In the past, prospects primarily accessed information about a company by interacting directly with a salesperson. As media evolved, mass ads, events, direct mail, and more recently, email, have been the primary tools for engagement.
Though many of those channels are still key components to successful marketing strategies, social should play an equally significant role in the grand scheme of things. Given the number of consumers posting, blogging, tweeting, liking and sharing, the question for marketers is no longer, Should I use social? It’s, How do I use social to its full potential?
Social channels are inherently built for sharing and engagement, making them the perfect place to cultivate valuable business relationships. Integrating social into every marketing campaign you run can move you from a company-to-buyer marketing model to a peer-to-peer influence model. This not only builds trust and brand loyalty, but also positively impacts ROI.
Laying the Groundwork
It can be tempting to jump right in to all the social media sites out there and start posting away. However, before you publish that first nugget of social marketing content, you need to develop your plan.
As with any business plan, first form a set of goals and metrics to ensure that your time and energy is well spent. Building a social presence isn’t necessarily costly, but effective social programs do require significant time investments.
Build a team that is willing and able to dedicate adequate time to social media endeavors. Many marketers fall into the trap of thinking that social media campaigns can be dealt with on an ad hoc basis, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. You don’t want your company’s online personality to come across as erratic or disjointed, so create a policy that guides those who are participating in the social marketing effort and be sure those guidelines are enforced.
Once everyone is on board, encourage them to create engaging content. A good starting place is to ask your team members to answer some of the most frequently asked questions they receive on the various social channels. If everyone is a content creator, you’ll never be short of ideas.
Get Your Content Shared from Peer-to-Peer
Word-of-mouth is incredibly powerful and the “share” button on every social media channel allows you to tap into millions of different networks. One of the best ways to interact with your audience is by giving them content they genuinely want to share with their networks. Peer recommendation is extremely valuable because people believe their friends much more readily than a company or marketer.
There’s no magic formula that makes people share your post, but there are ways to incentivize people to share. Three popular methods are “Refer-a-friend,” “Social Sweepstakes,” and “Flash Deals.”
A “Refer-a-Friend” campaign promotes a compelling offer via email marketing and social networks, then grants access to special offers for both the referrers and those referred. Using these campaigns will allow you to gather important metrics, like tracking who the biggest influencers are.
A “Social Sweepstakes” campaign allows your entrants to spread the word on your behalf. Through the sweepstakes entry, you gain important user data like who is sharing and where they are sharing most.
Finally, a “Flash Deal” campaign is similar to Groupon. Flash deals offer a limited amount of deals for a specific time period through your social platforms. If you use these campaigns, be sure to let participants track the deal’s progress! These campaigns are fun and viral ways to spread brand awareness and boost new customer numbers with sharing.
Once you’ve created highly shareable content and have picked a type of campaign that promotes sharing, make sure your shares are measurable. Monitoring social share numbers is not only an easy way to tell what’s working and what’s not, but also allows you to see your ROI by showing how far your social reach is in relation to how much time and resources you’ve put in. Further, displaying share numbers and comments allows your audience to see what others think of your content and keeps your social marketing transparent.
Find the Right Social Tools
The good news is that there is a vast array of social platforms to choose from and so many different forms of content to use. The bad news? It can be hard to keep them straight.
To help you stay organized and effectively measure your social marketing to determine real business ROI, invest in social media management and monitoring tools such as Google Alerts and search functions, or enterprise level software like Viral Heat or Radian6. These services give you a more complete picture of what is being said about your brand over social channels. They can also conduct analysis of trends and keywords to give you an in-depth look at how people perceive and talk about your company. Once you hear what people are saying, you can engage them with relevant responses.
Social has evolved into much more than just a channel or tactic and should be an ever-present strategy in all aspects of your marketing. Ultimately, if you come up with a plan, encourage creative content, incorporate social marketing into every stage of your funnel, and measure your results, you’ll start to see your social efforts move the ROI needle in the right direction.
Social marketing is not a simple undertaking; you have to be dedicated every single day to maintaining a consistent, relevant, and engaging social marketing strategy. If you stick with it, you’ll develop a powerful new source of revenue that costs substantially less than traditional channels.