Right now, there are almost 2 billion active monthly Facebook users. That’s nearly a quarter of the world population. Facebook has seen so much success, its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is currently one of the top 10 richest people in the world.
It’s obvious social media isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, it’s more important now than ever for companies to incorporate social media into their marketing efforts. With the current generations of young people growing up with social media as a normal part of life, businesses will continue to witness social media as a viable, powerful marketing tool that drives sales and adds to the bottom line.
However, like other marketing tools, companies can’t expect to treat social media as a side project or less-than-worthy tool, or they risk wasting time and resources with little return. To help businesses with their efforts, we’ve prepared the following 6 helpful tips to successful social media marketing.
1. Start with a Plan
It’s amazing how many business owners we meet who are passionate about their business plans, but fail to create a well-researched strategy for their social media marketing. As with any marketing activity, having a plan to guide a company’s efforts in social media is crucial to success. Moving forward without a proper plan is a sure-fire way to fail or overspend time and money for lackluster results.
Social media is a marketing tool just like a company’s website, advertising, email marketing, and public relations. In order for it to succeed, business owners need to spend time researching the market, understanding their target audiences, and crafting a plan that will make the most of the time and effort they place in their social media activities. Doing so will provide the best opportunities for success.
Example: A pizza parlor wants to attract more families on Tuesday nights, when its customer numbers are lowest. By attracting families, the parlor can maximize its marketing by appealing to adults, and capture multiple sales. To start, the owner of the parlor does some research, and creates an extensive social media plan for drawing more families to the parlor on Tuesday nights.
2. Know Your Audience
Every company is unique, with different goals, objectives, and target audiences. Even businesses within the same industry may find they’re targeting different customers than each other, based on their current circumstances and positions. With that in mind, it’s important that each business truly understand their target audiences and customers.
To truly understand a target audience, a business should know both the demographics and psychographics of their customers. Where do they live? What is their social and financial situation? Where do they shop? Where do they hang out? What social media sites do they use, and how do they interact with each other and with businesses on social sites?
This last question is one of the most essential for businesses to understand when developing a social media strategy. Do your target audiences spend time on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn? Do any take priority over the others? Understanding which social sites current and potential customers use, along with how they prefer to interact with their favorite brands and companies, is crucial information for any well-designed social media plan.
Example: The pizza parlor owner understands that many families tend to eat out over the weekend, and prefer to stay home on Tuesday evenings. He also knows that families are working with a budget and want food options that are simple. To reach this audience, the parlor owner devises a plan to reward families with one free child meal on Tuesdays. Additionally, he starts a monthly sweepstakes on social media offering one family (of up to five) free meal on any Tuesday of their choosing.
3. Create Messaging
Once a business knows the social media sites they need to target to reach current and potential customers, it’s time to develop the messaging the company will use on the site. When developing messaging, it’s important to see social media as a marketing tool. Crafting messages that will engage and persuade audiences to purchase products and services is difficult, but can provide great rewards to companies that do it correctly.
Messaging may be different for each target group, and knowing how and when to deliver those messages will impact the success of social media campaigns and activities. Once again, a strong understanding of target audiences is imperative to creating messaging that invites and empowers customers to interact with a company, most important in purchasing products and services.
Example: Knowing his customer base, the parlor owner develops messaging that appeals to parents’ desire for easy, low-cost food that the whole family will love, plus free entrance for one child on Tuesday evenings. He also creates messaging to promote his monthly sweepstakes of one family receiving a free evening of pizza on a Tuesday night.
4. Engage with Followers
Social media is a two-way street. Unlike traditional media, companies can’t blast information and then leave the conversation. People want to interact and engage with businesses and brands. They want to ask questions, share concerns, and offer feedback. When businesses are open to discussion and engagement, they’ll find their social media efforts are boosted, and customer loyalty increases. In fact, when customers feel a connection to a brand or company, they’re often more inclined to spread the word and promote a business to their friends and connections.
We’ll note that because the world of social media is open to anyone with an Internet connection, there will be those who seek to harm or troll companies on social media. This shouldn’t be a deterrent for businesses, but is an important component of social media to know and understand, and should even be included in the social media plan.
A good rule of thumb for responding to negativity on social media is to avoid any posts or people who are only interested in causing mischief or pain for businesses or individuals. On the other hand, when someone has a legitimate concern, question, or problem, it’s vital that companies respond and act swiftly. Quickly offering solutions, answers, or help is a good way to build trust and extinguish negativity on social media. It’s often those moments that show customers that companies have strong customer service.
In that vein, we highly recommend companies avoid any negative or harmful posts of their own. In the heat of the moment, it can be tempting to fire back at critics or lash out against those who look to hurt a business. However, doing so will almost always reflect negatively on a business, and recovery can be long and painful. Social media rants have been the downfall of many companies and individuals. Remember: anything said online will last forever. So it usually pays to take the high road in bad situations.
Example: The owner responds to questions on social media about the deal and sweepstakes, and invites followers to share both with their friends on social media. Additionally, with the consent of the winning families, the owner posts pictures of the monthly winners to the parlor’s social media sites.
5. Monitor and Adjust
Even with a rock-solid social media plan, there will be plenty of twists, turns, and surprises along the way. Businesses need to always be monitoring their social media accounts, paying attention to customer needs and interactions. Doing so will help businesses make needed adjustments to posting schedules, messaging, and campaigns.
Keeping a close eye on social media will allow businesses to discover which tactics work well, and which don’t. Social media marketing is a process, and is rarely perfect on the first try. Even large corporations with teams of brilliantly creative people conduct unsuccessful campaigns. But they don’t give up, and learn from their efforts. Over time, businesses will hone their social media activities, and reap the benefits of patient, consistent activity.
Example: The owner monitors how many families are taking advantage of the Tuesday deal, and how many are entering the sweepstakes. He uses the information to make adjustments to both campaigns to maximize their effectiveness. He may also decide to duplicate his campaigns for other nights if they are successful at drawing people in on Tuesdays.
6. Be Patient
The final tip is to be patient. Growing a social media channel takes time and effort for any small or medium size business. On rare occasions companies may see their engagement skyrocket, but that’s not the case for most businesses that use social media.
Building a working, productive social media presence takes dedication, time, effort, and know-how, but in the end can definitely pay off for companies. Those business leaders who are patient with the process will discover social media can become a great marketing tool, both now and in the future. And considering the way technology is progressing, companies that put in the time and resources now will be glad they did in the next few years.
Example: The pizza parlor owner lets his campaigns play out for a few months to make sure the data he receives about the campaigns’ successes is accurate. Over time, he’s able to make his marketing better by using more data to drive his actions. He uses that information to make needed adjustments, and to start and stop social media campaigns as needed for success.
Interested in learning more about social media marketing, or have questions about how your business can benefit from social media marketing? Give us a call at 501-372-0393. Our company has over two decades of experience helping companies make the most of their marketing opportunities.