Issue #9 – Social Media Marketing – What You Need to Know
Since it is such a hot topic, advice abounds on the importance of the social media medium for driving brand impressions, growing lead counts and building sales revenue. It seems that most businesses have trouble keeping up with trends, downloading the latest and greatest applications as Facebook gives way to Instagram and Pinterest, which give way to Vine, Snap Chat and beyond. Many business owners and managers have simply given up on social media. Many still associate social media only with Facebook and Twitter, while others are unaware that a robust social media approach usually includes very small budgets dedicated to pay-per-click advertising on social media sources like Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, not to mention the ability to boost non-sales post and drive additional followers, likes, and inquiry volume. A cursory Google News search will illuminate the day’s most recent recommendations, largely the opinions of freelance writers and digital marketers with impressive broad knowledge of social media and tech trends, but with arguable biases towards specific niches and with writing tailored to silicon valley readers, not the typical business starting from scratch or nearly scratch seeking greater online exposure and a need to monetize and profit from the investment.
With the myriad choices in today’s digital world (from within the subcategories of website design, search engine optimization, online reviews, and reputation management, live chat, and beyond), our mission at SEOversite has always been to fully vet each option and distill the very best practices for our clients and readers. With social media, which we felt was “worth keeping up with but not worth spending much time or any money on” just a few years ago, we have evolved. As we see most of our clients profiting on social media investment and are profiting and investing ourselves in social media (follow us right away on Google+ , Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn), we want to both share what is working, challenge your business to considering getting back “in the game,” and perhaps even shamelessly promote our iScreamSocialMedia group at the same time. We’ve attempted to take this daunting world and create a basic strategy to clarify how businesses should approach a successful social marketing campaign, to be executed either in-house, or with the help from a trusted, fully vetted team like iScreamSocialMedia.
Branding, Impressions, Inquiries & Sales
You own a business or manage one. You want leads or sales or more site visitors or all three. For years it has been clear that social media as a resource for branding and impressions (the number of times people see your image, posts, icons, etc.) is rarely paralleled. This year, SEOversite has had over 35,000 impressions through just one social media feed. This means people are seeing us, our brand is slowly burning into the memories of potential clients and we have the opportunity to be “on the radar” of our followers when the time is right to buy. Unfortunately, impressions are easy to make, but this doesn’t necessarily “lead to leads” on a grand scale, and for many businesses, while branding and exposure through impressions have a monetary value, even a handful of qualified online inquiries or calls would be worth far more. As an example, most clothing brands care more about having their dress on an Academy Award winner for a single evening, leading to millions of impressions, than they would a few inquiries at their boutique from serious buyers. As a juxtaposition, most established law firms or doctors, while they appreciate continued brand exposure at some point would prefer a handful of superb client inquiries who might spend tens of thousands each.
Regardless, branding and impressions matter and make businesses money, but are hard to tie directly to sales. Our rule of thumb is to ask “Am I receiving enough sales directly from social media to at least break even in my investment? If so, it is worth continuing as I am also getting intangible and hard to define branding and monetary benefit that goes with hundreds, thousands, or millions of additional exposures each month to potential future clientele.” Be wary of advertising sources that flip that concept upside down. Many print advertising salespeople lead with impressions and finish with real business, and that is the wrong approach, but the only one they can use to make sales in some cases. Have you heard something like “We have over a million copies in print monthly so you will have so many impressions. It is about branding your business and if you can get some leads, even better. I know you didn’t get any the last few months, but it takes time and in the meantime, you are getting a lot of exposure.” We here at SEOversite prefer to say the opposite “We want to get you at least enough defined, trackable leads through social media over a period of a few months to at least break even and ideally make a handsome profit. If we can do that, we can then say that there are clear benefits to all of the additional exposure you are receiving in addition to the monetary gain.”
The theory of “multiple looks” indicates that consumers need to see a brand, and their pitch, numerous times before they are comfortable buying. If you already have happy customers singing your praises and a website that is optimized to reach those searching online for your product or services, social media is, of course, a natural complement to more traditional marketing efforts, especially given the vast audience commanded by the likes of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. But the efficacy of a campaign – defined by the followers, likes, shares, and sales you receive as a result – lies in the content you present to your existing, and future, audience. So let’s now talk about how to monetize your social media presence.
Content – Curation vs. Creation
Most business owners we see who have a social presence post consistently about whatever product or service they are selling. Real estate agents post pretty photos of a new listing or something that was recently sold. Doctors post a before/after photo set and a discount on the service of the month. Ecommerce companies post a new product or a Mother’s Day special. A lawyer posts the current month’s blog about employees clocking in and out on time and implications of not doing so leading to labor and hour issues within the reader’s business. And there is nothing wrong with this, but over time engagement is lost, numbness sets in, and your followers scroll past your post without registering them in their brains.
