Social Media Marketing: 10 Steps to Success
Building strong brands is the essence of marketing. If you want to build a strong brand in today’s digital world, your marketing mix is bound to include social media.
But are you using social media the right way, or are you just wasting time? That’s a legitimate concern for a lot of people, especially those who are growing their own businesses. You want to do things that get results; things that affect the bottom-line.
The purpose of this guide is not to convince you that social media is important for marketing your brand — you already know this — but rather to give you the framework for making the most out of your social media marketing efforts.
What is social media marketing?
Social media marketing is the process of using social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to create awareness, drive traffic and generate leads. That’s the boring answer with the industry jargon. For the purpose of this guide, I want you to see social media as the digital equivalent to word-of-mouth. That’s really what it is. It’s word-of-mouth. And word-of-mouth is the most valuable form of marketing/advertising.
The majority of marketing professionals will tell you that word-of-mouth is more valuable than traditional advertising. For most of us, that’s pretty obvious. Let’s pretend that you run the marketing department for a company that sells headphones, and I am in the market for headphones. What do you think would make me more likely to buy your brand, an advertisement or seeing one of my good friends using them?
The primary marketing goal for most brands using social media is to maximize mindshare. I argue that mindshare and word-of-mouth fuel one another (more on that later). If you’re unfamiliar with the term mindshare, Dave Kerpen puts it best in Likeable Social Media:
Mindshare is a word for describing how much your customers are thinking about your brand. Think of mindshare as the amount of thought-space you occupy in the mind of your target consumers.
Today’s digital marketing landscape is noisier than ever. As a result, getting your target audience to think about your brand is more challenging than it sounds. However, when used correctly, social media marketing can spark the word-of-mouth buzz that people only dream of. And as I mentioned, word-of-mouth creates mindshare, and mindshare creates word-of-mouth. You can tap into this, and my social media marketing guide is intended to help you get started.
1. Write your Two Core Goals
Effective social media marketing requires time and effort. If you are committed to putting in the work, you need first determine what you want to accomplish.
Your core social media marketing goals are entirely up to you. I want to offer you one suggestion, though. Try not to put anything that has to due with “getting more followers”. Increasing your social media following is a bi-product of effective social media marketing.
If I were you, my core social media marketing goals would be to increase brand awareness and increase engagement. That might sound vague, but as you’ll see next, it’s all part of the process.
2. Determine your KPIs
What gets measured gets managed.
Your key performance indicators (KPIs) are the metrics you use to measure your social media marketing success. Without determining your social media marketing KPIs, there’s no way to tell if you accomplished (or are on your way to accomplishing) your social marketing goals.
Let’s say one of your core social media marketing goals is to increase brand visibility. The KPI to track would be impressions. This metric is not exclusive to social media. In fact, it’s a typical unit of measurement across a variety of media platforms, notably television. Michaelson and Stacks (2010) refer to an impression as the ‘opportunity to see’ (OTS).
For social media, an impression refers to the number of potential people that saw something you share. If you have 100 followers, your tweet counts as 100 impressions. If I re-tweet your tweet to my 1000 followers, that’s another 1000 impressions for you. We can all agree that not every one of the aforementioned followers will see the messaging, but all will have the opportunity to see.
If another one of your core goals is to increase engagement, you would want to pay attention to how many unique people you engage. More specifically, on Twitter you would measure the number of unique people who interact with your account, and the number of @replies and retweets you receive.
3. Develop a system to monitor results
Social media marketing KPIs are pretty easy to track. The hard part is getting in the habit of tracking them. I recommend creating a spreadsheet using Google Drive since you can access it from anywhere.
Here’s what I do for Klique: I have a spreadsheet in Google Drive that measures impressions, interactions, and unique users. I update that spreadsheet first thing every Monday. The reason I update it monthly is so I can make notes about what worked best the previous week while it’s still fresh in my head.
The real value in the analytics is looking at month-to-month velocity and acceleration. More specifically, you want to be able to see total number of impressions, number of new impressions/month, and number of new impressions month-to-month. You want to see the size of the change and the rate of change.
Tip: To make this easier on yourself, I recommend SproutSocial. You’ll still need to create your own spreadsheet, but Sprout will deliver the data for you. It does more than that, too.
4. Focus Your Social Media Energy
Last year I had a conversation with Macklemore’s manager Zach Quillen about how Macklemore and his team used social media to engage fans. One of the big takeaways was the power of focus.
I think a lot of bands, if you go to their websites, you find ten different social media options, and as fans I think that can lead to a bunch of news and confusion, like ‘where do I go?’ So we really wanted to focus on those three [aforementioned] places [so we can] appease those large groups of users…
There are countless social media outlets you could use to increase mindshare. However, by spreading yourself too thin, you accomplish a whole lot of nothing. Figure out who your audience is and where they socialize. Then, concentrate your social media marketing efforts on those channels.
