Any business worth its salt is trying to engage people via social media. It would be downright foolish not to do so.
There are two billion potential customers using social media worldwide. Well, 2.13 billion by 2016 according to estimates.
But like anything worth doing, social media advertising is ultra-competitive.
Global ad spending on social media has already reached over $23 billion annually. The market-leading Facebook will make $15.5 billion in ad revenue this year.
And all the signs show that this trend is heading in an upward curve.
Global ad spending on social media will rise by one-third this year alone. eMarketer predicts that social media ad spending will hit $36 billion by 2017, and that this will be 16% of the total digital ad spend.
So it should be quite clear that the big boys already recognize the importance of social media. And so should you, too.
But to cut through the fog on social media, you need to stand out from the crowd.
Yes, a lot of companies are spending a lot of money on social media advertising …but that doesn’t mean that they’re doing a good job.
You can reasonably expect that 80% of everything is garbage, and that probably applies to social media advertising campaigns too.
But there are several key principles you can follow to ensure that your social media advertising stands out and captures the attention of your customers.
You need to speak directly to the people who matter to your business, and do it in a language that makes sense to them.
So how do you stay ahead of the social media game? Read on …
1. The Social Community
This is the first and most important principle of social media marketing.
The most effective examples of social media marketing are based on building a community.
Instead of making customers feel that you are speaking to them, you will get much better results if you make them feel that they are participating in an active community.
After all, participation is what the Internet is all about.
Nothing passes without comment on the worldwide web, and social media advertising shouldn’t pass without comment either.
To build a social media community you should work out who your key customer demographic is, and then speak to them directly in their language.
Write open-ended social media posts that naturally prompt a response.
Ask specific questions of your audience and encourage them to participate.
The key word when building your social media campaign should be…engage.
2. Listen Don’t Lecture
It is easy to think of social media as being a one-way process.
But the last thing you want to come across as is someone who is lecturing and hectoring your audience.
Engaging with a social media audience should involve as much listening as speaking.
Social media platforms provide a two-way feedback loop. And it is as important to listen to feedback as it is to get your message across.
And, to be honest, failure to do so is pretty damned stupid! Feedback from your customers is an absolutely invaluable source of information.
So at least half of the time you spend on social media campaigns should be spent on attracting comments from your potential customers.
It doesn’t matter whether they are good, bad or indifferent. You should collect, collate and analyse any information that you can obtain directly from customers.
Social listening software such as Google Alerts, Social Mention and Sprinklr can be very powerful tools to assist in this process.
So seek them out and start the process of really understanding your customers.
3. Provide Your Audience with Information That They Actually Need
This sounds like a statement of the rather obvious!
But you’d be surprised how many companies focus on telling people what they want to know, rather than giving people what they actually want.
Companies often feel that what they are projecting must be pure marketing, and the product of some brilliant advertising campaign.
But what will actually be far more valuable to your business is providing customers with information that they actually need.
Not every social media message has to sell something.
Signposting your audience in the direction of important information can be particularly valuable.
This can make your customers genuinely value your social media feed and make them come back for more.
Don’t batter people over the head with advertising; treat them with respect.
4. Key Millennial Demographic
Although people of all ages use social media, it is obviously a medium which particularly appeals to young people.
And the millennial demographic in particular is especially attracted to social platforms.
Millennial is a broad-brush term which can mean different things to different people, but it would be reasonable to summarize it as relating to tech-savvy, 18-30 year-olds.
Young people today smell BS extremely quickly, so don’t try to be cool or one of them, or talk down to them.
This will be a captive audience on social media, so it is essential to take this into consideration with your social media marketing approach.
But do try to engage them with material that is appropriate and not overly dry or complicated.
Snappy messages sell on social platforms.
5. Visual Marketing
Visual social media is proving extremely popular.
Instagram has recently overtaken Twitter as the second most populated social media site in the world, with just over 300 million users.
And the recipe for success at Instagram is obvious … people like looking at pictures!
So innovative campaigns that focus on creating absorbing visual content can be extremely effective.
And this will appeal to the key millennial demographic, which has been the key driver of the success of sites such as Instagram and Snapchat.
6. The Importance of Video
Another powerful way to communicate with customers on social platforms is via video.
Recent arrivals such as Periscope and Meerkat are having a disruptive influence on the medium.
And embracing these sites in their early days can make your business seem like an innovator.
It is important to bear in mind with regard to Periscope, though, that this is a very new platform.
Flagging up any marketing on Periscope via other social platforms is to be recommended.
But engaging your customers with absorbing video content can be a very powerful way of getting your message across.
7. The Plurality of New Platforms
Social media moves extremely fast.
New platforms seem to crop up on an almost weekly basis.
And the speed with which people become familiar with these new social media sites is pretty incredible.
Already new kids on the block such as Meerkat and Snapchat are pretty much household names.
And the overtaking of Twitter in terms of pure volume of users by Instagram must be seen as a particularly significant changing of the guard.
You won’t get anywhere in the social media sphere if you don’t pay attention to this evolution.
Embracing the true diversity of social media platforms is essential in attracting customers to your business.
While Twitter and Facebook probably remain the most powerful mediums, despite the success of Instagram, neglecting some of the newer and less well-known platforms could be a recipe for disaster.
8. Understand Your Platform and Your Audience
But utilizing the different social media platforms without fully understanding them is an equally unwise approach.
LinkedIn is extremely different from Snapchat, and understanding the audience that you will be connecting with is absolutely vital.
Each social platform has its own language, signatures and content which should be used appropriately.
Paying heed to these eight key principles of social media marketing will ensure that your campaigns are effective, and help attract customers to your business in droves.