Even those well-versed in the principles of inbound marketing may have their reservations about social media. From a spectators perspective, watching some brands kill it and others fail spectacularly can leave marketers feeling conflicted about the whole thing.
Like anything inbound however, it should be clear that strategy is essential. Without one, things can get messy. With one, you can bring a whole new dimension to your marketing.
If you’re still not sold on social, let me humour you for a handful of minutes. Let me lay down the crux of things - the reasons your brand should be on social media...
It’s a window to the world
It’s no secret. Everyone wants more visitors on their website.
It’s the reason a lot of inbound marketers roll out of bed in the morning. Watching website traffic increase month on month is satisfying. But what if you could give it that extra kick up the arse?
Social media is the ideal environment in which to share and promote the content on your website. Granted, it’s not as simple as just floating the odd link out there - spraying and praying. However, a polished content promotion strategy can do wonders for traffic numbers.
You’re gonna have to put your back into it a little, but isn’t that true with anything rewarding?
Get the ball rolling with an article from Kissmetrics on How to Easily Double Your Traffic from Social Media. This unassuming walkthrough will take you on a guided tour of proper promotion. From drawing up a sharing strategy, to image optimisation and monitoring results - learn how to serve up your content on social media without looking like an amateur.
And remember, your social traffic is only as valuable as the audience you build. So don’t get sucked into playing the numbers game.
A fortunate consequence...
What’s more, social media can help to stimulate organic traffic.
While growing an engaged following and sharing content can’t directly influence search ranking or domain authority - (Google does not factor in social media signals into its crawls), there is definitely an argument for indirect causation.
By publishing links on social media you are increasing the chances of your content being seen. With greater reach, comes greater chance of legitimate backlinks - so long as the audience judges the content to hold tangible value, that is.
Ultimately - as is with today’s SEO - it is quality that will earn you shares and backlinks. Social media simply offers up a pedestal to place your content on, so that it can earn the plaudits (and rankings) it deserves.
Here, there and everywhere
As buyers go in search of more and more resources to justify their purchase decisions, many will turn to social media to check out brands in an online environment that’s more casual than a business website.
Running social accounts will extend search engine real estate beyond your website. If someone types your brand directly into Google, better you feature more than once in that search as it will assert your presence and encourage interaction.
Demand Gen’s 2016 B2B Buyer’s Survey Report tells us that social media continues to impact on the buyer’s journey. The report suggests that (53%) of B2B buyers use social media in some context during the buying process - with most using it to browse existing discussions to learn more about a topic, product or service.
Linkedin remains the dominant network when it comes to the B2B buying process with 40% of survey respondents describing it as ‘very important’ to research.
Keeping multiple lines of communication open is vital. As buyers continue to enter the funnel from all angles, making your brand as accessible as possible and part of the discussion is essential.
Customer feedback: The good, the bad and the ugly
Gone are the days when the majority of customer qualms and queries come through strongly worded letters and disgruntled emails. The good, the bad and the ugly of buyer feedback is now instantaneous and very, very public.
The latter part of that sentence can be a double-edged sword at the best of times. But being able to respond swiftly to the problems your buyers have will improve customer experience ten-fold.
Likewise, positive comments about your brand on social media can enhance people’s perceptions of your brand, whilst building loyalty amongst current customers and advocates.
Stay current, stay topical, stay top of mind
Brands on social media need to position themselves as on the ball, socially adept, and clued up on the things their audience is interested in.
This is likely where they hang out in their spare time, after all.
Social media is the home of newsjacking. While not strategic (and definitely not risk free), looking out for current stories, piggybacking trends and owning the moment can generate masses of exposure.
This recent article from the Content Marketing Association gives advice on newsjacking for brands, so that you can make tangible contributions to topical discussions and avoid looking ‘like a dad on the dancefloor’.
It’s the biggest networking event you’ll ever attend
Making worthwhile connections on social media is easier said than done. But once you’ve cracked it you’ll never look back.
Take a look at your current followers, friends, connections - whatever the hell you wanna call them - and dig a little deeper. Identify potential leads, e.g. the people who are interacting with your content, sort them into relevant lists and nurture their interest with your winning personality…
Building brand awareness can be just as valuable. So what else?
Whatever industry you’re in, there will be thought leaders. There will be experts. There will be socialites who make growing a following look effortless. If you can reach out and convince influencers that you’ve got calibre, they may just become advocates of your work.
And when that happens? They’ll shout about your content, your brand. You.
Buzzsumo offer a great tool for social media outreach that can be used to monitor and interact influencers on Twitter. (Hint: You can also use it to house the leads you’re nurturing).
Make memorable noises at events
Social media gives you a voice, in real-time, and the ability to create a presence for yourself at events. Being part of the conversation, sharing insights and giving others a taster of your personality will improve visibility and inspire engagement with your brand.
Events use their own bespoke hashtags for a reason. Become the life and soul of the party!
Get uber-targeted with advertising
If you’re prepared to sink some funds into your social media marketing strategy, there’s a wealth of opportunity to get your content in front of the people that matter.
Having looked at HubSpot and Smart Insight’s 2016 European Content Marketing Report, Facebook and LinkedIn are the battlegrounds of choice for many inbound marketers. These two networks both offer super targeted ad programmes that regularly see a stellar return on investment. But according to the report, it’s Facebook that’s proving most popular.
From defining the purpose of your marketing campaign…
To allocating specific audience criteria…
...paid content promotion remains integral to social media and inbound strategies. But be sure you’re not throwing money at Facebook for the sake of it. Be canny about it and keep optimising for improved results.
While the return on investment from social media will vary from brand to brand, if you’re executing a strategy that’s consistent and sophisticated, you should expect to see a sales lift.
With networks such as Instagram offering fresh opportunities for businesses, social media is now more indispensable to inbound marketers than ever before.
Those who effectively exploit social media using the tactics laid out in this blog post...
- Promote content and drive traffic
- Make meaningful connections
- Get noticed at events
- Optimise paid ads
- Respond promptly to all valid customer feedback
- Stay current and top of mind
...will enhance the customer experience, and gain unprecedented control over their brand’s message, image and overall identity in the public sphere. Isn’t that what every marketer dreams of when they roll back into bed at night?
Know your brand and ‘own the moment’
There’s so much potential in social media, and so much diversity in the way people use it, that it’s difficult to pin down how every brand should approach it in one article.
Every brand is unique (or wants to be), we know that much. For brands and marketers it’s about finding the platforms their audience is populating, following tried and tested best practices, expressing themselves and putting a unique spin on what’s out there already.