Social media is a poster-child for digital marketing. The average American uses it for more than two hours per day, and billions are spent every year on ads that are hyper-targeted based on location, demographics, and specific interests and activities.
This makes Using Social Media for Marketing a very attractive tool for small businesses that want to reach their audience where they spend most of their time. The problem, however, is that not all social media is the same. Different platforms are used by different people at different times and for different things.
Facebook may be a catch-all for social activity, but you’re far more likely to catch someone at home on their phone than in the office with your marketing offers. LinkedIn is a much more targeted business-platform, but it has a smaller reach and a different set of expectations and etiquette than most others. So, for a business who's eager to invest in the world’s largest gathering places, where do you start and how do you ensure efficient and effective social marketing efforts?
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1. Know Your Personas and Their Habits
The first step is to know who you’re trying to reach and when you’re most likely to reach them. While there is certainly overlap between the major platforms, people use them at different times for different things.
- LinkedIn is largely seen as a networking, prospecting, and career search platform. You’ll find people when they are at work, thinking about work. But people generally spend less time on LinkedIn because of this.
- Twitter is a quick fix, with the average tweet staying visible for only 18 minutes. People use Twitter on the train, before meetings, or while eating. Unless heavily active in posting, most people read and reply to tweets quite passively.
- Facebook is a hub and spoke platform where people engage with friends and family, participate in groups, and track events. They use it in larger chunks, often on mobile devices, and usually in the evening or during commutes.
There are several factors that will influence when your audience is on these platforms. Do they live in major cities with non-driving commutes? Are they at a computer for large numbers of hours each day? Do they work for a small or large company? Keep these things in mind when determining where to invest your social media hours and advertising dollars.
2. Identify the Most Impactful 2-3 Platforms
With these things in mind, choose only a couple of platforms to invest most of your time into. It’s difficult to be active and engaged on social media. Even more so if you’re on half a dozen platforms at once.
It’s recommended that you create profiles on the major four – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube – and any others that your audience is likely to use (industry-specific or otherwise). Then choose two that will receive unique, regular posts. The others can be put on the backburner for weekly updates, so they are active, but not using up large chunks of your time.
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3. Create unique Content for Each Audience
As mentioned above, it’s important to have unique content that fits the format of the channels in which you choose to invest time.
Twitter is all about short, frequent micro-messages. It’s a great way to share recent content from your blog, short clips from videos, or ask and answer questions with your audience. But it’s not the best place for longer articles or how-to commentary. Facebook and LinkedIn are both very robust and support longer writeups, especially with multimedia support such as videos or photographs, but the format will vary dramatically between those platforms.
You might even decide that you’re well situated to produce video in the form of talking head walkthroughs, security and technology updates, or webinars. YouTube should be high on your list then.
4. Ensure Ownership and Dedicated Effort
Make sure you have one person in the organization who is solely responsible for social media, and it shouldn’t be the owner. This can be someone in marketing or sales or even an intern who has experience with all of the platforms. The goal is to make sure a certain amount of dedicated time is spent every week to post content, respond to comments and questions, and drive engagement.
Keep in mind that as you start to use social media, your customers may start to ask questions on social media about their accounts or even voice concerns when there are problems. Without a dedicated owner, these inquiries can go unnoticed, which can actively hurt your brand. Make sure multiple have the login information for your accounts as well and there is a backup in place in case someone leaves the company or is on vacation.
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5. Measure the Right Metrics for ROI
Finally, there’s the return. Social media isn’t likely to lead directly to a large number of sales for managed service providers, but it can be a powerful tool in several other ways.
First, it boosts brand visibility. People can see and interact with your brand if they have questions or concerns and are far more likely to turn to you when the time comes to hire a business. Second, your customer service responses become public record, showcasing your ability to quickly address problems. This can, in turn, lead to word-of-mouth style leads who appreciate the service you provide.
Measuring the impact of these things can be hard, though, so look beyond raw follower counts and check things like:
- Engagement Percentage – What percentage of your followers engage with content when posted. How many likes, comments, or shares do you get off a post on average?
- Traffic to Your Site – How many people click on links you post back to your blog, service pages, webinars, or downloadable content?
- Lead Sourcing – When checking lead sources in your analytics, how many people came directly from social media, or referenced it on a form they filled or a sales call? Even if not the primary reason they reached out, social acts as an amplifier and should be credited whenever it helps along the conversion path.
The goal of Using Social Media for Marketing is to make your company available and to engage with your prospects and customers alike in a public forum. This can be difficult to do without prior experience or dedicated resources, so take the time to follow the five steps above and you’ll see a marked improvement in your efforts over time.
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