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Your social media presence is key in this digital ageMake sure you have a top notch social media marketing strategy.

Technology has completely revolutionised the way we live our everyday lives – from the way we conduct business to the way we keep up with friends and family – and businesses who haven’t yet adapted to this change often find themselves struggling to remain competitive.

Social media is one of the major drivers of this change, with approximately 1.96 billion people collectively using social networking platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube from across the world, and this number is expected to rise up to 2.5 billion by 2018.

With such numbers, it’s little wonder why businesses are investing heavily in social media marketing. Social media marketing refers to the use of social networks to promote a company’s branded content with the goals of driving website traffic and building profitable customer relationships at the same time.

Small businesses can expect the following benefits when they integrate social media into their overall marketing strategy:

  • Significant website and blog traffic boost thanks to social media’s ability to act as an effective content promotional tool.
  • An easy way to offer customer support to current customers while also responding to queries about your products or services from prospective ones.
  • A great way to generate testimonials and reviews from customers which will then be used as social proof across all marketing channels such as email and website.
  • It serves as an engagement and loyalty building tool for customers who are looking to increase the lifetime value of their customers.

While small businesses are aware of the benefits that social media offer, getting started remains a problem for many of them. And the few that have taken the initiative to get started with social media marketing are doing it all wrong – not posting consistently, overly promotional posts and ignoring reviews are among the many mistakes small businesses are making.

The best way to get started with social media marketing, while avoiding the many mistakes other small businesses are making, is to create a social marketing strategy that will guide your efforts and also tie into your overall business marketing strategy. This article looks at three (3) simple steps you can follow to structure your approach to social media marketing in a way that will set you up for success.

Getting Started with Social Media Marketing

Laying the groundwork for your social media marketing campaign is essential if you want to generate results you can track and measure. Without a plan or strategy in place, it will be difficult to figure out what success means to you and your business. The following steps are crucial to laying a strong foundation for your entire strategy:

Define Your Goals: The first step to creating a social media plan is to choose and define what your goals are. Increasing followers or generating likes and tweets are not quantifiable metrics to focus on. Instead, make your goals SMART, i.e. specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based. So whether you want to increase sales, retain more customers or drive website traffic, you should have clearly defined goals that you can work towards. For example, if your goal is to generate leads with social media, your SMART goal could be to drive X amount of traffic to a content offer landing page by the end of the month.

Define Your Audience: Just like it is with any other marketing strategy, social media requires that you have a clear and in-depth understanding of who your target audience is. Information such as age, location, sex, job title, interests, and likes, will help you target the right demography with your content promotion and marketing activities.

Choose An Appropriate Social Network: There are literally hundreds of social media networks from across the world and it would be exhaustive and outright impossible to have a profile on each of them. This is where having a clearly defined audience becomes useful because you will be able to choose social networks that cater to your specific target audience. The most popular social networks include Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram (which is owned by Facebook).

Choose Your Social Handles: In order to maintain consistency across all your social profiles, you should ensure you’re using the same username (or a close variation). This helps to ensure your brand message is consistent regardless of where prospects first interacted with your company. You can use platforms like Namechk.com to check the availability of your username on all social media platforms.

Choose Your Content: Social media thrives on content. According to Evsdrop, there are 347,000 tweets and 510,000 Facebook comments every minute. That is a lot of content going around, and the only way to stand out to your audience is by sharing informative and entertaining content. This is where your content marketing strategy comes into play. Your blog posts and repurposed content are all the content you need to build a profitable relationship with your prospects.

Choosing the Right Social Media Platform(s)

Not every social media platform will be ideal for your type of business. Understanding your customer demographics will help you make the right choice. One key question to consider when choosing a social networking platform is, what social media platforms do my customers spend the most time on? The best way to answer that question is to talk to your customers and find out where they spend most of their time. This will help ensure that your time, effort and investment in social media are well spent.

Listed below are the most popular social media platforms in the world and chances are there is a considerate amount of your prospective customers hanging out there:

Facebook: If you were to use just one platform for your social media marketing, then it should be Facebook. With over 1.6 billion active monthly users, Facebook is the most popular social media platform in the world.  Facebook also offers the best social advertising service with a robust audience targeting option to help you zero in on your core audiences.

Keep the following tips in mind when using Facebook for marketing:

  • Use visually appealing content to boost your engagement rates on Facebook. Posts and updates with images generate 39% more attention than those who don’t. They also receive about 53% more likes, 104% more comments, and 84% more clicks.
  • While you should post at least four times per day on Facebook to keep your timeline busy and to stay connected to your audience, it has been noted that engagement rates on Facebook are usually 18% higher on Thursdays and Fridays.
  • Weekday posts have also been touted to receive 14% more engagement than posts sent out during the weekends.
  • Keep your posts to 250 characters and below. But make sure to include images or videos. It is a good idea to use your blog images when promoting your website’s content too.
  • Boost your posts or run ad campaigns to reach a more diverse audience and to generate website traffic

LinkedIn: LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional social network and it’s ideal for B2B companies. Business professionals from all over the world use LinkedIn and like Facebook; visual content also drives more engagement. The average age range for LinkedIn users is between 30-49 years old. And about 44% of them make approximately £75,000 or more annually.

