In today’s marketplace, completely ignoring social media simply isn’t an option. Why? Because everyone is online—including your competition.
Some brand new businesses are hesitant to invest time and money in social media marketing because they realize it’s a major commitment, while others go about it totally wrong, not realizing the importance of the endeavor.
We’re here today to explain why developing a solid social media presence on at least one platform is a must-do for your business, and give you the tools you need to build that presence. Ultimately, the goal is to:
- Increase your brand visibility
- Build long-term relationships
- Generate revenue
This isn’t going to happen for you overnight. It requires consistent, dedicated effort over the long-term. That said, let’s dig in to some social media marketing tips, tricks, and myths!
Social Media Platforms & Your Target Audience
Unless you’ve got a full team managing your social media, you’re not going to be able to have a solid presence on every single platform. You need to be selective and focus on where your targets spend their time!
Of course, in order to do that, you first need to know who your targets are. If you don’t have a solid handle on your target audience, remember that it’s important to be as specific as possible. Consider age, gender, education, interests, income, professional or social role (manager, student, mother, etc.) and any other important factors you can think of.
Once you know exactly who you’re looking for, you can start doing your research with that group in mind. Take a look at this demographic data from the 2015 Pew Research Center Report for some initial insight about what your target audience is up to online.
Find out what type of content is ideal for your targets. Do they prefer video, pictures, articles, or something interactive? Knowing what media your audience is most receptive to will help you make some important decisions about your social media presence—like which network to focus on. For instance, if they prefer pictures, Instagram might be a good avenue for you, as long as your target audience has a significant presence there.
Important Note: You need to stay up-to-date with the demographic changes within social media channels. Who’s where online changes significantly over time. For example, Instagram has acquired more older users in recent years. Your ability to monitor industry trends and take advantage of changes in your social networks will determine the success of your social media marketing efforts!
Social Media Strategy
Your social media marketing strategy needs to include:
- Primary Content
- Core Goals & Objectives
- Measuring & Tracking
- Review & Tweaking
- Realistic Time Management
If you don’t know what any of these things mean, don’t worry—we’re going to take a closer look at each of them now!
This needs to be at the top of your social media strategy list. People aren’t going to follow your business on social media if you’re posting boring, unoriginal or irrelevant content! To make sure you’re posting content that will catch the attention of your audience, you need to:
- Know what your target audience wants to see and read.
- Be familiar with industry sites and blogs with content your audience finds valuable.
Create a document or excel sheet where you can keep a list of the sites you want to share content from. This will allow you to continuously add to your external sources and be able to easily access them when you’re looking for content to share. You should also make a list of your own content to keep your URLs organized and up-to-date!
- To save time, subscribe to the website’s RSS feeds and use a feed aggregator (an example would be NetVibes) so that you can easily view the new content published to these sites. It’s also easier to find interesting articles since they’re listed by title versus having to go to the website and manually search.
Depending on budget, consider investing in a content marketing and social media curation tool such as BundlePost.
This platform is even better than subscribing to RSS feeds because you have a section for your outside content (where you insert those RSS feeds) and a separate section for your own content. Additionally, it allows you to export your content for scheduling on various social media management systems like Hootsuite.
Core goals & Objectives
If you don’t have goals, you’ll have no idea whether or not your social media efforts are producing results. Goals keep you focused on your objective. Think about what your goals are. They might include:
- Link clicks & click-throughs
- Community growth
- Engagement – tweets, likes, comments, retweets, reshares, etc.
- Expanding reach
Measuring & tracking
Once you’ve set your social media goals, you need to be able to measure and track your results. Most social networks provide pretty straightforward analytics, including data like your reach, clicks, number of post likes, and number of followers.
It’s best to track your analytics on a weekly basis—you need to give your content time to get interaction. Your weekly tracking should involve:
- Updating your findings for each of your social media channels.
- Creating a weekly summary where you list key indicators.
- Using reporting tools like Raven or Sendible, if you have the budget for them. They make life much easier!
Review & tweaking
Reviewing your findings on a continuous basis helps ensure your social media always grabs the attention of your community.
