We’ve come a long way in our recognition of social media as an effective marketing channel.
It started as a platform with no ideas, a blank canvas. Like, “hey, there’s this thing called social media and I think there might be some benefit to getting our company involved.”
Then we came up with some ideas. The more agile companies with the means to experiment got involved early. Other followed, the slower and larger companies.
Gurus and experts emerged, touting their own experience and best practices began to form. Companies who were not active on social media started to fall behind here.
Now we live and work in an age where social media looks more like an established channel than a new one. There are things we know work. There are well known best practices that vary by industry. But too many companies have not caught up, and are still in the experimenting phase.
For those of you out there who have yet to find the right formula for social media, here are several tips to help you use the channel to grow your business:
- Recognize how many networks actually exist. It’s not just Facebook or Twitter. There are so many different platforms out there to research and understand. You don’t have to get involved with all of them, but you have to understand the marketplace before you can make important strategic decisions.
- Prioritize the networks. In researching the different platforms, like Instagram and Pinterest, you should start to learn where your customers are spending the most time. You want to focus your efforts on the networks that are most likely to bring in new business.
- Test advertising where available. Most companies don’t realize that the major social networks sell advertising. You don’t have to rely on a brand page or account to drive new customers. You can pay to advertise based on a wide variety of targeting criteria.
- Join the conversation. This is not a mass marketing or sales channel. Don’t just push out marketing messages, you’ll be ignored. Instead, share interesting content, help people, ask questions and participate in active conversations.
- Develop content you can share. The best way to link social media interest back to your website is to link to articles or blog posts that attract the interest of potential customers. Getting them on to your website is a crucial step in turning them into customers.
- Host contests and giveaways. These kinds of promotions are tailor made for social media and help you gain traction and build your list of followers. The more people you can expose to your brand, the more people you have the opportunity to sell to.
- Special offers. The right kind of promotions can go viral. If your products have broad appeal, consider a special offer exclusive to people to follow you on Facebook or some other network.
- Empower brand ambassadors. The most effective form of social media engagement happens when satisfied customers do your marketing for you. Connect with existing customers and give them the tools and incentives to share their experience with friends.