Use these tips for your LinkedIn marketing:

  • Inspirational content drives a lot of engagement, such as shares, comments, and likes.
  • Leverage LinkedIn Pulse for sharing your blog posts (or variations of it) and add links back to your website and content offer landing pages. LinkedIn Pulse also helps with search engine optimisation, so you can establish yourself as an expert in your field and also generate organic traffic at the same time – win/win.
  • Use LinkedIn’s Ad campaign manager to push your content to the right decision makers

Twitter: Twitter is a fast-paced social network that boasts over 300 million active monthly users. According to a recent Pew Research, 25% of all male internet users worldwide are on Twitter. The research further states that a vast majority of Twitter users make around £50,000 to £75,000 per year and that 21% of all its users are female

Quick tips guide your marketing efforts on Twitter:

  • Most of Twitter conversations happen in real-time, so keep your content timely and relevant. You should also include hashtags in order for your posts to have a wider reach.
  • Because conversations happen in real-time, people’s timeline are only populated by the most recent tweet, which is why posting consistently is a good way to stay relevant. The ideal posting time should be between 3 to 5 times per day at the very least. Keep in mind, however, that these posts should be valuable, timely and relevant to your audience.
  • Engagement is reportedly five times higher when you use high-quality images in your tweets.
  • Sponsor your tweets to reach more people with your content.

Instagram: Mostly popular with B2C companies, Instagram is a photo sharing social networking platform that is owned by Facebook and boasts of over 600 million users worldwide. And thanks to some major algorithm changes they went through last year, many small businesses can now use Instagram for marketing much more efficiently.

Some tips to keep in mind when using Instagram for marketing includes:

  • Instagram is a highly visual social network which means you must invest considerably in producing quality videos and images.
  • Similarly to Twitter; you can increase the reach of your content by using relevant hashtags with your posts.
  • Sponsor your posts to reach a wider audience.
  • Once you’ve chosen the appropriate social network to use, the next step would be to start sharing valuable content to attract and engage your prospective customers.

Sharing Relevant Content

Content is an important component of your social media strategy, and you should allocate adequate resources to its creation and distribution. If you consistently share original and valuable content, your audience will like, comment and share your posts, thus increasing its reach.

The content you post on social media should be fuelled by your content marketing strategy, and blogging is at the very core of that. Blogging will help your company to increase brand awareness, increase credibility and generate leads which will be dropped into your lead nurturing campaign.

Incorporate the following tips when setting up your blog in order to achieve better results:

Write content that your target audience actually wants to read, instead of what you want them to read. That means your blog posts should be about the challenges your prospective customers are facing and the solutions to those problems instead of promotional articles about your product or service. To get an idea of the frequently asked questions in your industry, use tools like Google’s Keyword Planner to analyse and choose long tail variations of the keywords.

Research and have a good understanding of the keywords that your prospective customers are using to search for the solutions to their pain points. Once you have a list of these keywords, optimise each blog post for one particular keyword by including it in the blog post’s title, description, images, and headers within the content itself. This will also help to improve your search engine rankings

Make your Blog page attractive and beautiful. Make each of your blog posts easy to scan. Use short and concise paragraphs to describe your points quickly. Include images to emphasise and drive home your cogent points. Include bullet lists and sub-headers to break up the text so that your reader can easily digest your information.

Finally, you should aim to blog consistently – once per week at the very least. The more you blog, the more content you can have to distribute. You can also repurpose your blog posts into other content types so you can add variety to your social media posts.

Once you have determined the consistency of your blogging, you need to also plan the consistency of your social media posts as well. A social media posting calendar will come in handy for this. It will help you keep track of what needs to be posted, on which platform and at what time to be posted. Tools like Hootsuite or Buffer can help you automate your posting by allowing you to schedule your posts in advance. You could schedule everyday posts for up to a week if you want, but remember to always monitor engagement and to interact with your audience in real time.

Conclusion

Social media marketing is a great way to build massive awareness about your brand and drive highly targeted traffic to your website. To get started, set your business goals and have a clear understanding of who you’re trying to reach with your marketing efforts.

Next, choose the most appropriate social media platform(s) where you’ve identified your prospective customers to be hanging out. After that, you’ll need to start creating relevant and valuable content that will help you establish your company as a thought leader in your industry.

By incorporating these simple steps, you’ll be on your way to creating a social media marketing strategy that will set your brand apart from your competition, increase your brand awareness, establish your company as a thought leader and drive website highly targeted website traffic to your website.