Regardless of the size of your organisation, we all know that the importance of social media isn’t to be underestimated. But with so many messages to cut through, how can you ensure your brand’s voice is the one that’s heard?

In my experience, there are five key areas to master, in order to stand out in the near overwhelming flood of noise, and secure your brand a powerful social media advantage.

Hearing Your Audience: Social Media Listening

How many of your customers and prospects are posting to social media?

Do you know what they are saying?

Do you know what networks they post to?

These are some of the questions you need to answer before you can create an effective social media plan. There are those who tell you to pick a site and jump right in, but you could be wasting a huge amount of time if you are talking in a place where your customers are not paying attention.

And how do you find the answers to these questions? By listening.

Company Mentions

The most basic level of listening is to focus on the mentions of your company or brand names across the major platforms. The first time you fire up a social media listening tool and discover conversations about your company can be surprising. Start by categorising these conversations by things like customers versus prospects, positive versus negative sentiment, recommendations versus complaints. You should also determine which social networks have the most comments or questions.

This information will help you get started creating a social media marketing plan. Remember that your social media efforts should align with business goals. Keep that in mind as you are listening. Your listening will be much more successful and focused if you try to answer business questions or solve business issues. One example of this is if you are looking to improve your customer service or customer satisfaction. You can listen for company mentions and words like “problem,” “issue,” “broken,” “doesn’t work,” “complain.”

Keywords

Once you have a handle on your company mentions, or if you discover that there aren’t any company mentions, it is time to focus on keywords. These are the terms that your customers and prospects use to describe your products and services. These keywords could be very different to the terms your organisation uses to describe what you do.

While keywords are still important for a customer service approach, as many people might talk about your company without mentioning the company name, it is more important if you are approaching social media to generate leads or acquire new customers. With an understanding of the most common keywords used, you can add search terms like “want to buy,” “recommendation,” “looking for,” and “best” to find conversations that indicate the beginning of a buying process.

You must be sensitive when approaching a prospect at the beginning of their buying process so that this interaction doesn’t feel like an intrusion. Instead of taking a sales approach, add value to them, offer to answer any questions or provide an educational resource that can help the prospect learn more about topics related to your products.

Competitors

Paying attention to your main competitors’ owned channels will not only help you know what’s important to them, it will also give you insight into how they are marketing their products. Next, you can listen to their customers’ complaints and understand how they are responding. Customer service is really becoming another marketing channel, and how companies respond on social media is becoming a bigger part of how customers build or break relationships with brands.

 

So, before creating and implementing a social media strategy, first spend time listening, to your customers, prospects, and competitors. Only by listening can you ensure you’ll be truly taking part in the conversation. In order to listen you first need to identify where your customers are, not just assume which platform they are using. If the strategy is to listen in order to interact e.g. find prospects through keywords, then it needs to be kept in mind that this could come across as an aggressive approach, so consider how you can add value not just sell.

Combining sensitive and analytic listening is key to learning more about your unique social media markets. Although customers should be the main focus, look at competitors, this can help give you an extra edge, as analysing their levels of customer service and content can help inspire positive changes and more developed strategies.

Cutting Through Clutter: Creating Engaging Social Media Content

The sheer amount of data generated every single day is mind blowing. Every day 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created.

And social media users are doing their part…

  • Facebook users share 2.4 million pieces of content
  • Twitter users Tweet 277,000 times
  • Instagram users post 216,000 new photos

That’s a lot of noise and clutter, so how do companies stand out?

Written Content

When it comes to the written portion of social media marketing, less is unequivocally better. Get to the point quickly. And by all means be human. Yes, that sounds obvious, but we have all experienced social media posts that were presumably written by a robot.

Be human, but be business-savvy. Start by using the data gained from social listening and write about things that your customers and prospects are interested in. This is a conversation, so you don’t want to dominate it with details about your products.

Even if you are focused on generating leads or sales, every post will not require a call to action (CTA). Those that do should be crafted in a seamless fashion. If you are writing a Facebook post to download your latest content, be conversational and segue into the CTA with language as to why the reader should download it in the first place.

Visual Content

The inclusion of photos or images in social media posts is a must. Visual content is more than 40 times more likely to be shared than other types of content. Perhaps the most important thing to remember when including an image in a post is relevancy. Another key aspect when selecting an image is to evoke emotion whenever possible.

