Social media marketing occupies huge mind-space in marketing circles, perhaps disproportionate to its actual contribution to the rise and growth of brands. That is one way to look at it. The here and the now.
An opposing perspective would be to look at what can be. And that’s a position I find really effective, especially in the long run. A position that is supported by numbers and where they are heading. For example, social media marketing budgets are all set to double over the next five years.
If we are going to be spending double the amount of money that we spend today on social media, it follows that what we spend it doing is going to take center stage in the days ahead. As a staunch believer in method before the madness begins, I condensed my social media marketing approach into a simple 5 step process.
While the “5 Cs” may sound facile, they actually make sense. Here’s how.
A good social media program begins with deep and wide pools of inspiring content. If there is one task that every member of the social media marketing team MUST do, it is collecting data wherever they can find it from. Once the wheels of content collection are set in motion, you can dive into this pool of content you collected and sift the wheat from the chaff. Pick out the really unique, shining gems of content that truly represent your brand and what it stands for before you decide to post it on your social platforms.
Curation is a whole lot cheaper than creating new content. It’s a great deal faster too. To make things even easier, you have a slew of content curation and bookmarking tools like Curata and List.ly to help your discover and save interesting content in your niche. Many of these tools even allow you to schedule and post your curated content directly to your social media platforms.
Before you plunge headlong into published curated content, cover your bases. Make sure you give the right attribution to creators of the content. Get permissions wherever necessary. Tag the creators – it makes them aware that their content is being used, helps them by giving their brand exposure among your audience, and helps you as a lot of their fans will get updates when you tag their brand.
While it’s all well to post content that others have put time and effort into creating, sometimes there’s nothing that can replace your own two bits on a particular topic. Unless you are forbidden under legal regulations or are severely short on resources (monetary and expertise), content creation ought to be an integral part of your social media program.
Brands like Red Bull have paved the way for the rest of us when it comes to content development muscle. This brand takes its social media content so seriously that it actually has a whole division dedicated to developing content. The content that it creates reflects the tastes of its core audience – extreme sports, motor racing, team sports, tongue in cheek humor and so on.
Red Bull is not just about sporty videos. Here’s the brand tickling its fans’ funny bone (Source)
Unlike most brands, this content is not just posted on public social networks like Facebook and YouTube, but Red Bull takes social media to the next level by building its own closed user networks like RedBull TV and Red Bulletin.
Tristan Handy zeroed in on a sweet spot for the amount of content that a brand should curate vs. create by itself. He concluded that 25 to 50% of all content should be created while the rest can be curated. The top five companies in his study had a content creation rate of around 40%. Now that’s a handy benchmark to go ahead with, isn’t it?
Social media as the term itself suggests is all about people and working with them. Limiting your social media program to the people who manage your social media team is doing it a huge disservice. Since your brand is a sum total of all the people that work for it and all the users who love it, bring your employees and users together to create social media magic.
Showcasing employees and their contributions on social media gives them a real pat on the back on a public forum. It’s a gesture that few employees will ever forget. It’s simple, it’s quick, and it’s memorable. What’s more, showcasing employees and internal wins is a great way of feeding your fans’ curiosity about the inside story on your brand.
Another great way of broadening the scope of your content is by inviting cross functional teams to create content for social networks. Many brands shy away from this super productive tactic in the false belief that cross-functional contributions are difficult to manage. In this day and age where task management and scheduling tools like Basecamp make collaboration a cinch, such attitudes are unforgivable. Forget about complicating your life with new tools if they scare off your team – a simple, label-based browser plugin such as Grexit is more than enough to turn your Gmail inbox into your very own collaboration machine.
It’s a known fact that users trust content and reviews by other users more than marketing material promoted by the brand. Work on this insight and invite your fans on social media to share their own creations with your brand. Offer them their fifteen minutes of fame on your social networks to convert them into lifelong brand advocates.
I cannot stress enough the importance of owning a niche and developing your own voice on social media. With the cacophony of content that is lobbed at any average fan, without a distinct brand personality, your posts are doomed to drown in the high seas of social media.
The aim is to prevent your social media presence from becoming a ragtag collection of posts on whatever pops into your head every day. Your brand has to have a distinctive character. Allow your brand’s personality to seep into your voice on social media.
Ben & Jerry’s lives up to its liberal roots by posting content that represents the values it holds dear (Source)
Remember, people love talking to people, not faceless, characterless brands. Since social media is about talking with and not talking at your fans, this brand personality becomes even more important. By building your brand character on social media your fan knows whom she is speaking to – a nerdy, tech geek, a fashionista, a foodie, a hippie tree hugger – whatever it is that your brand stands for.
I saved the best for the last.
Research shows that people like and follow brands on social media primarily for the benefits that they get out of it. The benefits that I refer to here come in many shapes and sizes. They could include unique, irreplaceable content that you post on social media, it could be discounts and coupons that your customers value, it could even be the uncanny ability to put a smile on your followers’ faces with every post that you put up.
To be cherished by your followers, understand their needs and their typical purchase cycles. A user who likes to research a lot before making a purchase would really appreciate a price comparison tool or product reviews from real users. Someone who is a deal hunter will seek out every last coupon there is to find and use them on your site or in stores, all via social media. A fan boy for your brand will enjoy content that reveals the inner workings of your company – something he won’t be able to find anywhere else.
Humans of New York makes the giving out of 65% off coupons on the smash-hit HONY books, an annual event on their Facebook page (Source)
However, more than anything else you may post, the single redeeming factor of your social media presence is always going to be the strength of the bond that your brand shares with its fans. A deep connection that transcends coupon codes and freebies is the ultimate goal for every brand. The surprising bit is that it’s not that hard to achieve.
Customers use social media as platform to reach out to brand owners and vent their grief about the brand. Instead of simply ignoring the tirades, step up to the plate and take responsibility for your brand’s actions. Next work on fixing the problem as quick as you can. While 67% of all users expect responses to their customer service issues within 24 hours, 20% of these guys expect a response in 15 minutes or less!
Besides troubleshooting customer issues, connecting with customers can also happen at softer levels. Brands go out of their way to make customers feel special on social media. From showcasing their favorite customers as “Customer of the Week” to creating content that fans LOVE to share, it’s all about touching their hearts and making a permanent place in it.
Ah, my final C! To conclude, all I can say is, social media is going to only get more and more central to marketing plans around the world. Without a clear (another ‘C’!) approach to the medium, you risk not just becoming a muddled voice among the millions online but also dilute your customer equity in the long run.
So are we going to see you adopt these 5 Cs soon?