Social media is pretty cool, and it’s a place where people spend quite a bit of time. So, it’s natural for brands and businesses to see the marketing potential it represents and want to learn more about how they can use it to broaden their customer base or make sales.
But here’s the thing everyone should know: social media is NOT a marketing strategy. You can have a social media marketing strategy, but it should only be used as part of your overall marketing strategy. A social media strategy rarely stands on its own.
Social Media vs Social Media Marketing
The reason I say this is because social media is different from social media MARKETING. Many business owners and managers think social media marketing is pretty simple. After all, they’re on social media themselves, so they believe they can run their pages or profiles just as they do their personal accounts. While it’s true that personal social media and social media marketing share many of the same characteristics, social media marketing isn’t as easy as it sounds. Simply posting and getting the word out isn’t going to translate into an unending stream of new customers or leads.
The Key to Social Media Marketing Success
What many brands and businesses don’t realize is that their social media marketing efforts are only as good as the content they share. Think of it this way: on your personal social media accounts, you share pictures of kids and family, talk about adventures you’ve had, vacations you’ve taken, special occasions you’ve celebrated, and you share your opinions on issues, sports, and celebrities. This is all good content. Substantive content. Content your friends and acquaintances connect with.
You have to do the same thing with your business’s social media marketing, as well. You have to share good content. Engaging content. Content that conveys a positive or inspiring message about you and your brand.
Which means you have to plan out what you’re going to share. This is the most important part of your strategy. And, frankly, the toughest. Unlike you, your business isn’t going on vacations or celebrating relationship milestones or sharing opinions about politics. But, just like your personal accounts, you have to share content that evokes an emotion or offers insight. Content that educates, inspires, or in some way connects with your audience.
One of the best ways to get people interested in your brand is to simply invite them to be interested. Telling them about your business isn’t going to do it, no more than you if you started telling people about yourself on your own social profiles. Sharing original and relevant content is a great way to do it, but so is engaging your audiences directly.
Connecting With Your Audience Via Social Media
One collateral effect of the COVID pandemic was that it created a real desire for people to connect. As virus cases rose across the country and people became increasingly leery of getting together in groups or even small meetings, turning to social media was one way they could connect with other people. What many people discovered, though, is that a person’s personality can be amplified on social media, and if they’re talking about themselves constantly, people begin to tune out. The same goes for your business’ social media.
So, ask questions. Have contests. Run a poll. Ask people to take action. If people want to engage, let them! Help them engage! Be real, be authentic and have fun while you’re doing it!
Let’s say you’re Desperado Distillers, a craft distillery still recovering from the lockdown and facing increased uncertainty from state stores, bars, and restaurants as the weather gets colder. These are your primary means of distribution! Thankfully, you thought ahead, and you now sell bottles directly from your website, something you couldn’t do just a few months ago. Which message sounds better?
“You can now order our premium bourbon online. Visit us today to get yours!”
“The first 10 people to order a bottle of premium bourbon from our new online shop will receive a shooter of our unlabeled special reserve. #desperadodistillers”
While the first message is informative, the second one is engaging and beneficial. Offering a reward or prize is a great way to earn trust, engage new users, and sell products!
Eventually, though, you’re going to want to start to pull people into your world a little bit by sharing content about your distillery, but in a meaningful way, non-salesy way. Showing how your whiskey is aged, what the bottling process is like, and what makes your product different from others can help consumers develop a more sophisticated appreciation for fine spirits, thus allowing you to sell higher-end products. What you DO NOT want to do during this process is come off too salesy.
I subscribe to the 80-20 rule when it comes to social media marketing. Eighty percent of the content you create and share is content that educates, entertains, or engages your audience. Only 20 percent of what you share is geared toward sales or leads.
In our distillery example, you might want to drive home the sophisticated connoisseur concept by creating a special social media group just for whiskey aficionados. Maybe even a cigar group, since cigars and whiskey often go together. Other than the occasional special post reserved just for group members, you wouldn’t want to promote your brand too much. Don’t worry. The group itself will do that for you.
The idea, whether you’re a distillery or an accounting firm, is to use social media marketing to build an allegiance to and a following around your brand.
The Three Key Concepts to Social Media Marketing
When you’re first building your social media presence, there are three key concepts you want to keep in mind. The good news is we’ve already discussed the most important one—content! To be an effective conversation starter, your content has to educate, engage, or entertain.
The next most important concept to focus on is the voice and tone you use across your channels. Technically, that’s two items, but you really can’t discuss one without the other. Tone is the overall personality of your business. Are you formal? Casual? Business casual? Grunge? This general tone won’t change, but your voice will, depending on the platform you’re using at the time.
One way to think about it is the voice you use when you’re talking to your mother is very different than the voice you use when I’m talking to your kids. And both those voices are different from the one you use when I’m speaking to your significant other. You’re still the same person, and your personality is still the same with everyone. You’re just customizing your voice to your audience. You should do the same thing when posting from platform to platform. The voice you use on Instagram will naturally be different than the one you use on LinkedIn, which will of course be different from the one you use on Facebook. Different audiences, different voices.
The final concept is timing. Timing is everything in social media. You want to maintain a good cadence of content so that the flow is steady and not overwhelming. You don’t want to pound your audience with messaging, but you also don’t want to go for long periods without saying a word. You’ll also want to pay attention to your analytics to see when your audience is most active, so you can meet people where they are.
And meeting people where they are is what social media marketing is all about. Getting your accounts set up, adding pictures, and learning how to use the business tools are all important, but at the end of the day, meeting people where they are is why you’re there in the first place. Remember that.