A few years ago, most companies could get away with knowing absolutely nothing about social media marketing, or even social media networks themselves. Of course, this is no longer the case. Globally, there are now around 1.5 billion regular Facebook users, and that number is growing every single day. On top of that, there is an ever-increasing number of other social media platforms – from Pinterest to Periscope – which are appealing to a wider and wider range of the population. It should come as no surprise then that social media marketing has become a $10 billion a year industry in the United States alone, and is set to experience double-digit growth for at least the next few years.
Of course, not every social media platform is ideal for every company. Before investing a significant amount of time and capital into a social media campaign, it is important to understand how each of the platforms operate, who they appeal to, and how all of this relates to your company and your marketing objectives.
Let’s Start With Best Practices
In general, the key to digital marketing is to build and engage with a following. One of the oldest and most reliable ways to do this is through good old-fashioned blogging. However, social media platforms make it easier than ever to drive traffic to those blog posts.
In addition, there are some established best practices when it comes to posting on social media. While it’s true that these practices are subject to change – especially given the ever-changing and rapidly-evolving nature of the digital marketing sphere – these approaches are currently working for experts in the field, and will continue to do so in the near-term. That being said, it is imperative that you continually monitor what is working (and what isn’t) on all of your social media accounts, so that your social media marketing is as optimized as possible.
Also remember, it is important not to post too often on any social media account. While you do want to engage with your followers, too many posts will result in some of those followers becoming annoyed – or worse, regarding your content as spam. The following are some platform-specific guidelines and best practices that you should utilize (unless and until you discover practices that work better for your specific niche).
Overview of the top social networks
While each of the top social media platform have their own unique characteristics, and appeal to their own segment of the market, they do all have a few things in common. For example, the fact that these are social networks means that interaction among users – as opposed to interaction between content providers – is often the (primary) focus for many users of a given platform. While there is still plenty of opportunity for content producers and other commercial interests (like yourself), the dynamics of social media warrant a different approach than “traditional” media platforms – especially as it relates to marketing.
That being said, each of the platforms often operates in a substantially different way than the next, so that what might work on Pinterest will utterly fail on Twitter
For all intents and purposes, Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook started the social media revolution, and it continues to be the gold standard for social media platforms around the world. With 1.5 billion users and close to $12.5 billion in revenue in 2014 alone, Facebook is a titan that isn’t going anywhere soon. Although the demographics on Facebook have skewed older in recent years, virtually every major demographic is represented in significant numbers on the platform. (Further reading – What are the best networks for your business)?
In general, it is best to post around 1 or 2 times per day onto Facebook. Any more than that and users might become annoyed by the flooding of their news feed. Industry experts have also found that the best days to post on Facebook are Thursday and Friday, as this is when Facebook users are the most engaged.
Twitter is notable for its requirement that all tweets are 140 characters or less, which distinguishes it from every other platform. The nature of Twitter’s character limit means that posts are short, to the point, and direct. Twitter’s demographic definitely skews towards the more tech-savvy, which can either be a good or a bad thing depending on who you are trying to target.
Twitter is a platform where posts are much shorter, and where it is easy for posts to slip past users without them ever seeing them. As a result, it is perfectly acceptable (and common) for Twitter accounts to tweet 4 to 8 times per day. In addition, industry experts have determined that the best days to tweet are different depending on the target audience. For B2B a Monday through Friday schedule is best, while B2C is best on a Wednesday through Sunday schedule. Also, noon and 6pm are the best times of day to tweet.
LinkedIn is the social media platform for professionals, and as such it tends to skew towards the older demographic LinkedIn is a great place to build relationships and leverage extended networks, and it is also a great place to establish thought-leadership in your industry through blog posts hosted on the LinkedIn platform. Keep LinkedIn in mind if your target demographic is B2B.
LinkedIn is a platform for well-thought out and high-quality posting. As such, you shouldn’t be posting more than 1 time a day, and less than that is fine as well. As far as which days are best, experts have consistently found that Tuesday through Thursday during regular business hours are most effective.
Pinterest is one of the only places on the Internet where women vastly outnumber the men. That being said, there are a growing number of both Millennials and males on this image-centric platform, and some companies have seen significant success conducting social media campaigns here. Particularly companies that sell products to women where pictures are useful.
