Okay, so you've bought in to the idea that you need social media as part of your marketing strategy. You've read the data around how many people are engaging in social and you realize that a large part of your customer base is among them. So where do you start?
One of the key components to a social media marketing strategy is understanding where to engage and where not to engage. If you're like most marketers, with limited budget, time and resources, you simply can't overextend yourself and do it all (well).
1. Understand the differences between social networks.
During social media trainings, peopled have asked me, “Why are there so many social networks?” The reason is that they all exist for different purposes and have different user experiences. You can't choose the social networks to engage in without first understanding what makes them different. Here's a very brief overview:
Facebook – Used for personal relationships with friends and family. Facebook users have gotten used to seeing businesses and advertising in their feed, but marketers must proceed with caution: anything too salesy and users will quickly disengage. Best types of content: Fun things that people will want to share, including humor and inspirational quotes. Images and video work better than simple text and links. (Don't use hashtags.)
Twitter – I like to think of Twitter as a fast food joint. Users are coming in, scanning their feed, clicking on what catches their eye, and getting out. It's all very fast and furious. It's also becoming an excellent professional development tool, where people can find others in their industry and join live Twitter chats (all you need is the hashtag) to discuss key topics and learn from each other. Here are some great Twitter chats to check out:
#smm (Social Media Marketing)
#cmgrchat (Community Manager Chat)
Best types of content: Short, to the point, catchy headlines with links to longer articles (include hashtags, but not more than two!).
Google+ – When Google+ launched in 2011, people thought it might replace Facebook. When that didn't happen, Google+ started to take on a life of its own, attracting members of the tech community. Best types of content: Similar to Facebook, but you can and should use hashtags, or Google+ will make some up for you. Definitely include images.
Pinterest – Virtual bulletin board. Perfect for planning a wedding or saving DIY/craft ideas and recipes. Teachers love it too. Many brands are getting creative with the use of Pinterest. Best types of content: Images are required, so make them stand out.
LinkedIn – The professional social network. Definitely something to consider for B2B marketers. Best types of content: Company updates and latest news works well for your company page. Beyond that, join some groups in your target market and listen/engage before trying to self-promote.
I encourage you to investigate further on your own and try out these social networks before making a decision.
2. Understand your target market.
Okay, you know the difference between a tweet and a pin. Great! The next step is to understand where your target market spends time. In this case, internet research goes a long way, but you can also go old-fashioned and simply ask them. Got an email list? Send out a survey. Talk to some of your best customers. Ask them not only where they spend time online, but where and how they'd like to engage with you.
This is an important step, because if you are marketing to teachers, you'll want to consider Pinterest, and if you're marketing to college students, you'll want to look at Instagram. The best social marketing takes place in the space where your customers are comfortable, rather than trying to get them to migrate over to a new platform. Business Insider published a guide to the demographics on different social media sites that you might want to check out.
3. Know your ability to create content long-term.
Perhaps you've realized that what you really need is a blog. Be honest with yourself: do you have the resources available to write top-quality blog posts multiple times a week? If the answer is no, rethink your strategy. Only engage in social networks where you can set yourself up for success. Don't join Twitter if you only have the capacity to tweet once a week. It simply will not give you the value you're looking for.
I'm looking forward to hearing your social media stories in the comments below. Tell me how you chose your networks. How did it work out for you? What would you tell marketers who are starting their strategy from scratch?