Use this guide to help navigate the fast-paced, constantly evolving nature of social media, from its roots in business to the top performing channels today. Learn which outlets work best for your business, and create your own custom social media marketing plan.
Discover strategies that will help you get the most for your time and money as well as valuable tactics that are working for businesses right now. Let’s get started with a foundation…
Table of Contents
- What is Social Media?
- Social Media: Benefits for Business
- Social Media by Channel Overview
- 5 Steps to Creating Your Social Media Plan
- Success Strategies for Social Media
- Social Media Management Tools
- The Future of Social Media
What is Social Media?
Social media is the collective of online communications channels dedicated to community-based input, interaction and collaboration. It employs interaction among people in which they create, share or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks.
Social media encompasses a vast array of channels or outlets with which to communicate and interact with your audience, and each channel is unique in its mode of information delivery.
Social media has become a pervasive and viable marketing strategy. It works for small businesses and huge corporations alike, and allows broad-based yet informal customer communication as well as opportunity for unique one-on-one lead development.
Social media is being used by marketers to raise awareness, build traffic, and gain marketplace insight as part of a larger marketing strategy.
Social Media vs. Other Marketing Tactics
Social Media is a broad term, coined as an umbrella to cover many changing and often evolving outlets. It’s important to understand that although many applications and outlets aren’t considered ‘social media,’ they all work together and intertwine when using them in a marketing space. In fact, social media should be fully integrated into most digital marketing strategy—creating what is trending as a ‘holistic’ approach to marketing.
For example, email marketing is a specialized form of outreach, and though it can be used for social means, lacks the organic mass interaction and communication of true social media, such as social networks like Facebook.
Think of email as a distribution mechanism, and social media as a collective mechanism.
However, when social media tactics are integrated into email marketing, a more effective approach is born. By adding items to emails like sharing features, invitations to follow your social media channels, or links to view your latest blog, you’ve effectively integrated your email and social media marketing.
Another example would be to add similar social media features to your website. Company-based website marketing is its own animal, but by optimizing your website for social media interaction as well as preparing it for potential social media click-throughs, you’ve continued your ‘holistic’ approach.
Keep in mind that these tactics are what’s considered trending today, and it’s up to you to research and tailor these tactics to your
business needs. Look for other ways that your social media can integrate with non-social forms of marketing whenever possible.
History and Evolution of Social Media
The roots of social media go as far back as the creation of the internet as a consumer tool, with the overall goal of creating connectivity and boosting productivity worldwide. Below is a decade-by decade overview of social media’s history and evolution:
The 1970s saw the beginning of public internet, as CompuServ became the first commercial internet provider in the U.S., utilizing dial-up connections.
The first email was sent in 1971, and by the end of the decade, two of the first virtual bulletin boards (BBS and Usenet) were created, forming primitive online communities.
- 1980s/Early 1990s
In the ‘80s and early ‘90s, Prodigy and America Online internet providers were opened, creating marketplace competition.
CERN (The European Organization for Nuclear Research) developed what would become the World Wide Web, and subsequently donated their technology to the world.
- Mid to late 1990s
By the mid to late ‘90s, GeoCities was created, allowing users to create their own web pages and share web content like never before, while AOL messengers began widespread use and blogging began.
Google launched its search engine in 1998, dominating the indexing market.
Friendster, the first prominent social networking site, launched in 2001, closely followed in 2003 with MySpace, Second Life, and LinkedIn in 2003. Then 2004 saw the creation of Facebook, Flickr, Digg and the trend of podcasting.
This brings us to the modern advent of social media beginning in 2006, where sites like Facebook evolved from a college-only connection site to the largest social networking site in the world, and would launch its Beacon advertising system in 2007 which targeted content uniquely to users based on browsing habits and demographics.
Networking sites that were unable to compete head-on with Facebook gravitated into niche markets, such as MySpace catering to the independent music scene. Twitter was launched to bring microblogging into the public vernacular.
In the past 4 years, social media has begun being used for everything from political campaigns and community journalism to live tweets from the International Space Station.
With its flexibility, adaptability and proven success, social media has become an indispensible part of global culture.
Social media is a great way to add dimension to your marketing plan by giving you the opportunity to connect with your current and potential customers in a friendly, low-pressure environment.
