The era of the ‘new normal’ has forced all businesses to consider their online presence in a new light. Many companies have already made social media marketing (SMM) an integral part of their customer acquisition and engagement, but many traditional businesses are now turning to social media for the first time, out of necessity, to continue their operations and marketing efforts during the global coronavirus crisis.
Most businesses are aware of the power of social media as a digital marketing tool, even if they’re not tapping this resource to its full potential. Social networks have become an increasingly important part of the way in which people interact online with brands and other consumers, so any modern digital marketing strategy should definitely be using SMM in its marketing mix. Now, social media has become arguably even more important, as it can also play a crucial role for businesses seeking to transition their operations from offline to online.
But where should you start, if you want to target one of the 3.8 billion people using social media worldwide? Do you go for paid Facebook Ads? Start your own community page? Gain followers on Instagram?
Every business’ social media marketing strategy will be different, but here are 7 things you should know if you’re planning to incorporate SMM into your online business growth strategy:
1. SMM is NOT just about having social media accounts
So many businesses have social media accounts that aren’t being used to their full potential as a marketing tool. Simply setting up your page and forgetting about it doesn’t count as SMM! Social media marketing is actually a broad term that includes the sharing of both paid content (like Facebook Ads) and organic content (like Tweets). SMM gives businesses the ability to track the performance of campaigns using analytics tools, and to target audiences based on highly specific data.
Actively posting unique, valuable content on social media allows you to build your brand’s voice, engage with your audience and maintain a relationship with them over time, but social media is also a great market research tool. Businesses can conduct competitor analysis and read through user comments to gain insight into their desires and pain points, and incorporate the same words and phrases commonly used by their audience to create highly-targeted marketing copy. Relating to the customer’s own perspective is the best way to create powerful, effective campaigns across all types of marketing, so the consumer insights you can get from social networks can be invaluable in many areas of your business.
2. It inverts the traditional marketing funnel
Digital marketing – and social media marketing, in particular – has flipped the traditional advertising world on its head. Brand awareness, product discovery and consumer advocacy were once distinct phases in the marketing funnel, and usually took place in that order. Now, the voice of the consumer is often louder than that of the brand itself, meaning prospects become aware of a brand increasingly by seeing shared content or reviews posted by their peers. Advocacy (or ‘social proof’) is now likely to be the way many new customers first hear about your brand.
If you successfully engage with your audience on social media, this encourages people to share your content. This means you can create an army of brand ambassadors who are generating awareness for your brand – for free! Always make sure you have share buttons on your website to facilitate this process – especially since social media shares will soon factor into Google page rankings.
3. Social media marketing allows you to grow your reach exponentially
SMM is the one of the best ways to get your brand seen by new audiences. According to Hootsuite, 49% of the world’s population will be on social media by the end of 2020, so effective SMM can give businesses access to a huge pool of potential customers.
You can use all this attention in two ways:
- Generate brand awareness and build a relationship with your audience to convert to sales down the road.
- Use direct response marketing to funnel traffic to your website and generate sales by encouraging prospects to take immediate action (like clicking on a link to your sales page).
4. Targeting is essential
However, because of the sheer number of people using social media, you can’t simply post content and hope that ‘if you build it, they will come.’ Like other forms of digital marketing, social media marketing requires you to segment your audience into target groups to make the most out of your efforts, by ensuring that your content is tailored to appeal to your ideal customer.
Get to know this persona, and speak directly to their needs and fears. Think about them when creating your content, but also keep in mind keywords they would search, and include these in both your profile and the copy you post, since this will help your business appear in social media searches.
Also, coordinating these with your website’s target keywords could help with SEO, since Google is increasingly taking social media performance into account when developing its SERP rankings.
5. You need a social media marketing strategy
If you want to maximise the results of your SMM efforts, the first step is to define your goals and how you plan to achieve them. If you want new customers, focus on paid ads. If you want to better understand your audience, focus on social listening. Once you know your target audience and your goals, it will help you determine what type of content to post, how to plan your content calendar and which platforms to prioritise.
Outside of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and the increasingly-popular TikTok, there are a variety of social networks you should consider targeting, depending on the nature of your business. These include sites like Pinterest or Linkedin.
You can also forge strategic partnerships with other players – such as podcasts or blogs – who have a strong social media presence in your target niche, to help raise awareness for your brand amongst ‘warm’ audiences. These warm audiences are usually easier to sell to, since they’re already in your target niche and speak the same language as you do when it comes to your industry.
6. SMM is all about data
Facebook collects copious amounts of its users’ data, and businesses can use these insights to create compelling and highly-targeted campaigns on a level unlike ever before. This is one of the most powerful aspects of social media marketing, but equally important is the way that businesses can use social media analytics to test and analyse the performance of their marketing efforts.
By using analytics tools, it’s possible to see exactly which kinds of content appeals most to your audience, what times of day posts perform best and how your metrics compare to key competitors in your field. You can use this data to optimise your SMM strategy and get better results from future campaigns when it comes to reaching your goals.
7. SMM can be automated
Having to post content and monitor audience engagement on several social networks can be pretty time-consuming. Fortunately, many aspects of SMM can be automated. There are countless tools, such as Buffer, Hootsuite or Puble, which help you discover ideas for content and share posts across all your accounts at once.
Many also include listening tools, which let you follow target hashtags and keywords, or mentions of your company’s name, so that you can keep up with your audience and what they have to say about your brand. This can then be incorporated into your strategy through continuous analysis and adaptation.
However, automation has its limitations. The process of making changes to your strategy based on key data insights can’t be automated (yet!), so you can’t just set up a series of scheduled posts, then sit back and let your management tools do the work. In the fast-paced world of digital marketing, it’s important to always respond to your customer’s changing habits and concerns in real-time, so make sure you review and revise your SMM strategy regularly.
From powerful analytics and user insights to the ability to target and connect with audiences on a deeper level, social media marketing is an invaluable resource for businesses to keep customer engagement and brand recognition alive during these unprecedented times. It can play a major role in continuing operations and generating new leads, even when in-person business can’t take place.
Regardless of what the new normal will look like, people are now spending more time on social media than ever, so it’s crucial to make SMM a part of your online presence. Haven’t posted on your company Facebook for a while? Start thinking of great content you could use to engage your target audience, and interact with them in the comments section to build brand trust and recognition. Link them to your website once you’ve provided them with valuable knowledge, and this content can also help you drive traffic and fuel sales.