Social networks have exploded in recent times, and marketing experts have followed suit, seeking to make the most out of the massive reach and connection potential of these new platforms. And there's a lot to like about social media marketing. It's cheaper than most forms of traditional outreach, and it's relatively easy to get a handle on, if you're willing to put in the effort and look for the right information. And, fortunately, many insights are freely available online.
The trouble is, there's too much of it. Even some of the more experienced social media marketers can have a tough time sifting through what's useful and keeping track of all the shifts and trends in the social landscape.
In order to help with this, we've rounded up some experts on social media marketing and asked them where people should be looking. The result: 10 essential tips every marketer can benefit from following - here they are.
1. Create More Video Content
Due to advances in both technology and network connectivity, video is more popular than ever in 2016. With established players like YouTube and Netflix leading the way demand for video content is at an all-time high - so why not use it to your advantage and produce some exciting video content.
"I've always been a fan of using video to connect with my audience, and new platforms and tools like Blab, Periscope and Facebook Live are making video even more social these days. Marketers are starting to let their hair down and realize that great video content doesn't need to be highly produced. Live-streaming gives everyone the opportunity to connect with each other in real-time, which humanizes social media and provides a way for us to have more meaningful experiences that go far beyond just giving retweets and likes. YouTube can't be overlooked when it comes to anything that has to do with video, and I'm finding more mobile apps like Live: Air Solo and Wirecast Go make it very easy to livestream to YouTube via your iPhone."
2. Social Media Marketing Is Going Mobile
Smartphones and tablets have also become increasingly popular, a fact that hasn't been lost on IT giants such as Google and Facebook, which both now favor websites and pages which feature responsive, mobile-friendly design. But, social media marketers need to pay attention to new platforms which are performing well on mobile and make the most of them when figuring out their new marketing campaign.
Ileane Smith singled out her favorite mobile platform:
"Snapchat is another platform that's becoming more attractive to marketers as we see a shift in the demographic, which also makes the network more appealing to brands and advertisers."
3. You Don't Have to Do Everything
When you're getting into social media marketing, it can be tempting to cast a wide net and try out every platform and app in an attempt to get as many people to follow you as possible. While you should definitely offer different types of content and use different social media platforms, focusing on one platform to begin can be a more effective approach.
"When you first start blogging, you think you have to be everywhere your customers are at. I actually believed that until quite recently. But success in publishing, believe it or not, hasn't changed much in 100+ years. There are four things - focus on one content type (is it textual, video, audio, in-person), one platform (my blog/website, iTunes, YouTube, etc.), consistently deliver relevant content to a specific audience, over time. That's it. In the beginning I became so distracted about trying a little bit of everything that I wasn't great at anything. Own something amazing and build an audience on that platform. Then (and only then) should you diversify to other platforms."
4. Make Your Marketing Efforts More Focused
The most successful marketers often say that one of the reasons that they've made it big is because they've focused their advertising efforts to target specific audiences, instead of trying to convince everybody about their products. Audience targeting ensures you'll get the most out of your marketing dollars, and direct your effort where it will breed best results.
"We're going to be a lot more aggressive in social this year, but strategically, we're going to be much more targeted. The existing targeting capabilities in Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook in particular have never been stronger. We've created a 5,000 keyword portfolio breaking down our audience into buying cycles and interest categories (primary, sub, and tertiary).
The marketing team uses this core intent-based intelligence to drive the content we're creating and how we're promoting that content. So, we're connecting content strategy and creation to social media segments, ad groups, re-targeting, landing pages, and email.
At this point the name of the game is dynamic and holistic audience targeting. The ad types, and targeting capabilities will continue to evolve, ex: we now make heavy use of Twitter's in-feed video ad roll.
Tailoring the message to the right audience, in the right place, at the right time, is a reality now, but I'd stress again the importance of completing that circle. It needs to run all the way down chain to the post-lead acquisition and even into the sales department, or ordering/fulfillment department."
"Social media will turn 13 this year. LinkedIn launched in May of 2003 and Facebook just a year later. Imagine how the world has changed since those early days - and no function has been more impacted than marketing. The way companies reach, engage, and convert new customers went from a relatively narrow set of channel choices and largely paid media buys to one of chaos. Consumers are now fully in control of their content experiences.
In 2016, social media presents marketers with a stark choice: create content that your consumers actually want to read and share or continue "shouting into the wind" with ads no one wants or needs. Leading companies have already figured out how to create engaging content that attracts their consumers on the social platforms they use the most. 2016 will see added pressure to pay to get into consumers news feeds and streams. But those marketers who haven't built a content marketing strategy first, will see their promotional dollars wasted chasing fickle consumer attention.
Customer-centric and content-driven marketers will leave their campaign mindset behind them in 2016. The skills required to succeed on social media in 2016 are storytelling, consumer insights, analytics, and paid promotion strategies that optimize engagement."
5. Influencer Marketing Is All the Rage
Influencer marketing is the fastest growing marketing trend of them all - and for a good reason. People are looking for genuine opinions and reviews by real people before they make decisions on purchases, and influencers - the people they already follow and trust, fit that mold perfectly.
