Seven Steps to Successful Social Media Marketing (and Five Errors to Avoid)

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Once considered an optional addition to a wider digital strategy, social media marketing is now a compulsory prerequisite. At least, for marketers looking to reach the world’s largest audience of connected consumers and generate a potentially huge ROI. 

The sheer size and complexity of the social media landscape can make it difficult to know where to start. By now, we’ll assume that your business already operates a social presence of some kind. Even if it’s something as simple as a Facebook Business Page and a relatively inactive Twitter account, you’re probably ‘on’ social media to some extent or other.

But what should you be doing to leverage the enormous power of social media to grow your business? How can you take your current strategy to an entirely higher level, enabling you to outperform your competitors across all key platforms?

A Simple Seven-Step Process

Contrary to popular belief, upping your social media game in an effective and quantifiable way isn’t particularly difficult. In fact, there are just seven primary steps you need to take, in order to turbocharge your social media marketing strategy. 

Step 1: Conduct a Detailed Social Media Audit

The first of which being to take the time to assess your current position and performance. It’s cliché to say the least, but you cannot get where you want to be if you don’t know where you are right now. 

Conducting a social media audit means taking various things into account, including but not limited to the following:

  • The platforms you have opened accounts with 
  • How often you publish content
  • Your level of audience engagement
  • The networks that bring you the most value
  • Your performance compared to your competitors
  • The quality and variety of your content

Essentially, it’s a case of examining everything you’re doing right now from an objective (if not slightly critical) perspective. Only by identifying your social media strengths and weaknesses will you be able to make improvements accordingly.

Step 2: Build a Profile of Your Perfect Customer

This is an essential step on the way to determining when, where and how you should be targeting potential customers for your business. Avoid ambiguity and consider the finer details of the perfect customer for your business, by way of details such as:

  • Their age
  • Where they live
  • Income level
  • Hobbies and interests
  • Job title
  • Preferred social networks
  • General lifestyle
  • Preferences

If you identify your ideal customer as a young male professional aged 21 to 35, who lives in Central London, earns £100,000+ per year, primarily uses Facebook and is married with kids, you’ll do far better than if you were to simply target ‘parents’ as your preferred audience.

Step 3: Establish Specific Goals and Objectives

Effective social media marketing can be used to accomplish just about anything.  For some, establishing a presence on social media is all about reputation management and positive PR. For others, it’s about little more than selling as many products and services as possible.

Setting clearly defined goals and objectives is essential, as they will have a strong and direct influence on everything you do thereafter. A social campaign to sell more designer clothes won’t (or shouldn’t) look anything like a separate campaign to boost awareness of environmental issues and raise money for charity, for example.

Step 4: Identify KPIs at an Early Stage

You cannot improve something if you cannot measure it – something to remember throughout your social media marketing campaign. Though again, what defines ‘success’ will always differ significantly from one strategy to the next, depending on what you set out to achieve.

Typical examples of KPIs to keep track of when evaluating the performance of a social media marketing campaign include the following:

  • Audience engagement
  • Brand mentions
  • Total reach
  • Time spent on page
  • Conversion rate
  • Shares, likes and reposts 
  • New fans and followers

Keeping track of your most important KPIs from start to finish is the only way of ensuring your campaign achieves its objectives.

Step 5: Invest Heavily in Quality Content

On the average day, 500 million tweets are tweeted on Twitter, 95 million pieces of content are added to Instagram and at least 350 million photos are published on Facebook. Making your voice heard above the noise can seem like an impossible challenge, but it’s worth remembering that the vast majority of content published on platforms like these lacks quality. 

In social media marketing stakes, ‘quality’ content is anything of relevance and value to your target audience that is also unique. It needs to be something that not only appeals to them directly, but also something they cannot find elsewhere.  Hence, before posting anything on a social platform, it’s important to take a step back and question its quality from your audience’s viewpoint. 

Step 6: Invest in Third-Party Social Media Management if Necessary

Does professional social media marketing management cost money? Of course it does. Will your business be worse-off financially if you hire outside help?  Absolutely not.

Smaller businesses in particular often avoid third-party SMM involvement to save money. Though in doing so, overlook the potential for an experienced social media marketing expert to generate a vastly superior ROI for their business. 

The simple fact of the matter being that if you cannot appropriately handle your social strategy in-house, you must consider outsourcing. The consequences of an inadequate social strategy far outweigh the potential costs of expert involvement.

