What is social media marketing? I know that sounds like an elementary question, but it really does deserve some discussion. There are several dimensions to a great social media marketing strategy as well as its intertwined relationship to other channel strategies like content, search, email and mobile.
Let’s go back to the definition of marketing. Marketing is the action or business of researching, planning, executing, promoting and selling products or services. Social media is a communication medium that enables users to create content, share content or participate in social networking. Social media as a medium is very different from traditional media for two reasons. First, the activity is largely public and accessible to marketers for research. Second, the medium allows for bi-directional communication – both direct and indirect.
There are 3.78 billion social media users worldwide and this number is only going to continue growing over the next few years. As it stands, that equates to about 48 percent of the current world population.
What is Social Media Marketing?
A strong social media marketing strategy must incorporate both the distinct features of social media as well as leverage the methods by which a brand can be monitored and promoted. That means that having a strategy to push 2 tweets a day isn’t a fully encompassing social media strategy. A complete strategy incorporates tools and methodologies to:
- Market Research – Collecting information to better research and understand and communicate with your audience.
- Social Listening – Monitoring and reacting to direct requests from your audience, including customer service or sales requests.
- Reputation Management – Preserving and improving your personal or brand reputation, including review monitoring, collection, and publishing.
- Social Publishing – planning, scheduling, and publishing content that provides awareness and value to your potential customers, including how-to, testimonials, thought leadership, product reviews, news, and even entertainment.
- Social Networking – actively engaging in strategies that grow your reach to influencers, prospects, customers, and employees.
- Social Promotion – Promotional strategies that drive business results, including advertising, offers, and advocacy. This can extend to finding and hiring influencers to extend your promotions to their networks.
Business results don’t always have to be the actual purchase, but they can be building awareness, trust, and authority. In fact, social media sometimes isn’t an optimal medium to drive direct purchases.
73% of marketers believe that their efforts through social media marketing have been somewhat effective or very effective for their business.
Social media is more often used to discover by word of mouth, a source of discussion for research, and a source to connect – via people – to a company. Because it’s bi-directional, it’s quite unique from other marketing channels.
71% of consumers who have had a positive experience with a brand on social media are likely to recommend the brand to their friends and family.
Social Media Mediums and Example Uses
54% of social media users use social media to research products.
- Market Research – I’m working with a dress manufacturer right now who is launching their direct-to-consumer brand online. We’re utilizing social listening to identify keywords that target consumers utilize when speaking about the top competitors so that we can incorporate that vocabulary into our branding efforts.
- Social Listening – I have alerts set up for my personal brand and this site so that I see my mentions online and can directly respond to them. Not everyone tags a brand in a post, so listening is vital.
- Reputation Management – I have two local brands I’m working with that we’ve set up automated review requests for their clients. Every review is collected and responded to, and happy customers are pushed to share their reviews online. This has led to increased visibility in local search results.
- Social Publishing – I work with several companies that manage content calendars and centralize their scheduling efforts in Agorapulse (I’m an ambassador). This saves them a ton of time because they don’t have to go out and manage every medium directly. We incorporate campaign UTM tagging so that we can see how social media is driving traffic and conversions back to their site.
- Social Networking – I’m actively using a platform that helps me identify and connect with influencers and organizations that may hire me on LinkedIn. It’s had a substantial impact on my speaking opportunities and has helped my company grow its sales.
- Social Promotion – Many of my clients incorporate social media advertising when they are promoting events, webinars, or sales. The incredible targeting these ad platforms provide is incredibly useful.
I realize that you can build some fairly complex social media campaigns that incorporate uses and mediums in ways that don’t match my options above. I’m just throwing out some general uses of each of the mediums to provide some insight into how they can be used differently.
Many marketers tend to gravitate towards the coolest medium or the one that they’re most comfortable with. This is an accident waiting to happen because they aren’t leveraging or combining the mediums to their fullest potential.
How Businesses Are Using Social Media
- Showcase your brand – word of mouth is incredibly effective because it’s highly relevant. People in a specific industry, as an example, often congregate in social media channels and groups. If one person shares your brand, product or service, it can be seen and shared by a highly-engaged audience.
- Develop a loyal community – if you have an effective social strategy of providing value to your audience – either by direct assistance, curated content, or other news, tips and tricks, your community will grow to appreciate and trust you. Trust and authority are important elements of any purchase decision.
- Improve customer service – when your customer calls you for help, it’s a 1:1 conversation. But when a customer reaches out on social media, your audiences get to see how you react and respond their needs. Great customer service can be echoed through every corner of the globe… and so can customer service disaster.
- Increase digital exposure – why product content without a strategy to share and promote it? Developing content doesn’t mean if you build it, they will come. They won’t. So building a great social network where the community become brand advocates is incredibly powerful.
- Boost traffic and SEO – While the search engines continue to exclude links, fans and followers as a direct factor in search engine ranking, there’s no doubt that a strong social media strategy will drive great search engine results.
- Expand sales and reach new audience – it’s proven that sales people who incorporate a social media strategy outsell those who do not. As well, your sales people understand how to deal with negative feedback in the sales process because they actually speak to people every day. Your marketing department often doesn’t. Putting your sales representatives out on social to build a presence is an awesome means of expanding your reach.
- Cut marketing costs – while it requires momentum, trending growth on social media for follows, shares, and clicks will ultimately drive down costs while increasing demand. There are incredible stories of companies going from broke to expanding after building a unique social media presence. That requires a strategy that can be counter to many corporate cultures. There are also a lot of companies that are terrible at social media and are simply wasting their time.
49% of consumers claim that they depend on influencer recommendations on social media to inform their purchasing decision.
Within each of these are the means to increase the acquisition and retention of your customers as well as to even upsell them along their customer journey.
The Impact of Social Media
While I don’t always push my clients to fully invest in every social media practice, I do see a continued return on investment when my clients manage their reputation and build value with their followers online. In any case, ignoring the power of social media can be at a brand’s peril if they mismanage a customer service issue. Your customers are expecting you to be present and respond in a timely manner on the key social media platforms… incorporating the tools and strategies to do this is essential.