For some companies, the idea that conversations are taking place with or without their involvement is the hardest fact to come to grips with. If a company is not leading the conversation, or in some way active in it, then they are leaving it to others to answer questions and provide information, regardless if it’s accurate or incorrect. Think about that for a second. Do you know what people are saying about your company or small business at this very moment? Do you have a strategy in place to initiate, or more importantly, take control of such conversations in the event they go bad? Most small businesses do not, and this can be very scary for them.
If you’re new to the idea of using social mediums such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest as marketing vehicles for your business and find yourself wondering how to get started, then this post is for you. In this article, I will outline what social marketing is and why it’s effective, as well as provide 8 helpful tips for getting started. Consider this your basic beginners guide to social media marketing.
What is Social Media Marketing?
Social Media Marketing is the process of using social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, etc., to engage both new and current customers. It is through this engagement that businesses are able to leverage their efforts into value. What is that value? Social media value is to be determined by each business individually, but in most cases it is labeled as:
- An increase in revenue, online and offline.
- An increase in brand awareness and exposure.
- An increase in customer appreciation.
- Being able to provide better customer support.
- Being able to better monitor their online reputation.
Why is Social Media Marketing So Effective?
Social media marketing is based on the same key principle that makes email marketing so effective… having permission to engage customers and other industry followers directly and with relevant and timely information. Seth Godin refers to this as “permission marketing”.
Social marketing allows businesses to send targeted messaging to those individuals wishing to receive it. By reaching out only to these individuals who have signaled an interest in learning more about a product, companies are able to develop long-term relationships with customers, create trust, build brand awareness, and greatly improve the chances of making a sale.
Where Should I Begin?
First and foremost, creating a successful social media marketing strategy – one that helps a business to meet their needs and goals – will not be an easy task. Nor, should one think it to be. Additionally, companies should not treat social marketing with a “set it and forget it” mindset. If one’s goal is to minimize their efforts to a mere 5 or 10 minutes a week, then its best that they simply stop before they even get started, thus saving time and future displeasure. The truth is, social marketing is difficult, and will require the diligent hard work of many.
The following are 8 helpful steps for getting started with social media marketing:
Step 1: Outline Clear Goals
For most, participating on the social web is fun, and therefore addicting. It’s extremely easy to get excited, even sidetracked, and run off working on a fun project. Therefore, it is imperative that companies outline their core social marketing goals prior to starting, and revisit them frequently as to ensure that both time and effort aren’t being wasted. Companies have to remember that payroll isn’t determined by the number of followers or friends they have, but rather by whether or not they meet their social media goals.
Step 2: Determine Social Media Channels
Like most marketing strategies, social media marketing begins with a plan. Jumping into social media and simply posting everything everywhere is not a valid approach. Instead, companies need to determine which social media channels are worth their attention by first learning which their target audience prefers using. Obviously, it does a company little good to maintain a Twitter profile, when their core audience is using Facebook or Google+.
Step 3: Create a Content Strategy
As the age old saying goes, content is king. In fact, with regards to social marketing it’s everything! A company’s content is what will set them apart from others in their space, and is the sole reason why people will want to connect with them in the first place. It is extremely important that companies spend adequate time determining not only the types of content they’ll want to share, but the messaging too.
Furthermore, creating a social media calendar or timeline can be helpful. A timeline is as it sounds – a detailed breakdown for when a company plans to publish specific pieces of content. Calendars can be weekly, monthly, or quarterly, and should mirror company events such as sales, promotions, and seasonal focus points, as well as holidays and industry happenings.
Step 4: Create Branded Profiles
Social media profiles should be unique and, more importantly, they should coincide with a company’s branding goals. A company should never opt for using standard templates or imagery when customization is an option – and, in most cases, it most certainly is an option. Instead, consider using logos or other recognizable company branding when creating profile photos, icons, backgrounds, and color schemes.
Step 5: Add Social Icons to Website
Simple, yet very effective. Keep in mind that the ultimate goal behind social marketing is to build a community through engagement, which can later be leveraged into sales and revenue. By promoting a company’s social media channels on their own website, they make it easier for site visitors (clients, colleagues, and industry folk) to discover their social media profiles and join their communities.
Step 6: Build a Community
Building a REAL community of friends/followers who actually want to receive a company’s updates is the most difficult part of the social marketing process, not to mention the most time consuming. However, it is also the most important. Without an audience to read, share, and “like” one’s content, social media is pointless. To be successful, companies need to build like-minded communities consisting of individuals who value the same types of content they plan to share. Consider building a community around customers and clients, co-workers, colleagues, and other industry related individuals.
Step 7: Monitor Brand Mentions
Using tools to monitor mentions of your company’s brand is a key part of the social marketing experience. Monitoring company and employee names will help one to better address customer questions, concerns, and problems as they arise in real-time, thus allowing customer service teams to intervene when necessary. It should go without saying that putting out fires such as complaints and negative reviews early is the primary goal for monitoring one’s own brand. However, rewarding or acknowledging positive brand mentions is also an effective strategy.
Step 8: Be Social. Engage and Interact
Social marketing is all about engagement and becoming involved in the conversations surrounding one’s business and industry. Engagement can be as simple as “thank you” for when someone publishes a positive comment, “how can we help you” to a negative comment, or addressing complex industry related issues with peers. In any event, social media offers a ton of opportunity for businesses to interact with their customers. Businesses need to remain proactive when it comes to interaction, and go above and beyond when it comes to customer engagement.
Social Media Marketing Going Forward
The goal of this post was to provide a top-level overview of the social marketing experience in order to address one’s immediate concerns for getting started. While I believe I have accomplished this, readers should know that there is a great deal more to the social marketing process. Needless to say, I’ve only just begun.
In the months to follow, I fully intend to dive deeper into social marketing and further outline (in greater detail) the many facets of setting up and managing a social media presence. Furthermore, I do hope that you’ll return and read these updates. However, in the meantime, I certainly encourage readers to go beyond the scope of knowledge that this beginner’s guide offers, and continue growing their own understanding of the social marketing process. In fact, to assist you on your journey of enlightenment, I’ve include the following 5 social marketing resources (they just happen to by my own personal favorite). Enjoy!
Mashable is an online resource offering the latest social media news, tactics, and strategies. This website is updated multiple times daily and features only the best social media content.Social Media Today
Social Media Today is an independent, online community for professionals in social media. This website provides social media insights, such as guides, reviews and debates
Search Engine Journal (Social)
Search Engine Journal is an online community that features an assortment of reviews, guides, tools, and expert advice from many of today’s top social media marketers.
SEOmoz Social Media Marketing Guide
This resource highlights the most popular and effective social media sites for marketing a business. Using this list, one can determine which sites to target and how to get started.
The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web
This book was written by a true expert in social media, and cuts through the hype to give readers intelligent advice and strategies for positioning their business on the social web.