Video Content

Videos go a step further than images, in that they help you tell a story – and we all know storytelling is paramount for any brand’s success in today’s world. Videos are a great way to bring your brand to life, literally, and to – yes – show your human side. Try sharing videos of user-generated content, interviews with guests or influencers in your space, behind the scenes stories, and How-To videos.

 Offsite Content

Guest blogging on relevant industry blogs is a great way to leverage your content via other sites while establishing yourself and your company as thought leaders in your given field or industry. The key is relevancy. Do not offer to be a guest blogger on a site that has nothing to do with your industry. Guest blogging also provides you the opportunity to include links back to your content – provided you have an arrangement with the editor of the blog you are writing for.

Publishing on sites like Medium and LinkedIn are other ways to attract an audience beyond those who visit your channels.

 

Stand out to your target market by offering purposely designed content in a range of formats. The power of the spoken word can be great, but not when it comes to social media, let the visuals do the talking. Take into consideration your audience, closely monitor what content they respond to and tailor your offering to their preferences – not yours.

To leverage your content to its maximum, look outside of your owned channels and cast a wider (but well aimed) net for placement opportunities. If you are going to look outside of your home grown social media platforms, consider the audience you’re looking for before approaching any extra parties and don’t just take the first opportunity that comes along.

When, Where And What: Social Media Publishing Tips

We all know content is key. But what happens once you have drafted all the content and now have to make a plan on how to distribute it? With so many channels and so many audiences, it is important to ensure you are distributing the content efficiently, or you run the risk of falling at one of the most important hurdles.

One Size Does Not Fit All

You know those studies claiming to know the best day and time to post to Facebook or Twitter for maximum engagement? Forget them. You and you alone will know what works best for your audience, especially if you are properly reviewing your social listening data. Your audience may engage the most on weekends. And global companies need to take multiple time zones into account.

Cadence Consistency

One of the biggest mistakes brands make is not establishing a consistent rhythm of publishing. It is vitally important to have a consistent message going out via the social media platforms that work best for you and your brand.

Platforms Aplenty

There is a veritable plethora of social media platforms to use, including the big boys: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. The key is to know what platforms work best for your audience – what platforms help you achieve your goals. Don’t dive right into Snapchat for example if it isn’t right for your audience. Test it out. But if it’s not the right fit, it’s not the right fit.

Be In Sync With Marketing

A huge part of social media publishing is to share content that your company created. And the best way to do that is to ensure your social media publishing calendar is aligned with all content and demand generation marketing objectives. This is key to an efficient flow of brand awareness as it means your audience is seeing the same message, at the same time, at every touch point.

Data

Metrics and social media can be complicated. But they don’t need to be. Just determine what key performance indicators (KPIs) matter to you most in terms of aligning with your overall goals and go from there. If over time, your KPIs change, fine. Then change them and measure and track accordingly.

Mobile, Mobile, And More Mobile

According to comScore, 70% of all time spent on social media channels in the UK is logged with a mobile device. This should come as no surprise. In today’s market your website and blog should already be optimised for mobile, but make sure your share buttons are too.

 

So, when it comes to publishing, don’t force your content onto a platform that your audience isn’t engaging with and tailor distribution times to suit them, rather than just adapting to results gained by general research data. Keep your strategy consistent, from the amount you are posting to the level and aims of the KPIs, and ensure all content and demand generation marketing objectives are aligned.

Stoking The Fire: Encouraging Social Media Engagement

We all know that engagement is the key to social media success, but it can often be difficult to qualify the value of this engagement. And yet, it is the name of the game. If you’re not engaging with the people following you, then you should really just delete your account now. Brands need to not only post engaging content, but also stoke the fire of conversation around topics their customers care about. This is the only way to really boost your following, influence and impressions.

Authenticity Creates Loyalty

Let your fans see behind the curtain. Create a dialogue with them to let them know that they are an important part of your brand’s culture. Being authentic – celebrating exciting events, and even apologising when you make a mistake – is the surest way to not only grow your community on social media, but to keep them coming back.

To initiate engagement, try organising a Q&A with your brand. Allow people to ask questions about an upcoming product release, or have a direct conversation with someone on your executive team.

Give Followers A VIP Feeling

Followers want to feel like they are part of something special. Create a community that supports inclusion and belonging based on common goals and interests, which offers your fans a way to relate to your brand. Ask them questions, get their feedback, and most importantly, respond to each and every fan interaction.

