Social media marketing is an incredibly powerful tool and these days it is one of the single biggest factors that a marketer can use to build their digital empire. In fact, social media is often what really makes the difference between having a website and having such an ‘empire’. A website on its own can make you money and it can promote your business – but it takes more than that to build a brand and to have that ubiquitous presence that can help you to drive the maximum amount of traffic to your monetization systems.
Social media allows you to interact with your audience, to get feedback, to hear suggestions and to communicate in a variety of different ways. It lets you build brand visibility and it lets you drive visitors directly to your site.
This is why social media is so important and it’s why so many people and businesses are hopping on board. In fact, 66% of marketers believe that social media is a core part of their business (Salesforce), with 92% of
respondents describing it as ‘important’ (Social Media Examiner). 38% of companies are looking to increase their spend in this area. 66% of businesses have a dedicated social media team according to Salesforce
But unfortunately, despite this ubiquity of social media marketing, many of these companies are not actually getting the very most out of their marketing efforts. Many social media marketers simply don’t know how to allocate their resources with regards to social media and the result is that they often aren’t getting anywhere near the increase in profits and brand awareness that they could be from it.
How Social Media Goes Wrong
A lot of businesses and even dedicated social media marketers are under the impression that they can just set up an account and post regularly with the hopes that they will start generating lots of followers and ‘likes’. There is no planning and no foresight and there is no attempt to take full advantage of the more advanced features and uses.
What’s worse, is that many of these companies use social media sites simply as a place to advertise. All they’re doing is posting and all they’re posting is things like ‘Our web design service is the best in the business!’.
Think honestly, is this an account you would follow yourself? Are any of these posts things you would potentially share with other users? If not, then you can’t really expect your channel to grow. The result is something pitiful – a completely empty social media channel with you mentioning the merits of your business to an empty room and pretending someone is listening. This can actually be more damaging to your brand than not having a social media account at all!
And this is hardly what you would call ‘building a digital empire’. So with that in mind, let’s look at how you should be approaching your social media efforts and at how you can make it really work for you.
The first thing to recognize about your social media efforts is that your objectives should go beyond simply getting more people to follow you and to see your brand. Social media is ideal for strengthening brand awareness but it’s also a tool that can be used in many other ways. Here are just some of the things you can do once you’ve learned to master your social media presence…
Get Feedback and Survey Your Audience
Companies will often pay a lot of money to conduct surveys and to interview their audience. Using social media though, you can do exactly that and can thereby hone your products and services to get the best possible feedback.
You can also get a lot of rich data by looking at how your social media is performing. For instance, which titles are getting clicked on the most often? What type of images illicit sharing?
Networking and Influencer Marketing
Originally, most social networks were not designed to be platforms for marketing. Rather, they were intended to facilitate networking so that people could find like-minded individuals and potentially business contacts in the case of sites like LinkedIn.
This is something you can use social media for in a very effective manner and potentially it can be highly powerful once you do.
They say that success is about who you know and with social media you have means of reaching people you otherwise would struggle to. Particularly with LinkedIn, you can this way get in touch with ‘influencers’, who are individuals in your niche or industry that hold great sway and who can act as a bridge to help you reach a huge audience. Using influencer marketing, it’s often possible to go from just a couple of followers to thousands overnight.
Likewise, social media can be used to find clients, business contacts and more.
In some ways, you can consider social media to be a contact management tool. You can easily use sites like Google+ and LinkedIn to categorize and organize your contacts and then to easily get in touch with them when you need to discuss something. Using the same tool to find your contacts as you do to organize and contact them has a large number of advantages.
You can also use social media marketing for direct communication within your team. Creating groups, pages and events lets you discuss things with your team and work on collaborative projects while keeping everything in the same place. Some tools are at once social networks and project management applications, which has a great number of advantages.
Leads and Direct Sales
You can of course use social media to generate leads and to build a mailing list but you can also use it to directly generate sales. Through advertising or well-constructed posts with an embedded link, you can send followers straight to a checkout and in some cases even have them buy directly through the social network.
For affiliate marketers, it’s incredibly easy to start making money from Facebook. All they need to do is to create a landing page to sell an affiliate product (meaning they make commission), then set up a ‘PPC’ (pay per click) advertising campaign on Facebook. Now the campaign will generate visitors who will instantly convert into customers and if this has been set up well, then it will create more profit than it costs.
Enhancing Your Service
Social media also has benefits for your customers and can be used to improve the experience of using your business. Whether you use follow up questions, or just provide your users with a way to get in touch, this can add an extra dimension to their experience and help to improve their experience.
These are some examples of how social networks can be used as more than just a means to improve brand visibility. There are many more uses for social media beyond this though, so ensure that you take the time to explore your options and to find unique ways to use social media in your own business.
Now you know what social networking can be used for, the next thing to start looking at is how precisely you’re going to use it.
Of course, each social network is different and the best strategy to use on Twitter will be different from the strategy to use on Facebook. Nevertheless, there are some hard and fast rules that apply across the board and the overall strategy will often be the same. Read on then and we will look at how you can start building that digital empire through social media…
Setting Up – ‘Be Everywhere’
Before you can do anything else, you will first need to set up your social media accounts and begin building connections between them. Getting this
right at the start will save you a lot of time and it is ultimately what’s necessary to ensure you get the most from your efforts.