If you notice a lot of engagement on a specific post, you should consider sharing similar posts in the future. The same mechanism works for the type of content you share—if you’ve noticed a higher reach for your videos, this is an indication that your audience prefers this type of content!
As long as you’re paying attention to your reports and making adjustments accordingly, you really can’t go wrong. The worst thing you can do is put your social media on autopilot and fail to invest in a relationship with your audience.
time management & other considerations
Executing an effective social media plan is half art and half science. As we’ve mentioned, it’s not about being on every social network 24/7. You need to consider the following:
- Long-Term Plans
The quality and uniqueness of your social media efforts are much more important to increasing your visibility than the amount of social networks you’re on. Use your time wisely. Cut through the noise and make an impact with super valuable content.
Things to Remember
If you’re managing your social media presence all by your lonesome, here are some super important things you need to keep in mind:
#1) This takes TIME
Be precise and realistic about the time you have for social media management and plan accordingly. You’ve already got an entire business to run, so taking care of your online presence might not be #1 on your to-do list.
That said, it’s crucial that you’re consistent with your social media presence, so you’ll have to find a way to make it work with your schedule. Look at how much time you can realistically allocate to your social media efforts and how often you’ll be able to post each week. Even if you’re scheduling your posts, it still takes time to create your content, review your analytics, make any necessary tweaks, etc.
Remember, dedicating your social media efforts to between 1 and 3 social networks will be plenty for you to make an impact, as long as you’ve done your research on what platforms your target audience is using. There’s no way you’re going to successfully connect with your customers and prospects if you don’t put in the time and energy!
#2) YOU MUST TRACK, TRACK, TRACK!
There’s a reason why social media managers exist. Managing and tracking results takes time. You can’t randomly schedule content with no objective and expect to see targeted community growth. You can’t expect to know what’s working and what’s not.
With as little as 6 hours of social media management per week, the vast majority of marketers (95%+) indicated their social media efforts increased exposure for their businesses. Sales, on the other hand, is much more challenging to track—it only tends to show improvement after around 3 years of consistent social media management. Check out the 2014 Social Media Marketing Industry Report for details.
It’s a bummer, but if you really want to see results, you’ll need to keep up with what your audience wants to see and where they want to see it!
#3) BE REALISTIC
Setting realistic objectives for your social media presence and management will help you stay focused on the important tasks at hand. If your goal is to get 1000 new followers on Twitter every week but you have minimal time and money to spend on social media, you need to reevaluate your goals.
As long as you’re realistic with what you can expect from your efforts given your schedule and budget, you shouldn’t be disappointed. Just remember that patience and perseverance are key!
#4) Get help when you need it
If you find yourself unable to keep up with social media tasks, it’s time to get help. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to hire someone to do the work for you, especially if you don’t have the resources. Free software tools like Hootsuite or Buffer can help reduce your workload by automating your content distribution.
That said, these tools aren’t magic. If your social media goals still seem completely out of reach, you might consider hiring a social media manager.
#5) know your limits
Understand your limits for your social media marketing, both in terms of time and money. Set out exactly what you’re willing to invest and stick to it. This will help you avoid going over-budget, and make you appear more consistent to your audience, too!
Social Media Marketing Myths
Let’s take a look at the most common (and most destructive) social media myths!
Myth #1: Going Viral is quick & easy
Sure, it may seem like some popular companies just pop up out of nowhere, but in reality there’s a lot of behind the scenes work that you just don’t know about. “Quick & easy” is rarely part of the journey. What is part of the journey? Plenty of business planning, perseverance, and motivation.
Myth #2: ROI Is impossible to Track
This myth depends entirely on what your idea of ROI is. If your ROI goals involve increasing user-engagement, page views, and number of followers, then it’s totally trackable through basic analytics. Alternatively, if you’re thinking of ROI as directly tied to money, then it is more difficult to track. You can’t directly correlate social media activity to an exact dollar amount.
You can, however, set up a way to track how many people come to your store as a result of social media activity, and assign an estimated dollar value to your posts (specifically lead-generating ones). With strategies like these it is possible to get a sense of your monetary ROI, but it’s definitely not as easy or exact as tracking branding-ROI!
