Chapter 9: Your Perfect Channels for Social Media Content Marketing

Imagine: A 33% increase in organic website traffic and 280% increase in web traffic from social sites– can social media really contribute to these types of marketing results? The answer is YES! Here’s how: QASymphony is staring down the New Year with focus and ambition. The agile software testing platform...

Imagine: A 33% increase in organic website traffic and 280% increase in web traffic from social sites– can social media really contribute to these types of marketing results?

The answer is YES! Here’s how:

QASymphony is staring down the New Year with focus and ambition. The agile software testing platform company just welcomed a new CEO and raised $2.5 million in venture funding at the dawn of the New Year. The focus for QA Symphony in 2015 is clear: gain momentum in terms of sales and marketing so the company could reach its very ambitious goals for growth.

To best position itself to reach its goals, QASymphony pulled together a holistic marketing plan, complete with message strategy, content marketing calendar, media outreach, trade show and conference opportunities, and social media. QASymphony's approach is producing real results. In the first month after implementing the plan, QASymphony is enjoying a nearly 33% increase in organic traffic. The company is also getting a 280% increase in inbound website traffic from social media – and has experienced a 29% increase in free trial sign-ups.

To achieve the type of results from content marketing that QASymphony is achieving, it takes more than one channel working for you. Media properties, conferences, blogs, and social media platforms all add power to your company's program through greater reach and influence. Let's start with social media content marketing, by identifying which social channels are right for you.

Know Where You Are First: The Social Media Audit

The power of social media to drive sales for your business isn't likely to wane any time soon Tweet this! . In a study published by Social Media Examiner in 2014, 92% of marketers said social media is important for their business. And, according to the CMO Council, B2C company marketers expect social media to make up 24.4% of their total marketing budgets Tweet this! in the next 5 years. But, before jumping off in the direction of creating a new social media marketing plan, it's important to take stock of where your business sits at the beginning of this process. The best way to do this is through a social media audit.

Insider's Tip: Check out Write2Market's Social Media Audit Outline to jump-start the process of taking stock of your company's social media presence. 

Download the Social Media Audit Outline HERE:

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A social media audit lets you know how your business has performed in the past Tweet this! , including what's worked and what hasn't worked.

  1. Compare progress via Google Analytics: By doing comparison reports from Google Analytics, a business can monitor how it's content marketing program has performed year over year, month over month, and week over week. It's really useful for pattern recognition and to see signs of progress.
  2. Know what posts garnered the most engagement:  This is pretty straightforward. If your content marketing team has been churning out content, you'll want to know which of their posts generated the most excitement and engagement. This information is available in the Behavior>All Traffic section of Google Analytics.
  3. Check your Facebook account performance: If your company already has a Facebook page, you'll want to evaluate how the page has been performing. A great (and free!) tool to use to monitor your page's performance and benchmark it against other pages is the Agorapulse Barometer.
  4. Analyze the performance of your Twitter account: Doing an analysis on your Twitter account will help illuminate how active your Twitter followers are, how influential they are, how many retweets you receive for every tweet, who you are interacting with, and other useful data. Simply Measured has a free tool that does a Twitter analysis.  And, while it's not free, twtrland is another useful tool to get insights on how your company is performing on Twitter.
  5. Review your business' performance on Pinterest: Are you on Pinterest? If so, this is another platform where you'll want to know how you're performing.  How has your following grown over time? Who is repinning your pins, and how influential are they? Which content is getting the most attention? A tool like Tailwind can help you get answers to all of these questions.
  6. Evaluation of Instagram:  Instagram is only growing in influence, and Iconosquare can help you know how your business is performing on this platform — revealing the times of day your posts get the most engagement, which images are liked the most, which hashtags are the most used, and how your number of followers have changed over time.

Identify the Right Social Media Channels for Your Business Tweet this!

Now that you know what's working and what's not working, it's time to start developing a plan for the future. The next key step is to determine which channels are the best fit for your social media content marketing. You'll want to be most active on the platforms where your customers are. Make sure to consider the product or service you are offering, along with the available human and financial resources at your disposal. For example, I own an e-commerce fashion company, and the most active platform for my business is Instagram. Don't feel like you have to sign up for every social media channel out there Tweet this! , just because it's available — as it's better to be great at two social media channels that really make sense for your business, rather than be mediocre at five or six. It's also important to be patient. It takes time to build traction with social media content marketing. So, don't get discouraged if you don't see immediate results.

Let's dive in and take a closer look at the major social media platforms available, so you can evaluate the best matches for your business.

