do you hope to gain from your social media strategy?
Who is your target audience?
Where is the majority of that audience located?
How often should you post on your profile?
What’s your competition already doing?
What platforms are right for your brand?
The plan you develop for your social media will depend on what kinds of answers you have to these questions. In most cases, the goal of a social media profile should be to maximize audience engagement and provide that audience with content they enjoy or find valuable.
Knowing where you want your social media to go is an important first step, but it’s far from the only one. Focusing exclusively on one goal is only going to limit you in the future. You want to have a primary goal, but you also want that goal to be adaptable. If there are new developments in your audience, industry, or even the platform you’re on, then you want to be able to change your strategy to account for those.
It will also be important to eventually establish a consistent release schedule. If you’re just getting started on social media, you don’t need to be as concerned with this part. But the more established your brand becomes, the more consistent you will want to be.
Use tools like HubSpot, Hootsuite, Crowdfire, or CoSchedule to schedule posts across your various social media platforms. Some tools will even come equipped with helpful analytics that will be paramount in determining which posts are performing well and which posts may need additional adjustments.
As useful as a social media plan is, don’t let it own you. Depending on what types of content perform well and which ones do not, your plan will likely need to undergo various remodels and tweaks before it lands on an approach that consistently succeeds. If you’re a visual learner, then HubSpot has a helpful outline of social media strategies, such as the one below, that can help illustrate just one of the ways a social media plan can look like.
In the end, a social media plan is a tool to help you understand your audience and appeal to their interests and needs. As long as you keep that in mind, then your social media strategies will stay on the right track.
Make Use of User-Generated Content
If the primary goal of your social media marketing is to increase audience engagement, then it might be worthwhile to try incorporating your audience into the content you release. User-generated content (UGC) is a powerful tool in marketing at large but is especially potent in social media, as it allows you to demonstrate to your audience that you not only want to hear what they have to say but also want to spotlight their voices to a broader audience.
What makes UGC so beneficial is that your consumers are making it whether you know about it or not. Social media is a hub of communication where people constantly talk about their lives and the products that occupy them, so encourage your customers to tag your brand’s profile if and when they post about your content.
People love to be seen, and the attention that brand-supported UGC provides can be an exciting incentive for your target audience to share their positive experiences and interactions with your brand and its products. For example, if you were to retweet someone's post on Twitter about how much they appreciated your customer service, then you might inspire someone else who’s had a similarly positive experience with your company to share their story as well. This creates a loop of user-led marketing and testimonials that can provide you with a powerful boost of positive press.
When it comes down to it, customers trust other customers more than they trust a company. In a study done by AdWeek, 76% of surveyed individuals said that they would be more willing to trust content shared from an “average” person than a brand. When you capitalize on that fact by encouraging and capitalizing on UGC, you’ll not only be elevating the trustworthiness of your brand but also maximizing your potential for qualified leads who are willing and eager to interact with you.
Think about it like this: how much more likely would you be to try out a new restaurant in the area if one of your friends or colleagues recommended it to you, compared to the restaurant itself sending you a flyer in the mail? This is exactly what user-generated content does; it puts the power of marketing in the hands of excited consumers, and potential consumers are more likely to become actual consumers when someone else encourages them to do so.
With that said, UGC looks different depending on the kind of marketing your brand is most active in. Business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) marketing techniques can both use user-generated content, but generating and using it looks different for each one, so let’s take a look at them both.
Business-to-consumer is probably the most straightforward form of UGC, as it consists primarily of consumers producing content—photos, social media posts, etc.—for a brand. An easy example comes courtesy of Starbucks, who use their seasonal cup designs to encourage their customers to share photos with their Starbucks coffee.
This kind of user-generated content occurs whether brands know about it or not, and as long as the original creator of the content agrees, can be easily converted into UGC for a brand’s social media.
Meanwhile, user-generated content in B2B marketing is more of a symbiotic relationship, where the generated content benefits both involved parties.
For example, Databox makes great use of B2B UGC by producing long-form blog content that delves into industry topics by using information garnered from surveys they send out to customers and even prospective customers. What this approach does, then, is incentivize an audience to interact with Databox, gaining visibility for the individual user and giving Databox an influx of content—and leads—to use in their marketing strategies.
Ultimately, the key to UGC is to try and give people a reason to get involved in your brand that goes beyond straightforward marketing. For example, if you partner with a public outreach program or charity, and then encourage your audience to take an active role in publicizing this partnership, you’ll not only do good for the world at large but also drive engagement on your platform of choice.
Host Contests or Giveaways
Another surefire way to generate audience engagement is by hosting contests or giveaways on your social media platforms. People love free stuff, and when you incentivize engagement with the promise of something at the end of it—a discount, a free service, or anything that your target audience will enjoy and appreciate—you’ll be motivating new and familiar users alike to engage with your brand.
The contest can be as ambitious or simple as you have the resources for because the point is to get people to pay attention. Try and develop a prize that’s not desirable to just a single kind of customer, but rather speaks to the unique needs and interests of your target audience. If you’re a pet store, for example, and are running a contest to draw attention to your new store, then offering a coupon or a free bag of dog food can be a great incentive. However, something more flexible, like a gift card, is always a safe bet too.
Contests and giveaways are right at home on social media. They can be easily managed and tracked on platforms like Twitter or Instagram, and by asking your participants to submit a photo or use a brand-specific hashtag, you’ll have easy access to all of the entrants in your contest and generate a higher rate of visibility for your brand’s social media profile.
