In today’s digitally connected world, social media rules. Facebook has over 1 Billion users. That’s one in every 7 human beings in our planet.
There are over hundreds of social media sites that connect users in different unique ways and as a business looking to promote yourself, you can ill afford to ignore this medium. However like every other marketing medium, you can easily burn your time and money with social media- if you get into it without understand what each medium does, how it connects and how you could leverage that network for your business.
It’s marketing at its simplest, logical form- Understand your medium before investing into it. In the traditional world businesses used to invest heavily on traditional mediums like Print, Radio, Outdoor and Television. You had large agencies with specialized media planners who understood these mediums. Today’s scenario is very different.
Unlike traditional promotional mediums, today’s social media is undergoing changes at a frenetic pace. Newer, sharper mediums are edging away the hegemony of bigger networks like Facebook like never before.
Content, especially content that engages with the audience and user driver content is increasingly replacing company wide distributed content. There are a plethora of social media marketing tools today that weren’t available a year ago. For any business- big or small wading through the mass of what social media has to offer can be a daunting task.
It’s akin to drawing up a comprehensive media plan that traditional media buying agencies do, except that there are no social media planners with the intelligence or tools that can help businesses navigate social media effectively.
Why is Social Media Marketing so popular?
Before reading this guide you might want to get an overview understanding overview of social media . Social Media Marketing is using existing social networks to promote your business. Before
A social network is simply a connection of individuals or businesses linked together. The network could be a personal network like Facebook where one’s network are usually friends & family or it could be a business network like LinkedIn where the network contacts are mostly professional.
A network could also be a group of individuals with a common interest like Flixter (which connects movie buffs) or Wayn (a travel oriented social network that connects travelers). You even have one for those who are interested in Knitting called Ravelry! For those socially inclined, you could check out this excellent compilation of social networks for all interests here.
From a marketer’s perspective, social networks are a powerful influencer network. If as a marketer you are able to create a brand advocate within a network, your brand champion would advocate your business to thousands of his or her connections.
Social Media Platforms
Today, there are hundreds of social media platforms and by the time you read this article, there would possibly be a few more that are launched. It is very critical as a business to distinguish the various types of social media platforms available in order to fully exploit them. The below table broadly classifies 18 social media platforms in three buckets.
However what should be considered that while each platform lends itself more easily to a particular type of business, it does not prevent it from being used for other types.
|B2B oriented||B2C oriented||Vertical focused|
|Pinterest ( women )|
|YouTube||Flickr ( photo sharing)|
|YouTube||G+||Instagram ( photo sharing)|
|Quora||Tagged||Airbnb ( travel)|
|Blogging||Foursquare||Geni ( family tree)|
|Meetups||Habbo ( teens)|
What business you are doing and your target audience behavioral characteristics one could chose the primary and secondary mediums for social media marketing. For example if one were to be targeting women a larger focus should be given to Pinterest with almost 80% of the user base being women.
Getting started on social media marketing
Like every other media vehicle, the trick of succeeding on social media where others have failed is to understand what makes social media tick for some and bomb for others. Traditionally, many companies have been approaching social media marketing from a “I, Me, Myself” perspective rather than a “You, You’re, Us”
The difference between both the approaches lie in two things- what is communicated and how it is communicated. The “I, Me, Myself” approach tends to communicate messages which the business wants to the target audience to know. As a result you tend to communicate messages which are purely one sided- like a print advertisement expecting your network to be as excited as you are. Sadly nobody is.
The “You, You’re, Us” content approach communicates messages that you as the target audience like to read or watch. It’s not about the company, it’s not about the brand- it’s about you. Or your friends.
Take a look below at 2 examples of each approach below. Notice which one got more shares!
In this example, notice that while the company has 72, 821 likes on its page, its message got only 36 likes and 1 share!
A classic case of the “I, Me, Myself” communication.
Take a look at the second communication that was sent out a day earlier. This time the communication got 104 Likes and more importantly it got shared 79 times!
