How can you guarantee effective social media strategy?

For many businesses, social media is becoming the cornerstone of digital marketing programs.

As budgets shift from traditional digital marketing platform to social media, effective social media strategy is necessary to deliver the results CMOs and chief digital officers (CDOs) demand.

What’s the primary reason social media is becoming the centrepiece of digital marketing strategies? Brands own their audience.

For companies feeling the heat to do more with social media, this article lays out the keys aspects of a social media plan.

Whether you decide to outsource your social media or grow your own department, there are many factors relating to social media strategy and planning to consider.

At the end of the article is a social media strategy outline you can use free.

Demographics are driving the shift to social media

More people are spending more time on social channels. Most consumers use at least two social media platforms each and every day. Many use more than two.

Shifting demographics are driving much of the adoption of social media. As younger people enter into adulthood, a greater percentage of users are accessing the internet primarily from a phone or other mobile device (tablet).

Along with the evolving demographic has been a shift away from certain ad and marketing genres. Many users are bothered by advertising on a mobile screen. Either it gets in the way or is not relevant, so the adoption of ad blocking browsers and other methods to prevent ads from showing have speeded the adoption of smart social media strategies.

Step One: Define your marketing goals

Strong marketing plans address the primary business goals of the company and then articulate the tactics necessary to achieve them. Good social media marketing plans do the same. So ask yourself: what are your goals with social media?

Questions to ask and answer

Is one of your goals to be better liked? If it isn’t, it should be. Likeability is a major factor when it comes to consumer choices. Social media can influence how much a brand is liked in a major way. But be careful. There is a lot of marketing out there that makes consumers like brands less.

One of your tactics should be to produce marketing and creative artwork that people actually enjoy. That’s why visuals are so important. As simple as it sounds, use creative that won’t turned people off. In a pinch, show a puppy!

Pepsi stepped into the likeability landmine earlier this year with an influencer campaign featuring Kylie Jenner. It went horribly wrong and social media caused the ad to be pulled within two days. In Pepsi’s case, they did not produce an ad for their influencer campaign that people liked. Industry pundits said the problem was that the ad was produced in house. They should have went with a puppy!

Baseball scoreboard showing no points for home or away
It’s a lot easier to score some runs if your audience likes your marketing.

Other questions to ask and answer:

  • Do you want to educate people about your products or another aspect of your company?
  • Are you trying to defend against risk?
  • Are you seeking awareness?
  • What about your authority: are you known as a thought leader? Are you know by anyone as anything at all? With who?
  • Do you want to expand your audience? How do you intend to do that?
  • Are you seeking to increase sales? Do you plan to do that through trial? Discounting? Promotion? Articulate as many aspects of your goals and rank them by priority.
  • What about leads? What about growing the so-called “top of the funnel?” This can mean pursuing a strategy that is as simple as leading people to a web page and then persuading them to click or take another action (good luck!)

These are all relevant questions to answer in a well structured social media marketing plan.

Our marketing plans begin with goals and audiences. This makes it crystal clear who we are pursuing and for what purpose.

Step 2: Define your audiences

Defining each audience segment makes it easy to focus on exactly who you are trying to sell to. This method also makes it easy to track your progress by month or quarter. I highly recommend a DMP (Data Management Platform) if you pursue an audience-first strategy.

You can and should tie the audiences to your marketing goals. Connect your audiences with your business goals using content.

An easy way to think about connecting audiences to goals with content involves the example of a small public company.

Let’s say you’re a venture traded stock on the Toronto Stock Exchange. You’re the marketing VP of a shopper marketing technology platform. Your clients are big US brands. You want to grow that base but you also want to appease investors.

First, you can absolutely combine investor messaging in your social channels. It works great. There are a ton of investors on Twitter and LinkedIn. The venture capital segment on Twitter is insanely busy. This means you do not have to have a separate Twitter channel for your investors. But your investors will require distinct content from prospective shopper marketing customers.

You can’t feed investors the same meal you are feeding consumers. Mix the content in your one Twitter stream.

HIlary clinton is presented with an unfamiliar Japanese dish at a political function.

Section 3: Develop content for your audiences

Platform by platform, season by season and promotion by promotion, specify your content needs. In many cases, you can write long-form 500-2000+ word articles and then cut them up for use across the various platforms. This process involves creating a content calendar.