Don’t just expect them to come to you and do all the work. Tag your fans in content, Retweet them, and follow them back on their personal social channels. Make them feel like they are a valued member of your community and that you care about what they have to say.

Every Customer Tells A Story

Stop telling your story, let your customers tell your story instead. Use the feedback you’re hearing online to create new posts. By allowing your accomplishments to shine through the voice of your customers, you’re creating a much bigger impact on potential prospects, as well as a stronger bond with that customer or fan.

Embrace The Negative

Negative conversations are going to happen regardless of if you have a Facebook page or not. Don’t be afraid of a negative review or comment, learn from it and allow it to make you better. Not only does this help make your brand more transparent, but also more approachable. In fact, in a recent report done by Jay Baer and Edison Research, responding to complaints via social media can actually increase customer advocacy by 20%.

Keep The Focus On Your Customers, Not On You

With two-thirds of the buying cycle now happening before sales even gets involved, it’s important to differentiate ourselves from our competitors. All too often, we put the needs of our brand first, and the needs of our customers second. Make sure that you make the conversation about what matters to your followers, not what matters to you.

 

By keeping these engagement tactics in mind, you will not only raise your game on social media, but you will become more aligned with your customers and followers, and create a positive perception of your brand. Make sure you also create a benchmark for your engagement rates. This allows you to keep a pulse on the levels of engagement you’re getting, as well as determine the success of the content you’re sharing on social. By creating a benchmark, you’re able to much

What It Boils Down To: Social Media Analytics

How do you measure social media marketing? Unfortunately, the fact is that not everything related to social media is quantifiable. However, when you start to track what you’re doing on social media, you’re able to get a much clearer picture of your ROI. This ROI won’t just help you to justify any extra expenditure, or help secure more budget; it will also let you identify what is and isn’t working, and allow you to dedicate more time to the most effective elements.

A lot of social marketers see measuring ROI as one of their top three social media marketing challenges, but it doesn’t have to be a huge mountain to climb.

Align With The Goals Of Your Business

When it comes to analytics, metrics, and KPIs, your social marketing strategy needs to align with the goals of your business. Are you trying to build brand awareness or establish yourselves as thought leaders? Do you need to field a lot of customer service questions and complaints? Are you trying to establish a community? Or do you want to use social media marketing to capture new leads?

Make sure that you’re aligning with specific business goals and choose to establish a presence on the channels that have the best chance of achieving those goals. Go where your audience is: if your audience isn’t on Facebook, then don’t create a Facebook page.

Define Relevant Metrics

Once you’ve decided which business metrics matter most to your organisation, you can work out which metrics best showcase how your social activity is helping to achieve them. For brand awareness, look at reach and impressions across the web. For customer service, look at response time and sentiment. It’s also important to tie these metrics together, so you’re telling the overall story of your social efforts.

There are lots of different social media technologies available that offer everything from listening and publishing, to reporting and customer support. Make sure you invest in the tools that will provide you with the metrics you’ve already defined based on your business goals. If you can’t afford a social marketing tool, the majority of social channels today come equipped with analytics to give you an idea of how your posts are performing.

Social + Marketing Automation = ROI

Track all your URLs. If possible, integrate your social tool with your marketing automation or cross-channel orchestration tool to ensure you’re capturing all the data on your social fans and followers. Even if these tools don’t integrate, it’s important to still create unique URLs within your marketing automation platform for all your campaigns. This allows you to track traffic and attribution to your social channels on all downloads and registrations.

Once you’ve captured data on your social fans and followers, you can track what other interactions you’re having with them. Integration of your social tool with a CRM system can help here. A record of a conversation with a prospect should get entered on the account profile, so your sales rep is aware of it in further conversations with that prospect.

Similarly, knowing that a customer is having issues and is tweeting to you about them should be in the CRM system so their account manager can better serve them.

 

The important thing is to be able to focus on the metrics that help you understand the effectiveness of your content, and how your efforts are helping to progress and accomplish the goals of your business. In a report we did in coordination with Social Media Today, we found that social marketers are not only capturing social data, but 55% are actually using that data to help dictate future marketing campaigns.

A social media strategy should be driven by the key goals of the business. Focusing on these goals helps to define which metrics are needed when it comes to assessing your social media marketing. If possible use a social media tool to provide these metrics and integrate it with tracked URLs to monitor traffic and attribution. Once this data has been captured, utilise it to help accomplish company aims.