Social media marketing is more than posting content, it’s about relationships

What exactly is “social media marketing?” The question seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many companies get it wrong. In a lot of businesses, “social media” means just posting event photos.

That certainly counts as using social media, but it’s not marketing. You’re just creating a photo album of your presence as a business. It might be interesting to your team (and maybe some of your clients, if they appear in those photos), but in most cases, it’s not going to drive engagement or generate demand long-term.

And that, after all, is the point. If you’re going to use social media as a marketing tool, it needs to be part of a larger marketing and demand gen strategy. You’re identifying target buying center personas. You’re investing the time to listen to what they care about and talk about on social media. You’re building great content to educate and engage with prospects. Then—and only then—do you use social media to push out your content and start driving conversations.  

It’s easier than it sounds. Here are some basic “dos and don’ts” to take your social media marketing to the next level.

Do take the time to understand your target audience.

The first step in effective social media marketing (really, any marketing) is understanding your audience. If you don’t have a specific buyer in mind—people at these kinds of companies, with these titles, in these locations, dealing with this set of problems—then you’re just throwing your message out into the void.

Once you’ve identified your target buyer persona, however, you’re still not ready to start marketing to them over social media. First, you need to build up credibility in the areas they care about and talk about. The only way to do that is to listen. Which leads to…

Don’t talk at your target prospects, build relationships with them.

A big part of social media marketing is monitoring—listening within your channels, outside your channels, wherever your target buyer personas are. The goal is to drive conversation, and digital communities on social platforms function much like communities in the physical world. Show up with a megaphone yammering about yourself, and no one’s going to engage with you. Take the time to listen, however, and you can learn a lot. What your target audience is curious about. What problems they’re struggling with. The types of content they engage with.

If you’re trying to sell desktop virtualization to financial services buyers, for example, recognize that many of the buyers in these firms don’t care about your technology—and certainly aren’t talking about it on social media. They do care about reducing OpEx though. They care about making their people more productive. They care about improving utilization of assets in their business.

At the beginning, your social media activity may have little to do with what you actually sell. But, by participating in these communities, showing target buyers that you understand their business and concerns, they’ll be far more likely to engage with you in the future.

Do build great content.

You’ve put in the time to understand your audience. You’ve done your social listening due diligence. Now, it’s time to use what you’ve learned to start creating content.

It may sound daunting, but here’s a secret that social media gurus like to keep to themselves: anything can become great content. A sales presentation can turn into a blog. A video from a customer site can become a social post. A quick conversation you recorded with a customer around a relevant topic can become a mini-podcast. Just keep your eyes and mind open. Your team likely does things every day that can become engaging social media content.

Don’t lose your momentum.

Be realistic about what you can accomplish. If you don’t have a big marketing staff, you’re not going to be able to create unique content every day—it’s just not going to happen. But do create an editorial calendar to consistently push out content. If you’re building an audience that views you as a thought leader, the last thing you want to do is go dark for weeks at a time.

Keep in mind, not everything you post has to be 100% original. Part of your thought leadership role is scouring the web for good content. When you find it, don’t be afraid to share it. Recycled content can be a big part of your social media strategy.

And when you do create great content, be sure to post it more than once. Social media is a nonstop stream of information, and it’s easy for a single post to get lost. On Twitter specifically, recycle original content a few times over the course of a week—ideally with different text introducing it each time.

Don’t rely solely on organic sharing.

It’s tempting to think you can just craft a good post, throw it out there, and your content will soon be in front of thousands of new eyeballs. Reach millions without spending a dime! Unfortunately, that’s rarely how it works.

If you don’t already have a large audience, you’ll need to build one. Often, that means devoting some budget to promoting or boosting your posts. The big social media platforms have tools to help you do it, and rates are relatively inexpensive. Facebook, for example, has excellent tools to segment your audience with extraordinary granularity—based on demographics, location, interests and much more.

Do ask for help.

Your company’s social media shouldn’t be the exclusive domain of Marketing. In companies that are serious about building demand through social media, social is part of everyone’s job. When you produce a great infographic or blog post, the rest of the company should help amplify it. Tools like EveryoneSocial help your employees do this with very little time and effort.

When a few dozen (or hundred) colleagues all share your social media posts, you have the ability to reach thousands of people very quickly, at a very low cost. For sales teams in particular, it’s well worth their time, as it helps build their credibility and rapport with prospects.

Don’t set it and forget it.

It will take some time to find the social media strategies that resonate most with your target audience. Don’t be afraid to do some early experimentation with different social platforms to identify which gives you the best bang for your buck. It may not be the one you think. You may start off assuming that LinkedIn is the best platform to reach a particular business audience, for example, but find that your targets do more talking and sharing on Twitter.

Continually experiment with the types of content you’re sharing, the topics you’re talking about and the frequency of your posts to zero in on the best way to communicate.

Hear from the experts at Partner Kickstart

This list is just a start. There’s a lot more you can do to get your business’ social media marketing engine humming. For the full story, check out our June on-demand webinar, generate demand using social media marketing. You’ll learn from the pros how to build social media campaigns that really resonate.

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