Written by Aaron Charlie– Fri 13 Jul 2012
Social Media Marketing is now essential for brand reputation and for SEO. But, more than that, it’s an effective way of connecting with existing and prospective customers, and providing customer service.
It’s not enough to set up a Twitter account and post daily about your products or services – you need to maintain an online presence and engage with your followers – just one example of how businesses aren’t using social media to its full potential.
We offer a 2-day Social Media course which is jam packed with advice, guidance, strategic tips, what-to-dos and what-not-to-dos. The course is continually updated with the latest developments in the industry, and you leave ready to begin (or revamp) your business’s social media campaign.
For those who are thinking of coming on the course, or those who can’t make it to Brighton (although we’re happy to train you on site!), here’s our Ultimate Guide to Social Media Marketing. We hope it helps!
The number one thing to be aware of is that social media marketing is not about you - it's about them ('them' being your followers, those who like your pages, your connections and your circles). Never forget to ask yourself what you want to see on social media from a business – and that constant self-promotion is the quickest way to put people off. I see examples of this happening every day.
With that in mind, I’ll take you through how to apply this principle to the various social networks.
The use of Twitter for business is about engagement and establishing yourself as an expert in your field. Becoming active on Twitter, following the right people, and listening to what’s going on can also keep you on the pulse of developments in your industry. Finally, it’s another outlet for customer service.
When you set up your Twitter account, do your best to keep your username short. The more characters it is, the shorter your tweets will need to be – always leave at least 20 characters free so people can retweet you.
When you set up your account, follow as many (influential) people as you can. Later on you’ll need to think about your followers:following ratio (2:1 is a good guide, and you can always filter your news stream so you only see tweets from selected people).
Deciding who to follow takes research. If you have a competitor who is active on Twitter, follow who they follow. Many industries have weekly or monthly ‘top tweeters’ lists, e.g. the wedding industry top tweeters can be found here. Getting in with the clique is important, even if you are B2C, as these people can be useful sources of retweets which will extend your reach.
This is a tricky one as it depends on the nature of your business and varies for each industry. There are statistics that say that those who tweet the most have the most followers but the data includes celebrity accounts, and is based on correlation rather than causation. The ratio and engagement levels are more important than the numbers - if you get this right then you can send anything from 5-50 tweets a day without losing followers!
Top Tip: When you reply directly to someone, it only displays publicly if your other followers follow you both (but can see be seen if people go to your stream of sent tweets).
The main thing here is engagement. You need to add value to the lives of your followers. If you have a content marketing strategy that involves blogging (if not, you probably should - we have a blogging and content marketing course , and this article How to Build and Operate a Content Marketing Machine is a great read), tweet links to the useful, entertaining or thoughtful articles you’ve written. Shortern URLs using Bit.Ly.
If you are tweeting the headline of an article with a link, don’t point the link to your home page and make people work to find the article you teased.
Retweet other people, and often. Try and add your own insight with each retweet – it starts conversation and makes them more likely to notice you.
If it’s a business account, of course, avoid personal tweets. But saying things like “isn’t it sunny in Brighton today!” or “what’s everyone doing for the bank holiday weekend?” are good ways of engaging people and reminding them there’s a person behind the tweets, not just a faceless company.
Do tweet photos of your products, especially if they are visually engaging, but this kind of tweet should only be a tiny proportion of what you send.
For more inspiration, look at our post on what to tweet about.
Finally: If your Twitter feed appears on any other platform, e.g. on your website front page, make sure your last tweet of the day is in-context and professional.
People expect businesses to reply when they send tweets to them. A company who doesn’t respond to tweets may face more bad feeling than if they didn’t have a Twitter account at all. Equally, even companies who do reply can get it very wrong: take a look at this article with the story of a Twitter customer service fail. The author gives plenty of examples of what the company could have done differently for a better outcome.
Keep an eye on what people are saying about you – they may talk about your company without tagging. You can set up a stream in Tweetdeck, Hootsuite or similar with a saved search for your company name.
Make sure all tweets, positive or negative, are replied to promptly. If you’re the only one running the social media marketing campaign for your company, someone must know what to do in your absence.
You can use tools like Hootsuite to schedule tweets in advance – but this is not an excuse to sit back and ignore Twitter for the rest of the week. Scheduling is a way of making sure you do get in the self-serving tweets that link to your website, but you’ll still need to be in there every day following, listening, retweeting, engaging and replying.
Things have changed dramatically for business use of Facebook for marketing over the last few years, but should now settle down.
When a customer or fan ‘likes’ your business page, they are making a public statement about their link to your company. You need to build on this loyalty by, again, adding value by giving them useful information, providing unique content and engaging. By doing this, you’ll build their trust and generate traffic to your website.
Individual Facebook users can now set up a Page for a business, which can be ‘liked’ by other users. More than one person can be moderator of that Page.
We’ve written a step by step guide to the Facebook timeline for business, which will tell you everything you need to know!
Once your page has 30 likes, you can use Facebook Insights to see how popular your posts are and what their reach has been.
Our article about the Facebook Edgerank algorithm will give you the info on how Facebook decides what people see in their news feeds; and we’ve also written about Promoted Posts – a way of extending your reach to more people.
Again, it’s about finding the balance between self-promotion and engagement. The Facebook timeline is great for posting visually engaging images & videos – and ease of onwards sharing means the right piece of media could easily go viral.
Facebook is great for generating the kind of discussion that is hard to get going and track on Twitter. By asking a question, or starting a poll, people can write as much as they like – and respond to each other.
Top Tip: Despite what you may see every day, there are strict rules about running promotions and competitions on Facebook – it’s against their terms of service to have any competition where the sole means of entry is to ‘like’ a page. Here are the Facebook Competition Rules – read them carefully or risk losing your company page altogether; and here’s more info from Mari Smith on what you need to know about Facebook promotions.
