Developing a social media marketing plan without data is "like driving with your eyes closed." This was the main takeaway from Dan Zarrella, social media scientist at HubSpot, during Wednesday's webinar titled "The Secrets Behind Social Media." He was joined by Twitter's senior SMB director, Russ Laraway, Facebook's global head of SMB Channel Marketing Jed Clevenger, and Scott Engelman, head of online marketing at LinkedIn.
The panelists offered a variety of tips relating to their specific channels on how businesses can improve their marketing, with highlights below.
Topic 1: How to make your social media presence 'more awesome'
To start, it's important to know what your goals are with your company's social media presence. Are you going for brand awareness? Reach? First impressions count.
"It's really important to bring some attention to your profile. Be descriptive of your business — include your website, store hours, anything that makes it easy for people to find you," Laraway said.
Consumers also want photos, particularly those that are relevant to the business and that complement the look and feel of the brand. Photos, he said, draw people in and give them a reason to come back to you. Laraway said tweets with rich media, like photos and videos, are twice as likely to be shared.
Photos can also prove to customers that your business is legitimate, Clevenger added. He pointed to Sweethaus Cupcake Café in Charlottesville, Va., as a good example of how a business should present itself visually on Facebook.
"You don't need to spend money on Facebook to be successful. Sweethaus has 3,000 likes with no ads," he said. "I encourage you to test posts and spend time with your page insights to see what works."
LinkedIn is a different animal, with most users stopping by primarily for professional reasons. The network offers a channel for your company to have a strong representation, to showcase your expertise and communicate your differentiators, Engelman said.
Topic 2: Getting the most out of your content
The key to any marketing strategy is having compelling content. That is especially true on social media, where some limitations exist; 140 characters, for example.
One way to drive more engagement through tweets is to give your audience what they want.
"Forty percent follow a brand to learn about new products; 39 percent to support a brand; and 36 percent to get information they can use," Laraway said.
He added that it's also important to follow the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of your posts should not be focused on the things you're selling; customers don't want that information. They want value messages; information that is helpful and that they can benefit from, such as tips, trends and practices.
LinkedIn users should cater to the professional mindset, posting content for those looking for career opportunities, including tips and trends relative to the industry. Engelman pointed to SpringCM's page as an example, with its recent post about how to improve sales contracts.
"Focus on providing valuable content, regardless of if it's original or not," he said.
For content specifically, Twitter plays by slightly different rules. Laraway said it's safe to assume your followers are interested in hearing from you regularly and that it's important to participate in relevant conversations with hashtags, and to identify relationships with industry thought leaders.
He said hashtag use is important to extend conversations and add value.
"When you use one and have expertise, they can be very powerful," he said. "You can also create your own. Make sure it's easy to understand. If it's not widely used, think about how you can build momentum around it; give people incentives to use it. Incorporate it into other media."
For Facebook, Clevenger said that once a business builds its audience, it's important to test content. The site also has specific targeting opportunities for brands, such as by location, relationship status, gender, age, etc.
"It's important to speak with an authentic voice to reach your core audience," he said. "Also, use hashtags and become part of the conversation so people can find topics. And keep it relevant and on topic."
Topic 3: How to use social media advertising to attract the right audience
LinkedIn ads are text- and image-based and are placed throughout the site. Engelman said businesses should use sponsored updates to amplify their message.
"We see advertisers get a ton of value, extend their reach and get their best content in front of the audience they want to reach," he said. Like Facebook, LinkedIn also provides targeting criteria, such as industry, location, company size, etc., that allows users to get sponsored updates in front of a specific audience organically.
"The power behind targeting is the accuracy of data," he said.
Topic 4: Social media best practices
Some other general tips, include:
- Leverage Twitter to get the most out of your content. Laraway said businesses that use email marketing should share some of that content, carved up into "bite-size" information nuggets. "Instead of tweeting out a link to your newsletter and saying 'Hey, check out this newsletter,' tweet out tips that all link to the newsletter. Think about getting more mileage from the content you're already producing," he said.
- Be human. Clevenger said it's important to be human when you post on social media. Morgan Miller Plumbing, for example, realized people had some trepidation about calling a plumber and having a stranger come out to their home, so they began posting photos of their team in working situations and yielded an increase in sales.
- Update. Refresh your ads periodically — every two to four weeks — with new images and text and maybe some new targeting.
- Understand your audience. It's hard to overtweet, but you can over post on Facebook. Treat the networks as different channels. "They are different. Posting the same thing on all accounts is a little lazy. Understand the usage of your audience," Zarrella said.
One final thought: Always be testing. The sites (and audience preferences) evolve quickly, the panelists agreed.
Photo provided by Wikimedia.
Alicia Kelso has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with QSRweb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com has been featured in publications around the world, including Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, Consumerist.com and Franchise Asia magazine.