Social Media Marketing Basics & Best Practices

Best Practices for Social Media Marketing

We don’t even really know how to spell it. Is it Socialmedia or Social Media? There’s a lot of media, claiming to be “social” that isn’t so social at all. Let’s clear up a few definitions. (IMHO – In My Humble Opinion)

Social + Media: (spelling: Social Media, hashtag: #socialmedia) is the use of created content (media) to begin or continue a social interaction. (conversation)

What is not social media: broadcast media pushing ads and hype on Facebook and Twitter. It’s media, and it’s using “social” as a channel, but it’s not social media. I guess the social begins when the potential customer or current customer reacts to an ad or post and begins the social interaction. That’s the goal, an interaction.

Social Business: new buzzword for trying to drive business through the use of social media. Often the real rally cry for the “business” part is the ROI. But if you’ve been doing social media for any length of time, you already know that tracking the “return” is of critical importance. So the marketers have coined a new term to define their brand of social that is focused on business. Valid idea, but the principle is the same as it’s always been.

Social Networks: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn are all social networks. You can use them for three main purposes: 1. advertising (pay to market your services to the user of the network – often the lowest “r” or of all types of social media); 2. networking (connecting and communicating with your friends, families, and colleagues); 3. business to consumer connections (you might want to try contacting customer service via facebook or twitter, sometimes the results can be better than the 1-800 customer service number. (American Airlines example) You’re real-world results may vary.

Let’s now look at the best practices of social media – not from opinion but from data.

Engagement: social happens when the customer initiates a contact (“goes social”) with your company. If there is no one home, and the question or challenge goes unanswered, the social engagement is a failure. The numbers indicate that 70% of brands leave questions unanswered. The lights are on, somebody started a Facebook page or a Twitter account, but they are not paying attention.

Facebook: Being represented on Facebook is important. If your customers are there, and they want to reach you, or better yet, promote you, it pays to set up shop on Facebook. BUT… If you don’t allocate any resources to check Facebook and respond to complaints, questions, and comments, you’re actually doing your company a disservice. Everyone started out saying, “You need a Facebook page. You’re customers are there.” But very few companies have followed through with a strategy and process for engaging with Facebook. (Recommendation: Once a day, sweep your Facebook page for Questions, or Comments. Thank everyone who comments. Answer questions when possible. Acceptable response time: 24 hours)

Twitter: Twitter is much less easy to define and track. But Twitter matters. And the younger your demographic the more important having a Twitter strategy becomes. You can get burned if your brand is being torched on Twitter. Get a program in place for Twitter content. Dumb tweets are almost worse than no tweets at all. But a good tweet can build your audience, and drive traffic to your Facebook page or blog. People follow brands on Twitter. Brands don’t do a very good job of listening or responding on Twitter. But it’s vital that you get better at it. Put a plan in place. And learn what to do if you get a negative trend. What’s your troll policy and plan? (Recommendation: Minimum once a day sweet for mentions and @s. Don’t tweet unless you have something to say. Never respond directly to trolls. Get a plan. Acceptable response time: 1 – 2 hours when staffed, but 24 hours is within tolerance.)

LinkedIn: If you’re in the business of doing business with other professionals, LinkedIn is the social network for you. Of all my networks, LinkedIn provides the most real leads and the most active links and conversations of any of my social channels. I like to post relevant questions or posts in LinkedIn Groups that I belong to. Make sure your business has a page, so that companies can find your company. LinkedIn is great for referrals, networking, and even job hunting. If your presence is weak on LinkedIn, chances are you will perceived as not really having your digital strategy together. (Recommendation: make sure you business has a page on LinkedIn. Keep your contacts and current project work up-to-date. Acceptable response time: 24 hours.)

Blog Content: Blogging is the magic carpet for social media. If you can generate “good” content, that your customers and potential customers care about, you then have something to socialize on those social networks. But not all content is created equal. Blogging to be blogging is not a great idea. You need a plan, a content strategy, and a set of goals. What are you blogging for? Does every post have a point and an easy CTA (call to action)? The beautiful thing about blog content is the currency, it’s fresh, and the search engines love new and original content. And by blogging about your company and services (customer stories tell the story much better than pr-type content) you have a chance to share more than just the bullet points. (Recommendation: Make sure you know the goal of your blogging program, have a content plan, have Google Analytics in place on your blog so you can see where people are coming from and where they are going when they get to your blog. Acceptable response time: A comment on your blog is like lightning, pure goodness, less than 24 hours.)

All the other networks (Pinterest, Slideshare, Instagram, Google+): If the network is relevant to your business you should set up shop there as well. But only if you’re going to listen and respond in a timely manner. And make sure you are tracking the “referrals” and not just the activity for each network. Pinterest is notorious for generating a lot of “activity” and not many actual referrals. Google+ is great if you’re a techie and wanting to reach early adopters and techies. And of course, new networks and apps are showing up all the time. Don’t miss an opportunity if you have the bandwidth to check-in and respond to any activity on these other networks. (Recommendation: try a network if it fits your niche or demographic, and measure for results. Don’t look for activity, look for referrals and results. Acceptable response time: 24 hours.)

John McElhenney
@jmacofearth

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