Successful marketing is about being in front of the right people, at the right time. With social media so deeply intertwined with consumers’ lifestyles, it’s no surprise that businesses are increasingly incorporating social media into their marketing plans.
With an abundance of information, distractions, and competitors also vying for users’ attention, it can be a daunting task to try to stand out on social networks, especially if you’re starting out with only a handful of followers.
This strategy will help you launch a new social media plan or refocus your existing efforts to get the most out of your social media marketing campaigns.
1. Choose the right platforms.
While there are many social networks out there, it’s important to focus your efforts on the platforms that your target audience is actually using.
This is typically revealed in the process of developing buyer personas. These fictional representations of your ideal customers help you identify their goals, pain points, interests, and demeanors. All of this can be used to determine where your customers consume information and where they spend their free time.
Too often, social media platforms are oversimplified as: LinkedIn is for B2B and Facebook is for B2C. There may be some truth to that way of thinking, but countless opportunities may be missed by dismissing a social platform outright without at least measuring its merits.
2. Study your customers.
Once you choose your platforms, there are still a few questions to be asked.
What parts of the social media network do your customers use? Do they live in their newsfeed, or do they search for trending topics? Are they members of any groups?
How often do they log into their social media account? Are they actively engaging throughout the day, or do they skim it in between meetings?
What are they looking to get out of their social media? Do they want something funny and relatable, or would they prefer direct, concise facts?
Questions like these will help you identify where you need to be, learn from the content that exists there now, and begin thinking about the frequency and style of your future social posts.
3. Study your competitors.
While you’re learning about where and how your customers consume information, take some time to audit your competitors’ content and activity. Try to view their social media through the eyes of a potential buyer, and be honest about how your company stacks up against it.
Make a note of their post frequency, tone of voice, messaging, and of course, the substance of what they post. Then look at the level of engagement users show towards them - or lack thereof. Which of your competitors’ posts get the most likes, comments, reblogs, and other interactions? What differentiates those posts from the ones that lack engagement? It could be as simple as their use of emojis or asking a question in their messaging, or you may have to think a bit deeper about what pain points their posts’ content are addressing that are compelling users to engage.
What are some industry resources that keep showing up across competitors? How often do they post their own content, and does it seem natural or too sales-y? In assessing your competitors, you’ll likely find that the most successful ones are attracting engagement through being helpful and educational rather than perpetually selling their services outright.
Whatever you find, you will undoubtedly reveal some incredibly valuable insight that will inform your own social strategy. Scouting out the competition is commonplace across all aspects of business planning and development, and social media marketing is no different.
4. Optimize your company’s profiles.
Social media profiles are so prevalent in today’s marketplace that many potential customers will likely see your Facebook or LinkedIn page before they ever see your website. Considering the time and careful planning that goes into creating a well-designed website, it then makes sense to put that same level of effort into your social media profiles.
First and foremost, make sure your company’s profile is a business page and not a personal account. If the company’s name is available as a handle (@MyCompany), you should absolutely use it. If the name itself is already taken, trying tweaking it while keeping it recognizable, such as with an underscore between words (@My_Company).
Next, the profile and header images should be consistent across all channels. Different platforms have different image dimensions, however, so the design of each one needs to share a clear connection with the rest of them.
For the profile picture, a strong choice is to use the company’s logo, making sure that no part of it gets unintentionally cut off. As for the header image, it should convey what the company does or how it adds value to the customer. These images set the tone for the profile, and should be clean, simple, and on-brand.
Each social media platform has space to include company information such as a business overview, list of services, address, hours of operation, and contact information. Fill out as much of this information as possible so that visitors know the business is legitimate. Make sure that this information is accurate and consistent across all social profiles and your website.
Finally, make sure that your profiles are all linked together, that way customers can easily find and follow you wherever they spend their time.
5. Optimize your personal profile.
When you first meet someone, one of the first questions asked is typically, “so, what do you do for work?” To some extent, we all act as ambassadors for our companies whether we’re the CEO or the marketing intern. The same is true on social media, especially on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is essentially virtual networking, and is often the first stop someone makes when looking into a business. This is particularly true for B2B businesses, where it is not uncommon for decision-makers to want to put a face to the company they are making deals with.
The first step to optimizing your personal profile is to make a clear connection between it and your company’s page. It is recommended to use the same header image, as well as to connect your company’s official page as your place of work.
Next, make sure that you are representing yourself as a knowledgeable expert in your field. Don’t be afraid of sounding boastful - think of your LinkedIn page as your public-facing resume. List all of your memberships, awards, education, and experience. Fill out your skills section and collect endorsements from clients, peers, and mentors. Your profile should sell you as a capable, trustworthy partner as much as your company’s page does.
Lastly, encourage your employees to optimize and connect their profiles to your company’s page. When people love where they work, they’ll often be proud to showcase it. That doesn’t mean you should mandate it, and you definitely don’t want to inflate your social engagement by forcing your own employees to engage with your posts. Rather, opting to share a common header and connection to the company page can act as a kind of team-building exercise that makes your employees feel connected and valued. It also adds legitimacy to your company’s social profile, showing that people enjoy being a part of it.
6. Squeeze maximum value from each platform.
There are extra features that can further optimize your company’s profile depending on the social network. On Facebook, for example, you can turn on the chat feature to engage with visitors. On LinkedIn you can join and post in industry or job-specific groups, and on Pinterest you can create themed board collections. Explore the options available on whichever platform you use, starting with the following suggestions.