What’s key is that you create a strong brand that will be memorable and recognizable. From there, you’re then going to take that branding and spread it across social media, thereby creating as many opportunities for potential leads to discover you as possible and at the same time reinforcing the connection your audience has with your company.
This is important because eventually you’re going to link all of your disparate social media accounts and it’s important that the transition be smooth when a visitor goes from one to the other. This needs to feel like a continuous experience, as though they are going from one room to another in the same building. If you don’t manage this, then rather than strengthening your brand, the multiple accounts will only create confusion.
Having a consistent presence across your different accounts feels professional, it impresses users and it helps them to remember that they’re dealing with your business. Essentially, you’re trying to make your Twitter and Facebook accounts look as much like your website as you possibly can using the tools that you’ve been given.
So how do you create a consistent image and branding? Your company name is part of your brand of course but also important is to ensure you have a specific design language. This should come through in your logo but also in your cover image and in the color scheme and pictures you choose for your social media pages. This same language should also be present on your website.
Now you need to repeat this process on as many different social accounts as you can. We’ve addressed a number of social networks specifically in this book, so make sure that you are at least present on each of these:
Each of these is another opportunity for your people to find you and it provides a link back to your website which will act like the ‘hub’ of your network. Each will offer a different aspect of your business but all of them will remain on message and consistently designed.
At the same time, your website should be linked back to all of these accounts. This way, visitors to your site can decide how they’d like to keep up-to-date with what you’re doing and they can click the relevant link to do so. A simple ‘Like Us on Facebook’ banner can help your business to grow as your website feeds your Facebook account and vice versa.
Using Tools to Automate Your Social Media
Being on lots of different accounts at once might sound like a lot of work but the good news is that you won’t have to handle all these different channels manually. Thankfully, there are countless tools available that are designed to streamline the process of maintaining a strong social media presence and these include numerous things that can link together your accounts or that can auto-generate content.
Something important to keep in mind is that a ‘dead’ social media account is actually worse than having none at all. You don’t want it to look like you’ve forgotten about your Facebook page, or your Twitter account, so you need to keep updating regularly – and these tools can help you to do that.
Here are some examples:
Buffer (www.bufferapp.com) is a very simple web app that allows you to schedule your posts for some of the major search engines. This then means that you can then write thousands of words for Twitter and have them posted over a set period of time at regular intervals. In turn, this means that your account won’t look empty even when you haven’t had a good opportunity to post anything new.
Hootsuite (www.hootsuite.com) is a handy tool that does what Buffer does and more. As well as being able to schedule posts, Hootsuite will let you view multiple feeds from different social networks at once (so you can be fully updated all in one place) and it lets you post to multiple places at once.
IFTTT stands for ‘If This, Then That’ and allows you to set up relationships between different apps you’re using, your mobile phone and even some hardware. This means you could have your Nest thermostat Tweet about the temperature you’ve set up in your house, or it means you could have Facebook posts automatically shared to Twitter.
The latter is somewhat redundant however, seeing that you can use features built into most social networks and even WordPress and YouTube to cross pollinate your accounts these days. Nevertheless, for advanced rules and even auto-generated posts there is a lot be gained here and it’s very much worth taking a look and applying some though.
Now you’re everywhere, it’s important to make sure that people view this as a good thing rather than a bad thing.
In other words, being everywhere doesn’t automatically mean that people are going to start following you or that they’re going to enjoy your content. More important than creating your accounts and linking them is providing value through them and filling them with engaging content.
We’ve already discussed the mistake that some users will make – to set up a social media account and then simply post about how good their product is. This isn’t going to get people to follow you and it certainly won’t lead to more shares.
On the other hand though, if you Tweet or post something funny, interesting or useful then someone might actually follow you and they may even share what you’ve written.
In terms of status updates and Tweets, you provide value by letting people learn about the industry you’re in, by inspiring them, by offering discounts and by providing entertainment.
Articles and Blog Posts
As well as status updates and pictures, most social networks will also let you post links to articles and blogs. This is arguably even more important when it comes to providing value, engaging with the audience and getting likes and shares. There’s only so much value you can provide in a few hundred characters but with an article you can deliver something that’s really worth reading and thus worth sharing and potentially evens subscribing too.
There are two ways you can provide this type of content. The first way – and the best way – is to create your own content on a blog. This way you can keep people engaged with your brand while at the same time strengthening your authority and building trust. You can demonstrate yourself to be an expert in other words, thereby creating a situation where your visitors will likely start seeking you out intentionally to get your opinion (which means you’ll be able to market to them easily).
According to Social Media Examiner, blogging is the most important area that 68% of marketers plan to focus on in the coming years. Blogging is also what can tie together your search engine optimization, your social media and your website into a single package. This is called ‘content marketing’ and it’s a very important thing to consider.
Credit for some information – Casey Adams (Instagram @caseyadams1)