Facebook. Twitter. Instagram.
If you’re like me, part of you probably wishes the internet had never been invented. If you’re even more like me, part of you probably wishes social media in particular had never been invented.
So before I tell you how to put your strategy together, let me take a few words to tell you why you’d want to.
Why bother with social media? Isn’t it just something for Millennials? Isn’t it going to die out soon, anyways?
Well, there are plenty of reasons to bother with social media. The first reason is that 52 percent of Millennials already report finding products and services through sites like Facebook and Twitter.
The numbers are lower for other generations, but there are dedicated social media users in every generation. So it’s a mistake to think it’s just for Millennials.
But isn’t social media just a fad? Isn’t it going out the door soon anyways?
If that’s your excuse, you’d better think again. The biggest sites have been around for over ten years, and they’re still gathering steam.
LinkedIn dates all the way back to 2002.
Facebook was started in 2004.
YouTube came along in 2005
Twitter followed the pack in 2006.
If it was a fad, it would be over by now. But that’s still not the best reason for getting on social media.
What is the best reason, you ask?
Simple: your competition is already there. They’ve already got their social media campaigns set up. They’re moving your customers down their marketing funnels.
And every day, they’re increasing their lead on you.
You’re not going to make it unless you catch up. And that’s what I’m here to show you how to do.
How Can I Start?
Let’s begin with the basics. Like anything else, before you begin you want to define your objectives. You’re too clever and forward-thinking to jump into anything without knowing your goals. If you’re getting into the social media game, you’re going to know your conditions for success.
Well, what kinds of objectives will you go after?
If you’re first starting out your account, you’re probably going to want to increase your following. After all, you can only get your message heard if somebody’s listening, right? It’s important to grow that following to the point where it starts feeling like a community where your followers will want to regularly engage. Otherwise you’re spending a whole lot of time talking to nobody.
Once you do that, you can get to work on your other objectives. Now, what are those?
One thing you can do is use your social media presence as part of a content marketing strategy. Just like SEO optimization, social media will generate targeted traffic to your site. If you own a content site or an e-commerce store, that’s often enough to generate sales in itself.
If you work with more big-ticket items, you might aim for generating leads instead of directly generating customers. Set up a mailing list on your site, and you can turn that mailing list customers.
Traffic generation. Lead generation. Sales generation. What else?
You can use social media as a testing ground for gathering information on your market. Find out who your customers are. Find out what they want. Test for interest in new offers before you invest too much time and effort into them.
Those are just a few of the goals you can pursue with a solid social media strategy. And while you’re working on these, you’re always working on the greater goal of generating awareness and good will to your brand.
Once you’ve developed your objectives, you’ll need to work on your online brand strategy. There’s a real temptation to treat a social media account like it’s a place to broadcast all your personal thoughts and opinions. And that’s just fine—on a personal account.
With social media, however, you’re going to want a clear message to send your customers and potential customers. That means normal, everyday branding, but it also means developing a separate strategy for each social media venue you take on. (What works on Twitter probably won’t get you too far on LinkedIn, for example.)
If you’ve already developed a strong brand, you’re ahead of the curve here. There’s not a ton of work for you to do with coming up with individual strategies for every social media site.
If you don’t already have a strong brand, you’re going to want to develop one. It helps if you come up with a buyer persona, as a starting point. What’s a buyer persona? It’s a written sketch of your ideal buyer, and it helps you develop a sense of what kinds of appeals will attract the kind of person you’re looking for.
When you’re preparing the buyer persona, you’ll want to get to know what it feels like to be your ideal customer. You’ll want to ask yourself questions like:
- What are the problems this person deals with on an everyday basis?
- What excites this person more than anything else in the world?
- What is this person really afraid of?
- What does this person really want?
- What kinds of subjects does this person think about every day?
And so on, and so on, and so on. You’ll want to answer all these questions and more when you’re working on your buyer persona, but that should give you an idea of the kind of think you’re going for.
Why bother with all that? Well, by taking all that effort to enter directly into your ideal customer’s worldview, you’ve learned what they value most and (more importantly for you) what it is about your offer that will make them realize how much they need it.