Since items that you “pin” on Pinterest aren’t necessarily seen by your followers unless they actively look for them, there is a little bit of leeway with posting, and anywhere from 2 to 5 times per day is considered optimal. Without question, the best day to post is on Saturday, when Pinterest users are scanning through boards, often with enough time on their hands to respond and/or utilize the information they find. Study and use Pinterest if your target demographic is wealthy females.
Google+ falls somewhere between Facebook and LinkedIn in terms of typical users, and a one to three time per day post schedule seems to work well. Any day of the week (not the weekend) tends to drive more engagement on this platform as well. Although Google ended the authorship program – we still recommend keeping your authorship intact, as you build your following on G+, those that have you in their circles will continue to see your images in the default personalized results. Which usually leads to a higher CTR.
Although Reddit is not a social media platform in the strictest sense of the word, it does fall into the same general category. Reddit is often the first (or one of the first) places where Internet news/memes/etc. “break”. Getting your content and/or brand to the top of a subreddit can be one of the best ways to make a piece of content “go viral”. Demographics on Reddit vary pretty wildly, however they tend to be fairly tech-savvy users who aren’t easily fooled by obviously promotional material. To succeed on Reddit, your content will need to be genuinely useful, unique, and interesting.
Reddit is by far one of the most under-rated social media sites around today. It has grown to over 200 Mil UVs and 8 Bil PVs a month, with literally no marketing efforts at all, is the catalyst for almost anything that goes viral, and has helped to shape the online world as we know it, from Memes to AMAs.
Now take into account that its users are 62% from the US, 80% English speaking, with almost 80% college educated, with a median yearly income of around $70,000 and a 35 year median age, with over 90% making online purchases in the last 6 months… how any brand or company is not marketing on Reddit is beyond me.
Photo Sharing Sites
Although photo sharing started off as one of the major “selling” points of Facebook, alternatives have sprung up that have become powerhouses in their own right.
Instagram made headlines when it was purchased by Facebook for a cool $1 billion. Since then, it has grown into one of the largest social media platforms on the Internet. Users tend to like the simplicity of Instagram – the only thing you can do is upload photos, comment on photos, and search/explore the profiles of others who share interests. Instagram has been working hard to make their advertising platform more robust and friendly, and for companies that can utilize and image-centric marketing campaign, Instagram is definitely fertile ground.
Like Twitter, Instagram shows users every single post of users that they are following. Since it takes more effort to scroll through photos than it does 140 characters of text, it is important not to flood your followers with extraneous content. A schedule of 1 to 3 (at the absolute most) is ideal for Instagram, and posts on Monday tend to do best – apparently people like breaking up a case of the Monday’s with some photos from their friends. **In addition – Instagram video is an integrated part of Instagram, which allows users to post 15 second videos. It can be used as part of an overall Instagram marketing campaign.
Tumblr is one of the oldest social media platforms on the Internet, and its users tend to be younger (particularly users in their teens). Tumblr is primarily used as a photo blogging platform, and while it is certainly possible to conduct a social media marketing campaign on this platform, there are probably better uses of your company’s time and resources.
Online video has become a lot more popular in the past few years, driven largely by the increased bandwidth capacities of mobile devices. Although video production can be significantly more difficult (and expensive) than other forms of social media marketing, when it’s done right it can general some of the most viral (and lucrative) branding opportunities available on the Internet.
YouTube is owned by Google, and has become far more than just a vast repository for adorable cat videos. Many so-called YouTubers have made careers for themselves simply by acquiring loyal followings on the platform, while companies like GoPro have become the gold standard for what a well thought out YouTube marketing campaign can do.
YouTube posts tend to require significant more effort and production than other social media platforms. As a result, almost nobody posts daily, or even weekly in many cases. A posting schedule of 1 to 4 times per month is more than sufficient to generate a large following on YouTube. Pro tip: Be sure to add annotations to your YouTube videos that direct viewers to a landing page on your site! *interesting side note: YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine, only second to Google.
Vimeo is the “premium” cousin of YouTube. Offering higher-quality video than YouTube and a subscription model, Vimeo fits into a very specific niche that can be difficult – though not impossible – for marketers to take advantage of. Like Tumblr, most (but not all) companies will be better off utilizing their resources elsewhere.
Vine is a fairly unique site that allows users to upload short, repeated clips. Although much of the buzz about this platform has long passed, it still has a fairly loyal following of users who post regularly. It can be difficult to break into this user base for marketers, however there are some companies and industries that lend itself to the platform. Not sure how you or your company can utilize Vine? Check out 20 brands that are ‘killing it’ with Vine.
