As social media has evolved these past few years, I’ve seen smart social strategies and tactics generate tangible results for certain companies. I’ve also seen the opposite — companies jumping on the social media bandwagon with a haphazard approach, which brings little in terms of results.
What I’ve come to realize, however, especially since joining Right Source a couple of months ago, is that content and social media work in tandem. To me, content and social are like the peanut butter and jelly of marketing — they go together, and one isn’t nearly as good without the other.
According to the Content Marketing Institute’s (CMI) study B2B Content Marketing: 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America, B2B marketers are using social media at higher rates than ever before. This is great news, but with that finding, the very same study says LinkedIn is the only social media channel most marketers consider themselves effective at using.
The problem is, it’s hard to be effective without a plan. We see it in our work every day, and CMI’s study backs it up: Of those B2B marketers who consider themselves ineffective at content marketing, 84 percent have no documented strategy. Social media is no different. It can’t be an outlier, something that you try to execute in a silo. When thinking about social media, you have to start with your overall marketing strategy and business objectives, then build a solid content marketing strategy and, within that, a social media strategy.
The rules and guidelines on social media are still being written, so while creating a strategy is sound thinking, it’s easy to make mistakes. Here are six tips for nailing your social media strategy:
Don’t assume that you can execute just social media.
Don’t be confused and think that you can just run a social media campaign, or manage social media properties for that matter, and your job is done. Today, marketers need to integrate their efforts (and content) across a variety of platforms, including email, social, and web — all part and parcel of a content marketing strategy.
While content is king, distribution is queen. Push your remarkable content through multiple channels, and you’ll extend your reach and be one step closer to your marketing (and sales and business development) goals.
Don’t let the intern run your social media program.
While the college student might seem like a logical option to run your social media program (the younger they are, the more they know about social media, right?), think through the advantages and disadvantages before making that decision. You would NEVER hand any other important facet of your marketing strategy to a college kid, so why is it ok for social media? Is it that easy?
There are some required skills that your social media coordinator or manager should have, regardless of age. Here is the short list:
- Community mindset: Think of this person as your social media captain. Whomever you designate, make sure they have a community mindset. Remember, they have the ability to steer your company ship (and reputation) in a positive direction. They can also lead you to choppy waters.
- Writing proficiency: Even though social media posts with videos and images receive high click-through rates and engagement, the reality is there is still a lot of copy to be written for these updates. Knowing how to write an alluring headline and text that draws a reader in is not a skill that all writers possess.
- Tech savviness: As I mentioned earlier, new social media platforms are popping up left and right, along with tools to manage them. Familiarity and comfort with the latest technology and software is a prerequisite. Otherwise, it’s just not possible to do the job.
With these fixed and non-negotiable skills come a number of “nice-to-have” skills for the person managing your social media program:
- Ability to think visually: Jay Baer said, “A picture may not be worth 1,000 words, but it’s definitely worth 140 characters,” referring to the unique ability to paint a mental picture with 140 characters. It’s not as easy as it seems.
- Capable of crunching data: What good is it if you can’t think analytically and measure the results of your social media efforts? Not much. These days, there’s a lot of data that can be tracked, but you need to determine what data is most meaningful and how to act on it.
- Ability to act like a sponge: Yes, this means an ability to soak up as much information as possible, whether for best practices, lessons learned, or emerging trends related to marketing, content marketing, and social media, so that your organization doesn’t get left behind.
Don’t do social media because everyone else is doing it.
The social media bandwagon feels a bit like the website bandwagon in the 1990s. Back then, everyone was building corporate websites because it seemed like the “thing” to do if you had a business. That “thing” to do turned into an essential — nowadays, having a website is an absolute necessity to operating and growing a business. Participation in social media, however, is a different animal. Some of it is necessary. Other parts may not be a fit at all for your business.
You may discover that only a couple of the major social media properties make business sense for your company. That’s ok. Social media is not simply a means to an end — it is part of your content marketing strategy. Ask yourself: Is my audience even active on these channels? If most of your target audience is on Pinterest, then that may be the best option for your company. Social media (at least by itself) is not the be all, end all to marketing success, so always think beyond just one tactic and in terms of the bigger picture.
Don’t have a “build it and they will come” mentality.
I hope this isn’t your strategy for social media. Let’s be honest, just setting up these pages/accounts and leaving it at that isn’t the least bit strategic. Be patient — it will take some time to reach the folks who should be in your online communities. That being said, they may not value your posts right away, so stay consistent with your remarkable content and experiment with tactics to engage them. Social media is about being social, not just pushing out your messages. Learn more about this from our own Mike Sweeney, who wrote a great post on determining which marketing noise to block out (and what justifies your attention).
Don’t use social media (or expect it to serve) as a sales channel.
Are you constantly asking yourself why you have 500 likes (or maybe actually only 45 likes) on your Facebook page, yet you haven’t sold a single product that can be traced back to social media? Social media is NOT a sales channel. It’s an opportunity to build brand awareness and engage with your audience. Provide your followers with valuable content, and don’t make the all too common sales mistake on social media.
Don’t skip the research.
Take a trip back to your school days and do your research. Find out where you need to be on social media and what your presence there can do for you. A good place to start is this article from Business Insider, “Brand Presence: How To Choose Where To Be On Social Media,” which explains that brands do, in fact, need to be active on social media, but some platforms just aren’t ideal for certain types of brands.
Reviews of the top social media platforms and top 10 brands by annual revenue show that there isn’t always a close correlation between revenue and social media performance. So you don’t have to be a big player (in terms of revenue) to be able to have a big impact with social media. You just need to plan and choose your platform(s) wisely. Companies with tight budgets can still grow brand awareness and engage audiences with one or two carefully chosen platforms and a well-conceived strategy.
The United States ranks tenth among countries most engaged in social networking, clocking in an average of 7.6 hours a month. Israel, Argentina, Russia, and Turkey lead the pack with 10-plus hours a month. Clearly, people everywhere are spending considerable amounts of time on these platforms, meaning there’s an opportunity here you don’t want to miss.
Drill into social media, but don’t approach it as an isolated tactic. By itself, social media won’t build a brand or generate leads. With a sound strategy behind it and remarkable content, social media can be an integral part of your growth in 2014 — and the years ahead.
What’s in your social media strategy? Let me know in the comments below.
To find out more about how social media intersects with content marketing and SEO, download our eBook, “How to Grow Your Business with Content Marketing.”