Social media marketing
Websites are – for most companies – the primary shop window into their business. The same principle applies whether you’re selling goods and services online via an e-commerce website, or whether your website is a portal to create sales and leads more indirectly.
Ultimately, a good website will deliver positive user experience and this, in turn, will lead to a suspect turning into a prospect. It doesn’t matter if you work in either B2B or B2C consumer channels either, and it doesn’t matter if your products and services are expensive items that have a long lead time or cheaper ones that lead to an instant purchase. But websites are only one of many shop windows into your store – think Harrods, which has lots and lots of lovely window displays. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube provide suspects, prospects and customers with instant access to your brand in a variety of different ways so you can create window displays that suit all types of audience types. That’s why it’s so important to have a social media marketing strategy in place.
What’s the difference between goals, plans and strategies?
A plan is based on a goal, and strategies are based on a plan. Think about it in these three ways:
- What do we want to achieve?
- That’s about setting goals
- What are the factors we need to consider?
- That’s about creating a plan
- What is the most effective and efficient way to achieve our goals?
- That’s about creating strategies
As you can see, you can have multiple goals and strategies, but you will only ever have one plan. That’s the same when it comes to a business plan, a marketing plan or a social media marketing plan. They all tend to have a number of goals or objectives that inform the plan, and lots of strategies and tactics that are needed to deliver the plan via an integrated marketing campaign – but they all only ever have one plan. In this way, you will have complete clarity as an organisation on what you want to achieve.
We follow the same basic principles outlined in our strategic marketing planning process document to create social media marketing plans for our clients. This systematic approach will always lead to a robust conclusion that stands up to close scrutiny. That’s really important if you’re pitching for a marketing budget to grow your social media marketing activities….
The starting point, therefore, is to decide what your social media goals are going to be. Here are a few you might wish to consider…
- Increase sales and leads from new and existing customers by driving traffic to your website
- Increase genuine follower numbers to create meaningful social media communities
- Build relationships with followers through professional and personal two-way dialogue
- Encourage influencers, bloggers and journalists to talk positively about your brand
- Promote the five facets of your brand voice as defined in your strategic brand proposition
- Provide customer service support to quickly answer questions and resolve issues
- Improve SEO performance by encouraging your social communities to share content
There’s absolutely no problem with having more than one goal – in fact, if you look at the above list, you can easily see the benefit to all these goals. You just need to be commercially pragmatic and sort them into an order of priority that works best for your organisation. A strategy is defined as the best use of scarce resource and that means the most effective use of time and money. You either need to deliver everything internally, which means making sure you have the right people on board in sufficient quantity and with the right skills, or you need to outsource your work to a social media marketing agency who can deliver some or all of the work on your behalf.
Defining your target market
Who are you talking to? You should define your target market into a number of different segments and personas. And you need to remember that the messages you convey will be determined by where a customer exists on their journey along the sales pipeline – you’re not going to speak in the same way to a new suspect as you will to a loyal customer. Think about their demographics and psychographics when defining customer types. That means considerations such as age, gender, job and location on the one hand, and sports, hobbies, interests and pastimes on the other. This builds up a character and personality for your customers – that’s what’s mean by segments and personas.
Sending out the right messages
Different customers are likely to be interested in different products and services. The problems of some customers are going to be different from others. The skill is in being able to stand in the shoes of all your different customer profiles and empathise with a whole range of different perspectives. So, consider their pain points and imagine their various points of view. If you think in terms of rational needs and emotional drivers, you won’t go far wrong. If not sure, ask them. Customers are a great source of high-quality intel. Don’t cherry pick the best ones. Find out what you need to know from a wide range of perspectives to get the most informed decisions.
Choosing the right platforms
Of course, one of the main benefits of defining your target market is that this will enable you to choose the right social media platforms for your business. If you’re talking to Generation X and Baby Boomers, they are more likely to be using Facebook than any other medium. If you’re selling to a B2B community, LinkedIn and Twitter might be better platforms. Generation Z and Millennials spend most of their social media time on Instagram and YouTube. And that’s not to mention SlideShare, Pinterest and Snapchat. That’s eight of the most popular social media platforms accounted for – so always remember that it is almost always a mistake to go for too many. Our advice would be to start with one or two of your most likely candidates and build up from there as seems natural and organic.
Creating high-quality content
Social media channels are ultimately all about engaging with your followers. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are all likely to share what you post – we all know that some people are much more active than others. But it should at least interest or inform them in some way, with subject matter that is close to your heart and which resonates with what you do as a business. Maybe that means sharing and commenting on articles that you find on relevant third party websites. This is a quick win. It demonstrates the type of subject matter you are interested in and implicitly conveys your credentials as an authority in your marketplace if delivered well. But it is also helpful to create your own content too – that could be a blog that’s hosted on your website or a video that’s hosted on YouTube. You could create a white paper that people need to sign up for or you can promote events and offers to generate leads and sales. Or how about creating a webinar that people can watch either live or via a recording…? Video is going to grow massively in 2019 and beyond, so this could be the perfect opportunity to put a stake in the ground.
Make sure you look good
Anything you deliver through your social media marketing plan needs to reflect well visually on your brand. And remember that design only tells half the story. It’s not just our eyes we use when we communicate. It’s about the tone of voice and body language too – much more so in fact. So make sure you look and sound great too. Is everything in line with your creative brand proposition? Do you have brand guidelines in place for social media and examples of what’s right and what’s wrong? And do you have a policy in place which explains how employees, associates and partners should engage with your followers on social media? You don’t want people to represent your brand if all they do is stir up problems and antagonise a situation. If someone makes a negative comment about your organisation, make sure you know how to handle these well. There is always an opportunity to turn a negative into a positive.