That’s a good example of how the “You, You’re, Us “communication has been used effectively to get the company’s social media network to interact and engage with the company’s messaging.
Which brings us to the three fundamental rules that you need to rigorously follow if you need to be effective on social media
- Content is King.
- Engagement is crucial
- Networking is important
Let’s look at what each of these rules mean for businesses.
Content is King: As one can see from the above example having content that is relevant to your audience is important to succeed in social media marketing. The better your content relevance the more your target audience is going to appreciate it.
Engagement is crucial: Social media is all about getting your audience to engage with you. The more they engage, the higher would be their brand advocacy be over a period of time. Therefore every content needs to be reviewed from the perspective of whether it will aid engagement or not. ‘Will this piece of communication make my audience engage with me?” – is the question every marketer needs to ask of every single piece of communication.
Networking is important: The larger your degree of influence the better your business will be known amongst your target audience. Your first level network are those who are directly linked to you and their networks allow you to use content intelligently enough to influence their network. Build your network slowly. Rome was not built in a day and neither will be your social media network.
Creating your own social media plan
Having set the background of what social media is all about and the framework, let’s take a quick look at how one should go about creating a social strategy plan for one’s business.
Setting your social media objectives:
Having a clear objective of what you want your social plan to achieve for you can save you days of heartburn not to speak of loads of money a few months down the line. Most businesses invest on social media because it’s fashionable to be on social media or because competition is already on it.
In our test example case, the brand Figurz is targeted towards children and young mothers with a healthy living angle. The critical brand need was to generate sampling trials and engage the target audience into becoming brand advocates through repeat purchase.
With this context, let’s look at possible social media objectives could we set for our brand
With this as the top level objective, let’s set specific time bound goals for social media to strive for.
Setting Social Media Goals
- Create a fan base of 20,000 women centric followers for Figurz brand on social media within 3 months
- Deliver an engagement level of 10% among the fan base for our social media activities by the end of 3 months.
- Drive fan generated content contribution
Each of the above goals are specific and time bound. This helps when you are working with a social media agency. Usually your social media agency would help to draw up a specific time bound goal that both you and the agency can then measure.
What should be realized here is that goals are benchmarks and not specific targets. Social media marketing like all marketing is an art and not an exact science. By setting benchmarks and constantly reviewing results, one can be sure that your marketing dollars are being spent correctly.
Lack of a goal post is like shooting a ball aimlessly and hoping it’s in the right direction.
Choosing your social media platforms
While choosing your social platforms, it’s tempting to simply select what everyone else is doing and play safe by selecting the most obvious choices. However the decision to select the right social media platforms need to be governed by their ability to meet the goals and objectives both in the short term as well as in the long term.
Secondly, what you use each social media platform and how you use it will define the success or failure of your social media marketing.
What’s good for the brand is that a recent infographic published by Digital Flash NY shows more women using popular social media platforms than men. 58% of Facebook users are women, while Pinterest has 82% of women. When it comes to gaming, 60% of Zynga users are women.
Based on this, for the moment let’s take the top 3 social media sites for the brand’s campaign. These would be:
Developing a content & communication strategy
The most critical part of developing a social marketing plan for one’s business is in being clear about the brand’s content and communication strategy for social media. As seen above, company wide messages are often ignored by social media users while messages that are more focused on the “You, Your, Us” get better attention.
What this calls for is understanding how your brand or product or service interacts with customers and addressing that in the communication. A few examples:
Bacardi India Facebook page has over 7.5 Million likes, yet most of their posts have less than 100 people liking the post. The most engaged posts are those that showcase interesting cocktail recipes. These get 500% more likes than normal posts.
Healthy Eats.com Facebook page has 10% of Bacardi’s fan following at 750,000 likes. Yet their last three posts got excess of 1300 likes with over 200 shares.
As a marketer and business owner, which Facebook page would you rather be the owner off? Most business owners go after generating huge amount of fan following, ignoring that having a large fan following of your page is no indication of their loyalty to your brand or page. It is far more preferable to have a smaller following but a more engaged follower base. After all, your objective is to create brand advocates!
