What is social media marketing? How do you stay on top of trending conversations and build a recognizable brand?
Did you know the average human attention span is eight seconds? For producers of digital content this means that delivery needs to be concise and vibrant to make an impact. It’s daunting to begin to navigate the digital media landscape, but engaging with a virtual audience and building a presence online can expand the reach of your organization’s advocacy or the revenue of your business’ sales. Here’s where to begin: What is social media marketing? How do you stay on top of trending conversations and build a recognizable brand?
Define your audience
What story are you telling and what are your key messages? These questions will define your reach, help you pick which platforms to develop, and shape the discourse around your topics of choice. The mission statement of your organization can be a starting point.
Which social media platform(s) are appropriate for your audience? Your focus will depend on your content and message. Are you working in advocacy or offering a product or service? Knowing your audience and understanding the competition will make social media an effective marketing tool that will help you reach consumers across the globe. Bonus: it’s 100% free.
Pick your platform
Where should you post? On Facebook you will come across active newsfeed peruse-ers of 35+. If you’re tweeting, you’ll reach a diverse range of comedians, academics, professionals, activists, and reporters. Want to catch Gen Z? Snapchat is your best bet. And if you’re creating aesthetic content to inspire wedding planners or foodies, you’ll be right at home on Pinterest.
The others are intuitive: have video content to share? YouTube is the space for you. Looking to engage young working professionals or those seeking to develop career skills? Try LinkedIn. And, of course, Instagram, home to millennials, but increasingly teenagers and even nonagenarians. Here’s a more comprehensive list.
What kind of content will you be offering? While curated posts are a professional necessity, the Stories feature (on Instagram, Facebook, or Snapchat) gives viewers a more authentic overview of your organization’s work. This trend is appealing to a younger generation who are growing skeptical of perfectly polished material.
Social media should not be an end in and of itself. Whenever you post, link the content back to your company website. Through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, or Snapchat, you can post links directly, and though Instagram Stories, you can post a link if your account has over 10,000 followers or if it’s verified by Instagram.
That’s not to say you should exclusively share original content. Show some love to other brands or authors, and share content as you see fit. You should also comment on posts and engage in debates on topics of interest. Being vocal on pages outside your own can help cultivate name recognition and expand your viewership. Plus, you’ll see other organizations send love right back.
Build your brand
What will define your brand? It’s strategic to own your brand’s handle (@name) across all social media platforms, which means linking the name with your organization’s title and email. That way, when someone searches your handle, you won’t be surprised by what pops up on Google’s page one. Brand uniformity is also key: use the same handle across all platforms. Your strategy will appear disjointed if you have different names on Twitter and Instagram.
Even if you own the branded handle across all social media platforms, you don’t need to actively post on them all. It’s better to have one or two deeply developed and regularly updated accounts than to have many that are half-heartedly speckled with less-than-stellar content. Uniformity is just as important as focus.
Learn the tricks of the trade
What should you post, when? How do you attract an audience, get clicks, or purchases? Most social media users are familiar with location-based tagging. This can be an advantage on platforms that aggregate content based on location like Instagram. To cover your bases, each post should include a location tag and one or more hashtags.
Tagged words attract new viewers who are interested in similar topics. Make sure your tagged words are generic enough that they encompass the greatest amount of search results from the widest variety of audience. No number of hashtags is too many, (within the constraints of your social media platform limit). Alternatively, you can use hashtags to measure you own social media strategy. If you use a company- or event-specific hashtag, each time you search it you’ll be able to see all related posts and the impact that only your brand has accumulated.
Another strategy to improve viewership is to consider what time of day you post. When might your target might be online? By measuring engagement, you can track when you have the most active viewers. In my experience, 11am, 1pm, and 4pm have the highest numbers. Here you can find more comprehensive data.
To engage viewers, ask them questions. According to the Case Foundation, posts that end in a question mark receive twice as much engagement than posts ending with a period, and especially those that begin with “should” or “would.”
Finally, people like people more than brands. Have employees, clients, and partners advocate for your brand, and they can represent the work you do in a more personal way. Take, for example Ian Bremmer of Eurasia Group, who has become a thought leader from his active presence online. Your impact isn’t measured by your brand’s social following alone.
Posts don’t necessarily always reach your audience. Email can also be an effective marketing tool because it can be personalized, targeted to specific recipients, and is guaranteed to reach an inbox. But when it comes to digital media, it’s not about the platform you use, it’s about the content you share.
Offer the right content
Where are you an expert? What interests you and what skills do you have to share? When you’re deciding where to begin in content creation, write what you know, and if there are gaps, that’s your cue to learn more and contribute an opinion. To a certain extent, it doesn’t matter what you say, but how you say it. So if you’re passionate about a certain issue, delve in!
- IDENTIFY CONTENT: Content aggregation tools (i.e. Buzzsomo, NetBase, and socialbakers) can give an overview of trending topics.
- TIME YOUR IMPACT: Develop an editorial calendar and strategize your posts to align with holidays or relevant events.
- KEEP IT BRIEF: The most effective posts are the most concise.
- RELATE: Write to your audience about issues you have in common.
- GRAPHICS: Remember how you have eight seconds to grab attention? The best way to do that is through a striking visual. Post a photo or video whenever possible.
- RESURFACE CONTENT: Rotate evergreen content periodically, maybe someone missed an article that’s worth re-sharing, keep the conversation going.
- PAID PROMOTION: Start with “organic” reach, posting without promotion. If you do invest, see where you can get with little money and build up based on that impact.
- GET SPONSORED: Create a media kit with a bio, profile pictures, a press release on your brand. If available, include a description of your services and their price.
- RESEARCH: Keep up to date with evolving social media platforms.
Quiz: what’s the best reflection of your influence? Impressions, clicks, or engagements? If you said engagements, you would be right! Lost in the jargon? AdWeek defines reach as the number of people who see your content, impressions as the number of times your content is displayed, and engagement as the number of interactions people have with your content (including likes, comments, shares, and retweets).
Impressions, while usually the highest number, are not guaranteed to be accurate, and clicks do not reflect interest or the time spent delving into your content. Engagements demonstrate attention, interest, and show that your content is meaningful enough to strike up a conversation.
How you do you track impact? Google Analytics can track views and time spent on the pages of your site, and Twitter and Facebook have their own analytical tools. Using UTMs can help you track the source of your impact, or where people found your link. This can drive your strategy.
A common misconception is that more followers and likes are a measure of success, but engagements are a more accurate reflection. Effective social media communication means Create a community space and make time to reply to every comment, if you can, retweet messages from your followers, and ask for feedback. You can do this through polls, campaigns, and giveaways. Prove that you are committed to your viewers.
Become a thought leader
Who is your competition and what are they saying? You need to know the trends in your industry and read as much as you can from those who are offering similar products or doing similar advocacy work. Knowing the ins and outs will not only help you develop as an expert, but it will also give you content to draw from. Join industry groups and develop credibility.
Ready to go? Position yourself as a resource, remember to find your mission, and don’t muddle your message. It’s easy to get lost in social media. To keep in touch with your goals, try and write offline first, recognize how you are engaging with the environment, and bring the genuine you from behind the screen to the writing and images you make.
Read this piece on LinkedIn.