- Here are some of the ways you can begin using social media to strengthen your marketing results:
1. It gives you the opportunity to keep your audience immediately in the loop on your company news, culture and products, building personality, trust and loyalty.
2. You can offer expertise, advice, or a listening ear to the community, giving your customers a personal touch and showing your value as a leader in your field.
3 .You can plan promotions and offers specifically for your social media audience, incentivizing your feed.
4. Use social media to network, build your brand reputation, and forge professional alliances.
What to Takeaways
When integrating social media into your marketing plan, it’s important to keep a few things in mind:
- Don’t get hung up on the specifics of the tools you are using
Leaning too heavily on the mechanics of the trendy social media outlet of today will become a frustrating exercise, as the outlets are constantly evolving and changing. The important thing is to concentrate on the strategy you’ve developed, and to creating compelling content that will attract user and fan attention. By sticking to the strength of your ongoing company story, you’ll be able to more effectively reach your customer.
- Narrow your focus.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed with the volume of social media out there, and with the prospect of ‘covering’ your story adequately enough for customers to take notice. Remember, it’s not going to work if you are out there wildly posting random updates across the web. You’ve developed a strategy with a specific focus, and it’s important to remain on that track.
Deviating from your strategy or trying to bring it out of its narrow focus will cause loss of effectiveness as well as credibility. As Jay Baer says, “If you try to accomplish everything in social media, you’ll accomplish nothing.”
- Your social media presence and strategy has to be created with the ultimate goal of growing your
You may have hundreds of followers and fans due to your clever posts and interesting updates, but if you are not seeing a positive reflection in your business, it’s time to reassess and change tactics.
Keep in mind that your primary intention is to provide better access to your customers and to give them direct access to your and your business.
The quality of your content is important, but it should always be designed around your business objectives.
- Social media will not be a quick fix, one-stop shop answer to your marketing prayers.
It’s important not to be frustrated with results that are not instantaneous, despite the speed of the marketing medium you’re using. Social media should become a part of your marketing plan knowing that customers will be won and retained in all different ways.
It’s an effective and relatively inexpensive way to bolster your marketing efforts, as long as your manage your expectations and commit to your strategy for the long haul.
- Do your research
Today’s effective tactics and strategies can and will be tweaked over time. Make sure that you do your own research into what the latest outlet trends are, and tailoring them to fit your company’s needs.
Social Media: Benefits for Business
There are several common objectives for integrating social media into your marketing plan. While many of these can be accomplished via other marketing tools, social media has the advantage of being affordable, personal and fun. Some benefits to utilizing social media for marketing include:
Businesses of all sizes are given the opportunity to enjoy the virtual ‘word of mouth’ exposure through sharing and networking that otherwise may not have been possible.
Fans and friends of your company’s pages can pass along incentives, news, blogs and sales to their community of people with similar interests, introducing you to qualified leads. Nearly 93% of marketers employing social media for one year or longer reported increased exposure for their businesses.
You can then take those leads and current clients and build on those relationships by allowing them to get to know you, earn trust in your expertise and company offerings.
It’s important to remember that quality leads and fans are more valuable than high quantities of fans that have no real connection or interest in your business.
More activity in your social media presence can equal more traffic on your website, storefront or sales.
By creating content that is compelling and offers that are appealing, and broadcasting those through your social media channels, you are providing more avenues of opportunity for people to learn about you. And with 61% of Internet users researching products online before buying,
that increased traffic means more quality eyes on your product. With as little as 6 hours a week spent on social media marketing, businesses are finding as much as an 84% increase in traffic.
In business, learning goes both ways. As much as you need to educate your customer on your product/service, you also want to learn about your core audience. Social media provides a valuable glimpse into the lives, interests, problems and attitudes of your current and potential customers, as well as your competitors.
Nearly 70% of marketers using social media for at least a year found success with gaining marketplace insight.
Networking via social media can allow you to connect with other like-minded businesses and vendors you may never have known about or had access to before.
Forming alliances with companies who have a similar client base allows you to offer your customers added benefit and exposes you to a whole new qualified customer base. Virtual networking also strengthens your online image, as endorsements and partnerships solidify your industry stature.
Cheaper marketing alternative
Using social media in your marketing requires time and ingenuity, but if you are finite in your focus and executing your strategy in-house, it is a relatively inexpensive tool compared to more traditional marketing routes.