We hear at SEOversite and iScreamSocialMedia believe in building follower counts, improving engagement with posts, and growing lead counts by using the following process for curating and creating posts that consumers love:
- Informational Posts – These educate (“Click here to read our recent article on improving online presence” or “We love this article from the Huphington Picayune talking about the benefits of meditation”)
- Candid and Fun Posts – photos or videos of the team being themselves (“Happy St. Patrick’s Day from Dr. O’Brian and the team” with the doctor dressed up in green and the team holding up a fake rainbow)
- Awards and Credentialing (“We are so proud of our firm – check out this video of Smith, Smith, and Wollensky winning the Tulsa Law Firm of the Year Award”)
- Educational videos (“Here is a one minute clip explaining the newest method for removing fat under the chin Dr. Williams created this morning”)
- Post that Call to Act (“Contact us to today for a free consultation” or “10% off all products until midnight on Black Friday using code: SEOversiteISAWESOME” or “Call us today to learn more”)
While only 20-30% of posts are truly selling products and services, we keep customers engaged and guessing, wondering what we might post next. If your neighbor posts fifty photos in a row of her kid unless you are her best friend and being supportive after a week or two you don’t “unfriend” her on Instagram, but you likely stop pressing like and looking at the photos in detail. If instead, she has some photos of the kids, others of travel, some about charity work, group photos of friends, and some interesting nature photos, you may look more often and stay engaged. On business feeds, it is important to remember the viewer is seeing your posts right after their neighbors and you will be held to the same standard. If you check out our Instagram feed, you will see some of our recent posts include:
- A sales pitch for our upcoming YellowTelescope Seminar (our sister company) featuring a 50th floor view of Miami Beach’s waterways and a yacht all attendees were taken on
- A sales pitch for SEOversite and how we are a free service
- A picture of our President’s new Vespa with the verbiage “Hoffenberg got a new scoot.”
- A photo of a piece of art seen in the MFA in Houston
- A promotion of our new office spaces and Ed, our VP, inside of a storage unit looking a little goofy.
- People continue to watch our feed, like our photos, and we get to stay on their radar as they do not mentally discount us the way they do others they follow.
There are of course differing opinions on what percentage of posts should be from your own creation (photos, videos, quotes you make up for twitter, events, specials) vs. curation (finding interesting articles on the internet that apply to your readership, re-tweets, and reposts, for example) but what we are sure of is that we want some variety and we then tailor it to the business and brand. A law firm will likely have a more professional curation, while a family business can add more whimsy, but all companies should have both. Therefore, a balanced approach needs to be taken. Some actually fairly scientific studies have been done to test this (just one example with sound logic behind the conclusions can be viewed here).
Whether it’s creating entertaining or informative videos, writing articles for your own blog or other publications, casually posting about current events in your industry, or sharing nifty images you create of your staff, store, or products, created content should be significant components in your online presence. Curated content should be a reflection of your brand – the collective “voice” of your company that your customers might be attracted to, want to follow, share, and buy from.
Define your voice
Now that we have a blueprint on which to build, ask yourself who is posting your content? Not in the literal sense (which could be a service specializing in social media management, or an employee, or a part-time intern, or the business owner themselves, all depending on budgets – a truly superb outsourced team doing social media the right way will cost a business from 700 to several thousand dollars per month with most being in the $1,000-$2,000/month range so beware the web team “tacking on some social for a few hundred bucks” as you will get what you pay for), but in the figurative sense. Determine the “voice” being used to present both the curated and the created content. What qualities personify your organization, and appeal to your customers?
If you had to pick a spokesperson for your brand, what would they be like? Male or female? Older or younger? How educated would they be? What style of clothes would they wear? Would they be serious, or would they have a wry sense of humor? Would they be cynical or sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek or serious-but-articulate or would they be sensitive and giving? While more of an exercise in brand self-discovery, in a sense you are attempting to write your own social media screenplay, and have to create the narrator.
This “voice” will help you better determine the content you should be looking for, and the manner in which it’s posted.
Schedule those posts!
Last, it is time to get to work. Once you have have a plan to both gain exposure and actual sales, have a blueprint for the sorts of posts you will place, a budget for boosting posts, retargeting and dabbling in pay-per-click social advertising, plus have a voice or avatar who will represent your brand, it is time to collect and schedule your posts (or get your hired team to do so). Whether you’re actively scouring the web for great stuff, feverishly creating content, or casually reading through your own favorite feeds, start collecting all this content in a central place. Then determine a schedule to distribute the content over time. There are varying opinions about the frequency of posts depending on the company and the network (a great primer on this topic, along with other great tips, can be found in (and we provide a shout out and h/t to) “The Art of Social Media” by Guy Kawasaki), and, frankly, we could write an entirely separate newsletter on the topic. But whether you post once a week or several times a day, make sure to be consistent and know that the professionals, if you can carve out a small budget, will do it well and save you a lot of time.
Software like Hootsuite can be a great tool to “pre-curate” content, then schedule it to post weeks or even months in advance, across several different streams, allowing you to “set it and (almost) forget it.” Remember, once you have a head start, it’s important to make it someone’s job to continue to create and curate content. And you will always have to monitor the streams, and gauge your success based on your growing followers, likes, shares, and leads.
If you have questions or realize you don’t have the knack, know-how, or time for managing your own social media, contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how we can help your business scream social through iScreamSocialMedia.