Facebook

Facebook is really good if your business is trying to build a presence within its community or wants to reach as broad a network of people as possible. While this social platform is losing its appeal with Millennials and Generation Z, it's still popular with adult groups and is still the most popular social site.  Given that the primary reason people use Facebook is to communicate to and keep up with family and friends, it may not be the most effective platform for a business.  According to Yasmin Bendror of Yahoo Small Business, 'with so many targeted potential customers, creating a business page is a must, but remember that it needs to be updated on a daily basis with not only promotional information, but engaging and interesting content as well.'

Facebook isn't the open frontier of opportunity it used to be. In January of 2015, the social media platform announced that if you are a business, and you want to reach customers on Facebook, you had to buy an ad. Prices for ads on Facebook have jumped 274% in one calendar year, so startups or early stage companies will need to set a budget when working with this platform.

Twitter

This platform is useful for reaching both men and women, particularly younger people. It's also a great medium for spreading news and information, so if your business has a connection to topic-based news or industry insights, it might be a good fit.

Like Facebook, businesses can buy advertising on Twitter in the form of promoted tweets, promoted accounts, and display ads. This year, Twitter is projected to become the third largest seller of display advertising, bumping Yahoo down to the fourth spot. According to eMarketer, 61% of American companies now use Twitter for marketing Tweet this! . Debra Aho Williamson, principal social media analyst at eMarketer, says that the platform has been popular for advertising because Twitter's objective-based model means companies only pay when there is engagement, which means there is little to no wasted spending of your advertising budget.

Twitter's research shows that the most effective use of ads on its platform involve pictures or short videos, with the tweets using fewer than 100 characters. Companies advertising on Twitter are using it for lead generation, increasing sales, and acquiring followers. Ads that typically have the highest conversion rates include an image and very specific information.

Google+

While Google+ claims to have 359 million active users a month, analysts are already writing the obituary for this social platform. In March of 2015, Scott Galloway, Clinical Professor of Marketing at NYU's Stern School of Business, declared at a conference that 'Google+ is already dead' because of its '97% decline in engagement rate, year-over-year.' But the platform, which many see as a combination of Twitter and Facebook, do offer some interesting advantages: The Hangouts, +1s, and hashtags, if utilized properly can result in big-time page popularity. Your Google+ account will need to be updated regularly, and your business will need to engage with its users and also other businesses. Because Google+ is part of Google, being active on Google+ helps your search results. If you have a Google+ page and someone searches for your business on Google, your Google+ page will be shown on the right side of the search results.

Pinterest

Pinterest is made for businesses that have great images to share. Think companies that deal with fashion, accessories, travel, cosmetics, and hospitality. This rapidly growing platform has an estimated 70 million users – and bonus, it supplies highly coveted backlinks to your company's website.  Because of the very visual nature of Pinterest, quality images have a much higher chance of getting shared and re-shared. The holy grail of Pinterest is to have an image pinned by a highly followed member because the image has the potential to reach millions of users. If your business doesn't make or sell pretty, visual things, there are still some opportunities to leverage this site. Yasmin Bendror from Yahoo Small Business suggests creating 'how-to checklists' or step-by-step guides for pinning. She says that when paired with an interesting image, these types of pins can get attention. Pinterest is particularly helpful for businesses that cater to women, as females between 25-45 make up 80% of all Pinterest users.

Pinterest rolled out an advertising platform last year. Companies can advertise on Pinterest via either promoted pins or Rich Pins. Rich Pins are free for businesses and contain detailed information like pricing, availability, and where to buy. Promoted pins are paid advertising, with two pricing models: Cost Per Impression, which is used to build awareness, and Cost Per Click, which is used to generate clicks and conversions.

Instagram

Instagram is the platform for the young and female audience. 70% of its users are women between the ages of 18-35. If your business caters to customers in this demographic, and your business has great images, this is probably the best platform for you. Instagram also appeals to specific ethnic segments and urbanites, so there is great opportunity here for certain targeted markets. This platform is also great for 'behind the scenes' shots of your business and its employees. Interestingly, Twitter and Instagram have a great deal of overlap in terms of users, so operating on both of these platforms can be a great tactic. Instagram is just starting to dip its toe into paid advertising, with a Beta version of a platform rolling out this year.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is great if you are a B2B business or can provide useful insights about your industry. Most people are in work mode when they log into LinkedIn, so it is really best for networking within a peer group or providing and consuming industry-specific information. The people on LinkedIn typically have a high level of income and a high level of education, so the platform offers a specific audience that can be worth targeting.

This social media channel needs to be approached seriously, as the users expect professional and informative information. One of the most important features of this platform is the 'LinkedIn Groups,' which let professionals in the same industry or with similar interests to start and participate in a discussion within a group. Users can share content, find answers, post jobs, make contacts, and establish themselves as industry experts. Some of these groups have hundreds of thousands of members, so the exposure is significant.