Keep in mind that social media marketing is not free. Social networks have become wise to the advertising reach of social media, and most outlets have created paid advertising programs for their business customers.
But with an advertising budget of at least $100 a month, Facebook can help you put together paid ad campaigns that can make a significant impact in capturing qualified leads. (It’s also our top recommendation for placing paid ads.) Nearly half of marketers spending 6 hours or more a week on social media enjoyed the benefits of reduced marketing expenses.
Social Media by Channel Overview
As the world’s most popular free online social network, this outlet is the top pick for those marketing in social media. Over half of marketers reported Facebook to be their most important outlet for social media.
Favored more by B2C companies but used by B2B companies as well, this outlet is the go-to for social media.
- Utilize this channel to post relevant, high quality content and photos (photos with people in them are more likely to get shares.)
- Engage fans and followers by posting conversation topics, questions and interesting calls to action.
- Keep self-promotion to a minimum (recommended self promotion: only 10% )
Established as the most trusted professional network, LinkedIn is used by more than 300 million active users.
It’s used to generate trust for companies and individuals through recommendations and word of mouth, as well as building professional partnerships, LinkedIn is the third most used outlet in marketing, and ranks higher amongst B2B business models.
- Use this outlet to post content that is specific to your industry, and will be found valuable to your professional first and second degree networks.
- Look for discussions where you can add your contributions and establish yourself as a thought leader in your field.
- Build your network by offering recommendations, endorsements and introductions, and don’t be afraid to ask your contacts for these in return.
The micro-blogging site that sets the current standard in its prevalence and popularity, Twitter is used to follow celebrities, politicians, newsmakers and businesses alike.
Use its up-to-the-moment delivery system to get news to your followers fast, and build credibility for your brand amongst your followers.
- Tweet purposeful news and relevant information as it happens, keeping your network in the loop.
- Utilize cross-promotion by linking your tweets to other outlets such as Facebook and LinkedIn (however make sure the content will also work for those channels).
- Gain valuable market insight by following and listening to your network, and contribute by retweeting or replying to posts.
The most-used outlet for viewing and sharing video content, YouTube boasts more than 200 million unique visitors daily.
With most mobile devices optimized for viewing and sharing video, this outlet can be utilized 24/7. Find simple and engaging ways to reach out to your audience by video, and watch the trust level in your virtual relationships blossom.
- From video blogs, to how-tos, to reviews and company profiles, use this medium to add further depth and dimension to your written marketing efforts.
- Utilize cross-promotion by linking Youtube video to your Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter if the content is relevant to those channels.
- Call your viewers to action at the end of your videos to encourage engagement and to track results. Don’t forget to respond to viewer’s comments!
Think of this outlet as an online pinboard, where more than 440 million users find, organize, and share things that they love. This outlet is unique in that its users are 80% female, giving businesses that cater to women a channel tailored to their demographic.
- Curate compelling content that utilizes photography whenever possible. Make sure any content you create or pin relates to your business.
- Utilize cross-promotion to other outlets when relevant, especially with blogs or photo stories.
- Self-promotion is more acceptable in this arena, as long as it’s visual and relevant.
A photo-sharing app that has 200 million users, Instagram is a very visual way to broadcast anything from big news to what you are having for lunch. With video becoming part of Instagram’s offerings, this outlet is on the rise for reaching younger demographics.
- Use this outlet to show new offerings, offices or staff to help personalize your business—but make sure the images you post are high quality and dynamic. No selfies!
- Add hashtags and location tags to heighten visibility on your images and posts.
- When hosting a live event for your business, encourage attendees and employees to post images from the event and tag your account.
5 Steps to Creating Your Social Media Plan
Creating a social media plan is the first step in developing your marketing strategy. Putting together the plan is beneficial on several levels. First, it provides a roadmap to follow in case you begin feeling overwhelmed.
By building a finite focused approach, you can always look back and rely on the plan to keep you on track. Second, it helps you solidify your goals for the marketing effort, as well as your intended audience. Finally, it puts into perspective how you will execute and measure your results.
We’ve broken it down for you into 5 simple steps:
1. Determine Your Outcomes/Objectives
What would you like to see happen as a result of this marketing effort? There are many different ways social media can improve your business, but choosing an area to focus on will help in devising your plan.
- If you are looking to increase traffic or exposure, a higher volume approach over several outlets may be needed.
