Social Media Strategy & the Evolution of Marketing
By Lucas Vandenberg
The word “marketing” often evokes Mad Men-era images of advertising execs on Madison Avenue, smoking and drinking, while devising slick ads, catchy slogans, and unforgettable jingles. These sexy ideas came to life in the form of billboards, print ads, and radio or television commercials. As technology continued to evolve over the decades, the rise of the Internet allowed marketers to deliver similar types of static advertising, creating digital billboards through websites and banner ads. And while each of these traditional marketing elements still plays an important role in the overall mix for brands, we’ve come a long way since the 1960s.
The advent of social networks like Facebook and Twitter in the late 2000’s triggered a marketing revolution. Marketing didn’t have to be static broadcast messages anymore. Instead of pushing out ads to consumers and hoping for the best, brands and consumers now had the ability to interact and engage with each other in real-time. In this new era of marketing, consumers are in the driver’s seat. As a brand, you need to make sure you’re along for the ride.
Is your business positioned to capitalize on the latest trends in social media marketing? Most businesses recognize the importance of social media marketing for their brand but oftentimes struggle with where to start or how to use social media to their advantage. To ensure your company is on the right track, here are five critical steps to consider.
1. Establish Your Marketing Budget for Social Media
Social media marketing is not free. While it might not cost a penny to secure a Facebook Business Page or Twitter account for your company, marketing in social media is not gratis! First, you may need to hire someone internally or find a social media marketing agency to help manage your social presence. At a minimum, you’ll need to create branded graphics for your social accounts, develop creative content, and monitor your accounts daily for new opportunities. All of this effort will either take time, money, or both.
According to new research from Duke University, social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter currently represent 9 percent of marketing budgets and are expected to grow to more than 13 percent over the next year. In the next five years, growth is expected to rise to more than 21 percent. If you’re a startup or small business, you might consider increasing the percentage of your budget dedicated to social media marketing since you’re probably not in the position to afford a national TV spot or other more expensive traditional marketing tactics. Think of social media as your laser-guided missile, able to hone in and locate a very specific target demographic.
2. Determine Who Will Manage Your Social Media Marketing
The answer to this question will really depend on your budget. If you’re a small business and can’t afford to hire a specialist, you might have to manage your social media marketing on your own. If this is the case, make sure you plan to dedicate at least two to three hours per day to managing your social accounts. Executed properly, social media marketing can be a full-time job. If you’re juggling tons of other job functions, marketing tends to get put on the back burner. You may need to put time on your calendar each day to focus on developing content and replying to prospects and customers on your social channels.
If you can afford it, outsource to an agency. A good agency will have the experience to manage your account well, will understand social strategy, and will have access to tools you wouldn’t otherwise know about or want to purchase on your own.
Don’t hire someone fresh out of college because you think, “they grew up with social media.” If you grew up with television, does that make you an expert at developing and producing Super Bowl commercials? Didn’t think so. The same applies to social media marketing. Being able to download the Twitter app and tweet a few times does not mean you know how to develop and execute marketing campaigns in the social space.
Don’t hand off your social media marketing to the intern. Think about some other critical job functions at your company like accounting, hiring new employees, or negotiating a contract. Would you consider having an intern balance your company budget, manage the human resources department or serve as legal counsel? Doubtful. Managing your company’s online presence in social media is a really important job. Let the intern assist with some of the basic elements like research or monitoring but don’t leave it in his/her hands to directly manage.
3. Decide Which Social Networks to Activate
Depending on your target demographic, you’ll want to choose at least two or three of the top social media networks that your prospects/customers frequent. If you’re an E-commerce website (selling online), you’ll want to consider Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. If you’re selling B2B, you’ll want to look at LinkedIn, Twitter, then Facebook, in that order. If your brand is visually appealing, like a CPG brand or restaurant, you’ll want to consider channels like Instagram and Twitter with a side of Yelp to track customer reviews.
Don’t activate every social channel on the planet. Just because Weibo is one of the largest social media networks with over 600 million users doesn’t mean your brand should be managing its own Weibo account. However, if your company happens to be selling products in China, Weibo might be on the top of your list as it represents nearly 20 percent of Chinese social sharing. Fish where the fish are.
4. Build Your Arsenal of Social Media Tools
There are several niche, industry-specific tools available depending on your vertical, but there are also hundreds of tools generic enough to use in any industry. First, look for a social media dashboard with scheduling capabilities. Entry-level options include Hootsuite and Tweetdeck, which typically offer free versions with basic search and scheduling features. More advanced platforms include brands like Sprout Social and Social Bakers, which allow brands to track social business metrics such as impressions, brand sentiment, and engagement.
The second must-have social media marketing tool is your monitoring or listening software. While dashboards like Hootsuite provide some very simple keyword search features that allow for basic listening, you’ll be blown away by the power of tools like Meltwater Buzz and Radian6. Licensing the perfect suite of advanced social tools will typically cost a few thousand dollars per month. These programs are incredibly robust and provide an in-depth look at who’s talking about your brand (or your competitors) and where your brand is being mentioned (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, forums, YouTube, etc.).
5. Develop a Social Media Strategy
As you brainstorm about how to leverage social media in 2015, consider these four functions in your social strategy:
Branding – social media marketing can generate millions of impressions for your company, build buzz about a new product, and help keep your company name in front of customers and prospects
Sales – developing relationships with loyal fans and engaging with new potential customers can help drive more dollars to your company’s bottom line
Public Relations – identifying your wish list of media outlets and publications and connecting with them via social media can yield some amazing relationships and resources for amplifying your brand message
Customer Care – listening and monitoring in the social space allows you to answer customer questions in real-time and provides a great tool to supplement your company’s call center
Prioritize what’s most important to your business. What are your goals and objectives for the year? Forget, for a moment, that we’re talking about social media marketing and just think about what your business needs to do this year to be more successful. Maybe it’s getting the local newspaper to run a couple of stories about your plans for expansion. It might be servicing your clients better and improving your customer service. Whatever your business needs to do in 2015, social media marketing can play an effective role in helping you achieve that success.