Social media is everywhere and it seems to be growing exponentially. It's hard to imagine, but back in 2005, just 5% of people were on social media. Nowadays, some 72% of the American population are using some form of social media to connect with their peers. Sites like Instagram are reaching a user base of 1 billion globally. That is 1/8 of the world population uploading and liking pictures on their feed. As business author Lori Ruff puts it, 'Social media is here. It's not going away and it's not a passing fad. Be where your customers are: on social media.'
If your company is not making use of social media platforms, it's missing out on untapped potential. But just throwing up a post here or there is not enough to improve your strategy and boost your website traffic.
With some insights from real c-suite level executives, we have compiled tips for you to improve your social media marketing strategy, today.
'One of the best ways to sabotage your content is to not tie it to your goals. Know why you're creating content.' - Ellen Gomes, Senior Content Marketing Manager at Marketo.
You can't hit a goal that you don't define, right? Are you trying to grow your brand? Reach a new market? Maintain customer retention? Expand your offerings? Sit down and make a list of what you want to accomplish and then begin to flesh it out.
'Too many people just post random content consistently. You can tell they do not have a goal in mind. The content comes off as aimless and that makes people scroll on by. Be direct in what you want to say and what you are trying to accomplish. In all things, but especially on social,' - Matt Seaburn, Partner and President of Rent A Wheel.
Pick the Right Channel
In 2005, there were but a few social media platforms to choose from. Today, the number is growing and it's easy to get lost in all the options.
'One of the most important things is to make sure you're using the right social media. If you want to target younger people, more of them are on Instagram. If you want to reach adults, they are more active on Facebook. A broad swath of people are on Twitter, so you can use that to your advantage as well. It would be good for you to know your audience, and then your marketing strategy will be more effective,' says Rob Chang, CEO & Director at Gryphon Digital Mining, a Bitcoin mining company.
Do your research and see what social your clients are and target your content to the channel you post on. 'What works on Instagram doesn't play on Twitter in most cases. One is a visual medium and one is text-driven. It will take some time to make a post for each one of your socials, but it will pay off,' added Kaspar Povilanskas, Co-Founder and CEO at Nowadays.
Make a Content Calendar
Having a goal is complemented by having a content calendar. Once you have a plan for what you want to do, a content calendar will help you figure out when to do it.
'A good content calendar will give you a better understanding of what is working and what isn't and lets you help plan your campaigns with more efficiency. There are tons of templates you can use to do this if you are a small business'' says Ben Thompson, CEO at Hardwood Bargains.
Think of this in terms of seasonal promotions. If you are having a Black Friday promotion, a content calendar will let you plan all of your posts leading up to the event and generate buzz among your followers.
Engage, Engage, Engage
This is key. If you just post and then log off, you are not really forming a connection with your clients and potential customers. You need to manage content as well as engage with those that are viewing it.
'If someone posts on your picture and you just ignore them, that person would rightly think you don't like them or, at the very least, they would feel unseen. The same applies to your business's social life,' says Mike Pasley, Founder of Famous IRL. 'By responding to at least some of your followers, you humanize your brand and make your audience more interested in checking out your product,' he continued.
'Think of a brand like Wendy's. They have a great social media presence where they interact with people on Twitter all the time. They even start faux arguments with their competition. Why? Because it is entertaining and it gets people buzzing,' added Michael Fischer, Founder of Elite HRT.
This type of customer engagement is different from what your company might be able to do, but it is a good frame of reference. Only good things can come from humanizing your brand and engaging with your clients and competitors on social media.
Speaking of engagement, user-generated content is a great way to engage your followers.
'People tend to not trust companies very much. They do trust people, however. It's why review sites are so popular; people want to know what others are saying. User-generated content will help to promote your goods and services in a way that feels real and authentic,' according to Dr. Robert Applebaum, Owner of Applebaum MD.
'If a patient posts a picture praising the work I have done, I am more likely to grow my business rather than asking followers to take my word for it,' he concluded.
Encourage customers to post and tag you when they do. Offer them something in return if possible. A discount or entry into a sweepstake is a great way to drive engagement.
Hire a Millennial
Shake your head if you'd like, but the truth is, millennials grew up with social media and know how to utilize it better than just about anyone.
'I am too old to keep up with social [laughs]. Sure, I can post and all that, but when it comes to really making a page that looks great and makes people want to come into the bakery, I defer to someone with those skills. You have to know your weak spots and be willing to fill them,' advises Raul Porto, Owner and President of Porto's Bakery.
A business that can't keep up with millennials and younger generations is going to miss out. Don't let this profitable market slip by. Hire someone who can help you reach them effectively if you are having trouble doing so yourself.
Relevant Hashtags Can Help
Hashtags are a way to connect people who are chatting about the same topic on social media. If you can find a way to join the conversation in a relevant way, you will increase brand visibility.
'My company isn't going to benefit from making a post about hashtag National Donut Day, but if hashtag Flag Day is trending? We better have several posts ready to go to join the conversation and drive traffic to our site,' says Katie Lyon, Co-Founder of Allegiance Flag Supply. 'If something patriotic happens in the news, we want to make a post with that hashtag too.'
You can further take advantage of these hashtags by tying in a promotion around them. If it is National Cheeseburger Day and you own a restaurant, try celebrating with a coupon and a post using the hashtag. Then, double-dip by asking people who come in to post a picture of what they ordered with the hashtag from the post. Next, sit back and watch your engagement skyrocket.
Timing Is Everything
Any twenty-something will tell you that there are peak posting times on social media. Translation: posting at a certain time can mean more eyes on your post. Be sure to use analytics to track the best time to upload.
'Timing might be the most crucial component to getting results from your social media posts. If you are not aware of the time of day and days of the week where most people are on your platform, you are missing out. You wouldn't put a billboard on a dead-end street. The same applies to posting at 2 in the morning when your audience is asleep,' comments Eric Gist, CEO of Awesome OS.
You can track these peak times using third-party software, or by doing research into the social platform and your user base.
There's Always More
There are limitless ways to improve your social media marketing strategy, but these few tips will help get you to get things started.
The bottom line? Having an effective strategy in place is an essential part of your marketing plan in today's always-online world. Remember to take chances and be as unique as possible. With so many other companies vying for people's attention, sticking out is the best thing you can do to grow your brand.