Live-streaming video is the newest iteration of social media platforms. Piggy-backing off of existing platforms like Twitter for users, these platforms allow users to stream from their mobile device directly to their followers. Although it is still too early to really know the potential of these platforms, they are already being used by celebrities and others to connect with their fans. Right now the two major platforms are Periscope (which is integrated with Twitter) and Meerkat.
Other best practices
While the “when” and “where” of social media marketing certainly matters, there is a lot more to a successful social media marketing campaign than that. Done successfully, a social media marketing campaign can have one of the best ROIs in the marketing industry. The following are some of the best practices utilized by the most successful social media marketing campaigns.
To increase your social outreach, tag relevant businesses/organizations/
Sharing other people’s posts
Sharing the posts of other popular social media users can help build your own credibility, and can potentially result in the favor being returned at some point by the user whose content you shared. Ultimately, sharing is what social media is all about, and building the reach of your social media presence will come from sharing and being shared by others – particularly those with a high Klout score. Pro tip: If you use chrome download the Klout extension from the chrome store to quickly see the score of those you ‘hang out with’ on Twitter!
Re-purposing high-quality content
A lot of content on the Internet has been repurposed from other content. As long as proper permissions and attribution are utilized, there is nothing wrong with this. Creating refreshes of content, with small but significant iterations, can be as important, and as effective, as creating large thought-leadership pieces.
Chats and Google Hangouts
Here again, we see that user engagement is one of the principle tenants of social media and social media marketing. Having live chats with users can be a great way to get feedback and make users feel heard and respected.
Weekly Twitter chats have always been the major (and lately the only) way I’ve marketed one of my projects ViralContentBuzz. Every week we invite a social media influencer to teach us a social media lesson during a 1-hour Twitter chat: Our community has the opportunity to learn from and talk to the best. Not only it’s a great way to engage with your community and give it something valuable to always come back to, interviewing influencers in real time is a great way to spread the word and build trust. Most of our interviewees promote ten chat to their followers which means we grow our audience day by day! We use TwChat as home for our Twitter chats because it’s well-branded and very handy!
Social selling through promotional posts and offers
The 80/20 rule states that only about 20% of content that you post should be about your brand. Within that 20%, you can offer platform-specific promotions that serve a number of purposes – two of the most significant of which are showing appreciation for your followers and also determining which platforms have the greatest marketing potential for your specific business.
Adding images and video
Time and again, data has proven that images and video drive clicks. Whenever possible, you should incorporate images and videos into your social media marketing campaigns. According to this research Photos get 53% more Likes, 104% more comments, and 84% more click-throughs on FaceBook. And Hubspot says “Tweets with images received 18% more clickthroughs, 89% more favorites, and 150% more retweets.” Pro tip: Use images and video when you can, the data backs it up!
Don’t “buzzfeed” your images. Make sure that you deliver on the promise of the image when your followers click through to your site. Being clever is fun, but results in higher bounce rates, less engagement and unfollows when abused.
Creating targeted lists
It’s important to know who you are trying to target with your social media marketing campaign. Although the answer to this question can change over time, you should constantly be building a list of individuals – both users and major influencers – who fall into your target demographic. This can prove invaluable when trying to produce insights, as well as when trying to build a robust email marketing campaign.
Joining and sharing with groups
Joining industry-specific groups is a great way to build relationships with relevant individuals, and helps to increase engagement in a non-aggressive way. LinkedIn is perhaps the best platform for this, since they have groups specifically designed for this purpose.
Targeting key influencers
Influencers are one of the best ways to reach your target audience with legitimacy. Since these influencers are speaking on their own behalf (you aren’t paying them after all) and since they (presumably) are connected to your target audience, getting their attention can be well worth the effort. The following is an example of how you can reach out to these influencers.
Example of a key influencer outreach template
I read your post about CUSTOM COMMENT, I enjoyed your perspective on X, and wanted to share this post we made about Y, which directly relates to X in SPECIFIC WAYS. I’d love to get your thoughts on the post, let me know your feedback!
This template shows the influencer that you spent the time getting to know who they are and what they are about, while asking them to look at something of yours that they would be interested in based on what you’ve learned about them. If they like the content, chances are they will share it with their network without you ever asking!
