Social media marketing is confusing. There are so many options, so many experts – and they all say something different.
On top of that, the social media sites keep changing their formats, packages, advertising options and reporting. As a result, you might feel something like the Cowardly Lion on his way to Oz – with no yellow brick road to lead the way.
The good news: It’s not hard to simplify your approach and make sure it generates the results you expect in order to justify your investment in social media marketing.
The first and most important aspect of navigating social media is NOT treating it as a single, stand-alone tactic. Unfortunately, this is a common mistake among business owners, CEOs and even some marketing people. Actually, it's a reoccurring mistake across marketing tactics. Today, you can't have an SEO expert, PR expert, social expert, email expert and web guy all working in silos. Each of these tactics must be tightly integrated, with a common thread weaving them all together.
This is where inbound marketing provides structure. Social media becomes a vehicle for distributing content created, posted, shared, optimized and leveraged across your sales effort. When you develop a highly integrated inbound marketing program, social media finds its place perfectly and becomes much more manageable as part of the overall program.
Next: It’s not necessary to feel overwhelmed, nor is it imperative to tackle all of the social media sites at once. In fact, we’ve found more success by focusing on one or two highly relevant sites than by trying to engage people on all of them at the same time. If your business deals primarily with consumers, Facebook is likely to be your go-to avenue. If your business deals primarily with other businesses, you're probably going to focus on LinkedIn.
If you’re feeling aggressive, Twitter is likely to be your second option, regardless of your prospect’s persona. Twitter is an amazing distribution channel for information, and it reaches people quickly, cuts through the clutter and encourages engagement (retweeting and favoring). Along the same lines, Google+ is in this category as a very important secondary site. Google+ has long been rumored to have significant connections to both search results and site authority, two very important marketing tactics to consider when working on your social media plan.
Since search engine optimization graduated from a “do SEO” activity to an “include SEO elements in everything you do" approach, Google+ has elevated its importance. Today, it’s hard to consider your social media marketing complete without an active Google+ page. Companies with video have been leaning on Google+ heavily, and considering the site's ownership interest in YouTube, this makes sense. Google+ is one of the fastest-growing social media sites – one that can no longer be ignored.
The remaining sites should be feathered in where they make sense. Pinterest is perfect if you have a highly visual site that appeals to women. Instagram is the kind of social media site that we typically describe as an accelerator. If you have picture content to get out to a large audience of millennials at once, Instagram delivers that type of distribution. Flickr provides similar services to a slightly older audience. Both sites report over 80 million users, so the reach is significant.
Perhaps the most important element of strong social media marketing that drives leads is not the "where," but rather the "what." What are you publishing on those sites? What content are you using? Is it in the right format? Is it tailored to the right people? These are critical components of a well-thought-out social media marketing plan. The more controversial, contrarian, thought-provoking, funny, visually interesting and unique the content is, the better these sites are going to perform. Publishing boring content on social media is like standing in Times Square and reciting the alphabet: You might get a few glances, but no one wants to talk to you.
Finally, you need to have some way to measure performance. Simply implementing the plan isn’t enough. You need to know if it's working. Typically, there are three major metrics for social media marketing: reach, traffic and lead generation. All are easy to track. Begin by looking at the reach across your current social media sites. Just add up all your friends, followers, connections, etc., to get what we call the total available audience, or the total number of people who hear your story when you publish it.
Then set some goals. What increases do you expect to gain from social media marketing? Do you expect the total available audience to go up by 10% each month? 20%? Both are reasonable if you put the energy and money into engaging with your audience. But don’t expect it to just happen magically. If you’re not doing anything, it’s not growing. Remember: You can't simply post; you have to engage in conversation, ask questions, be controversial.
If you’re doing it right, you should expect new visitors to your website – and leads, too. If you’re getting reach but not visitors, you might not be using the right assets in your social media promotion. One of the major advantages of promoting content such as whitepapers, videos, infographics, e-books and podcasts on social media is that it's not salesy. People enjoy it and learn from it, so they want to share it. When your content is shared, prospects end up on your website, which is when they have an opportunity to convert from a visitor into a lead for your sales team.
Social media isn’t complicated, but it does take planning, active management, thought and a connection with many of your other inbound marketing tactics. Once you get everything connected, sequenced and organized, it all works together beautifully to help your company grow.
Start Today Tip – Take a long, hard look at your company’s social media presence. Is it incomplete? Is it generating leads? Are your fans increasing month over month? If the answers to these questions aren’t positive, you need to make some adjustments. Once you do, your results are going to improve, you're going to realize your marketing ROI and, perhaps most important, your prospects are going to see your company as more progressive and more connected to their world.
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