Social media has taken the marketing world by storm, significantly reducing traditional advertising costs and increasing customer engagement in only a few years.
It’s a constantly evolving space, with new platforms being developed and delivery methods jostling for popularity (e.g. visual content’s increasing ascendency over written content).
Despite this evolving landscape, there are some ‘golden rules’ that continue to ring true for social media marketers and which you can follow to help increase your business value.
1. Choose your platform
Each social media platform attracts different demographics and serves different purposes.
LinkedIn, for example, is a professional networking and B2B site and its users are skewed towards college graduates and higher income earners. Pinterest, meanwhile, is a network where users visually share their interests and is dominated by women under the age of 30.
To ensure your social media budget and time are used most effectively, consider the demographics of your target market and determine which platform or platforms will best reach them.
2. Have a plan
Once you have selected which platform or platforms to use, make a medium-term plan as to how you will utilise the platform. This plan needs to be based on the targets and objectives of the business. Remember – this is part of your business plan, not a separate concept!
Plan out campaigns, promotions and content to share and when it will be shared.
Make sure the plan is flexible; it will evolve based on how users respond to your online presence. For example, if you post two blogs on different topics and the first attracts 500 readers while the second attracts five, you may decide to alter your plan to focus future content creation on the more popular topic.
(We have found our audience lets us know what is most relevant to them – make sure you ‘listen’!)
3. Keep it active
When first using social media for marketing, it can be easy to fall into the trap of inundating a page with posts for the first week or so, then losing momentum and leaving a page untouched.
This is not an effective strategy as your posts will quickly become ‘lost in the noise’ of the internet if you’re not there, constantly reminding your customers of your presence.
It may seem onerous to post and publish so regularly, but most platforms have the ability to schedule posts. This means you can sit down once a week, plan all posts for the following week and schedule them to be published over that timeframe.
4. Don’t ignore negative comments
Social media presents an opportunity to engage in dialogue with your customers to gain valuable feedback on what you are offering. It’s almost inevitable that some of this feedback will be negative.
Rather than blocking or removing this feedback, a negative comment provides the opportunity to resolve any problems or improve your product/service in a public forum. This shows customers you are willing to take their feedback on board.
Australian supermarket chains Coles and Woolworths use Twitter as an effective method for customers to make complaints to head office and have them resolved in a public forum.
5. Don’t push the sale
Social media marketing is about nurturing existing customer relationships and having potential customers get to ‘know, like and trust’ you – it’s not about selling.
Consumers view Twitter and Facebook as social tools, not marketing machines. Therefore you need to treat them like social tools, too.
For example, US-based Pine Street Inn is a not-for-profit that avoids using social media to ask for donations. Instead they focus their content on volunteer involvement and good news stories that come out of their organisation.
Another example is Canberra Cat Vet whose Facebook page is updated most days. Their page is full of funny cat memes, cats up for adoption and clinic updates; in fact it is very difficult to find any sales posts in their news feed.
Just like other marketing strategies, social media marketing is a key element in enhancing the value of your business by developing interest in your business’ products and services.
If you would like advice on managing or developing a social media marketing strategy, contact the business advisory team at JPAbusiness for a confidential, obligation-free discussion.
James Price has over 30 years' experience in providing strategic, commercial and financial advice to Australian and international business clients. James' blogs provide business advice for aspiring and current small to mid-sized business owners, operators and managers.