A content calendar will satisfy your requirements for Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, Instagram, LinkedIn, Medium and other social networks. You will probably find that the amount of content you need is daunting. This is why pre-programmed (pre-shot, pre-written, “in the can”) content can be so valuable.

The rest of the content can be live posted (2x daily) or curated (re-tweets, auto tweets of related content).

At our agency, we find it helpful to have a stash of about 50 ads that we can use on any platform across a range of situations so that we never run out of “must have” content. This “rip” library is a lifesaver for those times when nothing seems to be happening on Facebook or Twitter! You know a slow day when you see one, and when one happens it’s great to pull from the ad stash.

Authenticity holds the keys to the kingdom

Whatever you do, be authentic. Don’t sound like a brochure. Adidas is known for its Twitter manager who also happens to experiment with certain off-field activities. Wendy’s most retweeted tweet of all time was the brainchild of a young lady who had to leave the job because of the sheer volumes of creeps who stalked her offline. RGA’s creative director is known to send hilarious tweets during serious times. So whatever you do, find your voice and stick with it.

If you’re planning a social media campaign to attract new followers, get creative. If you’re selling a mutual fund or insurance product, consider the pain points of the consumer. How you can convey those in a short video ad, image or storyboard?

By season, holiday or hashtag day

There are a ton of built-in holidays that no one has ever heard of except if you use social media. Look into them ahead of time and plan ahead.

For example, let’s looks at #InternationalCatDay for example. If you’re a mutual fund or insurance product how can you leverage this day that gets millions of tweets to highlight your pet insurance product in a way that won’t turn people off? Same goes for the mutual fund. Maybe your logo is a lion or some other cat? There is always a way.

Movie poster of The Fugitive with Harrison Ford running
In the immortal words of Harrison Ford in “The Fugitive”: Every problem has a solution.

The Importance of “engaging”

I was talking to someone who manages the Twitter account for a luxury hotel brand in Toronto. She said they have 24 hours to respond to a tweet. 24 hours?! I was surprised it wasn’t 24 minutes. Customers who are staying at a luxury hotel and issue a tweet about any topic whatsoever will expect a reply as soon as possible; any delay is similar to waiting on hold for an operator. People don’t like it.

This is where the whole “engagement” concept comes into play. If you’re responding to a tweet within 24 hours, is that really engagement? Or is that maintenance? Sounds like someone waiting on hold to me.

I see a lot of different forms of “engagement” on social media. A lot of it is boring. But so is chit chat about the weather. Your brand will make a major move forward if you respond to a tweet in a professional manner within 2.4 minutes. It’s easy and it will become a substantive point of differentiation that will contribute to gains in brand equity. And we know what the payoff to building up enough brand points is. Loyalty.

And with loyalty comes margin. And money in the bank.

Step 4: social media marketing channels

Remember what used to happen with websites? Domain squatting? Well, it’s happening with social media right now. So it’s a good idea to reserve your profiles on as many social media channels while you can. You don’t want someone taking your insurance company name and abusing it on Tumblr and then two years after you’ve found out there’s too much reputational damage to fix. It happens every day.

Solid social media marketing plans provision resources related to creating and managing profiles on as many social media channels as possible. In reality, usually one or two get all the attention.

But even if you’re not putting your hooks into Snapchat yet, it’s important to reserve your profile and save the space for later. Because in a year or two when you’re ready your profile may be taken.

At our agency we oversee content creation and management across 11 different social media platforms.

For anyone who’s counting the platforms are:

  1. Twitter
  2. Medium
  3. Facebook
  4. Snapchat
  5. Instagram
  6. Google Plus
  7. Tumblr
  8. Yelp
  9. LinkedIn
  10. Reddit
  11. Pinterest

Experiment with live video

Don’t be afraid to fail; social media means you’re allowed to make mistakes. As long as you’re coming from a good place you’ll be fine. Some social media firms that work with clients in regulated industries have done a good job at scaring real estate brokers and investment managers from using social media. But these examples demonstrate the dark side of social media rather than what it really is: a natural way for people to network.

This is not to say that your social media marketing plan shouldn’t have a disclosure policy; it most certainly should have one. All this means is that information that has not yet been released to the public should stay private unless it is either approved or released on another public channel. Pretty simple.

Dealing with trolls

Trolls are a fact of life on social. It’s something that you must be prepared to face. Blocking trolls is step one. Reporting them is step two. Responding to them is step 3. Remember the more you tweet the further down the trolling goes…so when you have a troll, tweet a lot.

