Over the course of the past three or four years, there has been a distinct shift in marketing strategy from many service- and goods-orientated companies away from the traditional ‘Above the Line (ATL)’ advertising channels (magazine adverts, and radio and television adverts) to using digital channels, and particularly social media options.
The reasons are numerous: ATL advertising remains a more costly and less measurable option, where social media channels are generally cheaper, more targeted and highly measurable in terms of success or failure rates of engagement and reach.
Almost all social network platforms are mobile-orientated, meaning that from a direct marketing perspective, they are that much more effective at reaching potential customers – your business is, after all, therefore pretty much always in their pocket!
So what social media channels are available, and what should you be using, if any?
….easy, mainly free, highly-targeted in terms of paid options
The biggest social media network of them all, Facebook has a total active user base of 1.55-billion people, and a number of free and paid options for your business to connect with potential customers and clients.
You’re able to post photos, text updates, videos, polls, company profiles and more, and all for free. And you can update your Facebook page as often as you like, so it’s a great way to build an organic following of people who opt-in to receive updates from you – a qualified subscriber base is always easier to sell to!
There are also a number of excellent options for paid marketing – from a general brand-building campaign to more targeted and specific ‘sale’ campaigns (where you boost a particular offering to a defined audience), Facebook gives you the option to get really good bang for your buck.
Whereas ATL campaigns can cost hundreds or thousands of pounds for less-measurable campaigns, Facebook offers very cost-effective (tens or low-hundreds of pound campaigns) delivering to a defined and targeted consumer base (where you get to choose exactly who your advert or business is shown to).
Beware of becoming too generic
A word of caution though, Facebook users don’t mind being advertised to within the platform, as most of the time there’s an opt-in element to the way they receive information.
However, your campaigns need to be clever – content that is rich in information and useful or informative, rather than just a direct sales pitch, is far more likely to pique and engage a potential customer’s interest.
Intelligent posts and good special offers that take advantage of the viral nature of Facebook posts are good ways to build and enhance your brand, and grow your qualified and engaged following.
…free, opt-in, huge reach but harder work
With 320-million users worldwide, Twitter is one of the fastest and most effective ways to build a following of people who are actually interested in hearing what you have to say.
It’s an opt-in social network – again, a far more qualified way of option for direct engagement – but much like Facebook, it’s not a place for constantly bombarding your followers with sales pitches.
Rather, it should be seen as the ‘mouthpiece’ for your digital content. So, if you’ve written an informative piece, or have an exciting new development that you know people would be interested in, Twitter is the place to spread the word and link back to that piece of content.
You do need to be fairly active though – unlike Facebook, where a post or two a week will suffice, Twitter requires a more active participation. Where Facebook is a secondary website/shop window for your business, Twitter is your ‘sales force or marketing manager’…it’s all about creating conversation!
Twitter also offers a number of cost-effective pay-to-promote options – promoted Tweets can be a great way to target a specific audience, but you need to be very clever about the language you use.
A character limit of 140 means you’ve got limited space to make a big impact – it’s a refined art, so get advice or read up on the right way to go about it! There is some really good advice on Twitter, at https://business.twitter.com/en/basics/what-to-tweet.html
It’s all about give and take
It’s all well and good to constantly be pushing out messages on Twitter, and trying to get followers to click back into your site and engage with your content or offer. But Twitter is as much about reaching out to other users and taking an active interest in their content or offering too.
Be sure to search for and engage with like-minded and complementary business accounts on Twitter. Even if the account you follow isn’t directly related to your business objectives, by being an active and contributing follower of other business accounts, you’ll build and enhance your reputation as a collaborative, trustworthy and insightful member of the Twitter universe.
Instagram & Pinterest:
…visually-appealing, fairly low maintenance
Both Instagram and Pinterest are very visually-orientated social platforms, where you’re able – if it suits your product offering – to create ‘boards’ of images and videos that followers can view, like, comment on and share with their followers.
Both platforms can be regarded as ‘shop windows’ for your business – with Instagram in particular, there are photo-editing functions that can really enhance the visual quality of your product offering, if that’s what your business has to offer.
Be sure that it’s right for your business
Instagram and Pinterest are both nice-to-have if you’ve got a business that is product-orientated and although they’re both fairly low-maintenance, they can still take up precious work-hours for your digital marketing person…be sure that they’re suited to your business, or consider foregoing these in favour of Facebook and/or Twitter.
…a brilliant way to market your products and services, but focus on video quality and production, and connect the dots!
Although YouTube isn’t considered to be a tradition ‘social network’, it does have the share functionality and viral quality of a Facebook or a Twitter and can be an excellent way to create fun, engaging and fresh content to market your business.
YouTube is astonishingly large – more than 300 hours of new content is uploaded every minute, and more than 4-billion videos are viewed every day, so to get your video noticed isn’t just as simple as loading it and assuming people will search for it…
Quality is the key, plus rope in your other social accounts
Like all good content marketing, your YouTube video should be entertaining, engaging, informative and – if possible – light-hearted. And have it done professionally if possible, or ensure that you’re using good quality cameras and editing software if you’re doing it in-house.
And promote the video on Facebook and Twitter – connecting your social channels is a great way of ensuring you get noticed!
What’s the secret to successful social network marketing?
There are millions of articles and videos on how best to use social marketing to enhance your business but ultimately the message is always the same… keep it real.
People who engage with brands on social media are looking for valuable, insightful content that they feel adds value to their daily lives.
Tips to kick-start or upscale your strategy:
- Be visually appealing – use videos, graphics and images to demonstrate your point
- Ask questions, be humorous if appropriate, keep it clean – people need to trust you, so be honest and open. They also want to feel like you’re asking them to answer something – engagement is a key to success. You can make use of polls on Facebook to canvass opinion and engage your customers
- Connect the dots – a social media strategy should involve using the best aspects of all the channels you use to feed off and enhance each other. A post on Facebook can be automatically connected to your Twitter account, for example.
- Make use of insights – business accounts on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube give great information on engagement, reach, audience behaviour, post performance and more. Use these to guide you on what works best.
- Use trackable links so that, beyond insights within your social networks, you’re able to measure the impact of your activity on your business website.
- Give as much as you get – help build other complementary business’s social media profiles by sharing, liking, commenting and contributing. Chances are they’ll return the favour!