Take a look at how global brands market themselves online. From Samsung to AirAsia, one trend you'll notice is their use of social media.
Small businesses with limited resources often doubt the benefits of social media as a marketing method. Unlike PPC campaigns, the return on investment can be hard to track. However, there are other gains that can provide a valuable boost both to traffic and a brand's reputation.
Key Advantages of Social Media Marketing
From the solo entrepreneur to the global giant, building a brand has become an essential element of online success. Having a consistent presence over multiple networks and types of media can play an important part in this.
By participating on other sites, you give potential customers more opportunities to learn about your brand. Not only can you reach a wider audience but you can also gain the repeated cross-platform exposure that makes a brand feel familiar. Additionally, search engines are given more chances to associate your brand or business name with your other content. Capitalize on this by keeping the associated content relevant, while avoiding keyword stuffing.
Social activity itself is another marker that key search engines factor into their algorithms. Social sharing such as Facebook likes, retweets, or +1s may help boost your ranking in the SERPs.
If this isn't enough to grab your attention, consider the human side of social media marketing. According to InSites Consulting's Social Media Around the World 2012, over 1.5 billion people worldwide use social networks. Fifty-five percent of them connect to brands, on average actively following seven brands each and interacting with five of these.
Add to this the fact that 61 percent of web users worldwide (rising to 64 percent in Asia) do online research before parting with cash. Smart consumers seek out information to compare products and prices, keeping an eye on trends. A business with an established presence, actively engaging with customers, has a better chance of winning these buyers over.
Finally, being seen in the places your customers like to socialize increases the chance of word-of-mouth referrals. Ninety-two percent of us trust in a recommendation from a friend or family member, reports Nielsen.
Automating Your Social Media Content
Even with these advantages, the work involved in active social media management can be off-putting for a time-pressed business owner. This is where automation can help.
For instance, regular social media activity is important, but that doesn't mean everything you contribute needs to be spontaneous. It's possible to prepare content ahead of time and use scheduling software to post it throughout the week. Tools such as Sprout Social and Buffer will take care of posting to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn accounts, leaving you free to focus on other things.
Your blog posts can also be made to work harder by posting to multiple platforms. WordPress users, for example, can choose from several auto-publishing plugins. Jetpack Publicize will post to the above three networks plus Tumblr and Yahoo. For wider coverage, NextScripts: Social Newtork Auto-Poster currently supports automatic publishing to 18 different networks, including Pinterest, YouTube, and Russian social network VK (vKontakte).
Sharing relevant content from other sources can also make participation less time-intensive. People love posts that are thought-provoking or funny. Keep a file of links that you can share and intersperse them with your original posts.
Keeping It Real
Automation doesn't mean being completely hands-off. Add in content with a more personal touch to keep it real. For instance, dealing with questions and replies is something that needs to be done personally, and as promptly as possible. Avoid stock responses and instead reach out to users as individuals to show that your business cares.
Avoid the temptation of using auto-following software. Be selective about who you choose to follow or "friend," and what you retweet or share from other accounts.
Cross-platform content should be balanced with custom posts to avoid excessive duplication. This is a chance to appeal to site-specific demographics, such as the women between the ages of 25 and 64 who make up the majority of Pinterest users or the employees and jobseekers who congregate on LinkedIn. If you need some hints on what to write, the InSites Consulting study revealed that consumers want you to share product information and news with them, and also want giveaways and promotions. Note, too, that 80 percent of them are keen to get involved and give you feedback.
Ultimately, you'll gain the best results by combining social media automation with personal input. Automate those routine tasks that take up too much time, but check in to interact in a spontaneous, natural way with people who reach out to you. In this way you'll enjoy the hidden benefits of social media while avoiding its biggest distractions.
Meet Your Favorite ClickZ Contributors
Many of ClickZ's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Jeremy Hull, Lisa Raehsler, Andrew Goodman, Bryan Eisenberg, Mathew Sweezey, Aaron Kahlow, Stephanie Miller, Simms Jenkins, Jeanne S. Jennings, Dave Hendricks and more!
March 19, 2014