Brand Reputation Management and Monitoring
Brand reputation has always been important, but it is even more important in the lightning-fast digital world that we now live in. The following are a few of the key components that go into effective brand reputation management and monitoring.
“The key to protecting your brand during a social media crisis is to be present, be apologetic, and be prepared to demonstrate what you are doing to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.”
Demonstrate your influence / specialty / expertise online
Creating thought-leadership pieces can be one of the most effective ways to build your company’s brand online. By publishing content that is useful to other members of your industry, you generate a loyal following that will refer to your company’s expertise in the future.
Address negative comments directly
In many cases, it is a mistake to ignore negative comments about your brand. In the past, it might have been possible to simply wait for negative comments to blow over, but in today’s hyper-connected and social media-driven world, those comments can spread like wildfire is left unaddressed.
Often, the best option is to directly address the negative comment, either by reaching out to the individual who made it, or by publicly addressing it on a company blog or social media outlet. If treated properly, you can turn the potential negative press around and get a positive reaction from the fact that you took ownership of the issue.
Resolving customer service issues
Customer service issues can, and often should, be addressed via social media. An increasing number of companies are doing this, and it can be a cost-effective way to address issues, while also gaining rapid insight into the concerns and problems your customers are having.
Leverage effective social listening and CRM tools to use the interactions and conversations that are happening in social to better improve your customer’s experience. The better your customer experience is, the fewer customer service issues you’re likely to have. Anticipating your customers needs will earn you their trust, respect and ultimately loyalty.
There are a lot of options when it comes to social advertising, and if done right it can be a powerful tool that offers a substantial ROI.
Set up ads and target your specific audience
Before setting up any advertising campaign, it’s important to know who you are targeting. Hopefully you’ve established an organic social media following at this point (and if you haven’t it’s probably best to work on that before setting up a social media ad campaign), which can be used to determine your target audience in your ad campaign. Once that has been determined, you can expand beyond just the social media platforms to the peripheral services, including Groupon and IntellaSphere.
One of the most overlooked tools for Small Businesses is Facebook Advertising. Not “Boost Post”s where you are sending people only to your Facebook page, but blind ads you run on Facebook in places like people’s newsfeeds and on third party partner sites.
All that data Facebook collects on users can be used to target ads specifically and directly. You can even target people by email address or if they have previously come to your page. When done well, it costs very little to bring highly qualified traffic and conversions to your site. For the small business owner in local markets where many of the demographics are already known, targeting becomes an easy way you can reach people who are actually interested in what you are selling.
The biggest advantage? You do not have to put a lot of time and money into testing it to see how it works for your business. A Facebook page and $50 will get you started.
Establish an advertising budget
Don’t go overboard too quickly. With social media advertising, there is no need to jump in head first. Start off small, see what works, then increase your budget once you’ve determined where your ROI will be best.
Testing and revising advertisements
One of the great features of digital and social advertising is the detailed and rapid analytics data. You can use that data to adjust your advertising strategy in almost real-time. A basic A/B testing strategy can be used to determine which ads are working with which demographics, so that you are spending as much of your budget as possible on the most effective methods.
Reviewing advertising results
You should consistently be monitoring your advertising campaign to determine which methods are yielding the best returns. The opportunity to do this is unparalleled with social media and digital advertising – take advantage of it!
Social media makes it easier than ever to keep tabs on the competition. You can gain insights into your competitors with a couple of simple techniques.
- Set up “Google Alerts” for your competitors, so that you are automatically notified when something is written about the company. Additionally, you can set up alerts for industry keywords and buzzwords so that you can stay up to date on the latest news.
- Follow your competitors’ social media accounts. This allows you to keep tabs on what they are posting, and when. Ideally you will follow them with an account that does not explicitly let them (or anyone else) know which company you are.
There are a number of other digital marketing methods that can be utilized, which we will discuss in a future guide. Those methods include:
- Email marketing
- Lead Generation and lead management systems
- SMS and Mobile Marketing (look for updates here as we’re launching SMS / Mobile Advertising on our platform soon)!
- Using online tools to boost ROI
- Mobile marketing
- Customer Relationship Management Systems
- Video marketing
- Cross-channel marketing
If there’s anything you feel we missed in our Social Media Marketing Guide for SMB’s please leave a comment below! We love hearing from you and learning what you feel would help us and YOU Grow! We hope you found this guide helpful and encourage you to take advantage of our free 30 day trial at IntellaSphere! We’ll help you take the guess work out of your social media efforts.