People can like, share and comment on the posts you put on your timeline. Always make sure you thank people for sharing and reply to any comments.
Other people can post their own comments and links on your Page’s timeline. These are reasonable unobtrusive but you need to make sure they are not sending your fans to any dubious websites – or to competitors.
Facebook Groups are communities where people with similar interests can discuss relevant topics. By all means set up a Facebook group to engage with potential customers, but avoid direct self-promotion through this channel – you’ll need to get involved as an individual rather than as a company page.
Sure, post the odd link in there to one of your blog posts if it’s really valuable to the group members, but otherwise just join in the discussion and listen.
Many companies overlook LinkedIn for business social media marketing as it is, overall, a place for people to connect with people. On the other hand, you (on behalf of your business) can add value to the activity in Groups and Questions sections of LinkedIn – and this can be a great source of traffic.
Make sure you have a company profile set up, with your logo and up-to-date information. Any past or present employee who works for, or has worked for, your business, should be considered an ambassador of the company as they will be linked to your company profile. If your employees are on LinkedIn, make sure their profiles are accurate and professional. If they are not then it may be worth encouraging them – you want to make sure you give the right picture to anyone searching for your company.
The Questions section is LinkedIn is very active, as people compete for the accolade of ‘top answer’. You can post a question, invite answers, close the discussion a week later and nominate someone for giving the best response. It’s a great way to find industry influencers (who you can then connect with on Twitter and Google Plus), and you can drive traffic. For example, perhaps you wrote an opinion-piece on your blog about a hot topic of industry news, and didn’t really get the responses and debate you were hoping for. You can open the debate as a LinkedIn question, link to your site for further reading/reference, and hopefully start discussion there as well as on the social network.
LinkedIn Groups are ways for people working in specialised industries to connect, discuss issues, and support each other. Again, engaging with people in groups is a great way to work out who is influential in your industry and demonstrating your expertise. You do have to enter groups as an individual, but as a representative of for the company you work for.
That’s about it for LinkedIn, after all, it is about the personal connections. Just remember that brand management needs to be done across the internet, not just on the most obvious platforms.
The popularity and use of Google Plus had threatened to wane, but various efforts from Googlehave placed it firmly back on companies’ social agendas. If your business page has been neglected – or if it’s never been set up – now is the time to build your circles and get engaging with people.
Contrary to what some people believe, Google Plus is not a substandard version of Facebook. It’s its own entity, with very different features, advantages and benefits.
We wrote a comprehensive guide to Google+ business pages last year, which still applies today. The post lets you know how to set up your page, maintain it and optimise your linking and engagement.
Once you’ve set up your profile, you need to build your circles. Putting your connections into different ‘circles’ means you can choose what to share with each group – each time you post an update you can choose between ‘public’, all your circles, or just one/some of your circles.
Google Plus allows you to share others’ updates with the click of a button, a bit like the ‘share’ feature on Facebook or retweeting. Therefore, others can share your work. The more you engage with others in your circles, the more they will engage back.
Google Plus is even more visual than Facebook – images and videos appear larger and in a cleaner news feed. So utilise this – post videos, share them, and make sure your links to blog posts are accompanied by really engaging images that will grab the attention of the idle Google+ user who is flicking through their home stream.
The importance of creating visually engaging images to accompany your web content has never been as important as since Pinterest came along. Facebook and Google+ do show thumbnails with posted links, but Pinterest is all about the visuals.
The main benefit of Pinterest is its simplicity, so use this to your advantage. Set up your profile, and boards that cover all the kinds of things you might be pinning. If your business is in eCommerce, you can set up a board for the products you sell, and one for each of the topics you will be pinning or repinning to.
You can use add-ons such as Pin It for Chrome so you can pin your (and others’) content with one click. Make sure you attribute your pins to their source, and accompany each image with a clearly defined title or teaser – you want people not only to repin but to follow the link back to your website.
Every now and then, look back at your pinboards overview, review what impression gives about your company and make sure your company values are reflected.
It is still possible to engage with people on Pinterest. Follow the boards of those in your industry that are influential, and repin their pictures. If any of your customers/readers/clients repins you a lot, why not follow them back and repin their stuff – they’ll love you for it. Thank people for repins.
For more information on this, have a look at our post on Pinterest for online marketing.
Responsibility for copyright concerns on Pinterest is put firmly into your own hands, every time you pin or repin an image. Make sure you are familiar and comfortable with the Pinterest terms of service.
Here's our Silicon Beach Training Pinterest pinboard.
The difficulty of monetising the benefits of a social media campaign is one of the main reasons businesses shy away from implementing these practices. It’s impossible to put a value on brand reputation management.
What you can do is use Google Analytics and other tools like SEOMoz to monitor how much of your website traffic comes from social networks, how much time people spent on the page, and whether they then go further into your website. You’ll soon see which of your efforts are getting the traffic and sales, and you can step it up accordingly. Once again, many of the benefits of business social media marketing can not be tracked.
If you follow the above tips for social media marketing, you’ll find that people soon share, repin and retweet your updates and your brand's reach grows in the process.
You also need to make sure that each of your pieces of web content has the relevant buttons so people can socially share your work from the page. Think about – and test – how this will appear when shared – does the best image come up on Facebook by default? Does an appropriate headline come up with the Pin? (Now we come to mention it, if you’re finding this useful, how about clicking the share buttons at the top of this post?)
This post about social media data by AdamF on SEOMoz has a vital snippet about engagement about 2/3 of the way down the page, and how having the likes and +1s can draw in readers that would otherwise not engage or share your content.
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