Social media provides the incredible benefit of helping you reach millions of potential customers all over the world. It has quickly grown to become one of the most crucial components of digital marketing and a profitable source. If you’re not using it to your advantage in your business, you’re missing out on incredible marketing opportunities for spreading the word about your products or services.
Whether you are totally new to the topic of social media, or you just want to close a couple of knowledge gaps, this article will be a valuable resource that you can use to maximize your efforts on social media.
Social media is essential to your success online, and although your current sentiment may lean more toward trepidation than enthusiasm, social media is still a vital part of your overall digital marketing strategy that you absolutely cannot ignore.
One thing you need to understand from the get-go is that the field of social media is a lot more complex than it initially appears. If you dive in without first getting a real sense of what it’s actually like, the whole process can prove to be one that is overwhelming and frustrating for you.
And although it takes a lot of hard (and savvy) work to build a network that offers real value, the good news is that with resources such as this one, you’ll be able to break down everything you need to do into simple, actionable steps to make your social media marketing campaigns a success.
But, first things first!
An Introduction to Social Media Marketing
No matter your skill level, it doesn’t hurt to refresh your memory and to make sure that you actually understand the basics of social media marketing. So we’ll start right at the very beginning, with an introduction and definition of social media before diving into the why it’s vital to improve your social media presence.
What is Social Media?
Social media is simply a way of communicating and interacting online. It’s so-called because users can engage with it and around it in social context (e.g. conversations and commentary, as well as engagement interactions and other user-generated annotations).
It’s been around since the advent of the internet, but in the last decade or so, we’ve seen a huge surge in the number of social media websites (and in their popularity).
Over the past few years, it has become easier and easier to publish content and that has been one of the factors that helped skyrocket social media use. Even non-technical internet users can now create and share content quickly and easily on an ever-growing number of platforms, including:
- The ones that are owned (blogs, hosted communities, etc.)
- Those that are rented (third-party communities, social networks)
- The ones that are occupied (contributing, commenting, etc.)
Today’s method of engagement has changed from ‘one-to-many’ to ‘many-to-many’ and everyone’s loving it!
For online marketers, the rise in social media brings a massive opportunity. The amount of data that customers are making available through social media networks is something that you should rejoice in. But the real magic of social media is in the chance to create and grow lasting relationships with your customer base through the various social networking platforms.
This is also the point where your responsibility to your online customers starts to take shape. It’s important to realize that in as much as your customers’ behavior has undergone a steady shift, their expectations for your behavior have changed, too.
It’s also vital to know that whether or not you are listening and engaging with your customers, they are having conversations that are relevant to your business and it would be a lot better for you to be part of those conversations if you want to run successful social campaigns.
Social Media: Is it just a fad?
Judging from the explosive growth of popular social media networks like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube in the past few years, it is safe to assume that the age of social media is only getting started and that the necessity of social media for online businesses will only become even stronger over time.
The impact of the expansion is already evident, and the rising stats regarding the adoption of social media tactics speak for themselves:
- Facebook has over a billion monthly users, and the number is growing daily.
- 75% of most brand’s ‘Likes’ come from ads.
- 72% of adults online use social networking platforms.
- 1 in 5 people aged 18 to 24 use Twitter daily.
- Over 9 billion images are uploaded each month on Facebook.
- Twitter adds 300K users each day.
- 89% of 18 to 29-year-olds are on at least one social network.
- YouTube reaches more adults aged 18-34 in the US than cable networks do.
- 92% of customers say they trust recommendations from peers.
- 90% of companies recruit using social media.
Still wondering why you need social media?
No matter what size your online business is, the stats above make it evident that your customers are online, interacting with friends, colleagues, family, and other brands on social media channels. They are searching for information, entertainment, and recommendations.
If you’re not around to answer any questions your customers may have about your products or services, your competitors will be. And in doing so, they will take away those customers at hand (right along with anyone else who’s listening to the conversation).
Social media offers tons of opportunities for you to add value and to delight your customers so you can make connections and build important relationships. Those relationships form the foundation of customer advocacy which is one of your biggest marketing assets.
Since so much of your customer’s experience now resides on the internet, social media is a great way for your business to take part in your customers’ online experience without having to use any of the typical channels.
