A Guide to Successful Social Media Marketing

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Successful Social Media MarketingSocial networking offers a revolutionary means for connecting companies with customers, sales leads, business partners and new recruits. To maximize success it's essential that businesses plan their strategy to establish guidelines for integrating social media marketing into their daily routines.

Getting started is often the most difficult task. Below you will find a best practices outline for creating a solid plan to boost your company's online presence.

1. Establish Clear Business Benchmarks
It's important to establish long-term business goals for your social media activities. Many businesses strive to increase sales, acquire new customers, retain old customers, improve brand recognition, reduce marketing costs, streamline customer service, and so on.

When forming your social media objectives, it is important to choose goals that are specific, realistically attainable and tracked over an established time-frame. Equally important is that every member of your team understand and agree what success will look like when you meet these goals. "Clear internal business communications, support team buy-in and ownership."

2. Determine How to Measure Efforts
Outlined each objective, then determine how each will be quantified and measured. It's important to start establishing measurement criteria immediately after determining your goals. An example of usable metrics could include:  The number of content views, volume of user comments, peer-sharing statistics, third-party mentions, click-through rates, and quantity of new qualified leads. It is suggested that you use Google Analytics to start tracking your social media profiles and measuring how influential your online presence is becoming. By Pass Engineering, Inc. also employs a combination of Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools and SEO Moz for the improvement of content delivery. Combined these are powerful tools for resolving errors, monitoring of  content and promotions. SEO Moz also assists in translating metrics into usable information that will impact your business so you don't waste time calculating statistics that will have no value to your company. 

For example, if one of your business goals is to improve customer service (issue resolution), a great metric could be the number of incidents resolved through social media channels.  Social media has also become a leading medium for consumers to voice opinions about their every interaction they have with a company and its products or services; both good and bad and both should be continually tracked, evaluated and improved.

3. Get to Know Your Targeted Audience
Regardless of the chosen goals for your social media marketing plan, your business has an audience that should be targeted in your efforts. In order to plan an effective strategy, you need to have a clear picture in mind of your ideal customer profiles. If businesses are suffering from low customer engagement on their social networking accounts, it is typically because they are not targeting the right buyers in the right places. When you get to know your audience’s ages, occupations, income levels, hobbies, problems, obstacles, likes and motivations, it becomes easier to target them on any media platform.

Once you have clearly determined your target demographic, you will be able to match your marketing strategies with the social media networks where your audience is spending a majority of their Internet time. 

For instance, if you are targeting women between the ages of 18 and 29, Facebook will likely be your primary network of focus. However, if your business seeks predominantly professionals with graduate-level education, start networking on LinkedIn. The more specific that you are on your ideal customer, the more conversions you will reap.

4. Appoint a Social Media Marketing Team
Even the most well thought out marketing plan will fail without having a strong team of professionals to back it up. It’s in the best interest of your company to have, hire or contract with a social-media expert. 

After building or contracting a team with the right skills, you must assign relevant, on-going responsibilities to fill their daily routine. Make sure that everyone on the team is aware of who will be accountable for creating content, posting updates, linking to outside content, engaging with customers, monitoring conversations, analyzing data and connecting with partners.

In smaller organizations, it is possible to have a full-time social media team of one, however it is typically recommended to consult with a knowledgeable Social Media Marketing team to assist with planning and get you started. Larger businesses involved in multiple social media activities often will establish an entire social media department to create a “think tank” environment for building solid marketing strategies. Appointing a chief content officer can also be valuable for having someone to oversee the activities of the social media team and ensure the group stays on track.

5. Content Creative Strategy
Finding success with social media marketing will require much more than just randomly posting a few updates and tweets. Without cranking out great content, your social media profiles will be virtually meaningless and not convert prospects into sales. 

Produce posts that offer value and insight into your services without over-selling. All content should fit with your company’s voice, social media platform trends, and your targeted audience’s interests. Connect with your customer's interests and challenges, and how your products or services can help them.

When starting out, it's suggested that you focus on providing information to solve potential customers’ problems, rather than dwelling on your own products. From there, you can test different content strategies and figure out the best approach that gets a rise out of your targeted audience. Mix-it-up, with different content -- from news to practical tips and humorous stories. Emphasize by using visuals such as images, photos, videos, infographics and slide decks.

6. Research Your Competitors
Competitive analysis is a key component of nearly every marketing strategy, including social media, because it allows you to compare how your profiles stack up. Not only will researching your competitors keep you aware of their online activities, but it will also provide a good idea on what is working for them so that you can integrate these winning tactics into your company’s social media marketing plan. Once you tap into their strengths and generating your own discussions, your business will start carving out your niche in the social media stratosphere.

During your research, you should focus on analyzing the social networking profiles and content strategies of three to five of your main competitors. Then, take a look at how many fans or followers they have, how often they post new content, and when they are most active. Pay close attention to the kinds of content they are positing and the response they are receiving from the targeted audience. Calculating how engaged your competitors are with their followers based on their number of likes, comments, and shares can also be a great way to sniff out competition. To assist with the gathering and analysis of competitive intelligence we use SEO Moz to benchmark how your company ranks against the competition in an effort to understand who is doing what better in specific measurable online behaviors, in order to recommend improvements to your Social Media Marketing program.  

7. Engage Your Audience
One of the best things about social media is that it creates a public arena for customers to post their opinions, vent their frustration, share their joys, and complain about their challenges. Since social networking is literally built around the concept of engagement, it is essential that businesses provide continuous input in interacting with their customers. Note: Listen FIRST before engaging! Social media is about much more than just publishing content, so don’t be afraid to ask some questions and stick around to acknowledge the responses. When handled appropriately, social media platforms can provide a great relationship-building machine for boosting customer loyalty and credibility. Remember: Social media isn’t a megaphone, it’s a conversation. It’s a great opportunity to connect with customers and influencers from bloggers to media people. Pose thoughtful questions and respond to people’s queries with helpful information that isn't just pitching your business.

How your business responds to public complaints can also play a big role in how your social media profiles will withstand long-term. Whenever negative comments find their way to your profile, your first reaction may be to delete them, but this will insight a negative perception on your company and send the message that you are hiding the truth. Therefore, it is suggested that you kindly respond to every complaint to acknowledge the customer’s frustration, obtain a better understanding of the problem, and effectively resolve the issue. Rather than engaging in a public online argument in cyberspace, extend the olive branch and emphasize to your followers that you are taking steps to correct the problem quickly.

Creating a Social Media Marketing plan should never remain static. Keep your eye on changing trends and be willing to adapt and consistently improve over time. Performing a periodic Social Media Marketing plan review and performance assessment is essential for maintaining best performance and maximizing the bottom line benefit for your business. 


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