Did you know the average person spends 4 years looking down at their cell phone over a lifetime? To be honest, I’m somewhat surprised it’s not even more (but I suspect this number to increase). As I glanced around my family room on Christmas evening I noticed every one of my family members scrolling through their social feeds, excluding my nephew; he’s 6 months old, but oddly always gravitates towards the iPhone (although it’s typically just an attempt to eat it).
This is all somewhat depressing, but as my mom recently explained Facebook has given her the power to reconnect with friends and even family members that she hasn’t spoken to in over twenty years. We’ve all heard stories of long-lost siblings, lovers, and guardians finding each other via social platforms. Not to mention the powerful charitable movements like the Ice Bucket Challenge, which helped raise over $100 million for ALS, a 3,500% increase from the $2.8 million raised during the same time period the year prior, according to Forbes.
2014 has been another thrilling year in the world of social media, from Instagram reaching 300 million users, surpassing Twitter, Facebook’s continuous algorithm updates pushing organic reach to a plummeting death, LinkedIn’s new publishing platform giving users a powerful way to build their brand, and SnapChat establishing themselves as a bigger player by displaying advertisements and sponsored stories. These updates are just dusting the surface of social media changes over the past year, but what does this all mean for your marketing plan in 2015?
We all know that social media is critical to every business’s marketing initiatives. Not having active social channels for your business is equivalent to showing up to work without pants; it’s embarrassing and not socially accepted. No one wants to be the idiot who shows up to work in their underwear, but what’s the point of maintaining social channels if they’re not adding value to your business? Well, there is none. You should be using social to do one or several of the following: establishing and growing brand recognition, gaining qualified leads, or improving customer relationships (ideally all three).
In my post last year covering social media strategy suggestions for 2014, I stressed tactics such as creating a social media marketing plan and sticking to it, going above and beyond in customer service, embracing mishaps, and so on. Let me assure you, these strategies are all still critical, but with the New Year upon us I have some new and improved tips up my sleeve to add to your social media marketing plan for 2015.
#1: Build a Community Rather Than a Number of Followers
Have you ever looked through the people you follow on Twitter or Pinterest? You probably see about .05% of things they tweet or pin. I’m grabbing this metric out of thin air, but since everyone who’s anyone is on social media, even if you are posting regularly your followers are probably not very engaged with your brand. The number of people following you can only take you so far. “Twitter is sort of like the ‘live TV’ of social media,” according to Marketing Land’s Danny Sullivan. “If you’re not tuned in to catch a particular tweet live, then you’ve missed it.” This doesn’t apply just for Twitter, the reach of Facebook’s organic posts has drastically dropped making it much more difficult for brands to stand out, even if you’re following their page (we’ll get into this more in tip #3)…
Yes, having 10,000+ followers is noteworthy, but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter how many followers you have if they’re not interacting and paying attention to your content. What can be done to build a community and increase engagement with your current and potential followers?
- Insert some personality, humor, and spunk into your brand. Remember, social media has the word “social” in it for a reason. Yes, some use platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter to gather industry-related or world news, but more often than not social media is used to entertain and kill time. Your marketing messages need to adjust accordingly because if you’re using the same copy that you’re using in, let’s say search or email marketing, then your followers are going to remain oblivious to your brand. BarkBox, one of the trending box delivery services on the market, which caters exclusively to adorable doggies, is one company to take note of. Founded in 2011, BarkBox has done an impressive job of growing their business in a short time frame, with a large chunk of their marketing focusing on growing and creating engaging social content. Their Facebook page is hysterically entertaining, with each post featuring an adorable pup and tagline as if the dog was actually speaking to the reader. This works because it’s a. adorable b. hysterical and c. relatable. Just check out this post below with almost 3,000 likes, 42 comments, and 170 shares after just 9 hours. This massive amount of interactions and shares not only establishes brand authority, but also drastically increases chances of this post showing up on a friend’s newsfeed (therefore gaining brand awareness, followers, leads, and customers).
- Converse directly with your followers: Literally have a conversation with them, retweet them, like and comment on their posts, and directly ask them to interact with your content. The insurance company Allstate created a separate Twitter account for their popular advertising character, Mayhem, who continously “captures the life events you just can’t seem to avoid.” Almost everything they post is geared towards talking to their fans, whether that be retweeting, asking questions, running a contest, or even sending #MayhemValentine’s to followers. This Twitter account also follows my point above regarding using humor and personality in each post. Recently they ran an overwhelming successful social media campaign #MayhemSale, in which Mayhem possed as a burglar selling all his best burgles online. It sounds sort of bizzare, but it worked and created an insane amount of buzz. Just look at the one tweet below with 4.6K retweets.
To conclude, when posting to your social channels think outside of the box and devise clever ways to get your audience to interact with your brand.
