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What you need to know about social media marketing (in 30 minutes or less)
When asked to give a presentation about the basics of social media for local professionals, BrownBoots’ content specialist was happy to accept.
Then he found out he had 20 minutes — 30 minutes tops.
Week-long conferences, full-day summits and multi-sessions seminars have been devoted to exploring the intricacies of social media marketing. How was he going to pare it down to a mere half hour?
When talking about social media, there’s a temptation to dive directly into tactics, focusing on a handful of programs or apps. But social media marketing is more than a Facebook page or YouTube channel.
Instead of spending time clicking through the many, many options, he did his best impression of an auctioneer and powered through four key questions to address “What You Need to Know about Social Media Marketing.”
1. What is social media marketing?
“Social media refers to the means of interactions among people in which they create, share, and/or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks,” according to Wikipedia.
Some examples include forums, blogs and microblogs, wikis (yes, like Wikipedia), social networks, podcasts, video sharing/rating sites and social bookmarking sites.
Another way to put it: Social media is virtual word of mouth.
Because the term “social media” is so broad, it can be useful to define what it’s not:
- Social media IS two-way communication, NOT just another way to advertise services and products.
- Social media IS a tool in a marketer’s toolbox, NOT a substitute for traditional marketing/website.
- Social media IS an ongoing endeavor, NOT a one-step solution.
A social media marketing plan must complement a company’s overall marketing strategy, which in turn must support its business plan. As with any tactic, you must set measurable goals — e.g., attracting new customers, offering additional services to existing customers, connecting with potential vendors — and track your progress.
2. How much time does social media marketing take?
There’s no simple answer to this question. It can depend on your goals, your target audience(s), and the resources you’re willing and able to dedicate to it.
Even dipping a proverbial toe in the water can be intimidating. Here are some tips to keep from feeling overwhelmed:
- Do some research up front to find your audience; look, listen and learn the ropes.
- Start small, experiment and adjust as needed.
- Commit to making regular updates, monitoring accounts and replying as necessary — even if it’s only 10 minutes a day.
3. What do I need to do it?
First things first, you must have a plan.
Set goals (is there an echo in here?) and create a content calendar. That way your pre-caffeinated mind isn’t struggling to come up with a social media campaign out of the blue first thing in the morning. Make time to seek out the sites your customers/constituents visit and join the conversation. Track your progress to determine what works and what doesn’t.
The next thing you need is content, which can intimidate some people. But you don’t have to create it all from scratch; you can curate content from anywhere on the web (as long as you give credit where credit is due), adding your perspective and then linking to the full story elsewhere.
Content can be any of these things (and more):
- Articles (e.g., expertise pieces, company updates, a position on current events)
- Quick tips
- White papers and e-books
- Videos and podcasts
- Contests, coupons, rewards
Once you determine what you will have for content — valuable content that your audience will find interesting, helpful and/or entertaining — you can decide on the channels you will use to distribute it.
But don’t collect social media accounts like trading cards. Quality always trumps quantity, and the number one rule is to go where your audience is.
If creating a business page on Facebook makes sense, don’t be shy about showing your personality. With Twitter, you must be much more concise; use links and hashtags liberally. LinkedIn allows people to post testimonials on your company profile, but you have limited ability (as a business) to interact beyond your own page. Use a personal LinkedIn account to drive folks to your company page.
Pinterest is a great option for companies that post a lot of pictures and graphics, and Instagram can help distribute photos to a variety of other social media channels. If you have the resources (and the right reasons) to create videos, YouTube and Vimeo are the heavy hitters for multimedia.
And don’t forget about blogs, which can serve as the mother ship for your digital marketing foray — the repository for all of your content and destination for all those links you’re posting on Facebook, Twitter, etc.
4. How do I know if I’m doing it right?
- For starters, there’s “activity” on your accounts, including comments, questions and sharing.
- Your interactions on other company’s accounts translate into follows on yours.
- You might not have the most followers, but the ones who do follow you are active participants — and advocates.
- You’re trying new things, perhaps making mistakes, and learning from your efforts.
- Best of all, you’re achieving your goals! (There’s that echo again…)
So there you have it. The presentation covered a lot of ground but only scratched the surface. Sure, there are classes and courses, seminars and summits dedicated to the subject, but the many possibilities should prevent you from strategically exploring one or two tactics.
You have to start somewhere!