Making the best use of social media has never been more vital for doing business. Yet, many marketers and executives still view social media as something akin to alchemy, a seemingly random collection of status updates and hashtags that are somehow supposed to result in increased sales. If not approached systematically, and with an understanding of the principles and best practices of social media engagement, those same companies often see lackluster results from their efforts.
Don’t make that same mistake. Simply by applying a few advanced strategies, your company’s social media presence can generate brand awareness, grow conversions, and vastly expand the sales funnel at a fraction of the normal marketing cost. To see those results, it helps to have a few pointers.
Here are 17 tips for making your social media presence spectacular.
1. Use the right platform: There are businesses that thrive on platforms like Pinterest, selling the ideas of lifestyle or luxury through rich, evocative images of clothes, furniture, and gourmet food. If you sell auto parts, however, it might not be the platform for you. At the same time, you might see a huge response to your posts on Twitter or YouTube. Put your effort into the platform that’s right for your market.
2. Love your analytics: As a rule, marketers aren’t data geeks. Digging into the deep data of an analytics dashboard doesn’t come naturally, particularly when that data represents some fairly abstract relationships. But the more you understand the story your analytics are telling you, the better equipped you are to reach your audience, grow your numbers, and increase conversions.
3. Build the right dashboards: To make the most of your data, make sure you have instant access to the most relevant metrics. Many dashboard systems display only a default set of data that doesn’t tell you much about your specific goals, and many need to be integrated with a CRM to be truly useful for conversion data. A little investment in setting up a custom dashboard can create huge insights for overall social media performance.
4. Create timely content: Content is still king in social media. The more consistent and relevant your content is to your followers, the more likely it is to have a measurable impact. Simply by creating an editorial calendar and keeping track of what your market is talking about, you can keep a supply of fresh, interesting content flowing.
5. Engage your followers: Effective social media is all about creating meaningful interaction. This means following the conversations in your market, staying on top of the relevant trends and providing content that your users will find interesting, insightful, or useful. Don’t just blast out ads to them, offer them genuine reasons to pay attention to your social media updates.
6. Leverage a variety of post types: Most social media platforms have three basic post types: status updates, photos and video, and links to other content. Each of these tend to be effective on different groups of followers. Keep your content varied, and then use your dashboard to track how effective each type is on each platform.
7. Everything should be shareable: In order to see real results through social media, your content has to have the ability to take on a life of its own. Truly viral content passes through dozens of users, almost always obscuring the original source. Create your content so that it can reach new followers and customers, even if the original context is lost.
8. Offer exclusive social media content: If you have a robust marketing plan in place, it’s all too easy to let your social media content simply echo those efforts. If there’s nothing special about following your business on Twitter or Facebook, what’s the customers motivation to bother? Exclusive content doesn’t need to be a full marketing campaign, it can simply be new information or person-to-person interactions.
9. Understand the job: Many companies treat managing social media as an afterthought, and simply assign it to the marketing department with no clear goals and little support. To properly manage a social media presence, however, it takes a highly specific skill set that bridges an understanding of marketing with a certain level of technical competence. Outlining what that job is, the tools and best practices, and the objectives and goals to meet is vital to long-term success.
10. Focus on what works, drop what doesn’t: In measuring the performance of your campaigns on a variety of social media platforms, you will likely find that some channels vastly outperform others. This is particularly important when tracking ROI, where a dollar spent on leveraging a Vine account yield ten times the conversions of a dollar spent on Instagram. If a channel isn’t working, drop it and focus on the ones that are. Revisit failed channels only when you have a new strategy, or understand exactly what wasn’t working.
11. Participate in the community: Remember that social media, by definition, is a two-way communication. No one likes being advertised at constantly, and social media campaigns that read the platforms as a broadcast medium are rarely successful. Follow the trending hashtags in your market, reply to customer questions and complaints, and interact with community influencers and followers.
12. Don’t feed the trolls: Some people on social media are only in it for the “lulz,” getting validation and attention by being as annoying, insulting, and distracting as possible. Any brand can run afoul of internet trolls, and it rarely has much to do with the company, the product, or the marketing strategy. Once a troll sees they’re getting a reaction, it’s like blood in the water, summoning other trolls to the scene. Respond professionally when you engage them, and feel free to delete their posts and ignore them if called for. Whatever you do, don’t let them get under your skin.
13. Social media isn’t a sales platform: A properly arranged social media strategy can serve as a great sales funnel, but social media itself isn’t about sales. It’s more about growing awareness for your company or brand, much like a booth at a trade show. Social media is about showing the world you’re open for business, not trying to sell something to everyone who wanders by.
14. Optimize your profiles: It’s a given that every company should have a completed profile on every social media platform, but completed isn’t the same thing as optimized. Just like some websites perform better due to seemingly minor UI and design tweaks, some social media profiles can see huge boosts from tiny changes. Even something as minor as changing a background color or putting a subtle call-to-action on the profile summary can yield huge results.
15. Keep it conversational, but professional: When you’re trying to engage a large group of mostly unknown followers, finding the right tone is a delicate balance. If the writing and content is too informal, it can make your company seem unprofessional. On the other hand, a very formal voice can seem very uptight in the grammar-challenged, text speak of platforms like Twitter. Your tone should be business casual: relaxed, but still completely presentable.
16. Integrate social media data into other reports: How many prospects came to you through your social media channels? How many of those resulted in conversions, even if the sale happened through the traditional sales process? What was the average dollar amount of a social media sale versus a traditional marketing one? What was the acquisition cost per customer, and how does it compare to other marketing? Having this data in hand will greatly clarify the value of your social media efforts.
17. Know your ROI: This is the big one. Pull together every piece of data you can, making sure to include every lead touched by social media, every customer complaint responded to, and every cost savings from reaching 20,000 people per day rather than buying ad blocks. Know social media’s impact on your sales funnel, on your customer service costs, and to your other marketing efforts. Automate this reporting to the greatest extent possible, showing the ROI in cold, hard numbers. The more value you can demonstrate, the more likely it is that your social media efforts will be given more support going forward.
By making these concepts part of your social media strategy, you’ll be building a framework that can survive the fickle trends of the tech world. It won’t matter if Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and the rest are still around in five years, and it won’t matter what they’ve been replaced by. What will matter is the structure your business uses to engage its followers, grow its reach and prove the value of its social media investments.