Myth #3 No Planning Required
By now it should be clear that this one is flat-out false. Your plan doesn’t have to be super-detailed, but you can’t just wing this either. At minimum, you need these three things:
- A specific, defined target audience or market.
- Specific social media-based goals/definitions of ROI.
- Quality content (mix of original and outside sources).
These are the bare-minimum requirements for any level of success on social media. There are many more efforts you can make to expand your social media marketing plan, including (but not limited to) those outlined in the “Social Media Strategy” section above!
Tips For Getting Your Content Seen
As a business, you need to fight to be noticed. So the question is, how can you fight the best? How can you increase visibility and share-ability, and get in front of all the noise? Here are three tips to help you in the social media battle:
Tip #1) Add Share Buttons
Share buttons are very important to increasing visibility. They make it easier for readers to distribute your content across their own networks. That said, here are some notes on optimizing your share features:
- Consider which share buttons best fit your website and page design.
- Opt for all-inclusive plugins like ShareThis.
- Customize your share buttons to say what you want. For example, when someone shares your content you can decide whether you want your Twitter handle (Ex: @StartupSavant) to show, or only the title of the article.
- Be strategic about the placement of your share buttons. Placing them at the top of your content is typically the best choice because they’ll be immediately visible to your readers.
Tip #2) Make Meta-Data Appealing
When we talk social media meta-data, we’re mainly referring to two things: title and description. When deciding what to write for your title and description, remember:
- It needs to entice your audience.
- It needs to reflect the content’s topic.
Also keep in mind, the shorter the title, the better. The description should be less than 250 characters, and include keywords to keep you visible in the main feeds and user searches. If you don’t know where to start with keywords, Google’s free Keyword Planner can help!
Tip #3) Use Quality graphics
Higher-quality graphics will make your content more appealing, which will ultimately impact how shareable you are across social streams.
- To maximize image quality, preview your posts before actually posting them to see how the image looks first. Some images may look good on your website but not in your social media posts, or may need cropping or resizing.
- Become familiar with your platform’s preferred dimensions and sizes. Wide (vs. tall) images tend to look best across most social channels.
- Always make sure your pictures are high-resolution (not blurry or pixelated) on your website and on social
The better your content looks, the more likely it’ll gain visibility. The more visibility you gain, the higher your brand awareness you’ll get. The more brand awareness you have, the higher chance of sales... You get the picture. If you're in need of some graphic design help, Canva is a free design tool with templates for Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram!
Best Social Media Resources
To minimize the amount of time you spend managing your social media, you’re going to need a set of tools to help you organize, plan, and analyze your social media activities. Let’s talk best resources for content distribution, analytics, and news!
One of the most widely-used tools for scheduling content is Hootsuite. Hootsuite is free and allows you to manage up to three social profiles!
You might also want an RSS feed aggregator like Netvibes so you can find and schedule valuable content without having to open each website separately. Sites like Right Relevance and ContentGems can also help—they allow you to search for content by keywords!
Social Media Analytics
Most social networks have an internal analytics section that informs you of your overall performance, including new followers, clicks, and reach. However, if you want to have all your analytics on one platform, Hootsuite, Sendible and Simply Measured are three super reliable analytics reporting tools!
Best Practices & News
Make a list of industry websites to visit on a regular basis to stay informed on what your competitors are up to and what’s new on your social media platforms. Add them to your RSS Feed aggregator if you want to make them more accessible!
To get your list started, here are five websites that are always on top of the latest news in the social media/online marketing world:
- Marketing Magnetically
- Social Media Examiner
- Marketing Profs
- HubSpot Marketing Blog
- Search Engine Land
Once you’re accustomed to using these tools and resources, it’ll be much easier for you to achieve a consistent online presence. You’ll be able to spend less time on social media management and more on engagement—not to mention your other core business activities!
Meet The Authors
Maria Florio is a passionate entrepreneur with many talents. She’s a writer, inbound marketer, Italy travel specialist and event planner! Get to know her professionally on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Ali Schwanke is an independent marketing consultant who focuses on content, strategy, and analytics. She enjoys being outdoors with her family, running, doing home remodel projects, and geeking out with her favorite podcasts and audiobooks. Get in touch with her on Twitter and her website!