#2: Create Powerful Social Media Movements Across all Social Channels
If you want your audience to stay engaged, you need to be engaging. One great way to do this is to create social campaigns that run across all your social platforms. The important thing to note here is that anyone can run a contest or create a social campaign, so you need to make yours stand out by adding a charitable, inspirational, or emotional component. Any element that pulls at the heart strings works well. If your company already is involved with volunteer work, which many are, then this is one great way to inspire and engage your followers. I know what you’re thinking, it seems somewhat morally corrupt to use a charity relationship for marketing purposes, but on the other hand you’re promoting that organization and encouraging more people to get involved. So how do you apply this across several channels? Start by…
- Telling a powerful story: A whole story? Huh? But you’re only allotted so many characters on social channels. Yes, yes, I know, but there are ways to pull powerful quotes and engaging tidbits from a story that will leave the reader wanting more, therefore directing them to your website. Charity:water does this phenomenally well. Yes, they are already a charitable company with the mission of providing clean drinking water to every person in the world, but as a non-profit organization they’ve been incredibly successful continuously trumping their fundraising goals, and I’d be willing to bet a big part of this is due to how gracefully they tell their story to social followers. Their content has a way of spurring their audience to get involved and contribute to the organization. When I first learned about charity:water at Hubspot’s Inbound conference in 2013, their heart-wrenching video spurred me to create a birthday campaign in which you ask your friends and family to donate rather than give presents. One recent campaign that they’ve shared throughout all of their social channels is called “Why I give” in which individuals who donate share their stories. This adds the human element, tells a story, and even has the power of spurring followers to action. Take a look at the post below featuring a “well-known, well-loved charity:water supporter,” Shakil Kan. The quote featured tells a mini-story and is inspirational, intriguing the viewer to click.
After following the link the viewer is then directed to the full story on the charity:water blog, where several powerful stories are featured.
I encourage you to think of ways you can use your social channels to tell motivational stories to your viewers. They don’t need to be rooted in charity. For example if you sell B2B software you could share stories from your happiest clients on your blog and then create a social campaign with a unique slogan and hashtag to promote and create a movement around their stories.
- Brand your movement with a unique name and hashtags: Branding your movement will make it memorable and stick out in the mind of your followers. Take time to brainstorm actionable ideas that will get followers involved, whether that be by posting photos and using your hashtag to group them, running a contest, or throwing events run by your company. One actionable social media movement was run by the world-renowned fashion brand, Marc Jacobs, titled #CastMeMarc. Jacobs took to Twitter last Spring to encourage his followers to post pictures of themselves on social platforms, such as Twitter and Instagram, using the hashtag to gain the once-in-a-lifetime chance of becoming one of the newest faces of the brand. The result? Thousands upon thousands of photographs were shared across social media. Even today, long after the contest has ended, people are still using the hashtag in hopes that Jacobs won’t be able to resist their photogenic faces (i.e. the tweet below).
Please note: You don’t have to one of the most recognized fashion brands in the world (like Marc Jacobs is) to make this work for your brand. For example let’s say you run an athletic clothing store and offer free yoga classes at several of your store fronts – this would be a great actionable movement to brand and spread across their channels. Use the inspirational aspect of getting fit, New Year’s resolutions, healthy living, or whichever angle you believe your customers would gravitate towards. Test out a few hashtags, find the one that resonates best, and brand your movement by announcing it on your blog and social channels.
#3: Experiment with Facebook Advertisements
I recently spoke with some local Boston-based paid search experts who all raved about the power of Facebook advertising with the main conclusion that Facebooks ads are cheap and actually work. If you want to compete on Facebook today it’s pretty clear that you need to put some green bills on the table. Gone are the days when you could just post updates to your company’s wall and pray for likes. With that said costs can be easily controlled as there are several unique targeting methods giving you options to find your niche audience and not waste money on the click-happy internet addicts irrelevant to your business.
“Over the last two years, the social network has repeatedly tweaked the system to show the top 300 or so items that it predicts each person will want to read,” according to a recent article by the New York Times. “Facebook argues that people prefer to see videos, photos, news articles and updates from their friends and family more than other brands. So over time, posts by businesses have shown up less frequently.” Facebook continues to push for more advertising so if your business wants traction it needs to be advertising. With all of that said you still need to use caution and tread lightly if you’re a budget conscious advertiser because with more and more competition prices are likely to rise. I’d also highly recommend retargeting with platforms like AdRoll because with retargeting you show your ads to people that have already expressed interest in your brand by visiting your site. I often see retargeting ads on the side of my Facebook News scan (i.e. the image below showing ads for two sites which I recently visited).
#4: Host or Participate in Twitter Chats
Why would I want to go online to chat to a bunch of strangers? What respected business person would actually take time out of their day to participate in one of these cult-like chats? These were the initial thoughts which ran through by head when introduced to the concept of Twitter chats. My view drastically changed when WordStream founder, Larry Kim, raved about #PPCChat, encouraging me and my colleagues to participate as frequently as possible. So I took his advice and started participating in our industry related chats. I was surprised to find the experience to be very enjoyable; I even added #PPCChat as a recurring event in my calendar on Tuesday so that I wouldn’t forget to join in the live conversation. The chat gave me the ability to connect with others in the industry and also learn from those who have varying experiences from my own. I noticed an uptick in my personal followers and one week I was even featured as the top quote in the PPCChat write-up that’s published after every chat.