Engaging with customers
Rather than sending content out, you can ask for a response in. It’s good to ask questions. Maybe you could run a poll and ask followers what they think about a hot topic related to your business sector. Or run a promotion that requires them to take some form of action to be in with a chance of winning something relevant and appropriate. Engagement is what social media is all about at the end of the day. You could encourage followers to provide feedback about your company and its products and services. Referrals, reviews and recommendations all help with word of mouth marketing. And if you’re not getting the type of feedback you want, then that’s a great opportunity to learn too.
Generate leads and sales
A great way to generate leads and sales is through social media advertising – this type of activity is specifically designed to promote your business and the products and services you sell to a targeted audience on any social media platform. You can, of course, deliver this type of activity on your existing social channels to current followers, but it’s a good idea not to get too salesy. You’re first and foremost meant to be cultivating and developing long-term relationships after all. But social media advertising enables you to reach a vast and select audience that meet your target market criteria in a cost-effective way. There are so many options to choose from – you just need to check all the advertising opportunities available on each individual platform. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube all offer many ways to advertise.
Increasing follower numbers
It’s all very well having great content, but what’s the point if you don’t have any followers? That’s why you need to invest in a strategy to increase follower numbers. This can be delivered through both paid and organic means – whichever option you choose, make sure you don’t attract junk followers. We would always recommend quality over quantity. And patience too. It’s OK to have slow growth. It looks more natural anyway. Some prospects might check out your social media feeds after visiting your website, and they’re just as likely to be impressed by the frequency and quality of your content as they are by the number of your followers, though both elements do of course count in the overall impression you deliver.
Amplify your voice
We’ve all heard of influencers – these are social media ‘celebrities’ with large and loyal followers who you can engage to promote your products and services. They charge for doing so, and they need to convey they are being paid when doing so, but it can still work. Another alternative is to develop relationships with bloggers, vloggers and journalists who either operate in your industry sector or in related market sectors that enable them to promote the features and benefits you are wishing to convey to potential customers. This is the PR angle to social media and it can work incredibly well.
Do your research
It’s always a quick win to check out the competition to see what they’re doing. You can learn so much – especially if you’re starting from scratch – through informed market research. When should you do it? Obviously, it makes sense to do so at the very start of the process, probably before you have even defined what goals you’re hoping to achieve. You won’t just learn what they’re doing well, which will help to inform your overall social media marketing strategy, you’ll also gain helpful insights from what they are doing wrong or not so well too. You can also speak to staff and customers to find out what they think. Or how about looking for tips and hints online from reputable companies operating in the social media space such as Social Media Examiner, Sprout Social and Hootsuite. They often create blogs to help ambitious SMEs and start-ups who are looking to get into social media in a big way.
Set out the parameters
Decide how much you’re willing to invest in social media – do you have the skills in-house or do you need to outsource some or all of your deliverables? What are the timescales you are operating within to get results in the short term, medium term and long term? How much content are you going to create, and how much time is going to be needed to create it? What’s your advertising and promotional budget? How are you going to measure success? Think SMART objectives in this respect – that’s an acronym for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely. If you’re going to do it, make sure you’re doing it as effectively and efficiently as possible. This reassures budget holders that you are going to be willingly accountable for your plans.
Optimise your SEO benefits
There’s a holy trinity of activities which any organisation should consider these days –social media, content and SEO. In fact, they all work hand in hand, so one always benefits the other. Make sure you optimise your social pages first of all; this is a quick win, but it’s surprising how few companies invest in setting things up just right. Create content that supports your most important keywords and adds hashtags where appropriate to send out signals to users and robots about what you are all about. It’s easy to get the SEO side of things sorted. Why would you not want to do so?
Bring your brand to life
Social media is about telling a story, it’s a place we go to for entertainment and information. One of the ways you can stand out as an organisation is to bring your brand to life. That’s the whole essence of what a brand is all about anyway. A company is about its people. You should think about ways to humanise your brand – that’s important to both customers and employees these days. Maybe you can raise money for charity, showcase your CSR credentials, talk about how you minimise your impact on the environment and reduce pollution and waste to a minimum. People like to work for businesses with a conscience, more so today than ever before. So that means that your social media platforms will attract the right talent to your organisation, potentially saving you lots of money on recruitment fees too.
Just do it
Some of the best advice we offer clients is to just do it. This Nike-inspired philosophy encourages their staff to take risks and learn on the job through trial and error. The best way to learn is by making mistakes. It’s the way we learn to walk and talk when we’re toddlers, so we’d be foolish to fly in the face of the evidence of billions of years of evolution. Start small and test everything constantly, and you’ll quickly learn what works well and what doesn’t. You can then evolve your social media strategies, campaigns and tactics naturally, as you grow in confidence and skill, on an ongoing basis.
A social media marketing agency in London
Looking for a social media marketing agency in London? Please get in touch if you would like to find out more about who we are and how we can help. We offer a two-hour marketing consultation without cost or obligation at a venue of your choice to discuss any marketing challenges you are facing. You can find out more about what we do at https://www.abacusmarketing.co.uk/ and we are always happy to speak on the phone or by email too.