The question of marketing on social media is a big one for small business owners who don’t want to miss out on a potentially huge ROI but also don’t want to waste their time chasing rainbows.
The truth is your marketing mix will always be unique to your business and your customers. If your ideal clients are spending time on one or more platforms, it is worth the effort to make your presence known on those platforms. Just keep in mind that while technology is rapidly changing, the underlying principles that will guide your marketing efforts are not.
We are reposting an article that originally appeared on OneAccord Partners in 2011 regarding social media. We have made a few updates but the evergreen advice is just as relevant now as it was then, despite the ever-changing social media landscape.
“Social media” has become a catchall buzzword for both the latest interactive technological advances and burgeoning forms of social interactions made possible by those advances. Over the past five plus years, more and more companies have jumped on seeking to harness the power of social media to support their business development. The question for some is “How can we more effectively incorporate these channels for our business interests?” The question for others is “What’s next? What’s the next wave of advancement?”
The key for realizing present opportunities and for catching the next wave of advance is focusing first not on the technology itself, but on goals of the business and the potential of existing and evolving models of interaction. Having been involved in web development since the mid-1990s, I’ve observed two major pitfalls that distinguish the leaders from the late or inadequate adopters: 1) the focus on technology itself rather than the core business goals in an environment of advancement; 2) the wrong people driving and directing the adoption of technology.
Internet development has sometimes been understood in successive waves. A superficial approach to social media at this juncture means a firm is catching the wake rather than the next wave of progress in the digital realm. The vital key to realizing current and coming waves of technology is to first identify the relational and transactional breakthrough the advance represents and second, to connect that to key opportunities in your specific business and industry. There are also, notably, a myriad of social business initiatives worth exploring and learning from across the board.
Below we have offered ten keys for evaluating and maximizing your business’ position in the social media space both in the present and in anticipation of the future.
1. Engage at the Executive Level
Don’t relegate the strategic discussion of social media to the marketing department, but consider it carefully at the executive level. Likewise, don’t delegate the decisions as to the technical platforms for delivery solely to the IT department, but consider these decisions comprehensively at the executive level. Additionally, carefully evaluate the voice being expressed through various channels and make sure it authentically and effectively represents your brand identity and supports your goals.
2. Whatever You’re Doing, Do Well
The biggest issue with many companies is a lack of commitment to see their strategies through. Is your social media presence static or dynamic? Is it constantly being refreshed? Is your staff trained and encouraged to participate? Are you seeking to broaden your reach actively? Some business owners question the ROI of such activities. That’s a valid and broader concern. But an equally important concern is what image you are projecting with a stagnant or out-of-date presence. It’s as straightforward as implementing basic approaches such as having all your staff like posts or other online elements.
The algorithms that determine what shows up to users on each platform are constantly changing, but you can always leverage the power of engagement. Having the people in your company make a point of liking, commenting, retweeting, sharing, etc. immediately after you post content will help make that content more visible to more people.
3. Social Scoring
Social networks are a critical business asset and should be valued. Some companies are now evaluating customers based not on traditional benchmarks such as income, but rather on “influence” as defined by the strength of their social connections. Companies like Klout and Empire.Kred specialize in this kind of social media scoring. Consider identifying, cultivating and rewarding key influencers both internally and externally as you refine your social marketing strategy.
4. Focus on Enhancing Business Value
Don’t focus simply on the platforms of social media (such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.), but rather focus on the key interactive models that are available/emerging and connect those to your core business goals. With this in mind, labor to establish social solutions that target and offer specific business value and let that drive adoption and strategy.
5. Physical Applications and Proximity Focus
Connect the physical to the virtual. A long-standing trend connects interactive tools and applications to the real world in real time. SoundCloud, for example, is a platform that puts sound at the heart of communities, websites and even apps and is the catalyst for social interaction and networking. Periscope allows anybody to live stream anything to anybody and other social media platforms have responded with their own live stream options.
Think about your own offerings and consider how a real-time connection could enhance your customers’ relationships with your company either with the constitution of the actual product or service or communities of knowledge/practice associated with your product or service. Review emerging applications on smart phones for inspiration. Additionally, posting signage encouraging participation in your social initiatives is a simple, but effective measure.[i]
6. Integrate Your Data
Connect all of your databases of people, prospects, etc. into a unified target for your social media strategy. At a recent social media conference there was a discussion of how in some larger organizations the various databases of prospects, customers, stakeholders, etc. were completely unrelated and there was a lack of unified social media and communication planning. This lack of coordination impeded the impact.
7. Integrate Your Delivery and Analysis
Look for technologies/products to integrate your reaches via email marketing, social media, etc. A number of companies are offering this type of integrated approach to maximize impact and centralize control and evaluation. These services include Constant Contact, Sprout Social, Hubspot and more.