So why should your business get involved? Aside from personal branding, these chats can greatly benefit your business by giving you the ability to discover new leads, build brand authority, develop strong relationships with influencers in your industry, and further expose your brand. Host your own chat or partner with a big brand to co-host a chat; you’ll grow your follower base substantially if it’s promoted well. Explore the resources in this post to get an idea of which re-occurring chats take place in your industry.
#5: Suck Up to Influencers
This ties in nicely with the tip above because there are likely several industry influencers participating in your industry related chats. Not having any luck with chats? Luckily there are tons of other strategies you can use on social to get connected with big shots in your industry. The goal is to get these people to like you and like your brand, and I’m not talking about a Facebook like. I’m talking about a genuine emotional feeling of liking everything your business is about. Why? Once you get the in with the people that matter, your business will only continue to grow because their audience and authority with mesh with yours to cast an even wider net. Take the following four steps to socially connect with your influencers:
- Make a thorough list of influencers and organize them into a spreadsheet with columns linking to each of their social profiles.
- Favorite, like, comment, and re-share their content: Don’t favorite/like everything they post – that’s too obvious. You need to play somewhat hard to get to show that your likes are genuine rather than spammy. Try to like and favorite a few times per week and comment when you have something educational and valuable to say.
- Tweet at them: This strategy works very well especially when asking industry related questions. They’ll be flattered that you thought of them and consider them to be a valuable resource. WordStream’s Erin Sagin did this for an article and received responses to almost everyone she contacted to help with her WordStream blog post.
- Use the same hashtags: This way when they’re reviewing their hashtag feeds they’ll see your content, which will hopefully spark their interest.
#6: Share Trending Content
You should never use your social channels as a bragging platform. These channels aren’t to be solely self-promotional, this is boring and obnoxious. There needs to be a balance between marketing your brand and sharing stories and news from other valuable resources. If you kept seeing Instagram upon Instagram from your favorite clothing apparel store promoting solely their own clothing items you’d probably un-follow and avoid the store out of sheer frustration. Instead focus on a balance between sharing promotional content, interacting with your followers and influencers, and sharing other useful and entertaining content. The key word here is “other,” what is that? Follow these tips to easily determine what content is share-worthy:
- Look for viral videos on YouTube of hilarious children, adorable animals, and inspirational moments and re-share with your own unique spin.
- Scan the news for the highest covered media stories and add a unique perspective keeping relevant to your brand.
- Follow & use trending hashtags to add your voice to the larger conversations happening on social media. For example on Twitter you can see “Trends.”
Chose a trend that is somewhat relevant and join the conversation like the social commerce website, Polyvore did with the People’s Choice Awards in the tweet below.
- Use Buzzsumo to find content that resonates. I just started using this tool recently, but I’ve already added it to my bookmark bar and am completely addicted. It’s the easiest way to search related industry news sites and blogs, keywords, influencers, etc. to find the content with the highest number of social shares. Study the headlines that were shared and re-share those articles/headlines with your followers. This will continue the train of sharing, but also show your followers that your social posts are intriguing and follow-worthy
As a quick recap stop pushing out the same old snooze-worthy content on social from 2014. Instead use 2015 as your chance to…
1: Build a community and inspire action. Your followers should be people that you interact with and maintain a witty, relatable, and fun relationship with on social media. Stop selling your soul to gain followers, instead look to grow engagement. Brainstorm creative ways to keep your followers intrigued by creating truly powerful social media campaigns that will spur your audience to participate.
2. Experiment with Facebook Ads to target the audience that’s relevant and retarget those who have already visited your site. This will gain you brand recognition and grow your business if done well. Don’t be afraid to allocate a portion of your budget to test it out – the results could be well worth it!
3. Join the conversion whether that be through Twitter chats or trending hashtags. Stay on top of your industry and contribute insightful thoughts and information to build your partnerships, connect with new leads, and expand your reach. Make your influencers like you by constantly flattering them; Like their content, retweet their updates, and comment on their posts.
4. Post quality content. Use Buzzsumo to find the trending and most popular stories in your industry and add these to the mix of your own posts to intrigue your audience and validate that your channels are follow-worthy.
Have you tried any of these techniques yet? If so, how did it go?
What changes do you plan to make to your social media strategy in 2015?
Which platforms do you find work best for you audience?
About the Author:
Margot is a Content Marketing Specialist at WordStream with a background in PPC, SEM, content and digital marketing. She also enjoys running and eating ice cream during her free time (not simultaneous although that would be impressive). Follow her on:
Google+: +Margot da Cunha