imageedit_1_9222203467Social media has had a large impact on direct marketing strategies. As companies began to recognize the importance of social media as a communications tool and saw the data and hypertargeting abilities that come with it, marketing roles started to change. Many entry-level marketing roles now consist solely of social media management.

However, just because your company has social media accounts running doesn’t mean they’re being used effectively. Are you writing posts directed at specific audiences? Are you addressing them in a manner to meet your goals? Are you tracking user’s paths and sales funnels on your website? And, most importantly, are you focusing on platforms that best resonate with your customers? If you’re not sure, there are a few steps that will improve your success rate in social media marketing.

Let your goals be your guide

Social media is best used to raise awareness. Analytics data has shown that social media is very effective at the top of your sales funnel when people are in the researching stage and because of this it does contribute to immediate sales. Social media is like a megaphone. It helps to amplify your message so that new prospects hear about and consider you,and established customers can keep up to date with your business. Social signals also help to build brand trust which improves your chances of gaining new customers. Rarely is social media the last interaction before a sale is made.

Raising awareness and building trust takes time to set up and do well, so establish your goals before you begin. Goals will help you determine which social media options are the best fit, how you will use them and how you will measure your results. Social media is more effective if you have a large and engaged audience so your first goal should always be to build your community. Goals that can be set into motion after you’ve started community building will depend on your business. Some common goals are:

  • Building brand awareness;
  • Creating brand loyalty;
  • Becoming an authority in your industry (demonstrating expertise);
  • Driving website traffic;
  • Signing up newsletter subscribers; and/or
  • Increasing sales conversions.

Remember, social media is just part of the overall funnel. Goals like increasing subscribers, leads and sales rely on your website as the final interaction step, so make sure your message is consistent and the path to the goal is clear.

Five tips for engaging content

Engagement is when other social media users ‘like’ or ‘follow’ your business and interact with or share your posts. Although all social media platforms have different methods and styles of posting, there are a few basic strategies that apply to all in order to build your following. Your main goal when community building is to get users to engage with your business. Social media feeds are much like search engine listings—they give more weight to posts with higher engagement. Once a core audience is built, then you can start mixing in direct selling posts. By this point you should have a good feel for your audience and how to post without alienating them.

  1. Post interesting, informative and entertaining content that doesn’t take the user directly to a conversion point on your site. It doesn’t even have to be relevant to your industry, just relevant to your target audience. Show them you’re not just on social media to sell and the people behind your business have other interests they want to share. Chance are high that people in your audience will also share some of these interests and will share your posts.
  2. Include an image (infographics have the highest share rate) or video in your post. This can increase your engagement rate by up to 80%.
  3. Use hashtags on platforms that support them (words with a # in front of them). This will group your post with similar ones to help it gain visibility. Search to see which ones are popular or trending at the time.
  4. Share posts from others. Try to keep shared content relevant, but at the same time try to keep your followers engaged even if it’s not related to your business. It’s all about finding balance.

Do more with less

Social media platforms are free, so businesses often sign up for every major platform when starting out. In the days where there seems to be a new social media platform launching weekly, it can be tough to know where to begin. Thankfully the social media industry is mature enough that the leaders are well established. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are the best starting points for most companies. They’ve proven to have staying power and the user numbers to cover almost any audience demographic. These platforms are large enough to have excellent audience data, so further insights can be gained or new audiences discovered.

To help with managing multiple accounts, services like Hootsuite and Sprout Social allow you to connect everything under one roof. These services can be a great timesaver with one login to view all your streams, manage and respond to posts. They also allow you to write one post and have it go out to all your accounts and this is where things can go wrong.

Each platform has its own unique audience, as well as a shared audience. This does not work well with the single-post-for-all-platforms approach. The unique audience (a user that sees your posts primarily on a single platform) is used to seeing content in a certain format and they are less likely to view or engage with your post if it’s not in the style of that platform. With shared audiences you run the risk of saturation. If someone is repeatedly seeing the same post, they are more likely to ignore/unfollow/block you.

Leverage your data

Always monitor who your audience is, what they are doing and where they end up. Facebook has some of the best user insights available. At a glance it can tell you exactly which posts are performing well and get a breakdown on the audience demographics that you are reaching. Use an analytics platform to track visitors to your website. You will be able to see where the different social media platforms are performing the best and who they are. Use this information to tweak your post content, scheduling and explore the potential of other social media networks. Never before has so much data been available to help directly focus your marketing efforts.

Graham Powell is an online marketing strategist with ideaLEVER Solutions. He brings over 10 years of search engine marketing and online media knowledge, along with his analytical and creative writing skills to set, implement and monitor their client’s goals. He holds a BBA from Vancouver Island University.

Rob Stocks is the president and founder of ideaLEVER Solutions and has been leading the team for over 20 years. ideaLEVER has given Rob a ring side seat to the ups, downs and evolution of the internet and e-commerce. As lead strategist he has worked with retailers, manufacturers, charities and brand owners across North America. Twitter: @idealever  

This article originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of Direct Marketing. 

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