8. Keep Your Strategies and Content Fresh and Diversified
A Gartner survey shows some social media fatigue among early adopters: “31 percent of Aspirers [younger, more mobile, brand-conscious consumers] indicated that they were getting bored with their social network.” Content must be kept fresh, creative and condensed for easy digestion for short attention spans.
9. Communicate and Brand Yourself on Multiple Channels
Anticipate multiple information hubs, modes of collaboration and modes of communication. People are increasingly using mobile devices to access information, communicate, collaborate, etc. Trends are showing that social media contexts are taking on a significant portion of what was traditionally handled via email. For example, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp handle more than 60 billion messages per day.
Businesses should consider holistically all channels and their tools as part of their virtual presence and identity, rather than focusing unduly on just their website for instance. Because of their immense size and presence, businesses should explore and build upon Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn key business presences.
Brandwatch reports the average internet user now has an account on more than five social media networks while 91 percent of retailers are on two or more social channels. In a world of 7.3 billion people, 3.17 billion now use the internet. Over the course of a single year, social media use rose by 176 million while 1 million new social media users become active on mobile each day.
For the last ten years, Pew research has been gathering information on how people use social media and recently published demographic information organized by platform from their 2016 survey.
10. Evaluate and Plan
Evaluate your social media strategy and use the right tools for the right messaging. It is important to identify who you are targeting and how to cultivate real relationships versus thin relationships that aren’t substantive. From a basic perspective, below are some key ways to think about your communication strategies:
-Facebook: People’s expectation of this media is general information on what is current. This can include updates and events for your company.
-Twitter: Research shows that people expect the information to be explicit about current offerings or happenings and do not wish for extraneous. Consumers take to Twitter to engage in conversation with a brand. This often includes complaints to which users expect a prompt response.
To take it a step further, there are tools to evaluate where you are and where you want to go. Harvard Business Review created a broad grid as part of an article entitled “What’s Your Social Media Strategy?” The authors break down strategic engagement into four categories: predictive practitioner, creative experimenter, social media champion and social media transformer.
Social media is a dynamic way to advance business interests through intelligence gathering, promotion and customer engagement. It is critical that businesses engage at the top level to ensure that the strategies and tactics are united, integrated, authentic and on point to meet overall business objectives. The approaches mentioned above will help your company better realize present and future opportunities.
When it comes to marketing practices for modern companies, it’s no surprise that inbound is king. Not only is this form of marketing less expensive, it’s also more effective than traditional tactics.
Hubspot released its eighth annual report on the state of inbound marketing this month. You can download the full report here. In this post we’ll cover some of the highlights and implications business owners and marketers will want to consider as they shape their strategy.
First off, if you’re not entirely clear on the difference between outbound/traditional and inbound/new marketing, this infographic from Blue Frog Marketing sums up the basic differences and provides some rationale for the shift toward inbound.
Hubspot reported that 73% of its respondents utilize inbound for marketing their products and services. Of marketers who prioritize inbound, 81% reported their strategies are effective while only 18% of marketers who focus on outbound methods called their strategy effective.
Of the marketers who consider their marketing a success, 67% said their best source of quality leads come from inbound practices, followed by self-sourced leads from the sales team (17%) and outbound marketing (16%). Even marketers who don’t consider their strategy effective cited inbound as their best source for leads.
The ultimate goal of growing a company through marketing depends not only on bringing in the leads (marketing) but converting those leads into customers (sales). The more tightly aligned your marketing and sales teams are, the more likely you are to see growth. Of the companies who consider their marketing effective, 84% have closely aligned marketing and sales departments.
Inbound marketing practices with tightly aligned sales and marketing teams make up the winning combination for growth.
Part of aligning your teams includes creating a feedback loop between the two. When it comes to quality, salespeople graded marketing leads as low. This means even if the marketing team is bringing in hundreds of leads, salespeople won’t be able to close them because the majority of these prospects aren’t part of the company’s target market. In order for your marketing team to fix the problem, they need to know there is a problem in the first place—and that won’t happen without building feedback into your process.
Marketers’ top priorities as we head into 2017 are to:
Their biggest challenges are:
The challenges feed directly into the priorities. Generating leads is the prerequisite to conversion, but those numbers are only going to go up if you’re marketing to the right people in the right places. Know your audience. If you need to do a survey of your current customers, it will be well worth your time and can help improve the return on your investment.
If you haven’t taken the time to assess who your ideal customer is and where they get their information, you’re not alone. According to Hubspot’s report, lead-to-customer conversion was less than 20% in 2016. Marketers across the board are having a hard time attracting the right people, which means some extra effort on your part can go a long way in setting you apart from the competition.
Do your research. Peppering your message out to the masses because “it’s a numbers game and somebody will buy” is the mindset of traditional marketing. The ability to target the right audience is part of the power of new marketing.
