Most businesses now acknowledge that social media can be a powerful tool and so should you. If you’re not already using social media to promote your business or at least drawing up a plan for social media marketing, you’re seriously falling behind. Various brands are already benefitting from such platforms as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. Why wait? Start increasing brand awareness and generating new leads through social media as well.
The rise of social media as a powerful online marketing tool is one case where it’s actually a good thing to be forced into using new technology. And the good news is that even if you started late in the game, there’s still a good chance for you to win big, provided you do things right.
Now here’s one thing about social media marketing you should be warned about: More businesses are failing at it than succeeding. Why? Well, the biggest reason could be that while they recognize the power of social media as a marketing tool, they haven’t clearly defined what they want to achieve with their social media efforts. As with anything else that involves marketing, setting clear goals is one of the most important first steps to ensure success in social media.
What Social Media Can Do
Perhaps the best way for you to start defining your social media goals is to find out exactly what social platforms can do for your business. Once you learn the specific benefits you can get from social media marketing, it should be a lot easier to identify the things you want to achieve with each social media campaign you launch.
Improve Brand Recognition and Loyalty
According to Experian Marketing Services, 27% of the time people spend online is spent on social networking sites. This means social media gives you a wonderful opportunity to introduce your brand to millions of people at once. It also allows you to promote your brand and sell your products/services to millions of people with minimal time, effort, and resources needed. Who wouldn’t want to take advantage of such opportunities?
Furthermore, social media enables you to reach out to your target market, ask them what they need, and directly address those needs. This improves your chance of gaining your customers’ loyalty. When people see how well you deal with queries and complaints, they’re bound to stick with your brand and maybe even recommend your brand to others.
Increase Conversion Opportunities
When you do things right on social media, you can successfully drive your audience where you want to with each post, and you can successfully get them to take the action you want them to take. You could, for example, establish strong relationships with industry influencers. When you social media audience sees that influencers trust you, they’ll be more likely to trust you as well, and it will be a lot easier to get them to go where you point them to – your website home page, your latest product offering, a news article about your brand, etc.
Once you’ve gained this kind of trust from your social media audience, you can easily get them to complete the purchase cycle, thereby increasing sales and conversion rates at the same time. And social media being the “modern word-of-mouth”, your loyal customers can drive even more conversions for you.
Reduce Marketing Cost
As mentioned earlier, social media allows you to introduce and market your brand to millions of people at once. This means you make considerably less effort than you would if your advertised your business to the same number of people in the traditional way. It also means considerably less time and money is needed to promote and market your products via social media as compared to promoting and marketing them offline.
In fact, many businesses have started reducing their offline marketing efforts and are now focusing mainly on Internet marketing. Needless to say, social media marketing is a huge part of their online marketing efforts. Think about it: Who would want to spend hours looking through newspapers and magazines for information that can easily be searched and found online?
Improve Search Rankings
The term “search engine optimization (SEO)” may sound too technical, but it isn’t really something you should fear. The things you can do to improve your SEO performance can be as easy as establishing a strong social media presence. Note that having strong social media presence doesn’t mean managing as many social accounts as you can. In fact, “less is more” is often true in social media marketing.
Establishing a strong social media presence can help you climb to the top of SERP rankings.
The key to establishing a strong presence on social media is to constantly engage your audience in meaningful conversations. This can be done by regularly posting relevant and interesting content as well as by responding to comments and queries in a timely manner. Doing so will get people talking about you, liking your pages, and sharing your content. These are all strong social signals that bring you to the top of search results. Online marketers have yet to explain exactly how or why social signals drive rankings; what’s important is that they do.
Gain Valuable Customer Insights
There’s a reason it’s called social media. The nature of the interactions that happen on social networking sites is, of course, predominantly social. This is why it’s the perfect platform for you to gain valuable insights into your target market. On social media, you get to learn not only the demographics of your ideal customers, but also their needs, their preferences, their major stressors, their purchase behaviors, and a lot more.
People practically bare their entire lives on social media. If you’re shrewd enough, you’ll know exactly how to get them where you want them. People also aren’t afraid to provide instant feedback on social media. If you’re smart enough, you’ll know how to use this to your advantage.
Using Social Media Effectively
Now you know what social media can do for your business. It should be a lot easier to define your social media marketing goals. The next step should be for you to make sure you don’t waste your time and money. Here are a few tips on how to use social media effectively:
- Start slow. You don’t need to be on every social platform and you don’t have to do everything at once. Pick two or three platforms that you feel are the best tools to use for achieving the goals you’ve set, and then map out a strategy for each platform you choose.
- Start conversations. One of the keys to success in social media is to listen more than you speak. This is why it is often advisable to start out by opening lines of communication and asking your target audience what they need, instead of immediately bombarding them with content they may not even appreciate. You’ll know which topics are relevant to your audience only by paying attention to their stated and implied needs.
- Post/share relevant content. Since you’ve already engaged in meaningful conversations with your audience, you should now have an idea as to what topics they’re interested in knowing more about. Just because you sell shoes doesn’t necessarily mean your social media audience is interested in learning about the latest shoe design. Perhaps they’re more interested to learn about which type of footwear works best for certain activities. Talk about what they want to discuss, not what you think is interesting.
- Be friendly and helpful. When people post positive comments on your social pages, thank them. When they post questions, answer directly and politely. When they post complaints, address the issue in an honest and professional manner. This helps ensure a good experience for your audience. And when people get a good experience from a brand, they’re likely to become that brand’s advocates. What better way to grow your business than to get free endorsements?
- Schedule your posts. You should post frequently enough so your audience won’t forget you exist, but not too often that you overwhelm them. Too many posts can be seen as spam, and everybody hates spammers. Two fresh posts each week should do the trick. You can spend the rest of the time conversing with your audience; that’s something they’re more likely to appreciate.
There are so many ways social media can help your business. What’s important is for you to start using it to your advantage as soon as possible and be smart about its use. Don’t treat it as just another advertising channel, where you do nothing but bombard people with press releases and sales pitches. Remember to engage, rather than broadcast to your audience.
Above all, be patient. No matter how well-planned and well-executed your campaign is, you won’t see significant results overnight. It takes times to build an online community, earn people’s trust, and win their loyalty. The good news is that the time you spend and the effort you make will be well worth it when you do start reaping the benefits. Social media marketing is currently among the online activities that offer the highest ROIs. Can you really afford not to use it?