Social media marketing is still a relatively new practice and can seem an elusive strategy to get right.
Social media has arguably brought sellers and buyers closer together than any other medium in the history of marketing — perhaps with the exception of the telephone that created the much-maligned telemarketer.
However many marketers question its effectiveness to directly lead to sales. Can it really lead to sales when its core strategy is not to broadcast direct sales messages full of features and benefits?
These three principles will help you make smarter use of social media marketing.
1. Long-term investment
Just like real life relationships, social media marketing requires a substantial period of time to build up trust and credibility between a brand and its audiences.
How long does it take to build up the relationship via social media marketing? That’s the million-dollar question. The answer varies depending on the business type and maturity of the social media audience. The younger the audience, the more mature their usage of and attitudes towards social media will be.
One of the pillars of an effective social media marketing strategy is to build an audience from scratch. This takes time, at least six months but more likely a year.
Compelling a brand to think and act like a media owner motivated to attract the right audience to their social media page is the key difference to all other marketing.
To generate an audience, brands must publish interesting and relevant content. To do social media marketing properly and have any chance of earning new and repeat sales, significant effort and time must be taken to plan content, produce the material and then start publishing regularly to build an audience.
2. Customer experience
Stop selling by telling. Treating social media platforms as a broadcast medium to talk ‘at’ your audience usually means the audience doesn’t stick around for long.
Become adept at the selling by doing approach. Communicate value by demonstrating real customer experiences with your products or services.
This transparency often makes organisations uncomfortable – such as when a customer uses social media to air a grievance. The natural reaction is often to ignore it and hope that it goes away. Social media has a habit of not letting companies get away with this attitude. Treat it as an opportunity to publicly demonstrate how you care for customers even when things aren’t going well.
3. The marketing mix
In classic marketing theory, all marketing expenditure must be conducted cohesively to achieve an optimal return on investment.
This applies to social media marketing as well. Your brand’s price point, product attributes, positioning and distribution coverage will influence the language, imagery, content and frequency of social publishing and community engagement.
Service-based companies can back up their traditional service delivery with online services delivered via social platforms, as many telcos, airlines and banks are discovering nowadays.
A B2B software provider can access real-time insights into customer usage of their product through social platforms, feeding in to their product development roadmap.
It’s critical that social media is not regarded as being outside the boundaries of general marketing activities. Social media is as much a part of promotion as paid media advertising (offline and online), direct marketing, sales promotion and public relations.
A marketing strategy that dictates how a brand implements these marketing activities must also guide how social media is used to reach and connect with target audiences.