Social Media and Advocacy
Your advocates are there to keep reminding everyone else who they are rooting for. This isn’t something that you’re able to buy or get by chance. You earn advocacy over time through continuous, positive engagement with customers. You earn it through creating a delightful customer experience and delivering the highest standard of customer service.
Getting to the advocacy level is the nirvana of social marketing, and it’s here that your efforts on social media truly start to scale and grow.
This is how you and everyone else sees that your business is doing such a great job that your happy customers are transformed into rabid fans who shout about your business from the rooftops and share their experiences and opinions with their networks. Such sharing is the absolute best marketing you can get for your brand.
A good first step is to identify potential advocates. You can use various social marketing tools, customer data, site data, and even surveys or your own observations in picking out which of your customers are most likely to become strong advocates. You need to figure out exactly what is important to these potential advocates by asking these and other questions:
- What are they searching for?
- Are they looking for recognition?
- Do they love getting exclusive access to content and/or news?
- …and so on.
By answering these questions, you’ll be able to figure out the type of advocates your brand attracts, and come up with creative ways to recognize those people for their advocacy.
Do note, however, that the majority of your community relationships are going to happen organically. Your brand knowledge and research will encourage people and help you put your best foot forward, but keep in mind that building real relationships take time.
At this point, you’re now (hopefully) convinced that a solid social media presence is critical to your business’s success.
You’ve seen how the transition from a web that is passive to one that is interactive has brought many changes which affect the way individuals connect with each other, as well as how various types of businesses operate.
There is no way to get ahead if you continue to ignore the conversations your customers are having online. You can look the other way, but if your competitors are listening, they will use the opportunity to get closer to your audience and ultimately turn them into customers of their own.
Use social media to connect with your customers and to reach more of them in an authentic way. Use it to direct qualified traffic to your site, increase your brand authority, engage with people who can influence the behavior of your customers, and gain all the information necessary for making insights based business decisions.
Neither your brand nor your customers’ experience starts with social media networks like Facebook and Twitter, but social media efforts should solidify, galvanize, and bolster your existing brand. This means that what you do on social media needs to be an extension of everything else you’re doing in your digital marketing efforts.
Creating a unique voice for your brand, and sharing it with the world through social media will help you open up a ton of opportunities in various other channels that you use for your inbound marketing. This includes search engine optimization, public relations, branding, sales, and a lot more.
If you want to get the most out of your social marketing efforts, your end goal should be the relationships that you build using that channel. If you’re grounded in the more traditional, tangible business metrics and measurements, then this may sound somewhat utopian to you.
But, if you move away from that bottom-line, ROI-seeking aspect and look at the bigger picture, you’ll see that the relationships you build with customers make the foundations on which all other aspects of your online business will flourish.
Keep in mind that relationships can only thrive if you cultivate them, and there is no other place you can do this better than on social media platforms. The customer relationships you build on social media will lead to loyalty and advocacy – two traits that will undoubtedly support your brand through good times and bad times.
Social media gives you the ability to share information at a pace that is amazingly fast. These days, users turn to social channels if they want to share information in real time. Such information can be in the form of opinions, and if you’re listening for specific cues from your target audience, social media will prove to be a valuable source of feedback and insights.
For instance, you can incorporate social listening in your product development activities to act as a sort of early warning system. This will also help you save a lot on the costs associated with customer service, and you’ll be able to provide valuable development feedback without much expense.
Rather than simply tacking social media on to the rest of your branding, marketing, advertising, etc., you need to fully integrate it into the overall marketing mix. This will help you create a cohesive, scalable experience for each of your customers.
Social media isn’t an end in and of itself, but it’s more of a means to an end. If you include social media in all your marketing efforts early on, it helps to amplify and solidify everything you do, instead of waiting until the end to explore social options.
Having a clear social presence from the start means that your brand will benefit from all the additional customer touchpoints. Make social engagements a key part of your marketing, as opposed to an afterthought, and you’ll stand a better chance of leveraging its power fully.
It’s easy to see that there is a whole lot more to social media than meets the eye. Use the information in this article to help you gain a deeper understanding of the basics of social media (before you get to implementing all the moving parts) so you can better guide your future marketing campaigns.
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