How do you build your brand, both professionally and personally? It used to be that you would attend in-person events or meetings and expand your network by meeting new people. Make no mistake, events are still an important marketing tool, but technology has fundamentally changed how we connect with others and to what degree. In this post we’ll be focusing on the networking and sharing tools that make this possible – social media. More specifically, we’ll look at why you should be on social and how to leverage social media in your digital marketing.
What is social media?
When we think about social media, we think about the popular platforms we use on a regular basis, the big businesses that show up in the news and the apps that young people use – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat. But social media is bigger than these five companies.
Social media is any interactive website or application that facilitates networking, virtual expression and the creation and sharing of information and ideas.
By that definition, blogging and writing platforms like Tumblr and Medium are also social media sites because they enable you to share your ideas, express yourself, engage with others and find communities with similar interests. Other content-driven sites like Reddit, a platform where you can have discussions, see the latest news and rank content, and Quora, a knowledge-sharing platform where you can ask and answer questions, can also be considered social media. There are also a host of topic-specific platforms that let people connect over travel, art, photography, music, gaming and more.
The point to take away from this is that social media is an incredibly broad concept and there’s a social media platform for everyone. One of the best ways to find your audience, connect with them and grow your network is to go where they are. Increasingly, that place is online, on the sites mentioned above and countless others not listed here. This is why social media should be a vital part of your overall marketing strategy, whether you’re a small or medium-sized business (SMB) or a multinational conglomerate; a B2B or B2C company; or a for profit or non-profit organization.
Why should you be on social?
When the lifespan of an average tweet is between 15-18 minutes, you might be wondering why you should even bother with social media (Source). Twitter is one of the fastest-paced social networks out there while others, like Facebook and LinkedIn, have a bit more longevity.
You shouldn’t be discouraged by this, though. When used effectively, social media provides significant opportunity for you to develop lasting relationships with customers. Here are just a few of the benefits of social media:
- Brand awareness – increase the visibility of your company and make it easy for people to discover what you have to offer
- Thought leadership – set yourself apart from competitors by establishing your expertise in your field
- Community growth – engage with existing customers and attract prospective customers
- Customer experience – provide value for customers by sharing useful and educational content like blog posts, eBooks, whitepapers and videos
- Announcements – create excitement by sharing timely news and announcements with your audience
- Promote events – promote upcoming events and webinars to drive registration and attendance
- Referral traffic – increase lead generation by driving users to your website and capturing lead intelligence with landing pages and forms
Facebook is the most popular social media platform with over two billion monthly active users (Source). For many businesses, it’s the focal point of their social media marketing. This isn’t surprising when you look at the site’s many tools and features, including Messenger, photos and videos, events, and the powerful advertising platform which enables you to design dynamic ads and choose the people you want to reach.
Twitter has roughly 330 million monthly active users, and although its popularity ebbs and flows, many businesses regularly tweet, like and comment (Source). To make the most out of Twitter as a platform, don’t just share links to your blog posts. Share content from people and publications you like, comment on posts, like and retweet to engage with others.
Your feed is constantly changing, so there’s no shortage of users and posts to engage with. And as we noted above, tweets have a short shelf life – don’t worry too much about crafting the perfect tweet. Instead, focus on authentically engaging with people and building your network.
The ultimate professional network site, LinkedIn has evolved in recent years to become a much more social networking platform. Yes, you can still highlight your professional experience and search for jobs, but features like your feed, news stories and the ability to publish original articles have made LinkedIn a popular place to share ideas. As the platform undergoes this subtle shift, it represents an opportunity for your company to demonstrate expertise and connect with customers and leaders in your field.
As the largest video sharing platform, YouTube is a great way to market your products and services. YouTube has over one billion users—almost a third of all people on the internet—and every day those users watch a billion hours of video (Source). That’s a lot of people watching a lot of video content.
Consider creating promotional and demo videos for your solutions or sharing event videos and recorded webinars on your YouTube channel. HubSpot’s latest research shows that people love video so much that where both video and text are available on the same page, a whopping 72% of people would rather watch a video to learn about a product or service (Source).
One of the main benefits of Google+ is that it can help your search engine optimization (SEO) and online marketing efforts. When you share recently published blog posts on Google+ to promote them, Google will index them faster. This doesn’t necessarily mean it will increase the ranking of your post in search engine results, but Google will immediately include it in search results. Google+ also has Discover and Communities features that enable you to find content you’re interested in and connect with people who share your interests.
Because it’s a photo sharing platform, Instagram is a great tool for showcasing your corporate culture. Building your brand isn’t just about selling your solutions. To attract quality talent and build better products, you need to market your company to potential employees. Next time your team does something fun, snap a quick photo and share it with your audience and show them that your company is a great place to work.
A quick note about other popular platforms like Pinterest an Snapchat: Generally, Snapchat’s user base consists of Millennials and younger people. You may find yourself spending a lot of time on ‘snaps’ that don’t perform well if you work in the managed service space and your audience is mostly IT professionals in their 30s and 40s.
Pinterest is a great photo sharing and bookmarking platform that is popular in the DIY community and businesses that specialize in the arts, home and lifestyle sectors. If you don’t work in these spaces, you may not find Pinterest as valuable more generic social platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
If you’re not on social media, you are absolutely missing out on valuable marketing opportunities. If you are on social but you don’t have a defined social strategy, there are things you can be doing to improve your social presence, regardless of your skill level.
The following steps and recommendations are a quick start guide to developing your social media strategy:
- Choose your platforms. As we noted earlier, not all platforms will make sense for your business. To start, choose the top 1-3 platforms you want to focus on. You can always add more later, but you want to keep your initial focus small so you can closely monitor your performance and measure how effective your social efforts are.
- Set clear goals. This is a key part of your social strategy. Without measurable goals, you won’t know what’s working and what’s not working as you start scheduling posts and engaging with users. Goals will help you set clear priorities so you’re spending time on social activities that drive results.
- Create a publishing schedule. How often are you going to publish to each platform? There are no hard and fast rules, but given the short lifespan of most social posts, we recommend a regular schedule (e.g. daily or 3-5 times a week). Be sure to publish often enough that you are still top-of-mind for your audience. Consider using a social publishing tool like Hootsuite, Sprout Social or CoSchedule to help you stay organized and keep your social efforts in one place.
- Monitor social performance. Once you’ve defined your goals and started publishing to your social platforms, make time to regularly track the performance of your posts. Keep in mind that some social platforms like Instagram only keep data for a short time (e.g. seven days) so you may need to check these more often than others. Metrics like impressions, clicks, likes, shares and retweets will help you determine what is most effective for each platform.
- Engage with other users. It’s not enough to just publish content; you should also be engaging with users on each platform. Comment, like, share, retweet and tag people in your posts to spark conversation and build your online community.
- Adjust your strategy as necessary. We recommend scheduling a retro meeting with your Marketing team after you’ve collected a few months’ worth of social data. You should be able to identify high-level trends that help you improve your social strategy. Do morning posts perform better than afternoon ones? What types of content get the most likes and shares? What are people clicking on? Answering these types of questions will ensure your social strategy always reflects what your audience is looking for so you are sharing timely, relevant and valuable content.
Your social strategy plays a key role in your overall digital marketing efforts. It should help drive larger strategic goals for website traffic, lead generation and brand awareness. Need help developing a complete digital marketing strategy? Download our free Digital Marketing for SMBs presentation for an in-depth look at what makes marketing effective in today’s digital-first business landscape!