- If you are looking to strengthen relationships and company partnerships, an industry-specific approach on outlets that specialize in business is called for.
- If you are looking to improve sales, a plan that utilizes a paid ad campaign, coupled with events and promotions may be the best route.
Remember, your goals should be specific and narrow. Trying to meet all of these objectives in one plan will likely lead to failure in all areas. Stick to one or two main goals, and others may fall into place as fringe benefits.
2. Know Your Audience
The next step in your planning process is to zero in on your customers. You may already have a terrific handle on your core client as a whole, but when adding the layer of social media,
There are a few extra things to consider:
- Who are the customers that can be found on social media, in terms of demographic, gender, income etc.? How does it differ from your client base by and large?
- How are these customers using social media? Take the time to look into your chosen audience’s user habits, what channels they are utilizing, and what kinds of content they respond to.
- How are your competitors reaching customers? Research where your competition is setting up shop on social media. Which channels are they active in, the rate they are adding new fans and followers, their engagement levels on each channel, and how they are advertising.
Once you’ve done your research, take the time to focus on these key questions for addressing your audience:
- What’s being said about us currently? Use this info to get a baseline for your reputation, level of interest and engagement online.
- What do we want to be said about us? Put together an action list of phrases or sentiments you want to earn from your customers
- What’s being said about the key topics relevant to our audience? Find out what your audience cares about as it relates to your business, and begin building your content list based on those issues.
- How are others helping them solve their biggest problems? Again, look to your competition to see how they may be addressing these issues. How would you go about it differently or improve?
- How can we uniquely position ourselves to help solve these problems? Find out what makes you different, and build on that strength when creating content.
- What’s our sentiment? What is the attitude and position toward your customers, fans and followers?
3. Resolve the Best Channels for Your Business
Based on your answers from questions 1 and 2, you’re ready to determine the best channels to utilize for your type of business. Remember, you don’t want to be spread thin everywhere, you want to be visible and active on the outlets that matter to your client base.
For example, you’d only want to focus time on Pinterest if you have a predominantly female client base and a very visual product. Most companies are working with a mixture of two or three outlets and committing to providing both quality and quantity content on just those channels.
4. Execution plan
Once you’ve determined the outlets that work best for your business, it’s time to develop an execution plan. Basics for creating an execution plan include:
- Determine types of postings to use: Brainstorm a short list of different types of social media updates to refer to when developing unique content; i.e.: news, blogs, photo story, etc.
- Determine frequency: Figure out how often you should be posting, and when. It’s important that you are truly able to commit to this number, so if you’re ambitious, scale it back by a few, so that even during busy times you are able to keep up with your chosen frequency demands.
- Determine ownership: Who is ultimately responsible for the creation and curation of content? If you are a small business or entrepreneur, this will often be you. Make sure you feel comfortable with the type of content and frequency you will be posting, so that social media marketing doesn’t just become shelved once business picks up.
- Commit to a schedule: Make posting easier on yourself by scheduling it into your weekly calendar. Letting backlogged posts and updates sit on your plate until the last minute is a recipe for failure, but can be enjoyable and time efficient when scheduled along with your other commitments. There are many tools and apps that can also help you with scheduling, which we’ll cover in detail later.
5. Success Metrics
Finally, in order to make the most of your social media marketing efforts, it’s vital to analyze your metrics. This helps you determine any returns your have on your marketing investment. There are different sets of metrics for different channels, so one rubric will not translate over all channels.
Here are some key components to remember when measuring metrics:
- Measure Data AND Behavior
There is more to metrics than just hard data. You must also look into measuring your customers’ behavior. For example, it’s been determined that the volume of Facebook fans does not necessarily equal a strong or useful number. People can become fans of a company’s page once and never visit or view it again.
A better way to measure Facebook success (or on any platform) would be to examine your fans’ engagement with you on your page. Are you getting comments, questions and feedback from your followers? Are your posts getting shared? These are all signs of a successful effort.
- Measure What Matters to Your Business
There can be an overwhelming amount of metrics to measure for each channel, but not every number is relevant to you. It’s important to determine which data sets matter to your business and only worrying about the results of those sets.