- Facebook Marketing: Messenger Business, Facebook Live, Facebook Places
- LinkedIn Marketing: LinkedIn Groups, Sponsored Content, Career Advice
- Instagram Marketing: Instagram Stories, Hashtags, Instagram Influencers
- Twitter Marketing: Trending Topics, Live-Tweeting, Twitter Moments
Remember to include links to your social media profiles on your website, in emails, and across all other forms of communication. Also, consider verifying your profiles to add more authority. As an extra pro tip, you may also want to embed social media content into your blogs to make them interactive and shareable.
7. Curate content for your customers, not your business.
People generally don’t like being sold to, especially when they’re simply trying to scroll through their social media. Rather than interrupting their feeds with unsolicited advertisements, your posts should provide content that engages with and relates to the user. Put simply, the user should want to read what you post.
To achieve this, successful social media strategies balance company content with industry content. That means interspersing articles from reputable industry resources amongst your company’s own blogs, custom images, and eBooks. Your social media page should show potential customers that you are a thought leader in the industry, and as such are worthy of their trust and hard earned dollars.
These criteria remain relevant when it comes to publishing your own content as well. Write content that addresses their paint points, that recognizes and validates their needs, and provides solutions to their challenges. A knowledgeable lead gives your company a better chance to convert them into a paying customer. Educational content ensures that you’ll be speaking the same language throughout the sales process, and it can help ease any learning curve they may have going into it. Your potential customers are searching for answers online, so why not be the one to provide them?
Additionally, marketers are highly aware that product features alone are often no longer enough to differentiate a business in today’s crowded marketplace. Rather, it’s the company’s values, personality, and voice that resonate with customers and compel them to buy. Social media content should showcase your brand’s identity and expertise, that way customers see your post in their feed as a welcome piece of helpful information rather than a minor inconvenience to scroll past.
8. Plan ahead.
Ever wonder how companies manage to post across all of their social profiles every single day - sometimes even multiple times a day? You might assume they’ve hired a social media expert to take care of this for them, but more often than not the truth is actually a lot simpler. They just plan ahead.
There are plenty of ways to organize a social media content plan, but the quickest is to put together a spreadsheet that lists all of the content you want to post and when you’d like to post it. The spreadsheet should include the article URL, messaging copy, and relevant hashtags, and you can use it to plan out posts for upcoming events, holidays, and product launches. WIth this spreadsheet at hand, posting will be as easy as copying and pasting.
Still, logging into each account and publishing can be a big drain on your time. With a tool such as HubSpot’s marketing platform, you can pre-schedule out social media posts days or even months in advance. Better yet, you can schedule posts across all of your social media platforms at once, making coordinating social content across channels simple and fast.
9. Be consistent.
Consistency is necessary to stay top of mind on platforms that are known for their constantly updating content cycles. With the volume of posts being published and the frequency at which users are refreshing their feeds, a post from seven in the morning may be a distant memory by the time lunch rolls around.
At minimum, a company should post once per day from their social media profiles. The time of day that posts go out can definitely have an effect on your engagement, so if you opt for the once-per-day frequency, you should consider doing some A/B testing to find that sweet spot to get the most bang for your social buck.
Ideally, a strong social media plan will have around 2-4 posts per day, mixing in company blogs, custom images, industry articles, and gated content offers. This may sound like a whole lot of time and energy, but if you plan ahead and use social scheduling tools it’s completely possible and likely very much worth it.
10. Measure results.
Sometimes it can be difficult to see a straight line between a social media strategy and actual dollars earned, but an increase in website traffic, a boost for brand identity, and staying top of mind for your audience are all precursors that lead to conversions and ultimately, sales.
Differentiating between so-called vanity metrics and metrics of value is heavily dependent on your business and goals. Generally speaking, though, the following key performance indicators are a great place to start when measuring the return on your social media marketing campaign.
- Interactions measure the level of engagement your users have with your content. This varies across platforms, but generally includes favorites, reblogs, check-ins, mentions, comments, and the like. Interactions in themselves may be somewhat fluffy in terms of value, but they are the starting point for finding more valuable information - namely, what types of content or messaging elicits the strongest responses from your audience. Don’t take the number of interactions at face value, instead try to extrapolate this meaningful revelation to inform your future publishing efforts.
- Frequency and timing of posts can reveal the best days of the week, times of day, and number of times per day you should post for optimal engagement. You can post ten times a day but if no one is there at that time to see them, it won’t matter.
- Traffic from social is the number of website visitors that were brought to your website via a social media platform. The original source of those visitors is likely going to be a major factor in attributing a conversion to your marketing efforts. Put simply, if someone takes an action of value on your website after coming in from social media - whether it’s signing up for a newsletter, booking a meeting, or making a purchase - you can thank social media marketing for delivering that person to you.
- Return on ad spend (ROAS) can be a tricky metric to calculate. This is where attribution becomes crucial - if you can track where your customers entered your sales process, you can attribute their purchases and even lifetime value to that originating source. Unlike running paid advertisements, calculating ROAS for social media marketing campaigns takes some connecting the dots rather than having a number ready-made in an ads reporting tool. There are tools, however, like HubSpot that make measuring traffic from sources and viewing contact histories and conversion paths a painless process.
It has been thoroughly and repeatedly proven that social media marketing is not just a passing fad. Even if you think your company or offering is too complex, too niche, too professional, or otherwise not a fit for social media, give it a try if for nothing else than to say you did every single thing you possibly could to help your business succeed. Chances are you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the value (and yes, revenue) that social media marketing can produce.