How to Effectively Leverage Social Media

There is no question that more and more money is being spent on social media advertising. In fact, Social Media Examiner recently reported that 65 percent of marketers plan to increase their social media ad budgets this year, reallocating funds from display, video, rich media, and offline tactics. Given the magnitude of this trend, I sat down with Bob Cargill, director of social media at Overdrive Interactive, to discuss what’s going on and how to effectively leverage social media. What was his advice? Before you make any big decisions, conduct plenty of research, consider all your options, and ask yourself the following four questions:

What are your goals and objectives?

Your social media activities should be used to rally your audience around a purpose or idea to give them a reason to want to engage with you. Are you trying to create more awareness for your brand, manage your online reputation, provide customer service, or generate sales leads? One or more of these may be your goal, but to get there, you need to think more broadly about the reasons why anyone would even want to be a fan of yours in the first place. Equipped with that knowledge, your efforts will be more strategic, targeted, and aligned with your desired outcome.

Are enough of your customers active with your brand? If not, why?

Quality connections that are actively engaged with your brand will yield you stronger ROI versus large quantities of connections that are less active, interested, and passionate. You may be surprised how easy it is to attract a lot of fans and followers through inexpensive advertising, but what will that get you? Can you really afford to invest a lot of time interacting with a less interested audience? Use social media to identify and interact with those who are most interested in your brand and give them reasons to keep coming back.

How are your customers and prospects using each social media channel? What do they like, dislike, want, and need?

Break down your target audience by age, gender, interests, and habits to test and see where each segment of your audience is and what media and creative will best activate them to engage with your brand. A target audience of adults 25 to 54, in the U.S., with higher household incomes covers a lot of different types of people, who interact with social media in a lot of different ways. By analyzing and testing into different segments of the target audience, you will learn how to tailor your content for optimal responses, which will ultimately result in critical mass of long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with those who are most receptive to you.

What is happening today in social media and what is on the horizon?

During my discussion with Bob, we talked about four current trends that we believe will have a significant impact on the industry in the future.

  1. The integration of social media and big data will continue. Facebook has been making large strides to merge third-party cookie data with its user registration and volunteered profile data through its Facebook Exchange. In addition, Twitter is reportedly building out its own exchange, which will focus on retargeting to start, but will most likely follow suit with everyone else and eventually build out further targeting capabilities.
  2. Social commerce will grow by leaps and bounds, and according to Gartner, will be responsible for 50 percent of online sales in 2015. With so many consumers getting advice, reading reviews, and checking out ratings before making a purchase, it is no wonder that marketers and advertisers are following them.
  3. Social bookmarking sites and geo-location services will remain on the decline in terms of marketing attention. According to Social Media Examiner, social media bookmarking sites fell from 26 percent in 2011 to 10 percent in 2013, and services like Foursquare fell from 17 percent to 11 percent. However, location data will remain very important as technology continues to adapt to more strongly connect a consumer’s location with her behavioral data and social graph.
  4. Social TV will continue to gain popularity, increasing the need for compelling, real-time content and cross-channel integration. Laptops, mobile devices, and tablets will serve as active second screens for today’s multi-tasking consumers who won’t hesitate to provide feedback on their viewing experience. Expectations will rise among a brand’s devotees and critics, as will meaningful engagement, which should bode well for marketers and advertisers alike.

However, the most important thing to consider is that consumers are becoming more accustomed to interacting with brands via social media because they are realizing that it provides them infinitely more choices and far greater control than they had even just a few years ago. As a result, word-of-mouth, referral, and viral marketing will become more pervasive and predominant, as marketers entrust the wisdom of the crowd to influence purchasing decisions as much as their own spokespeople.

Image on home page via Shutterstock.

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