Creating a content Plan
The actual challenge in putting together a social plan finally comes down to creating a content plan that meets the strategy. As in the above case, developing content that meets the requirement is often a challenge. A good social media plan would require external assistance from a content agency . The content agency would help craft out the content, create it and finally help the business publish it across their social media network.
While creating a content plan one needs to work within what works best for each media. For instance Pinterest is great as a visual media, hence content outputs in the form of visuals, infographics will work best. On Facebook, visuals will work just as well.
Your content plan has to be broken down by month and then by week and day so that everyone is clear as to what content is planned to be published across each network on a daily basis. How many posts to make and what time to post is a function again of both your audience spread and your social media.
If you have audiences spread around the globe, it would make sense to post at different times so that everyone has an opportunity to view your post. Otherwise we would recommend that in most cases a good daily post trumps over several useless posts. Of course, if you are using Twitter as one of your primary mediums, then it’s important to post several times in a day so that your audience has a chance to see your tweet!
While creating your content plan bear in mind the following:-
- Have a broad content concept for each month.
- Break down the content into week wise and day wise.
- Encourage shares. If you create good content which you audience will find useful or informative, they will share it with their network.
- Run rewards periodically to boost shares
- Encourage your network to voice their opinion. Reward opinions periodically.
- Get yourself a decent content creator. Usually your social media agency should be able to manage it for you.
- You don’t need to always create original content. It’s perfectly ok to use curated content and post it on your social media network.
Remember, the objective is to create engagement and shares. Going viral is more important that getting a 100,000 followers from day 1.
Executing the plan
How one executes social media will speak reams about one’s marketing skill. Executing the plan will call for a dedicated in-house resource or an external out-sourced agency to manage the activity. Failure to do either of these will result in a sub optimal exposure and be a complete waste of time, effort and money.
If you’re looking to hire or assign an internal resource to manage your social media initiative bear in mind the following:-
- How good is the person in written English ( if English is the primary language in which you are posting)
- Is the person creative, able to think out of the box?
- How active is the resource on his/her own social network? A good way to know how active the person is to check their Klout The higher their Klout score, the more active the person is.
- Has the person done any professional digital marketing course with practical experience?
- Is the person knowledgeable about the various social media tools? Have they used any in the past?
- Is the person warm and friendly? You would hate to have an angry young man managing relationships!
- Does the person have the ability to sit all day long in front of a comp? This by far is very critical. Executing social media is a sedentary job profile where you are constantly interacting with people all day long via the computer.
However you need to bear in mind the following when selecting a service provider
- What are the other social media accounts that the service provider is handling? Does he handle the media networks that you have shortlisted? In this case, Facebook, Pinterest and Blogger Networks?
- How active are the social media accounts that the service provider is handling. Again a good indication would be their respective Klout scores.
- What tools do the service provider use to post, track, and monitor social media?
- How knowledgeable is the service provider on social media?
- Can the service provider create original content? Can the service provider find relevant curated content that would be useful?
- How good is the written communication skills
- How creative are they?
Tracking Social Media
Today there are several tools that both help one to execute social media as well as track your social impact. Below are five tools that we would recommend to those who are thinking seriously about using social media
- Hootsuite.com allows you to manage multiple social media platforms from one single interface. If you’re managing less than 3 social profiles, it’s free to use! It also allows you to track your social engagement although for that you would need to upgrade to a paid version
- Sprout Social is another exciting management tool. It is more expensive than Hootsuite
- SocialFlow is another great tool that takes into account your social media data points and recommends the most appropriate time and content to be sent out.
- Crowdbooster.com. If you’re primarily focused on Twitter and Facebook, then Crowdbooster is just the right tool for you.
- Buffer: If you’re a small business and are not looking to be active every day of the week on your social network then Buffer is for you. It has a free service for up to 2 networks and works across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and G+
Lastly, do remember to integrate your google analytics with your social media. It’s free and will help you keep some tracks of how your social media is impacting your website traffic