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3 Critical Foundations of Social Media Marketing (and How to Put Them in Place)

The 3 Critical Elements of Social Media Marketing (and How to Action Them) | Social Media TodaySocial media marketing is becoming an increasingly important element for all businesses - every brand, every company is now hyper-aware of Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and the seemingly untold revenue potential that lies within. But far fewer know how to actually unlock that huge potential. And that’s the thing about potential - without action, ‘potential’ is just a word, and a great many brands have fallen victim to the potential of social platforms, spending money and time on programs and strategies that have never actually lead to any tangible results.

ROI is the core element of social media marketing that brands need to keep in mind. It’s great to get a hundred Likes and get a thousand followers - but unless you can link those actions to actual, bottom-line results, you’re not effectively utilizing social media as a marketing platform.

As social marketing expert Jay Baer says:

“The goal is not to be good at social media. The goal is to be good at business because of social media”

While it can be easy to succumb to the allure of social media metrics – social media is, after all, gamified by design, enticing you to try and ‘win’ by having more Likes, followers, etc. – marketers need a defined goal and strategy in place to ensure you’re progressing towards actual business goals, as opposed to inflating your social numbers.

In order to do this, there are three key elements you need to consider in your social media marketing strategy, three processes that will help define your efforts and keep you on track, while working towards building your brand presence with every post and every interaction, every day.

Here are three questions all brands should ask before they start posting to their social media properties.

1. Who do You Want to Reach?

One of the most common, strategic errors people make when starting out in social media marketing is in not researching their target audience and where they need to be to reach them. Everyone thinks of the main platforms – you need to be on Facebook, you need to be on Twitter – and while it’s true that having even a basic presence on those platforms can have benefits, there’s no point focusing all your time on, say, Instagram if all your target audience is actually over on Snapchat.

Knowing who your audience is and what platforms they use is key to an effective strategy – you can’t reach them if you don’t know where they’re spending their time.

So how do you work this out? There’s a heap of ways to do this, but here are some basic tips to get you started.

Your first reference point is Google Analytics.

The 3 Critical Elements of Social Media Marketing (and How to Action Them) | Social Media TodayWhile most web hosting services now have social referral tracking capabilities built in, they’re normally not as accurate as Google Analytics, in my experience. Via your page analytics, you can see (as per the example) a full listing of where your social media referrals are coming from, which immediately gives you some idea of where you should be focusing your time. But of course, that’s not going to work for everyone – brands starting out won’t have social traffic to be tracking, and it’s also relative to where you’re spending your time; if you’re active on Facebook but not Pinterest, for example, you might be getting more referral traffic from FB, but the comparison isn’t accurate because the time spent is disproportionate.  

To solve both these issues, you can use BuzzSumo.

The 3 Critical Elements of Social Media Marketing (and How to Action Them) | Social Media TodayBuzzSumo will show you where your social shares are coming from, which is great for checking your own site, but the bonus of BuzzSumo is that you can also check the same data for your competitors. This means that even if you’re just starting out and you have no social traffic coming your way, you can still get an idea of where your audience is at by looking at where the social referrals are coming from for other pages in your industry.

In regards to comparative volume, you can also use BuzzSumo to search by topic – so rather than tracking a specific website, you can put in your keywords and see what the most shared articles are, related to those terms, and on which platforms they're getting traction, and you can filter by location to further hone in your results. These listings can help further clarify which platforms you should make your focus, and from there you can work out what's resonating be examining each post, what questions are being asked, and more, all relative to your, specific niche.

2. What do You Want to Tell Them?

How often have you seen brands post random memes, inspirational quotes – or worse, updates about their personal lives – on their brand pages? The human element is important, don’t get me wrong, but again, some businesses fall into the 'Like' trap and start posting content that’s off-brand and unrelated to their target audience, purely hoping to get more engagement.

The thinking goes something like this: You post a random picture that everyone likes - not only does this inflate your metrics for that post, but it also gets you attention, and if you can get 100 Likes, there’s gotta’ be a chance that even a couple of those people will actually click through to your Page and check out your stuff too, right? While I understand the idea, I’ve rarely seen this strategy pay off in any significant way.

Your aim in social is to build a community, a following around what you do and why you do it, which then leads to loyalty and advocacy – and eventually, to your customers helping you market by sharing your messaging throughout their own networks. In order to maximize this, you need to stand for something, and every time you post, every time you tweet, that’s another chance for you to reinforce your brand philosophy and mission and build your presence.

To help with this, a simple, yet effective, tactic, is to go through an exercise called ‘The Five Whys’.