Reference: User Demographics For Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram (2013)
Think of it like this: Imagine sitting outside on a hot summer day. The sun is shining. You have a piece of white printer paper next to you. If you sit outside for an hour, the paper will get hot. But if you have a magnifying glass and you focus the sunlight on one small area of the paper, it will light on fire. Focus equals fire.
5. Create a personalized ‘best social media practices’ guide
The Internet is full of guides to Social Media Best Practices. I recommend creating your own, though. The reason is because your audience is unique, and a ‘best practices’ guide needs to be specific to your social media marketing campaign.
Think of your Best Social Media Practices Guide like a Standard Operating Procedures. It should address how someone would run your social media marketing campaigns if you were unable to do so. For example, when do you reply to someone who mentions @yourbrand on Twitter? What is your brand personality?
6. Embrace the tenants of permission marketing.
Push marketing and social media marketing go together like peanut-butter and shards of glass. To be successful at social media marketing, embrace the tenants of permission marketing.
Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.
It recognizes the new power of the best consumers to ignore marketing. It realizes that treating people with respect is the best way to earn their attention.
When someone follows you on Twitter, they are sending a signal that they want to get your messages. Now, that doesn’t mean you should blast them with promotions. You can definitely include promotions in your social media posts, but space them out. I recommend following a pattern like 5-1.
Effective social media marketing does not involve any kind of pushing. Think about a real world social situation when you encounter push marketing. pushy person. How does that kind of person make you feel?
A lot of social media marketers suggest thinking of Twitter like a big cocktail party. I’m 26 so I don’t have a lot of cocktail party experience, but for the sake of this post, let’s say Twitter is indeed like a cocktail party.
Imagine you and me are at the cocktail party. We’re having a great conversation with another group of people. Suddenly, some random guy rudely interrupts us and demands that we give him a high five. Now what?
The odds are we’ll all give the guy a weird look, but even worse, we will probably never pay attention to anything else he has to say. Our experience with this guy was terrible, and since first impressions count in this world, his brand value is zilch. Obviously I’m being over-dramatic, but you get the idea.
We talked about media impressions being a big deal. But also think about how effective the impressions are on changing behavior and attitudes. The ‘high five’ guy could get a million impressions (not likely, though), but his impressions wouldn’t really make much of an impression. You follow me?
Social media users do not use social media to get blasted with promotional messages. I know this because I am a social media user, and an active one at that. I speak for all active social media users when I say that push marketing has no place on my Twitter feed, Facebook timeline, or any other social channel. You might get a couple of people to click your link, but you damage the reputation of your brand each time you become ‘that guy’.
7. Avoid the temptations to take social media marketing shortcuts
The most common shortcuts I see people taking involve paying for followers. This is really a perception play. People and brands alike want to create the perception that their popular on social media. It’s a form of social proof.
I understand the logic behind it, but I will never stop championing building your following the authentic way. If you want to learn more about the rise of Pay-for-Follower businesses and get my insight, check out Social Media Fail: When Brands Buy Fake Followers.
8. Analyze your competition
I created the first competitive social media audit at Carat. I learned a lot making it. When you look at what your competitors social media marketing tactics, you see themes.
When you audit your competition, take a look at things like the frequency of their posts throughout the week, average engagement ratio, and what type of content really gets the conversation started.
Reference: How is engagement ratio defined?
If you want to get really deep with the competitive audit, I recommend learning more about the types of people who follow your competitors on social media. More specifically, what type of content do these accounts share.
9. Create highly sharable content
The best way to reach your core social media marketing goals is to create (and share) great content.
Keep in mind that creating great content is not a simple thing to do. It’s hard work. It cannot be automated. It cannot be faked. For starters, you have to develop a deep understanding of what your core audience, and determine what they need. Then, you have to be creative, come up with something original, and execute the idea. Tom Tunguz sums it up well:
Content marketing must be tied to path-of-business systems and processes; Daily experimentation and measurement are the best ways to systematically improve performance; Content syndicated as part of the effort must be high quality, genuine and relevant to the target audience.
Creating great content that connects with people takes time, but the final result is worth it. From my personal experience, the feeling you will get when you see your content connect and spread is one of the best.
10. Learn what makes content contagious
There’s so many ‘social media gurus’ out there giving out advice that they’ve never actually applied. Jonah Berger is the opposite.
Berger is a marketing professor at Wharton and author of Contagious, one of my favorite marketing books of all time. Why do people talk about some things more than others? Contagious answers this question using data, not guesses. It’s all about the science and psychology behind social transmission.
If you want to master social media marketing, read that book.