Measuring the success of your marketing is essential to determining your strategy, budget and next steps. If you have a marketing team, they need to show they’re getting results. If you are the marketing team, you don’t want to waste your time on activities that don’t grow the business. So gather your metrics, analyze your data and move forward accordingly.
If you’re struggling to prove the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness, which is also valuable information) of your current marketing strategy, start paying attention to:
By collecting this data on a regular basis, you’ll be able to see where the issues lie and what is and isn’t working. If your sales team works 1,000 MQLs but only closes five, there’s an issue with your marketing team’s qualification process. Now you know what to fix.
Collecting data adds a step to your marketing processes, but just like getting to know your audience it’s worth it to take the time and develop the process. When you see these metrics improve, you’ll know exactly what value your marketing efforts are providing. Of those marketers who track ROI, 72% believe their strategy is effective. For those who don’t track these results, only 49% said the same. Don’t guess. Know.
The point of marketing today includes education so a prospect is well-versed in your brand and product or service by the time they speak to a sales rep. However, 63% of those surveyed said prospective customers are only “somewhat” or “not at all” informed about their company before a sales rep makes contact. This makes selling more difficult. If you want to help your sales team, educate your audience. There is a direct correlation between how much a prospect knows and how likely they are to buy.
For 2017, marketers are paying attention to the rise in the power of video with 48% planning to add YouTube to their marketing mix and 39% planning to integrate Facebook video. This trend of prioritizing video is consistent for marketers globally. Other additions to companies’ marketing tactics in 2017 will include:
What you add to your marketing mix depends on your unique business and audience. Keep your ears open for new channels of communication and find out if your audience uses it. You just might be surprised.
Whether you’re planning to sell in 2017 or not, your marketing can be a powerful tool for the growth, health and reputation of your business.
As we round the corner into the new year, it’s important to consider your marketing. Is it working? Are you actually seeing growth as a result of your efforts? Do you need to make some changes? What technologies should you be taking advantage of and do they really make a difference?
Here are three vital marketing things to consider as we head into the future.
The marketing game is, in some respects, out of control. Busy business owners are rushing to adopt new technologies, share on multiple social media platforms and track new trends. Considering the frantic pace at which these things evolve, this rapid response doesn’t allow much space for sitting back and considering strategy. The irony is that without taking the time to develop a strategy, you set yourself up to fail and the world rushes past anyway.
As 2017 dawns, pause to consider the core questions that shape your marketing. Who are you currently working with? Are these your ideal clients? If not, define who you would rather be working with and create a strategy to reach them. If you have to conduct surveys to learn more about your ideal clients, do it.
Once you know who you want to reach, find out where they spend their time. Are they even on social media? Every time Facebook updates its number of users, it’s tempting to think, “Wow, 1.79 billion people. I must market on Facebook.” Well, maybe. First find out if your ideal customer actually spends time on Facebook. It is entirely possible that they have an account they never check or are one of the 5.5 billion not on the social network. Or their taste for social media is more geared toward another social site. Find out.
These are just two of the questions you should be asking yourself as you craft a strategy. Do the research, make a plan and work your plan. No amount of trendy marketing tactics are going to grow your business like a well thought out strategy.
It’s no surprise that mobile searches surpassed desktop searches this year. In fact, users entered more than 100 billion searches each month on devices with screens smaller than six inches. In response, Google is working on prioritizing mobile when it comes to search rankings. When someone enters a query, Google will favor websites that give mobile users a good experience.
As a small business owner, this means your website needs to be optimized for mobile if you want someone to find you—even if your clients aren’t in the habit searching from their phone. With Google working on prioritizing mobile results, even desktop searches will default to websites optimized for a mobile experience.
At present this change up is still in beta, so you have the luxury of taking the time to prepare for the inevitability of mobile taking over the searching world. If your website has a mobile version (m.yourdomain.com) or is responsive (meaning the display automatically adjusts based on screen size), you’re already prepared. If not, it’s time to start implementing.
Even if your ideal client isn’t technologically savvy, your marketing efforts can be greatly enhanced with software designed to attract, nurture and close your ideal customers. We are in the age of big data. The right software will help you distill all that information to answer the fundamental question, Is my marketing strategy working?
If you haven’t invested in automation software, make 2017 your year to research what’s out there and decide what’s best for your business. Odds are good that this kind of software will make a huge difference in your marketing efforts, if only because it provides the ability to scale your efforts in a way previously impossible without an army of salespeople and marketers. The right software will help unify the efforts of your marketing and sales teams, create feedback and accountability and provide metrics that will inform further strategy, prove your efforts are paying off and give you the ability to tackle the exact pieces of your marketing that aren’t working.
Every advance in technology changes the way we market our business, but the principles that dictate our marketing don’t change. Good business is still founded in good relationships. This is true today and it will still be true in 2017 and beyond. Keep that in mind as you embrace new ways of doing old things next year.