Here’s a famous recent example of how a payment company by the name of Square dealt with one pesky miscreant:

If you click on the tweet above and follow the entire thread, you will witness one of the greatest examples of troll hunting in the history of social media.

Trolls are never fun but they shouldn’t be enough of a risk that it makes you stay away from social. There’s no good reason not to go all in with social media right about. Now.

Budget considerations: organic vs. paid

We highly recommend you split your budget into two categories: paid vs. organic. Buy ads with the paid portion and use the rest for extra resources (people, time or creative). Unless you have a really good ad, you may want to keep your focus on the organic portion of your budget and allocate it to audience development. Remember, once you build your audience it’s yours. You own it forever and ever amen.

Creative themes

Nobody knows what an audience wants more than the audience. By studying your audience — what they are liking on Twitter and other platforms and what they comment on — you’ll have a natural in-point to start thinking about campaign creative. Don’t be afraid to wade into controversy. Just keep it real (actors don’t work very well).

Pre-Selling

Social media is effective for many reasons, but mostly because social media professionals know that selling on social media is a very delicate matter. Not selling is the default setting. Selling on social media is really about pre-selling.

Effective social media strategy considers how a “pre-selling” link on Twitter or Facebook is activated so that it leads somewhere else (landing page, website) where the real selling begins.

What does “activation” mean? It means starting conversations. Making comparisons. Filling in the blanks. Publishing a survey. Offering a reward. Give your audience the content they’re expecting and surprise them with content that they are not. Sell the macaroni out of your salad but do it in a way that touts the benefits. No prices. That’s for later. Like landing page later.

Step 5: Embrace the funnel

Perhaps you’ve heard of the “marketing funnel.” It’s a way to think about how close people are to actually buying something. It’s a bit of jargon, but it does help to picture the stage people are at whden they visit your social channel.

People at the top of the funnel may not even know your product exists.

People at the bottom are ready to buy and may have already bought.

Some people have an issue with the concept of the funnel (Google). Personally I like it. I like it because it provides a way to quickly visualize purchase intention. And people in funnels.

The marketing funnel imagined
https://pixabay.com/en/funnel-vector-drop-data-yellow-2487506/

But what funnels really accomplish is to make marketers think about experiments and “goals” built into Google Analytics. Look, if you’re reading this and you’re not tracking your website usage and social media activity with Google Analytics you must start. Meow!

Build a content calendar

While you’re experimenting with landing pages that are triggered by visits from Reddit or Twitter or LinkedIn, give some serious thought to the key events that will make your year.

Let me give you an example.

Let’s say you are a BC Winery. There are a lot of them. Over 300. Lots of competition. Perfect for social media!

Many of them will be wildly successful. Much of that success hinges on several wine tasting events peppered throughout the months of May to October. If you’re an emerging vintner in BC, you might want to consider the timing and creative activities happening around these wine events.

During the summer there are three prominent wine competitions in the Okanagan. Wouldn’t it be a great idea to go heavy on social and digital in the weeks leading up to events? So that people attending are thinking of you ahead of time? Maybe some of those people are judges and influencers? Remarketing works like a charm with social media. Like. A. Charm. People are judges.

People — everybody — are susceptible to messaging and framing. Use marketing psychology to pre-position your product or brand in the mind of your target. Put it in the class you want to be judged in. Remove stubborn obstacles or objections by addressing them in advance; doing so will significantly reduce the objection when it is time to be judged.

What you’ll find when you sit down and actually examine the calendar in depth is that there is a lot you can do that you weren’t doing before. And most of it doesn’t cost a dime.

Bottom Line

Define two or three high-level business goals. Focus on one goal that drives revenue (i.e. sell more of a particular model of widget); chase another goal that grows the company’s audience; and pursue one goal that enhances the company’s brand. Chances are you can find social media solutions that satisfy all three.

For the best results, social media marketing strategies should be audience-centric. Articulate who comprises each distinct audience (by demographic, tastes or behaviours) and then attempt to connect audiences to your business goals with content.

 

5 star review for our effective social media strategy service:

Brilliant insights. Great value. Helped us understand and capitalize on the voodoo known as Twitter.” (Sean Carter, Carter Hales Design Lab).

 

Price

The price of our social media strategy services vary by market capitalization and audience size, but for most TSX listed clients the price is $$ out of $$$$$.

 

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Coming soon: Why is your PR firm doing your social media?

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