Social media can be both a gold mine and a nightmare for businesses.
Just a hundred years ago, the playing field was completely level, with nearly all companies being of the brick and mortar variety.
In the past century, we've seen technological advances in radio, television, and Internet that have paved new roads for business marketing.
While telemarketing, print advertising, and direct mail still have their place, social media marketing can help launch your brand and customer base in a powerful way.
Getting started with social media platforms can be a challenge if you don't have any previous experience or insight.
Here are the fundamentals of finding your business' social audience through various popular online platforms.
Understand Your Target Audience
Regardless of who your customers are, you can rightly assume that a majority of them are online and on social media.
According to the latest statistics, in a world of 7.3 billion people, 31percent are active social media users and 65 percent of American adults are active on social media. Before you jump online and start posting videos and status updates, however, it's important that you take some time to thoroughly define your target audience.
Do you currently have a profile of your target market? Many businesses don't. Developing a clear and concise understanding of your target audience is the first step in successful social media marketing.
Make a list of six to eight identifiers of your typical customers (male/female, age, geographic location, education, occupation, hobbies, economic status). Beyond this, list potential motivators that customers may have for purchasing your products or services.
Are they bargain shoppers or people searching for a specialty item? Do your clients typically buy online or do they come into a physical location? If you aren't sure about the answers to some of these questions, study a competitor's data for some insights.
Perform Keyword Research
If you have a website or a blog, you've probably (hopefully) done some keyword research for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) purposes.
Targeting certain keyword phrases ideally puts your website in front of the people who are looking for your particular products and services. Those same keyword phrases, along with that buyer persona that you've put together, can also help you maximize your social media impact in several ways. Having a list of relevant keywords can both help you find your audience on social media sites and give you ideas for interesting content.
For example, if you've determined that your customers are interested in budget travel opportunities, and you own a lodge in Vermont, you may want to add such phrases as "cheap rooms Vermont" and "hotel discounts Vermont" to your list.
There are several ways to do keyword research for social media marketing. Facebook is continuing to upgrade their search engine and now has a more powerful search tool for users. You can search public posts for up to the minute information on any search phrase, which can help you determine popular topics as well as who is interested in them.
Likewise, Twitter can be searched through their advanced search function, or you can track the top trending stories on a site such as Hashtags.org. You'll also want to take a look at the topics that your competitors choose to cover, paying the closest attention to the ones that get the most engagement, such as likes, comments, and shares.
If there are topics with a lot of comments, this is solid gold information about your target audience and often rich with target keywords for future focus.
Choose and Establish Social Media Profiles
Obviously, not all social media platforms are created equal, and many companies mistakenly believe that they should simply start with Facebook because it is the largest. This isn't always the case as B2B businesses have found that Facebook targeting doesn't provide as healthy returns as some other social media sites. However, if you're marketing directly to consumers (B2C), Facebook could be an excellent choice.
Here are some useful stats on some of the top social networks.
- As of January 2016, Facebook has 1.55 billion active monthly users. The site now has more than 40 million active small business pages. According to eMarketer, more than 85 percent of U.S. companies with 100 or more employees are using Facebook for marketing.
- Twitter has 320 million active users, yet half a billion people visit the network each month without logging in. eMarketer's survey reports that more than 67 percent of U.S. companies with 100 or more employees are using Twitter.
- Instagram is one of the fastest growing social networks, now with over 400 million active monthly users. 90 percent of Instagram users are under the age of 35, and 32 percent of U.S. teens cite Instagram as their favorite social network. eMarketer's latest survey reported that 48.6 percent of marketers were expecting to use Instagram in 2016, up from 32 percent last year.
- Pinterest has 100 million active users, many of whom are women interested in such things as fashion, beauty, fitness, food, and home decor.
- LinkedIn also has 100 million active users, who are professionals in their field and are looking to network. 39 percent of LinkedIn users pay for premium accounts, and more than 25 million profiles are viewed on the site daily.
What these numbers mean to your business?
Based on your target market and these social media profiles, you should be able to determine what the best online platforms would be to begin your efforts.
For example, if you are marketing to a younger audience, you'll want to concentrate your efforts on such sites as Instagram, Facebook, and possibly Twitter (check out Snapchat marketing as well). If your target audience is primarily women, Pinterest and Facebook might be better choices.
Finally, if doing B2B marketing, LinkedIn and Twitter usually provide the best returns. It's important to remember that every audience is different and what works for one company may not work for another. Also, it's never a good idea to put all of your social media marketing eggs in one basket. Be sure to spread the love amongst several networks.
Engage Your New Audience on Social Media
Most companies fail to understand that successful social media marketing is built on relationships, which takes a degree of patience as well as time to nurture.
Here are three simply strategies for building and engaging with your new social audience.
- Find and engage with industry influencers on each social media platform. Use tools like Followerwonk and Traackr and to identify and track influencers in your field. Engage in conversations with them. Do not try to steal their clients through self-promotion. Rather, comment and provide your viewpoints on their posts. With persistence, you will be noticed and appreciated as a new industry influencer and build your own following.
- Post your own engaging and relevant content on a consistent basis. Your followers will come to expect it and will begin sharing it with their audiences on various social media sites. Your content should always add value to the conversation, and you'll want to continue to participate in the online discussion as you obtain feedback.
- Social media is a two-way street, so it's wonderful that you post content, but you must also remain accessible and responsive. As this can be time-consuming, enlist your employees and even a few ecstatic customers to be social media ambassadors on your behalf, posting answers to questions, product and service reviews, and addressing potential concerns.
When you follow these steps, you'll be sure to find success in locating and engaging your target audience on social media.
In today's connected world, a business without a social media marketing strategy is foregoing profits and leaving customer choice up to chance. Leveraging social media is one of the best ways to reach and engage both existing and potential clients, allowing for a business' continued growth.