Think of it this way: I’m not a computer guy. So if I go to Best Buy to get a computer, I’m not going to be too impressed when the salesman tells me the screen resolution is such-and-such a number of megapixels. But if he tells me it’s got an image so clear it’s like having a hawk’s vision, then I’m interested.
So it’s always a good idea to get to know your potential customer’s point of view. Sometimes you’ll have it easy, and your customer persona will be someone a lot like you. Sometimes you’ll have a more challenging customer, somebody you have less in common with.
The key thing is to find the way your ideal customer thinks, so you can speak their language and learn what motivates them. It’s practically a cliché to say that part of marketing means entering into your ideal prospect’s thought processes. This is worth doing, and it’s worth taking a thorough, step-by-step approach, because you want to make sure your customer knows you’re someone they can trust and be comfortable working with.
Now that you’ve identified your goals and your ideal customer, it’s time to establish your presence on the major social media sites. (Some people will tell you that you absolutely must have a presence on every major site, but that’s not really necessary when you’re starting out.) You’ll want to get started on at least a few of the “Big Five” sites: that’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest.
If you’re wondering where to start, here are a couple tips:
First off, you’ll want to remember that some sites appeal to certain interests and certain age groups. (Your average Instagram user is younger than your average LinkedIn user. There’s a higher proportion of female users on Facebook than on Twitter. Restaurants will tend to rustle up more business on Instagram than on LinkedIn.) Figure out where your ideal customer is most likely to be, and establish a strong presence there.
There are good reasons to establish yourself on several sites. The best reason is that presence on multiple sites allows you to cross-promote between them. If you’ve got a major Twitter presence and let your followers know you’re also on Pinterest, they’re likely to follow you. Multiply that through all your accounts, and you’ve got the potential to generate some major amplification!
So: you’re started out and you’re ready to go. How does it feel? Are you getting the results you wanted? Keep at it if you’re having trouble. Social media can feel overwhelming at first, but it’s nothing a pro can’t handle.
One last point before moving on: every site you’ll try has its own strategies. What works on Twitter won’t necessarily work on LinkedIn. This particular article is about general strategy, but I just want to make sure you remember there are still differences throughout all these sites.
Paid Advertising: When and How to Use It
With this section, I’ll show you one of the major differences between sites: paid advertising. I’m only going to talk about the two biggest paid advertising sites (Facebook and Twitter), but that should show you what I’m talking about when I get into the differences between sites.
But before I get to that, let me give you a quick overview of what paid advertising is and why you might want to use it. There’s all kinds of great advice all over the internet, but what you need to know is that paid advertising is a good way to generate a lot of high-quality, targeted leads in a short period of time. (Or a long period of time, depending on your strategy and your budget.)
I’m sure you’ve seen the ads on Facebook before, at least. That’s what we’re talking about here.
So why would you want to use paid advertising? Well, first of all because it’s a way for you to get more followers on your account without having to use any kind of weird tactics.
Paid advertising gives you the chance to increase your reach almost passively. That’s why it’s a good way to generate new leads and new prospects, especially if you’re planning on introducing a new product.
Of course, there are any number of reasons why you might use paid advertising, and the great thing about that is that different objectives are actually built into the process of buying advertising on these sites.
But that’s enough about the generalities, let’s get down to specifics. Like I told you before, Facebook and Twitter are generally the most effective places for paid advertising—or at least the biggest—so we’ll focus on them right here.
- Facebook Paid Advertising
- Facebook offers many different ad types, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. There are photo ads, video ads, carousels, slideshows, and canvases.
- There are many different campaign objectives, including 1) boosting posts, 2) promoting your page, 3) reaching people near your business, 4) increasing brand awareness, 5) increasing your reach, 6) generating website traffic, 7) get your app installed, 8) raise event attendance, 9) draw video views, 10) collect leads, 11) increase conversions, 12) increase in-app engagement, 13) increase claims on your offer, 14) promote a catalog, 15) draw store visits.
- With Facebook ads, you’ve got major options when it comes to targeting your audience. (Now’s a good time to keep your customer persona handy!) You can narrow your audience by demographics, interests, and behaviors, and by narrower and narrower interests after that. If you want to target your ad to men aged 50-55 who love Fifty Shades of Grey and the Velvet Underground, you can do that.
