by: Thomas Young
Many millions of words and hundreds of books have been published on social media. Not a day goes by that a major media outlet is not discussing social media issues and events. The purpose of this chapter is to help business owners and leaders understand the strategy behind the use of social media as a strategic digital marketing channel. This chapter is not about the basics of social media or how business leaders should post on Facebook, or on other social media sites. Understanding social media strategy is important so that business leaders can provide the right direction to their sales and marketing teams.
No Quick Fix with Social Media
You will be disappointed in social media if you are looking for a quick fix or fast return. It takes time to build interest and followers. Without a loyal following, social media efforts can get very few results. Social media cannot stand on its own as an effective marketing channel. It is part of a comprehensive strategic digital marketing plan, content strategy and traffic generation program. Social media can be a very effective content channel to communicate your business strategy.
Welcome to the “Internets”
George W. Bush’s famous line during his debate with John Kerry about the “Internets” has some truth to it. Social media websites like Facebook and LinkedIn have so many users these sites can easily be considered Internets within the Internet!
Your company’s presence on a social media website starts with your company page, which is really another website for your company within the social media website. These social media company pages, or sites, should follow the same strategy as your company website. The design and content should complement your current website.
Social Media and Content Marketing
For most companies, the primary use of social media is content distribution to attract attention and drive website visits. Make sure all your blog posts are distributed through the major social media channels listed below. At a minimum, have a presence and post content on these websites:
There are many more social media sites, but these are currently the most important for content to reach the right readers and for SEO purposes. Also, stay on top of the news so you are not caught by surprise when a social media website takes off or disappears.
Google and Social Media
Google appreciates and rewards content activity in social media, especially the big three social media sites, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+. Google is rewarding companies that establish themselves as content authorities on various subjects with higher placement in search results. This happens over time as you place content online and collect readers in social media websites and through your blog. Look to Google+ as a growing resource in this area and to build your credibility as an author with Google with excellent content all coded for SEO. Also, links to your website from popular social media sites are useful and can’t hurt placement in Google search results.
How Much Time Should be Spent on Social Media?
Think of social media as a content and sales tool bringing a return based on the effort put into it. The amount of social media your company needs depends upon your strategic digital marketing goals, sales targets and how you are using other strategic digital marketing tools. Your strategic digital marketing plan should estimate the amount of social media needed based on marketing priorities and your expected return. For most companies, weekly activity and content postings are enough to stay visible and drive traffic. It is important to make sure your company website is in alignment with your strategic digital marketing strategy before you spend considerable time on social media sites.
A Complement to Marketing and Sales Efforts
The best use of social media is as a complement to your current sales and marketing efforts. Don’t expect too much, but stay active enough to have a presence. Your presence in social media over time will assist in driving traffic to your website, provide content to a wide range of readers and support your brand. Finds ways to use social media as a support to what you already do well in sales and marketing.
Social Media and Selling
Social media websites are very effective selling and prospecting tools, especially LinkedIn. The key is to take part in the conversation, join groups, meet people and network. All the rules of effective selling apply to interactions in social media, but with a much larger prospective audience. Results come when your target market gravitates to the value you provide and become followers, readers and distributers of your content. Your sales team can reach out to these prospects as sales leads.
Remember, your content is very transparent on social media sites. If you are just looking to sell and promote your company, your results will be poor. If you are looking to add value and help others, you can expect a great return.
Social Media and Customer Service Support
For larger companies, social media has also become a support to customer service. Businesses are watching conversions on social media to help them better service their target market. There are many online tools to help track this content. Because there are not usually enough conversations happening on the social media sites of smaller and medium sized companies, their challenge is to start the conversation to attract attention. This happens when you post valuable content. Don’t get too caught up on inappropriate negative content in social media. Focus on adding value and providing a great service or product and look for positive feedback as a result.
Results are Difficult to Measure
Social media results are difficult to measure because most people only read social media posts and do not interact. They may also find out about your company on social media, yet search for your website in Google. This is why social media stats can be misleading and social media marketing must be seen as a support to SEO efforts and content marketing. You can measure direct traffic to your website from social media in Google Analytics, and social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn offer the ability to place ads on their sites and offer basic stats programs to review activity from visitors.
Don’t get caught up in social media hype. Be careful to accurately judge the potential of social media for your business and the potential results. Develop a plan based on content marketing and stick to it over the long term. Understand how your target market uses social media and cover the basics as part of your overall strategic digital marketing efforts. These steps are the key to a winning formula in social media marketing.
- Include social media in your strategic digital marketing and content marketing plan.
- Develop a company home page for LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and other social media sites as needed for your business.
- Track referrals from social media sites to your company website and the number of likes and followers.
- Post content weekly to social media sites and link it back to your website.
- Post your website blog posts to major social media sites.
- Use various forms of content, such as video, photography and other media.
- Determine your areas of content expertise and work toward being an online content authority on those subjects. Use social media as an outlet for that content.
- As a business leader, visit your company’s social media sites on a regular basis to monitor the activity and stay relevant to your content marketing themes.
- Keep track of major changes in social media and how the most popular social media sites are used by your target market.
Thomas Young is the CEO and founder of Intuitive Websites. He is an author, speaker and digital marketing consultant. Order Tom’s book “Winning the Website War” to get more digital marketing insights.