- Social Media Dashboards
By now, the panic of having to manage not only your social media outlets but also their outputs is probably beginning to feel very real. The good news is, there are social media dashboards that can schedule all of your publishing over several different outlets. There are many dashboards to choose from,
Success Strategies for Social Media
When working with social media marketing, as with any investment of resources, it’s important to maximize your chances for success. Below are some effective tips you can begin using immediately to help make your marketing efforts more favorable.
Top 10 Engagement Strategies
Engagement is the interaction you are able to develop through your content amongst your followers. This can mean anything from a like, to a share, to comments and reposts.
Below are some useful strategies to help boost engagement on social media. Keep in mind, these are not ‘catch-all’ tips—use this information and customize it to fit the needs of your business:
- Plan periodic or recurring events (either live or virtual) and invite your followers to join in.
Then, post photos and video of the event and invite your fans to contribute theirs and comment/share. This engages not only the attendees of the event, but also their network of friends and connections (who are seeing the results of the event), as well as members of your fan base who weren’t able to attend. This strategy works across most all of the top social media outlets.
- Make your content purposeful, intriguing, and most of all brief.
Studies on post engagement for networks like Facebook show dramatically higher rates of engagement when there is less to read. Social media is fast-paced, where users are continually glancing throughout the day. Use attention-grabbing headlines and concise content.
- Be thoughtful of when you are posting.
Think of when you as a consumer spend the most time on social media. Although you may be checking throughout the day, it’s probably in the evenings and mornings that the majority of time is spent.
This is true for most users, so posting between the hours of 8 p.m. and 7a.m. has been shown to have higher levels of engagement than other times of day.8 Although the study was performed on Facebook specifically, the principle translates to all social media platforms.
- Leverage the structure of Google.
Google is unique in that it utilizes circles, an organization structure you can use to group your contacts, such as professionals, customers, etc. A way to drive engagement within those circles is to create one and then share it with a larger group.
For example, you could create a circle of industry experts within your group and then share it with a larger circle, inviting them to connect with those people and create relevant conversation. Additionally, you could tweet out your share for additional cross-promotion.
- Maximize hashtags
Instagram allows you to hashtag your images, correlating all imagery that share that hashtag into a thread. Invite your fans, employees and customers to hashtag images featuring your product, service or company, and submit their photos.
This invites creativity, conversation and traction for your page. Make sure hashtags are memorable, short and follow platform guidelines.
- Hone your headlines
When posting on social media networks, it’s been shown that straightforward offer-related headlines promote higher levels of engagement.
For example, one of the highest engagement phrases on Facebook is ‘$ off’. However, variations of this phrase that are more ambiguous, such as ‘sale’ or ‘% off’ have shown far lower engagement rates.
- Nurture conversations on Twitter
Using publishing tools such as Hootsuite’s search function, you can search for users tweeting about topics relevant to your business, whether it’s a complaint, a compliment, or a question.
Giving advice or engaging a user one-on-one may not always pay off with a response, but when it does happen, you’ve created a personal connection to that user.
- Be smart about number of posts
Studies have shown that you don’t need to be posting 24/7 in order to be effectively engaging your customers. In fact, too many posts or updates during the day tend to become white noise that can clog up your fans’ newsfeeds.
One to four posts per week tend to have as much as 71% higher engagement than five or more posts per week.
- Get support
Social media does not have to rest solely on your shoulders. Encourage your employees (if you have them) to contribute and take pressure off your shoulders.
Just be sure to implement an etiquette and boundary plan so your employees know what kinds of posts are allowed, what isn’t, and any permissions they need to get before posting.
- Make it personal
Don’t act like a large company or entity. For example, even large brands such as Taco Bell and Totino’s Twitter accounts are well-known for their jokes and humor, giving a human voice to the brand. Put some personality into your tweets, posts and images.
When companies first began utilizing social media, the idea was to use it as a community-building tool. But with the saturation of businesses vying for a user’s attention, as well as the internet collective becoming wise to organic marketing attempts online, social media has taken steps to legitimize itself as more of an advertising medium.
Although there are paid ads available for purchase on most of the top seven social media outlets we’re covering, the best use of advertising dollars should go to Facebook. With the advent of Facebook’s Promotional Tools leading the way, you now have access to precision placement that targets your demographic in ways that are evolving constantly.
The reality of advertising successfully is that you do need a budget to fund paid ads. Paid advertising, specifically on Facebook, has become a recent standard practice for getting qualified click-throughs and leads to your website.
