Foundations for Building a Long-Term Social Media Marketing Strategy

Social media is not a recent buzz topic….it’s been around for years now, so there are countless experts telling you the best way to capitalise on social media and how you can grow your audience to thousands and beyond overnight.

These experts will push their one strategy for how to use social media to get more customers, brand your business and even to capture prospects. For the lay person, though, all these mixed messages make it truly hard to know where to start and what will work for them.

I would argue that there are no tricks or strategies that work for absolutely everyone. Every business needs to work on a strategy that will work for them, the social media channels that are most appropriate for their business and ultimately a content strategy to fuel their social media marketing plan.

Identifying Your Target Market

One of the cornerstones of marketing is identifying who you are selling to. This plays a big part in the way you build and portray your brand, as well as the way you will market to your audience.

Out of anything you could do this is one of the top priorities for your business if you have not already spent the time to truly identify your target market. Many people will argue that their product or service is suited to everyone but here are some points to consider:

  • Do you need everyone?
  • Do some convert easier and at a higher value per customer?
  • What are the needs that your product or service satisfies?

The truth is that probably every product or service has particular niche markets that they can cater for. Most businesses will do best by identifying a niche that they are uniquely qualified to serve and become the authorities in that niche.

Marketing in a niche allows you to focus your message, be more efficient with your marketing budget and convert better because of your perceived authority in the niche.

Choosing The Social Media Channels That Will Work For You

Social media should be considered a voice for your business but there is no purpose in talking to an empty room. If your audience is not on a particular social media platform then you need to pick other platforms that will work better for you.

Everyone talks about Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but are these even appropriate to your business or are there other options you should also be considering?

Other channels may include:

  • Video marketing platforms – video is a great way to show a little bit more about your product/service, build your authority and let people get to know “you”.
  • Industry/interest specific forums – Do not trumpet your latest sale all over forum threads – just become an active and helpful member of these forums. Let your profile signature and the quality of your participation speak for your product/service.

Creating a Content Strategy

Social media thrives on content. Having identified your market and the appropriate promotion channels, you now need to decide what form your voice will take as well as making sure it is in keeping with your overall brand.

The content strategy should start with identifying the different stages of the buying cycle and  the information needs of the buyers as they go through your marketing funnel. This will be the basis of identifying the content you will need to produce.

The content may address the typical FAQ’s, how-to’s, product specifications, etc.

The content you produce can take all forms – text, images, video, audio….all have their place and can easily be shared via social media. In fact you might use all forms at one time to promote one piece of material, e.g. a presentation could be videoed, the audio extracted and transcribed and the slides of your presentation shared or a photo taken and overlaid with text for an important point.

ResearchEngagePurchaseSupportAdvocate
Marketing GoalEnter customer’s consideration set– Build relationship
– Eliminate blocks to purchase
Close sale– Keep/expand relationship
– Sell/Upsell additional product
– Build community
– Get referrals
Customer Need– Research product
– Gather options
– Get input from family/friends/social media
– Get questions answered
– Assess & reduce options
Determine product/purchase specifics– Fix any problems
– Return product
– Improve product usefulness
– Share shopping experience
– Write review
Content/Information Sought– Product/brand info
– Image
– Video
– Current trends/news
– How-to/Product education
– Instructions/FAQ
– Expert opinion
– Customer feedback
– Product/brand details
– Image – more views
– Video – more information
– Current trends/news
– How-to/Product education
– Instructions/FAQ
– Expert opinion
– Customer feedback
– Third party forums for community feedback
– Product/brand details
– Price/promotion
– Location
– Contact information
– Customer service
– Contact information
– Customer service
– Image – product use
– Video – product use
– How-to/Product education
– Instructions/FAQ
– Customer communities
– Customer communities
– Customer feedback

 

Implementing a Content Strategy

Social media thrives on the sharing of information. Your profile as an authority will therefore grow on the strength of the information you share – be it your own or the material of others that you feel will also be relevant to your target market.

To effectively implement your content strategy you will need to identify:

  • The people responsible for producing the content (internally or outsourced)
  • Who is responsible for reviewing the content
  • Who will distribute the content
  • Who is responsible for actively engaging in social media communities

Wherever possible you want your website to be the centre of your social media funnel. That means where you can you share information from your website so anyone wanting to view the content is linked back to your website. Once they are back on your website, they may then be inclined to perform another action after viewing the content that originally interested them, be it signing up for something, making an enquiry or purchasing something.

As an example, if you wanted to share a video you would first upload it to YouTube, so people may find it there, but you would then embed that video in your site for the purpose of sharing it. This way instead of just staying in Facebook to view the video in their news feed, they view your video surrounded by your “controlled environment” with your call-to-actions rather than the distraction of Facebook.

Do You Need a Social Media Policy?

Whether you are a small business or a large company, you should consider having a social media policy in place. This covers everything from the responsibilities of the individuals representing your business to how your business interacts with people, be it complaints or general queries.

The handling of complaints is a very good example of the need for a social media policy. Many a large corporation has been embarrassed by community backlash over situations they have handled poorly.

Is There An Easier Way?

Engaging with your target market through social media does take time. Unless you have a compelling offer that is very timely to the person viewing it, you are not necessarily going to start generating sales tomorrow.

Social media is about nurturing relationships and a very soft sell. Social media is about increasing your brand recognition and the authority people assign to your business. You only have to look around at the businesses that only ever spruik their latest offering – they are the pariahs of the social media world!

That being said, there is the option to shortcut the process by paying for exposure:

  • A targeted industry-specific forum – you might consider paying for banner ads
  • A highly trafficked blog that caters to your target market – banner ads, guest blogging or a review from the blog owner
  • Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn Ads – target you advertising to specific demographics with particular interests.

Action Steps

So the time to start using social media was “yesterday” but just because others may have a headstart, it does not mean you should continue ignoring it and hope it all goes away. To get started:

  1. Identify your target market
  2. Identify the channels you will use to target them
  3. Create your  content strategy
  4. Assign or outsource responsibility for producing the content and distributing it
  5. Identify who is responsible for social media engagement and interaction

…and make sure that all have the skill sets, or will receive training, to carry out the responsibilities that they have been assigned!

 

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