Brands who ignore social media do so at their own peril. Although the business world seems to have accepted social media as a viable marketing channel, many organizations completely lack or struggle with social media strategy. Winning social media marketing is not solely brand-focused; it is about captivating your social audience, engaging your social prospects and delivering real value-in the form of your own original content as well as the high-quality content of others, which you have curated from trusted, industry-leading sources. The social media landscape is a vast, loud and often chaotic place; breaking through the noise and reaching your captive audience requires a sound social media strategy.
Social Media Has Grown Up
Current marketing trends highlight the reality that social media is serious business; social media as a marketing channel has matured and gained credibility. Major brands are working harder than ever to engage their prospects on various channels, including social media. Some have even transformed themselves into media companies and publishers; Coca-Cola has the Cola-Cola Journey, and Red Bull created the full-length feature film on snowboarding, The Art of Flight. Both are major initiatives to increase fan engagement through not overly brand-focused media efforts-in keeping with the ethos of community-based social media.
There has been a major rise in the popularity of visual social networks, including Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat. It is becoming increasing vital to generate visual interest in all marketing content as well as to create primarily visual content marketing, such as SlideShare presentations and infographics, which are highly shared on social networks. Achieving significant Facebook reach now requires brands to "pay to play." Many companies are now investing in social media analytics in order to manage, track and measure the many KPIs of social media marketing across various channels. Google+ has become a necessity. You would be remiss to ignore this social network due to Google Authorship and its impact on SEO, which has itself gone social.
Social media offers many ways to increase the reach and credibility of your brand. Social media marketing, including the promotion of your original blog content, grants you-not mass media-the power to publish and potentially reach a mass audience. Delivering highly shareable content and fostering the authentic engagement of your social audience can help you build a powerful network of brand advocates who actively share your content and promote your brand. Aspire to establish a significant digital footprint by publishing stellar blog content and becoming influential on multiple channels, such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube and others. Online ubiquity can increase the impact of your content, the recognition of your brand and your rates of lead generation and conversion.
Developing a Sound Social Media Strategy
Without a sound social media strategy, you will miss out on a great deal of opportunities-not to mention the optimization of your social lead generation. An effective social media strategy calls for allocating the time and resources needed to create and implement one that will provide your company with an integrated, high-value approach to social media. There are numerous factors you must consider.
1. Understand Your Intended Social Audience
You need a clear understanding of the prospects you wish to reach and your existing social media audience, including the demographics, the social profiles and the associated buyer personas, which are beyond the scope of raw social media data. To develop meaningful social buyer personas, you need to find the answers to the following questions:
- What are the vital issues and problems faced by your social prospects?
- Where and how do they seek new information?
- What are their business goals?
- Which social networks do they use most?
- What are their favored industry publications?
2. Establish Quantifiable Goals
What do you hope to achieve through your social media efforts? Gaining clarity on your goals and establishing a hierarchy of priorities for your social media marketing is critical. Possible goals may include:
- Amplifying brand awareness
- Ramping up authentic social engagement
- Increasing Facebook likes and fan engagement
- Growing your Twitter presence
- Amplifying your industry reputation and make real connections on LinkedIn
- Boosting traffic to your website and company blog
- Magnifying social lead generation across all your social platforms
- Augmenting your email subscriber list
Once your list of goals is complete, determine your hierarchy of priorities.
3. Create Highly Shareable Content
Once you have established prioritized goals for your social media marketing, you have the task of generating content that will attract and provide significant value to your social audience so that you can achieve your social media aspirations. The types of content should include:
- Blog posts
- Ebooks and whitepapers to showcase thought leadership
- Visual content-infographics, SlideShare presentations and YouTube videos
- Images to increase fan engagement on Facebook
- Twitter posts to drive more traffic to your website
- LinkedIn and Google+ updates to magnify professional influence and social lead generation
4. Leverage High-Value Marketing Tactics that Amplify Your Social Media Reach
There are certain marketing tactics that are invaluable in helping you reach your social business goals. Focus first and foremost on the ones that will yield the greatest ROI for your social presence and business overall. For many companies, these high-value tactics include expanding an opt-in email subscriber list and amplifying social media reach.
Expanding Your Opt-In Email Subscriber List
Establishing or expanding your opt-in email subscriber list can an be done relatively quickly in a few simple ways, including:
- Offering free premium content, such as a whitepaper or a SlideShare presentation, on your blog in exchange for an email address to download
- Creating a custom tab on Facebook to capture email addresses to download an ebook or a whitepaper
- Running contests or promotions on Facebook, which require registration with an email address
Amplifying Your Social Media Reach
To amplify your social media reach, consider:
- Providing free premium content, such an ebook or access to a webinar for liking your Facebook page or following your company on LinkedIn
- Follow the followers of other industry thought leaders on Twitter
5. Track, Measure and Optimize Your Social Media ROI
The KPIs that you should track and measure include:
- The size of your social media audience, including Twitter followers and those who have circled you on Google+, followed or connected with you on LinkedIn, or liked you on Facebook
- Leads generated on social media
- Facebook shares
- Twitter retweets
- Website and blog traffic
These are only basic metrics. You must determine what other metrics are useful in optimizing your social media efforts. Learning which metrics are most meaningful to your business overtime will allow you to fine-tune your social media strategy and attain optimal results. Embrace social media and high-quality, original content creation to succeed in the ever connected, information-rich, and socially driven reality of doing business today.