- Pricing for Facebook ads can vary considerably, but in the US, recent figures indicate a cost per click of 27.29 cents.
(Honestly, this is just an aside, but it’s amazing how narrowly you can target these things. If you don’t believe me, just check of this story of one of the most brilliant pranks ever. Unfortunately, cases like this have since led Facebook to dial back the sensitivity of their targeting just a little bit.)
- Twitter Paid Advertising
- Twitter ads come in three types: promoted tweets, promoted accounts, and promoted trends.
- Twitter offers several different campaign objectives: 1) website clicks or conversions, 2) Tweet engagements, 3) followers, 4) awareness campaigns, 5) video views, 6) app installs or re-engagement, 7) lead generation.
- Twitter’s targeting options aren’t nearly as extensive as Facebooks, but they still include location, gender, language, device, platform, carrier, etc. You won’t be pranking your roommate with Twitter ads, but you’ll still get the people you’re looking for.
- Depending on how well you’ve targeted your ad, Twitter advertising can average somewhere between 50 cents to $10 per click. Promoted trends can cost as much as $200,000 a day, so be sure you have a clear plan in mind before you play around with that!)
Everyday Running: How to Increase Engagement & Followers
Social media is nothing if you’re not engaging with your followers and generating more leads. Now, the particulars of your strategy will vary depending on your industry, your temperament, and the sites you’re using, but this is where I’ll tell you the basics.
I’ll give you a short overview first, and then we can get into a few specific strategies for increasing your follower count and generating a conversation.
The name of the game is: consistency. A social media account that doesn’t post regularly might as well not exist. I’ve known companies to post some throwaway line, maybe once a week… and then they were surprised that they weren’t getting the results they wanted.
You’ll want to exercise two kinds of consistency: consistency of frequency and consistency of message.
Consistency of frequency means you’ve got a routine when it comes to posting. If your company is going to use Instagram, you’ll probably want to post at least once a day. If you’re posting once a day, five days a week, you want to be reliable and regular with your posting.
This is important. It’s not just that you maximize your chances to generate a wildly successful post. You also create a feeling of dependability and professionalism. Even if your followers don’t consciously realize you’re posting on a regular schedule, the simple fact of seeing your posts every day will reassure them that you treat your social media presence seriously.
In short: develop a posting schedule, and experiment with it till you find the best times to post.
Consistency of message is more or less a matter of good branding. You want to have something to say if you’re going to use your social media account effectively. So many brands simply tailor their posts to what they think the audience wants to hear, and that kills everything that made their brand unique.
If you want to spread a message that stands out of the pack, you need to have a message. You can’t be afraid to make your brand stand for something, if it’s something you truly believe in. If you drive away some potential customers by posting about what really matters, you can make up for it with the loyalty of the new customers you attract. They’ll know you’re like them, and they’ll want to do business with you.
Now, before you ask: no, I’m not saying you should post anything personal or unprofessional. But I am saying you shouldn’t necessarily shy away from expressing your political views in your social media presence. These things are definitely polarizing, but for some industries it’s extremely appropriate.
Next in line comes our strategy for increasing your follower count. This is a complicated subject, but I’ve got a few general pointers that should help you along:
- Focus on the sites where your customers are likely to be.—Some sites are better-suited for certain industries. A restaurant will probably get more mileage out of an Instagram account than a Pinterest, for example. And if you run a blog, you’ll probably get better results from Pinterest than Instagram. If you run a B2B business, you’ll probably want to focus your efforts on LinkedIn. It’s important to have your presence spread out across multiple sites, but some sites are more effective than others.
- Share valuable content.—This is something that’s definitely going to vary with your industry. Valuable content in a B2B business might mean information about how your followers can solve problems relevant to your expertise. In an entertainment business, it will mean spreading new and exciting things for your audience to enjoy. Ask yourself this question: what kind of content will my ideal customer be most likely to enjoy and engage with? Figure that out, and you know what you need to post. (And since you post regularly, you can experiment with this to find out what gets you the best results.)
