Your kids are doing it; your in-laws are doing it; heck, even the (former) Pope is doing it. Social media has forever changed the way we connect with each other, particularly in business. Traditional marketing alone no longer cuts it; inbound tactics that emphasize education and relationship building are becoming the new standard.
With new event and trade show software on the way in 2013, we decided that it was high time to commit to an inbound marketing plan to extend our reach and strengthen relationships with our existing clients. To highlight what we’ve learned so far, and to assist those of you wondering how to begin integrating social media into your marketing strategy, we’ve created a list of our five biggest lessons.
But before we get to that, let’s first define what we mean by “active”, as referenced in the title of this post. “Active” means daily social media engagement. Most importantly, weekly (or in our case, bi-weekly, for now) updates to the company blog, and daily posts on Twitter, Facebook, and other social profiles. Although entertainment is a vital social media component, that doesn’t only mean sharing funny cat pictures or quotes from Jersey Shore. Content is everything in the digital realm and should be tailored to your ideal buyer persona(s) in order to achieve your desired effect.
Now, on with the show!
1. Start from the End
First and foremost, it’s crucial to understand what you intend to accomplish through social media. For us, it was about connecting with the communities we serve (show hosts, event planners, marketers) to drive brand awareness and to promote a new product, with the ultimate goal of cultivating leads and strengthening existing client relationships. This tends to be a pretty common scenario for businesses engaging in the social sphere.
If you’re having trouble determining your social media goals, you might ask yourself the following questions:
Are you looking to promote your content and increase visitors to your website or blog?
Are you intending to manage customer service through social channels?
Starting with a clear understanding of your desired outcome will help you track your progress, revise your tactics, and perhaps even reevaluate your goals.
2. Know Your Audience
Social media output should be made-to-measure for a target audience or buyer persona. Each of our profiles is directed at a different constituent group, which means that we must curate content accordingly.
Key questions to consider:
Who are you targeting and how do they consume content? Do they prefer Facebook to Twitter? Video to pictures? What types of information are they interested in, outside of your product or service?
Who in your industry influences your audience? How do you connect with those influencers, and particularly those who might promote your content?
3. Use Automation
Finding the right tools to help manage your efforts will ensure your consistency, responsiveness, and sanity. We use a couple of different applications: Buffer and HootSuite.
Buffer is designed to make sharing easier and timelier on your social networks. We mainly use it for Twitter. It allows us to build a daily posting schedule and queue up posts as we go. Posts are made steadily throughout the day; no bombarding followers with half-a-dozen posts followed by 24 hours of radio silence. One of the coolest features is the browser plug-in. By clicking the Buffer button on your browser, any page on the internet becomes sharable. Buffer even shortens the url for you. We like it a lot.
For more extensive social media management, HootSuite is one of the best applications out there. It aggregates all of our social profiles in one place, providing better visibility and the convenience of not having to go into each platform to get the latest insights. We can see who has messaged or mentioned us on Twitter, what events we have coming up on Facebook, and what updates are being made in our LinkedIn network.
4. Don’t Be Shy
It can be daunting to start making those first posts and to respond to articles or discussions. What will people think? What if we sound stupid? What if we say the wrong thing?
Most social media experts agree that it’s authenticity, rather than perfection, that paves the path to success. Sometimes authenticity means being unpolished and imperfect. Knowing just the right thing to say might not be as important as simply being present. People like to know that there is a real person behind the avatar— humble and honest with whom they can identify. And, yeah, sometimes a few feathers will get ruffled or something backfires. But staying true to one’s beliefs and owning up to mistakes will go a long way toward creating intimacy with an audience. So, start conversations, respectfully and professionally speak your truth, and know that everyone else in the social space has been in your position at one point in time. We’re in it as we speak!
5. Have Fun
There’s a reason that a billion people have a Facebook account and 500 million are on Twitter. Here’s a hint: It’s not because social media is boring. As a marketing team, we have never enjoyed ourselves or learned as much as we have in the past two months. We’ve developed new marketing tactics, been introduced to some amazing experts in the social media field, gotten more in touch with what matters to professionals in the industries we serve, and have already seen some awesome results for our business. Among other things, visitors to our website have increased by 75%. That’s 75% in just 60 days! There are, of course, some intangible factors that contributed to those gains, and some visitor behavior that we aren’t able to track, but we can’t help but attribute the improvement in large part to our social media activity. What’s more fun than real results?
We hope that you found this post fun and informative, and encourage you to post a comment with questions or to discuss what you will be doing to market your business in the year to come. And need we remind you to connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+? Come join the conversation!