Developed by academic researchers James Collins and Jeremy Porras, ‘The Five Whys’ is a process which can help businesses establish a better understanding of the core purpose behind their brand. More simply, ‘The Five Whys’ helps you consider more than simply what you do and get to the core question of why you do it - and why that's important to your audience.

So how does The Five Whys work? First, you provide an answer to this question (relative to your business):

‘We make ‘X’ products’


‘We provide ‘X’ services’

Then you ask: ‘Why is that important?’ Then you ask the same question of that answer, then the same question again four more times, and by the fifth ‘why?’ you’re starting to move beyond the basics of your company’s existence and more into how you play a part in your consumers’ lives.

From Collins and Porras' ‘Building Your Company’s Vision’ report:

"An asphalt and gravel company might begin by saying, We make gravel and asphalt products. After a few whys, it could conclude that making asphalt and gravel is important because the quality of the infrastructure plays a vital role in people’s safety and experience; because driving on a pitted road is annoying and dangerous; because 747s cannot land safely on runways with poor workmanship or inferior concrete; because buildings with substandard weaken with time and crumble in earthquakes. From such introspection may emerge this purpose: To make people’s lives better by improving the quality of man-made structures."

The Five Whys method has been utilized by a range of hugely successful organizations over the years, including Disney and Nike, and it’s proven to be an effective way to establish a company’s purpose. And that purpose is important in a social marketing sense, because once you have a clear ‘why’ which permeates through everything, which underlines every post and every snap, you can ensure your social content all goes towards building upon that focus, that every update aligns with your core message and helps build your brand, every time.

For example, Nike, after going through The Five Whys process, established their purpose statement as:

To experience the emotion of competition, winning, and crushing competitors”

Now, that’s not the ‘Just do it’ slogan you see publicly, but this is Nike’s driving purpose, their over-arching mission statement in their marketing and outreach efforts. And once you know it, you can see it in every one of their social posts.

The 3 Critical Elements of Social Media Marketing (and How to Action Them) | Social Media TodayThat purpose flows through to all their content, all their updates, and helps reinforce and build their brand at every level.  

Once you have a clear purpose, it clarifies alot about what you should be posting – what you want to share with your audience. You can still share memes and quotes and whatever you see fit, but if you cross-check them against your purpose statement and they don’t fit, don't go towards building your brand, it might be best to leave it out.

In this way, you’re not only looking to build audience, but you’re building your brand at the same time.

3. What do You Want Them to do?

And the crucial element of every marketing plan – what do you actually want people to do after engaging with your social content? Again, if they’re not clicking through, if they’re not signing up, then there’s a flaw in your strategy and you need to review. In this context, it’s important to have a clear goal in mind when you go about developing a social strategy – and that goal will likely be different with every campaign.

The key point here is around ROI – how do you use social metrics and data to prove return on investment from your marketing efforts? While this is a much discussed, and much debated, area of social media marketing, there are ways to align social metrics with your end goals, and it’s important to do so to ensure you’re moving towards your desired business targets.

In their book ‘The Now Revolution’, authors Jay Baer and Amber Naslund laid down a foundational plan to help social media marketers establish a better understanding of how to use social metrics to prove ROI. More importantly, Baer and Naslund discussed the importance of establishing definitive goals and metrics beforehand, in order to make ROI a more concrete and defined proposition, before you even implement any sort of marketing plan.

Baer and Naslund’s goal-defined metrics look like this:

The 3 Critical Elements of Social Media Marketing (and How to Action Them) | Social Media Today

  • If your campaign goal is increase sales you should be measuring click rates, social e-commerce sales and conversion rates
  • If your campaign goal is to increase loyalty, you should be measuring engagement, sentiment and influence
  • If your campaign goal is to boost awareness of your brand, you should be measuring community growth, engagement, shareability stats, Likes and subscribes

Essentially, every social campaign will boil down to one of these three objectives, and while there’s a wide range of additional measures that you can tie into each, these are the focal data points you should be aligning with these goals, and demonstrating growth in as a means of highlighting the value of your efforts.

Of course, social ROI tracking is always improving, there’s an increasing amount of ways to better align social performance with business results. And the best marketers are working towards doing this, towards highlighting, specifically, how their social efforts extend beyond the screen and into actual revenue generation – and doing so is essential for any business looking to establish a serious social media marketing plan.

Once your campaign goals are established, you can then focus on ensuring you’re guiding your target audiences towards them, targeting more more precisely what it is you want them to do in each engagement.   

This is a simplified overview, sure, the actual implementation of each of these processes involves a whole range of other complexities and steps, but these are the building blocks upon which a successful social strategy can be built. If you’re not sure where to start and what you should be doing, following these basics will put you on track to achieving better results via your social presence.  

Main image via Miss Ty /

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