Creating a Social Media Strategy
Social media is far more than just a channel for your marketing strategy. It is a forum of discussion between friends, family, and those with similar interests. It can’t be compared to television or radio where your audience is essentially captive and must view or listen to your ads. On social media, your ads and your message are competing against Uncle Jim’s funny e-cards and Sara’s new “It’s complicated” relationship status. In order to stand out from this riveting dialogue, you need to take social media on with a plan. And, like most plans, you need to start by identifying your goals.
What do you hope to accomplish with your social media presence?
Branding – If Google is the first place that people go to find your business online, Facebook is the second. Twitter is probably up there too. What is the impression that you want people to have of your business? The answer to this question has a massive impact on your social media strategy, from design to content to which sites you want to target.
Sales – With rare exceptions, the goal of most businesses is to make money, and money is made when you sell your products or services. Don’t lose sight of this when people start liking you, following you, repinning you, reblogging you, etc. These social interactions are good, but a sale is better.
So we’ve set our general goals. Next come objectives. How will you accomplish your goals?
Choosing your social media sites
We need to decide where to accomplish these goals. Which social sites should we focus our efforts on?
- Facebook – Facebook is kind of a big deal. It’s honestly difficult to think of a case where your social media strategy would not involve Facebook, but I suppose it is possible. I’d give you some demographic stats, but Facebook doesn’t really have a niche audience. It doesn’t matter where you live, how much you make, even how old you are; you are probably on Facebook.
- Twitter – 19% of adult Internet users are on Twitter, compared with Facebook’s 71%. Twitter is used by a more youthful crowd and most of its users are located in urban or suburban areas. Also worth mentioning, Twitter is especially popular with African-Americans.
- Instagram – Just behind Twitter in terms of usage, Instagram is popular with African-Americans and women. Also, like Twitter, Instagram is used mostly by a younger crowd and mainly by those living in urban or suburban areas.
- Pinterest – Pinterest actually has a slightly higher usage rate than Instagram and Twitter (21% of adult Internet users). It is much more popular with females than males, and tends to be more popular with affluent and highly educated individuals.
- LinkedIn – Unlike most social media sites, LinkedIn is popular amongst an older demographic. Users tend to be more affluent and live in urban or suburban areas. LinkedIn is slightly more popular with men.
- Tumblr – The Yahoo-owned social network is somewhat of a hybrid between a blogging site and a traditional social network. Users can create posts of text, images, video, links, and GIFs and comment on or “reblog” content from other Tumblr blogs. Tumblr has a very young user base and the highest engagement rates of any of the major social networks.
Sources: Pew Research Center’s Internet Project August Tracking Survey
Business Insider – Tumblr Offers Advertisers A Major Advantage: Young Users, Who Spend Tons Of Time On The Site
Of course, there are plenty of other social media sites out there, but those are the heavy hitters. Picking the social networks to focus on begins and ends with figuring out which site(s) your target audience uses. It does not matter how well your brand might represent itself on Instagram if none of your customers or potential customers use it. Aside from the study referenced above, there are plenty of sources of demographic data about different social media sites that you can refer to. You can (and should) also just ask your customers which sites they like to use.
Once you have settled on your sites, it is time to achieve the perception that you want for your business. Your brand is made up of several aspects, some which overlap, but I will break them down as best as I can.
The level of customizability that you have on social media sites is usually rather limited, but you have to work with what they give you. Make sure that your heavily featured images (logos, header images, backgrounds, etc.) reflect your brand attributes. Be creative when possible.
There are two goals with the content you produce: growing your social media presence and selling to your audience. We’ll concentrate on selling later.
The content that you produce on social media sites is your opportunity to get more exposure. Having someone “Share” your Facebook post means that people who have no connection to your Facebook page will now see your post. Your goal is to create content that will be shared so that you can increase your reach.
That being said, keep your content relevant to your business. Just because you saw a funny meme does not mean that it belongs on your Facebook page. You know what your brand attributes are and what is relevant to your business. Stay within this scope to maintain a consistent brand image.
Social media is informal by nature. In some ways, it is the evolution of AOL Instant Messenger and all of its “how r u” diction. This does not mean that you should start abbreviating everything. In fact, if you are trying to represent a professional business, you probably shouldn’t. But you should loosen up at least a little bit. The general tone of social media is relaxed, so don’t work against the grain.
This is by far the hardest part. Social media users are allergic to marketing. They can smell it from a mile away. How do you get through this barrier? Provide value. Not just in your products and services. As I mentioned above, you want to give people a reason to share your social media content, but not only because it increases your exposure. If you create valuable content, people will appreciate it. And when occasionally, you mix in a post about a product or service, it won’t be nearly as unpalatable because your audience will remember all the valuable posts that you have provided. That’s part of it too. Every time you are thinking of creating a “selling” post, ask yourself how many “value” posts you have provided to your audience lately. The better your ratio is looking, the better your “selling” posts will perform.
You have chosen your sites and figured out your branding and selling strategies. So you created your social pages, added all of your artwork, and you’re ready to start pumping out valuable content when you realize, “I have 0 Likes.” How do you get started at building a social following?
If you want to grow organically (as opposed to going the paid route and using ads to build your fan base), you need to be active, both online and offline. Online, you should be doing what you can to get the word out about your new social page. Include it in your next e-blast, feature it prominently on your website, and be active on the social site. Find existing pages where you could add value to the conversation and jump in. Follow the people that you want to follow you. It can be slow at first, but the more effort you put in, the more you will get out.
In your offline efforts, you can achieve results by incentivizing people to participate. Offer people freebies if they Like (or follow you, or whatever the terminology is on that social site, but we’ll just use Like to keep it simple) your page or check in at your location. For medical practices, hang posters in your waiting areas encouraging your patients to like the pages. You could even have iPads set up where people can log in and Like your page. Be creative!
Social media is becoming more important with each passing year. While more people are creating Facebook pages for their businesses (and Instagrams, and Pinterest accounts, and Twitter accounts, etc.), very few are implementing coherent strategies on these sites. Your social pages are an interdependent piece of your larger marketing and branding plan and treating them as such will go a long way in creating a successful social media presence.
Need help creating and implementing your social media strategy? Give us a call at 973.998.8008. Or shoot us a message on Facebook. Or Google+. Or LinkedIn. Or Twitter. You could also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Whatever works best for you.