William Hall, head of marketing at Edugeekslclub says that "influencer marketing has done miracles for us. It does take more time and effort, but the results are tremendous".
"As someone that advises CMOs and senior marketers at B2B companies, I'm recommending that clients focus on three key marketing initiatives in 2016:
1) Content Distribution and Syndication
When it comes to content marketing, shift focus from content production to that of distribution and syndication. Said another way, it's not enough to rely on "inbound marketing" to get your content in front of your target audience. You need to consider how to better use your owned media channels (website, email list, social properties, employees) to distribute your content, and other people's audiences to syndicate your content using social advertising, earned media, PR bylines, influencers, and brand advocates.
2) Influencer Marketing
Most B2B marketers don't know the top 10 to 20 people who influence their target buyers on social media. This is a wasted opportunity. Marketers must research who these people are and invest in building relationships with them. These influencers can quickly create brand credibility, amplify brand content, and make introductions, all in a way that can be extremely impactful as compared to paid media programs.
3) Account-Based Marketing
Many B2B marketers are embracing account-based marketing. Social media lends itself to this approach. For example, you should be building social channels chock-full of users, decision makers, and influencers from your target companies. You should be using buyer personas to guide who the social media team listens to and engages on social media, and how they engage."
6. Find a Way to Benefit from the Changes
There are numerous examples where marketers had to adjust to changes made by IT giants. Google, for example, changed the way it indexes content a few years back, in order to prioritize high-quality content. Twitter has decided to adopt an algorithmic approach, whereas Facebook will continue to evolve its News Feed in 2016. These are all significant shifts, but there's always a way to make these changes work in favor of your campaign.
"Twitter's shift to an algorithmic approach to feeds is certainly an interesting one. And like most marketing shifts, all we can do at this point is guess - not just on the impact to marketers, but how such a shift will impact normal users, and the platform overall.
Users might love the new approach and switch to using it by default, bringing renewed interest to the platform, which results in an increase in Twitter usage overall, making advertisers and investors alike very pleased.
That's the hope, I'm sure, but I'm not sure that's what's actually going to happen. While it's true that most Twitter users have to stop using their Home stream entirely after a while due to the sheer noise, the problem with viewing the tweets Twitter thinks you may be interested in is that those who like to use Twitter real-time during live events might be missing out. So they'd either have to switch back to the normal chronological view, or Twitter's algorithms would need to take such live events and trending topics into consideration.
Either way, the benefits to marketers are clear, just as on Facebook. The more relevant your content and your tweets, the more likely you are to get in front of your target audience, and the more successful you'll be. It's likely that those of us who've been doing that all along will see improvements in tweet visibility and engagement. Rather than sharing a tweet that's reached it's half-life within 18 minutes, now, it's possible that some of our followers will see great tweets hours later."
7. Analyze the Success of Your Content
While it's important to produce content on a regular basis, it's even more important to know what content has performed best among your readership. Apart from identifying the most successful posts, you should also take the time and discover the reasons behind that success. Fortunately, thanks to analytics software and a variety of different apps, it's easier than ever to keep track of what works and what doesn't work.
"My most popular post, How to Make Money Blogging, is successful because it addresses a very common question and it appeals to readers on many levels. Beginners are interested in the basics and intermediate to advanced bloggers are always looking for more ways to monetize."
8. Social Media Audiences Love Infographics
Digital audiences love infographics, and it's easy to see why. They're able to highlight a large amount of information in a visually appealing form that doesn't bore the viewers and lose their attention as a result. In addition to that, infograohics can be shared easily through just about any social media platform, including Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, and especially Pinterest and Instagram.
"The most socially shared or socially successful blog posts that I have tend to be infographics, such as this post The Productivity Killers In Every Office. I think that they're so popular because of the visual content and infographics do well on social sites such as Pinterest and Google Plus. It also supports the growing trend that visual content receives more engagement and shares."
9. Facebook Advertising Is as Powerful as Ever
Regardless of what you may have read or heard about Facebook advertising, it's very much alive and well. Considering the sheer size of Facebook, and the fact that it's the most popular social network of them all by far, advertising on the platform has a high success rate, particularly when managed and targeted correctly.
This opinion is shared by Reginald Chan (@Reginald_Chan), content and social marketing specialist:
"I would say continue to leverage the power of Facebook advertising. It's really powerful especially when you're targeting the right audience."
10. Content Is Still King
Providing high-quality content for your audience and potential customers should still be at the top of your list, because of the major role it can play in how you communicate with your readership and get your message across. Great content attracts people organically, and they stick around for much longer.
"I need to be clear that 100,000 followers is not the same as 100,000 readers - a very small subset of followers actually read what I share!
I've not done anything special to grow my audience other than carefully creating and sharing content that I believe has value. People seem to love what I share. All of my followers are organic -- they know me through my content, my speeches and classes. Do good work, be kind, add value, and people will be attracted to your brand."
Social media marketing is still a very fertile ground when it comes raising awareness about your brand, promoting your services, and finding the right sort of audience that might be interested in what you have to say or offer. As there is so much information available online, hearing a few key pieces of advice from true experts is something that should help point you in the right direction. Focus your efforts, create high-quality, diverse content, and keep up with the changes.