The price is reasonable, (you can make an impact with as little as $100/month) and compared to traditional forms of advertising is still a value. There are template-based ads as well as customizable versions, and taking the time to constructing a thoughtful custom message will heighten your chances of engagement.
Additionally, your home website should be completely optimized to handle click-throughs from Facebook ads so that a customer has a smooth transitional experience to your website and is free to make a purchase without any unintentional roadblocks from you.
Twitter, Youtube and LinkedIn also offer paid ads, but unless you are willing to pay the top dollar premium to cut through the clutter, you may not find the paid route worth the investment. LinkedIn, in particular, uses a tiered pay structure that will always put precedence on top-paying ads over yours, making visibility and traction more difficult.
Blogs are a content-rich, completely original way for you to communicate with your audience on your terms. Blogs are not considered a mainstream social media outlet, but are so intertwined with social media, since they are one of the most up-and-coming methods of content production today.
It should become an integral part of your social media marketing plan, simply because it’s owned media that you have 100% control over.
It goes without saying that in order for your blog to be effective, the content must be compelling and well written. But you can also use social media to drive more traffic to your blog, using some of these strategies:
- Add a ‘tweet’button,
as well as sharing buttons for other social media outlets on your blog page. Conversely, share all of your blog posts on social media, cross-promoting wherever possible.
- Consider using different types of media to grab attention
Cycling in short Vine videos to intro your blog, adding Instagram images, or even linking a short youtube video not only gives you a chance to cross-promote to other platforms, but it also cleverly catches the attention of readers whose eyes might slide over a wall of text.
- Guest blogging is a fun way to generate engagement
by having like-minded companies blog on your site and you blogging on theirs. Maximize these events by promoting them on your feed, hosting virtual events (like on Google+ Hangouts), and commenting on each other’s posts.
- How-to’s and tutorials tend to be the most read types of blog
Find a way to educate your readers, and take the time to promote it. Consider a series of topics that relate to one another, and tease each installment in the series on social media so that you create an episodic experience for your readers.
Finally, it is critical that you optimize your blog for mobile users. Currently, 60% of internet usage is accessed via mobile devices.That’s why your blog must be viewable and shareable on a smart phone or tablet.
Additionally, any electronic presence that you have (websites, etc.) should be optimized for mobile so that users can have a streamlined experience everywhere.
The good news with social media is that it can and should integrate into your traditional marketing plan. Integration actually strengthens both your social media and your overall marketing campaign.
Here are a couple of strategies for better and more effective integration:
Use social media to promote your email campaign and vice-versa. Begin by adding social sharing icons to your email blasts and encourage sharing within the email message.
Consider monthly offers or contests that are only available to users who join the email list, becoming leads. Use social media as a testing ground for some of the headlines and content you’d potentially use for your email campaign, harnessing market insight to place the most effective results in email marketing.
Make sure your website is optimized for potential social media click-throughs from your paid ads and posts. Make sure every page, including your blog, is equipped with sharing buttons.Consider adding a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feed into the pages of your website, and encourage hashtags in your posts to boost conversations that will show up as a live mini-feed on your website.
You can also use your website (and blog!) to highlight products from your company or that are trending on social media.
- Live and Virtual Events
When hosting events, hold a virtual forum one hour before and after exclusively on social media. Create hashtags unique to the event and encourage discussion, sharing and engagement throughout.
Offer a promotion only to those who participate in or contribute to the event.
Encourage sharing and add sharing options on all other forms of traditional media. Blast your latest commercial, brochure or radio spot to all channels as a matter of practice.
Consider a behind-the-scenes video for your latest traditional campaign available exclusively on social media.
4 Strategies for Monitoring Social Media Change
The challenge in working with social media is that it is constantly changing and evolving. There are new platforms, better ways to engage, and new tactics for generating leads.
The other side of the coin is that strategies that are working now may not remain effective or stand the test of time. That’s why it’s so important to keep abreast of new marketing trends in social media, and analyze how those changes can help your business.
Here are a few strategies to determine the best way to proceed on new frontiers:
- Remember to focus on your content, story and brand.
The fundamentals of marketing should be your basis for proceeding. It’s just the mode and style of delivery—social media—that is changing.
- Make sure your social media presence is where your customers are.
