The growing influence of social networks has made “social” an integral part of the online marketing mix. Social networking platforms are powerful communications tools that any organization – B2B or B2C – should use to spread its message and expand its reach. When consistently executed, social marketing creates online visibility and authority; increasing the likelihood of further interaction with prospective customers.
In the early days of “social media”, the primary activity was posting content and hoping people would engage (like, share, comment, etc.). This is a passive, “hope for the best” approach. Simply committing to using social tools to post content is not enough. A strategic approach is required.
- Social activities must support specific and tangible business development goals.
- You must use the right platforms, with the right content and the right level of frequency.
- Be proactive rather than passive by initiating online dialogues with decision makers and influencers.
- Take advantage of evolving capabilities that better support “micro-marketing”.
- Integrate social activities with other online, as well as offline, marketing initiatives.
- Incorporate social advertising. The networks now favour “paid” over organic content.
- Measure effectiveness and make adjustments to optimize social marketing’s impact on marketing and sales.
As online practitioners, we engage in different types of social marketing activities, and apply the most appropriate approaches to each of our client situations.
Social posting is foundational and a good starting point for engaging on social networks. Some best practices for posting social content are:
- The goal should be to build and foster a community of engaged followers.
- Maintain a healthy balance of promotional and educational content.
- Share a mix of original and curated content.
- People use social media to be inspired or entertained – be conversational and offer compelling content.
- Posts should be visually consistent and make use of various content formats; videos, images, GIFs, curated articles, infographics, audio, etc. The most effective approach is to use a combination of formats.
Social engagement is integral to building loyalty among current customers, and for “warming up” potential customers. Active engagement demonstrates a commitment to customer service and a willingness to commit to an on-going, value-based dialogue with prospects.
- Reactive engagement activities include community management – acknowledging an online audience by responding to comments, questions and direct messages.
- Proactive engagement entails seeking out opportunities, and participating in, relevant online conversations; groups, forums, hashtags, advanced searches, twitter chats, location tagging, etc.
Growing a social media following without investing in some level of advertising has become extremely difficult. Social media organic reach is in decline; according to Facebook, only 6% of page fans will see a brand’s organic content.
As a result, social media advertising should be used in combination with organic efforts to maximize content visibility and increase website traffic.
Each platform offers different types of targeting options, so choosing the right social advertising vehicle is key – some are better suited to B2C, others B2B. As an example, Facebook has a look-alike feature, an advanced option that allows businesses to identify and target new prospects using an established audience such as an email list or website visitors.
Social selling is particularly well-suited for B2B and uses social networks to find, connect with and nurture target prospects.
A tool such as LinkedIn Sales Navigator can be used to identify people based on specific criteria, for researching their online activity, and to establish a direct connection with these individuals. Once the connection is made, salespeople can further develop a trust relationship by sharing value-based information and subject matter expertise.
Consumers have shifted away from traditional customer service channels like phone or email and are increasingly using social platforms such as Facebook or Twitter for support. A solid reputation management strategy will keep a brand in good standing with its customers.
Reviews have become an important business development tool for both B2B and B2C. Ratings, testimonials and reviews lend credibility to a business – a lack of reviews can have a negative connotation. Businesses must proactively ask for, and share, this type of information as it is an important source of social proof.
Reviews are also viewed positively by search engines, which can have an impact on search rankings.
Some influencers have a significant following on social media, and their opinions can have a strong impact on purchasing decisions. By endorsing a product or service, influencers give credibility to brands.
Establishing an online relationship with influencers can lead to increased brand awareness and website traffic. 74% of people surveyed trust social networks to assist them with purchasing decisions and 49% rely on influencer recommendations.The key is to find, and collaborate with, influencers that attract followers aligned with a company’s target audience.
Employee advocacy is about empowering employees to share company information with their social networks. Employees are often an untapped asset; by leveraging their connections, content has the potential to be viewed by exponentially more people.
Encouraging employees to share company content builds brand awareness and trust with prospective customers. Employees will also benefit by building their personal brands and establishing thought leadership.
Social networks are no longer just for young people to stay in contact with their peers. They are powerful communication tools that, when used strategically and consistently, can have an impact on business development results. But being passive or reactive on social is not enough. A proactive approach is required.
Determine which social categories and platforms are best suited to your business and build a plan to execute a sound social strategy.Then be relentless, measure results and make the necessary adjustments to get the most out of your social marketing efforts.
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