Social media has become a vital part of digital marketing campaigns. With more than two thirds of American adults active on social networks, it’s hard to ignore the potential for reaching and engaging customers.
For most companies, whether or not to use social media isn’t a tough decision. It’s more a question of which networks to use, and the amount of time and resources you can devote to social media marketing. This can be a particular challenge for smaller businesses.
The benefits of social media aren’t as easy to track as other marketing campaigns, such as pay-per-click advertising. But it is a valuable way to boost search engine rankings and visibility, and drive engagement among customers. And a recent survey by HubSpot found that more than half of marketers had found leads through Facebook in the last year, while 43% found them through LinkedIn and blogs.
Social media is also a way to present your brand’s image, whether you want to show its friendly and quirky side or promote your specialist expertise.
But how can you reap the benefits without making a serious dent in your time and productivity? A degree of social media automation is the answer. While there’s no substitute to responding to messages promptly and reacting to recent events, you can still schedule much of your content ahead of time.
Try using tools such as Hootsuite, Sprout Social or Buffer to schedule regular posts to your Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn accounts. If you make sure that your content will still be relevant in a few days time (for example a link to a “how-to” video, rather than a comment on the day’s news), this is an easy way to maintain visibility.
If you’ve already put in the effort to write a company blog, then why not make your blog posts work harder? If you use WordPress, then you can use auto-publishing plugins such as Jetpack Publicize to post them to social networks, including Tumblr and Yahoo. For even wider coverage, you might want to consider a tool such as NextScripts: Social Newtork Auto-Poster which supports Pinterest, YouTube and 16 other networks.
When you come across interesting content from other sources, ask yourself if your followers and potential customers would also find it funny, entertaining or useful. If the answer is yes to one of these three, then keep it in a file and share it across your social networks.
Finding the right balance
It can be tricky finding a balance between a “hands-on” approach to social media, and automation. And it’s not hard to find examples of where automation can go wrong. Last year, the NRA apologised after sending an insensitive tweet following the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado. Unsurprisingly, the tweet had been scheduled in advance.
Clearly, automation shouldn’t mean being completely hands-off. If you’re using a good system to organise your posting schedule, it should be easy to avoid any potential faux pas.
And of course, you’ll also want to add content with a more personal touch, as well as answer questions and enter into conversations. After all, it is meant to be social! This is one area where you shouldn’t cut corners. Automatic replies can be a massive turn-off to users, so take time to deal with these personally, and send out replies that show your compny’s human side. It might be time-consuming, but treating customers as individuals is one of the best ways to keep them coming back.
While it can be tempting to use auto-following software, this is best avoided. Try to be selective about who you choose to follow, and what you share from different accounts. This will help you maintain a consistent brand image.
Duplicating, and re-using content across platforms is a way to make it work harder. But balance this with customized posts that can be tailored to specific audiences. It’s worth doing a little homework to find out a little about the demographics of different users. For example, the majority of Pinterest users are women aged between 25 and 64, and LinkedIn users tend to use the site for business networking and looking for jobs.
The key is to automate routine tasks, and re-use content as far as possible. By combining social media automation with a personal touch, you can maximize its benefits while saving time and effort.