Social media platforms often rise in popularity and are then eclipsed by the next big thing. Keep a pulse on where your customers go, and don’t be afraid to venture into new territory—or leave a dying channel behind.
- Find trusted sources on the web and in real life.
Check in with these places and people often to gain insight on what areas of social media are changing.
For example, there are industry experts on Facebook and LinkedIn who are dedicated to keeping followers updated on the latest standards and practices, which directly influence strategy changes.
- Google Alerts are a great way to let you know when you ought to be checking into changes.
You can set an alert for ‘Twitter changes’ or ‘social media marketing changes’ to send an email when those phrases hit the Internet. Then you can read through what’s sent to you for relevance.
There are ways to manage social media so that it integrates smoothly into your overall marketing strategy as well as your day-to-day business schedule. Here are a few aspects of your social media that could be outsourced:
Crafting compelling content—whether in longer form like blogs or short snappy tweets—is key to finding and retaining interest. If you are not a strong writer or do not have time to develop content, consider working with a writer to help your business.
Graphics and imagery may be a natural option to outsource, especially if your brand already relies on designers for your traditional marketing/branding efforts.
Creating targeted paid campaigns that reap results is an art, and it may not be for you. The investment into your advertising budget may benefit by adding experts in this field.
Tracking effectiveness, especially measuring your metrics—can be challenging and data-heavy. Firms that specialize in small business analytics can take your data and help you maximize your returns. Just be cautious of bloated offerings.
Social Media Management Tools
There are a few great tools out there today that can help your publish and manage your social media.
1. Hootsuite.com This is a highly effective tool for organizing your social media. It has a variety of different management functions, such as a calendar for scheduling current and future postings, connection and posting to more than 35 social media channels, monitoring tools to search for posts relevant to your business, and a dashboard to manage all of your social media apps in one place.
This service also offers analytics, which you’ll find useful for some platforms like Twitter, but we suggest going directly to the source for the most accurate analytics. It also comes at a very reasonable price tag.
2. Sproutsocial.com Prized for its easy functionality and user-friendly look, this management software offers many of the same tools as hootsuite.com.
It focuses on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram for publishing and analytics, so it may not contain the depth of what you might need. But if your marketing strategy only contains these channels, this publishing manager might be for you. Again, we do not recommend all-in-one offerings such as this for analytics, but you can compare what you receive here with the direct source analytics and see what works best for you.
The Future of Social Media
There are three major shifts in social media that you will be noticing in the recent future that mark a big change from the current landscape.
Keep in mind that these trends are current as of today, but social media will continue to evolve, and you owe it to yourself and your business to keep abreast of changes like these in the future:
- Paid Advertising
It’s time to stop thinking of social media as a purely ‘free’ way to advertise your company. Although there was a time when you could run a pretty effective ad campaign with no investment other than time, tenacity and creativity, it seems the opportunity for dollars has caught up with the advertising landscape.
Look to paid ads, especially on Facebook, to become standard practice as part of an effective social media marketing campaign.
Facebook has put a good deal of research and ingenuity into their promotional tools, and there are constantly evolving ways to get the most out of your paid campaigns.
Consider it a positive that there are ways for even the smallest businesses to get targeted, quality leads using paid advertisements. The paid ad trend has already expanded to Twitter, and LinkedIn (although LinkedIn’s pricing is currently cost prohibitive for the majority of small businesses). So look to building your advertising budget to include a paid campaign now and in the future.
- Specialized Communities
Look for larger brands beginning to build dedicated social media networks on their own websites, offering industry-specific content, more attention to their followers, and better control.
Individualized communities are already sprouting up on their own, independently of brands, such as GoodReads, which is a social media channel dedicated to publishers and writers—and recently purchased by Amazon.
- All-In-One Channels Going Away
Facebook has dominated with its endless features for connection. From messaging, to photo sharing, to video, to news, it has pioneered the ‘One Stop Shop.’ However the next wave in evolution shows the breaking up of these larger mega-channels into smaller, more precise apps, each specializing in one specific functionality.
Facebook has already begun this in smaller ways, by separating its messenger mobile app from its main app. This way, people who love status updates can have a precision app focusing on that, while photo sharers can have a specialized app for imagery, and same for video and news.
This makes it easier for large entities such as Facebook to maintain and update their apps, tuning one area at a time without impacting the functionality of the rest.
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