Step 7: Track, Analyse and Continually Optimise

The seventh and final step is to recognise the fact that social media marketing is a continuous process, rather than a ‘cut-and-shut’ task. Considered by most SMM pros to be the most important step of all, tracking the performance of your campaign holds the key to continuous improvement.

All the analytical tools you could ever need are right there at your disposal – most of which are free to use and easy to get to grips with. Identify areas for improvement, get rid of anything that isn’t working and leverage your strengths for the benefit of future campaigns.

Overcoming Obstacles and Avoiding Errors

You could, if preferred, take a look by the whole thing from an entirely different perspective. Rather than consulting a long list of things you should be doing, you can also factor in all the things you shouldn’t be doing.

No social media marketing strategy is perfect, nor is it uncommon to occasionally slip up along the way. Nevertheless, it’s important to build an awareness of the most common errors and obstacles you may encounter, so you’ll know how to overcome them where necessary.

Let’s take a look at five examples in a little more detail:

1. Posting simply for the sake of it

Social media is all about generating engagement through quality conversation.  As would be the case in any everyday setting, talking simply for the sake of talking doesn’t make you an appealing prospect. When you post simply for the sake of posting, you waste your audience’s time and come across as both uninspired and unauthentic.

As touched upon previously, it’s always useful to take a step back before posting and consider the quality of your content from the recipient’s perspective. Get creative and ensure that every post you publish has a clearly identifiable value proposition and purpose.

2. Being inflexible in your approach

This may come across as contradictory, but hear me out for a moment. On one hand, yes – you need a detailed and developed social media marketing strategy to work by. On the other, no – this doesn’t mean you cannot and should not deviate from your original plan, if it becomes necessary or preferable to do so.

The decisions you make along the way should be based on your results. Pay attention to what works with your audience and what matters most to your fans and followers. If it turns out that something you’re doing is working better or worse than expected, don’t be afraid to deviate completely from your initial plan of action.

3. Forgetting the ‘social’ side of SMM

Like many businesses, you may be using social media primarily (or exclusively) to sell more products and make more money. In which case, the key to making it happen lies in strategically hiding your intentions from your target audience. If you spend too much time promoting products and openly attempting to sell things via social media, you’re sending entirely the wrong message.

Using social media as a sales and marketing platform is all about mastering the fine art of ‘selling without selling’. Social media provides the perfect platform for cultivating trust and respect with a potentially enormous audience. You show them the people and the personality behind the brand, you provide them with content of value, and you engage them in relevant conversation.

Over time, you build strong and meaningful relationships with your customers. Thus, removing the requirement for the hard-sell, as your products effectively sell themselves. 

4. Trying to do too much

Specifically, this refers to the temptation to spread yourself thinly across as many platforms as possible. It can be challenging enough to maintain an active presence on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Throw another half-dozen platforms into the equation and you’re quickly looking at something that goes beyond a full-time job in its own right.

Of course, any business able to outsource their social strategy and benefit from a major multiplatform campaign should probably do just that. For everyone else, it’s a case of focusing your efforts on the platforms that bring you the most value. If the vast majority of audience members of relevance to your business are concentrated on Facebook, feel free to side-line other platforms.

5. One-way communication 

Social media provides businesses with the perfect opportunity to nurture open discussion and generate engagement. Unfortunately, many businesses continue to use social media as a strictly one-way communication platform. They bombard their target audience with posts and content of varying levels of value, though do little to encourage conversation and rarely interact with their followers.

This is where things once again verge dangerously on ‘salesy’ social media marketing, which is almost always unsuccessful. As already touched upon, building trust and establishing meaningful relationships is all about becoming a part of the community you’re attempting to appeal to. Make all reasonable efforts to reply to every comment and question that comes your way, while actively encouraging people to share their thoughts and opinions on your brand.

A Final Word on Brand Consistency

Whatever it is that makes your brand unique should be promoted and celebrated on your social media pages. More importantly, it should be consistent across all of your social media pages. Rather than viewing each of your social accounts as a separate entity in its own right, it’s better to focus on your combined social presence as one deeply connected marketing asset.

If an individual switches from one of your social accounts to another, it should be immediately clear which brand the page/profile represents. It should reflect the individuality and personality of your organisation, without necessarily being a carbon copy of your other social pages. 

Brand consistency plays a key role in maintaining a unified and appealing presence on social media, which is an essential contributor to a successful social media marketing strategy. 

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