In an age where customers are always on the lookout for deeper connections with the people they interact with, hosting a contest can be a great way to inspire your audience to show initiative and make the first move by reaching out to your brand. This puts the power in their hands and puts you in a great place to build a positive, memorable experience for the customer that will keep them coming back.
Ask and Answer Questions
One of the best ways to engage with someone is to simply ask them a question. This is true in marketing, it’s true in social media, so obviously it’s true for social media marketing. If you pose a question, or even better, put out a poll on your Twitter or Instagram story, which can help incentivize your audience to engage with your content.
These questions don’t even have to be of a business nature. Your social media marketing shouldn’t consist solely of sales pitches and CTA’s. Throwing in a fun poll or asking a friendly question can be a clever and endearing way to personify your brand and make it easier for your audience to interact with it.
Including personality in your social media posts by asking questions like “What’s the most surprising thing that happened to you this week” or a nonsense poll like “What’s the best kind of cloud?” are surprising bits of humanity and humor that can delight your audience and generate engagement.
For example, take a look at this fun poll the official Dunkin’ Donuts Twitter account put out on #NationalCoffeeDay. This is just one of the many examples HubSpot highlights on their blog as being indicative of how a brand can—and should—utilize polls and questions in their social media interactions.
Answering questions is another valuable tool to utilize, and Twitter is arguably becoming one of the best outlets for helpful customer service outreach because of the accessibility customers have to a brand’s service team.
When your brand is on social media, it becomes easily accessible to your entire audience, meaning that they can reach out to you with whatever feedback they may have. This can mean dealing with negativity, but it can also mean answering questions publicly and sincerely, which can go a long way towards improving public reception.
In the last decade or so, hashtags have become a pillar for just about every social media platform. They function a lot like keywords do for websites, and allow users to search, track, and follow topics on whatever social media platform they prefer.
Proper hashtag use does have some guidelines though. Just like every tool, they can be misused and abused, which will damage your social media reception and overshadow the rest of your content. While overdosing on hashtags is a very real possibility—too many hashtags can often decrease interactions—ignoring them is no better. For Twitter especially, smart use of hashtags is vital for the growth and visibility of your brand’s online profile.
According to research done at Buffer, posts that use hashtags tend to get twice as much engagement as posts that don’t include hashtags, making them an easy way to garner visibility and interaction for your social media profile.
For such a simple tool, hashtags are incredibly versatile. They can be used across almost every social media platform and are universally understood by most modern audiences. Using them is a great way to invest in an ongoing movement or conversation, and if you want to start your own movement or conversation, then you can do that by simply making a hashtag of your own.
Before interacting with a hashtag, however, take a little time to research it. Like Forbes says, before using a hashtag you should usually take some time to understand the hashtag’s existing meaning, its history, and who primarily uses it. This information will help you avoid engaging with anything that could be offensive, controversial, or demeaning.
Not every customer is going to be enthralled by the products you’re offering. That’s just a fact of life. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t still include those people in your social media marketing, or that they can’t help further develop your social media visibility and engagement.
For example, look at the official Twitter account for MoonPie, the confection snack. Their marketing took a snack brand that had mostly faded from the public eye and dramatically revitalized it by rebranding their online presence with a unique and absurdist sense of humor. If you need proof, take a look at the tweet they have pinned to the top of their profile.
Right now, MoonPie has over two-hundred and fifty-thousand followers, and each new tweet they release garners thousands of interactions from an active and delighted audience. Obviously, then, whatever they’re doing with their brand seems to be working.
Even people who don’t enjoy the MoonPie product can enjoy their social media persona. This means that the MoonPie brand is able to cross over into an audience of people who may not become consumers themselves but who have the power to expose the brand to people who could be.
Using your social media to have fun can be just as valuable a strategy as pushing your newest product or promoting a new deal. If people enjoy the content you produce, then they’ll happily follow and interact with your social media accounts, even if the products you offer don’t immediately interest them.
People are drawn to brands that are sincere, and a good sense of humor or a unique personality can be one of the best ways to convince people to stick around for a while. It builds an audience, encourages interaction, and develops relationships that can lead to profits, publicity, and more.
However, humor can very much be a double-edged sword. For all of its potential benefits, when misused, humor can be absolutely disastrous. When considering whether or not humor is an effective tool to utilize in your social media output, set time aside to research your target audience yet again and attempt to gauge whether it would be something they would respond positively to.
Social media is everywhere. It’s on our phones, our computers, our cafes, our products, and, of course, our marketing. Platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are staples in the lives of millions of people and have become so ingrained in their everyday lives that they rely on them more than almost anything else.
As a result, social media should absolutely be a priority for you and your marketing strategy. Not only can it act as the connective tissue for all of your content marketing—blogs, emails, ads, promotions, the list goes on and on—but it can also be the bridge that brings you closer to your target audience. It plugs an audience into a brand and plugs a brand into an audience; a two-way street of interaction and engagement that, when properly emphasized, can improve the lives and experiences of everyone involved.
Even as trends change, platforms evolve and shift direction, and users come and go, social media remains a juggernaut of a resource for marketers. Start a Twitter account, take some photos of your office for Instagram, share exciting updates on Facebook, highlight your accomplishments on LinkedIn: there’s a world of people out there who want to interact with your brand and who, whether they know it yet or not, are looking for the products and services you can provide them with.
Your audience is already out there, so go and join them!