- Remember to be fun!—It’s easy to slip into deadly-serious mode when you’re doing social media for your business. Sometimes that’s appropriate, sometimes it’s not. The point is: you’ve got to strike a balance. Even if you’re a B2B business, you’ve got to avoid being deathly boring. (But you also want to avoid making everybody puke by being hyperenthusiastic and throwing around words like “ninja” and “rockstar.”)
Now that you’ve got a following developed, it’s time to increase your engagement. “Engagement” is kind of a catch-all term for likes, comments, shares, etc. It’s something you’ll want to work on, especially if you want to turn followers into qualified prospects.
- Host Q&A Sessions.—The fact is, people are a lot more likely to do business with you if they’ve seen your face and heard your voice. Hosting Q&A sessions can be a wonderfully effective way to accomplish this. Whether it’s scheduling a Q&A on Twitter by using a pre-arranged hashtag, or going live on Facebook, you’ve got several methods for doing Q&A that should help you build trust and demonstrate your knowledge.
- Ask Questions (In a way that gets answers).—This is a bit of a more everyday strategy. If you’ve been in social media for any length of time, you’re bound to have noticed that followers generally hate responding with comments. You ask them a question, and you might as well be talking into the air.—Well, my friends, I’m here to tell you there are ways to encourage people to answer your questions, and it’s all got to do with the way you ask. If you offer your followers a multiple-choice question, they’re much more likely to answer. And once they’ve answered a question, you’ve got a foot in the door for learning even more about them.
- Engage with mentions!—If one of your followers takes the time to mention your brand on social media, you’re going to want to engage with them. Even if it’s something as simple as a thank-you and an invitation to keep in touch, it builds good will and helps you demonstrate how much your brand cares. Remember: everything counts!
How to Generate Leads and Increase Revenue
Unless you’re a content site that’s just trying to maximize clickthrough, you’re going to want to have a strategy in place for lead generation.
You’re going to want to turn followers into leads, and leads into customers.
You’re going to want to set up a sales cycle, in other words. It should look something like this:
- Attract followers through consistent, relevant posting.
- Generate clickthrough to your site with relevant links to great content.
- Turn clicks into leads by allowing them to opt in to an email list.
- Gradually build a relationship of trust leading to a sale.
(That’s the basic overview. There are a lot of things you can try to accomplish those four steps, but that’s the ideal sequence you’re aiming for.)
Now, I’m going to take a minute here to tell you about content marketing. I know, I know, I know: content marketing isn’t the same as social media marketing. That’s true.
BUT, social media marketing and content marketing both work better when you’ve got them working in sync.
If you’ve got social media generating plenty of clicks to your site but your content is so bad nobody looks at it, you’ve got a problem.
The best strategy combines great social media postings with amazing content that gives your visitors excellent value. They have to see the kind of professional content you’re capable of producing.
You’ve got to show them the kind of content that makes their fingers itch to write a check for your company.
What am I talking about here? I’m talking about consistent branding. I said it before, and I’ll say it again: consistency is the number one factor in creating an unstoppable brand.
When your followers click onto your site, you want them to know it the same person produced this content and the content on your social media accounts.
That’s how you build a relationship of trust that leads to a sale, and potentially to a long-term business relationship.
Social media can also get great results from upselling. Your current customers are likely to be some of your most dedicated social media followers, right?
Right. So if you use your social media account to educate your followers about new offerings as you develop them, you can give them the opportunity to get in touch with you about any offers they think they could use.
In other words, a dedicated social media following offers you the chance to continue a conversation with your best leads and customers, all over the world, all at once.
That’s why it’s worth your while to come up with a solid social media strategy.
Go Ahead and Get Started!
Like I told you at the beginning: the competition already has their feelers out all over social media. It’s a game that’s constantly adapting, and in capable hands it can produce a steady stream of reliable customers.
Remember: it’s not too late to get in on social media.
If you think your current strategy needs some work, be sure to get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can take a look at your current approach and we can find a solution that works for you.
For the rest of you: is there anything else you want to know about social media? Should I tell you a little more about how to calculate your ROI, or would you like an SEO guide? Whatever you need, if it’s related to social media, content marketing, or copywriting, feel free to ask.
Thanks for reading, and as always best of luck to you!