LinkedIn launched its Lead Accelerator and Network Display in February 2015. Lead Accelerator is similar to Facebook's Audience Network and Twitter's partner audiences – and lets businesses advertising on LinkedIn divide their audiences into segmented groups and find out more about visitors to their LinkedIn pages based on login data. The platform's Network Display is similar to Facebook's Atlas, which uses both user login data and other identifiers to target LinkedIn users outside of the platform. And because of its partnership with AppNexus, LinkedIn has access to a vast number of third party publisher sites where LinkedIn users can be targeted.

YouTube

You probably already know that this social media channel is the most popular video site. It has more than a billion unique visitors every month, with more than 100 hours of video uploaded every minute. But, did you know that it is the second largest search engine after Google? Having content optimized on YouTube for people looking for your product, service, or niche can have enormous benefits. Another plus: Google owns YouTube; so uploading videos can boost your SEO ranking. Videos are more than 50 times likely to appear on the first page of search results. But, this is a competitive marketplace, so in order to succeed on YouTube Yasmin Bendror of Yahoo Small Business advises that it is a social media channel to use if you have value videos that invite engagement, sharing, and enjoyment, Bendror notes that if your business can visually show how its products and services are differentiated from other competitors, this social channel could be a real winner. But note that there are costs associated with producing good videos, so keep that in mind before choosing this channel.

Foursquare

This platform is only for businesses that have brick and mortar locations. While some analysts are skeptical about whether Foursquare has a future, it does claim 40 million users and 1.3 million businesses, and local businesses can leverage it to build a customer base and reward loyal customers. People use the platform to check into locations they've visited by using a mobile phone app, and the information is shared with friends on Facebook and Foursquare, along with Twitter followers. It's great when people start writing reviews and recommending your business to others, but to be successful on Foursquare, a business must join the conversation, interact, and reward customers to be successful.

Snapchat

The new kid on the social media block, Snapchat is an image-sharing platform where the videos and pictures shared disappear forever within five seconds. Snapchat is hugely popular with users under the age of 25, and it processes 150 million images a day. So, how can a business use Snapchat? Take advantage of its immediacy by sending out a sneak peak of your latest products or offers. Customers see it – and then poof, it's gone. Businesses can offer sales or discounts that customers can open only once for use at checkout.  Social Media Today reports that marketers have used Snapchat as a game, encouraging customers to take part in treasure hunts and contests. Marketers are also trying to get customers to post pictures of themselves using a business' products in exchange for a prize or discount.

As a first-time entrepreneur, I happen to be going through this process with CROCUS (shopcrocus.com), the e-commerce fashion company I started less than a year ago. With our core customers comprised of women 24-35 years old, we've decided that Instagram and Facebook are the two most important platforms for our business. (We're also interested in experimenting with Snapchat but, as of this writing, haven't taken that plunge yet.) While we're building our Instagram and Facebook audiences month over month, we are still trying out new things on each platform to see what gets the most traction and engagement. Again, patience is key, as Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither is a huge social media following.

Social Media Share & Engagement Volume

How often your company posts, shares, and engages is almost as important as deciding on which social media channels to establish a presence. How do you hit that sweet spot of engaging frequently with followers without ticking them off and driving them away? The key to discovering your company's optimal frequency is to be informative Tweet this! , rather than annoying. For example, social media management company, Buffer, sends out tweets 14 times a day, from midnight to 10:00 pm Central Time. The company never tweets more than once an hour and also tweets seven times a day on weekends. So how did Buffer arrive at what it considers its optimal frequency? They use three simple steps: 1) Predict 2) Measure 3) Repeat. Each company must undertake this process and consider its industry and product when predicting the response from engagement volume and scheduling.  Kevin Lee, a Content Crafter at Buffer, recommends using followerwonk to determine when your followers are online so you can plan accordingly.

Influencing the Influencers

No matter what social media channels you choose to leverage, your business will want to influence key influencers on each channel.

You'll want to entice influencers to share your content or spread the word about your business Tweet this! . Krista Madden of Handpicked Media identifies the best practices for influencing influencers:

  •   Understanding the relevance of a potential influencer: Once you've identified a potential influencer, make sure that he or she is relevant and has influence over your intended audience. How many people follow him or her? How often are his or her posts shared — and how much engagement does this potential influencer generate? Research his or her profile to understand the ecosystem in which he or she operates.
  •      Approach with relevance: The more influential the influencer, the more the approach needs to be layered. A tactic to employ might be to follow the influencer first, then retweeting then, then perhaps engaging the target influencer in a relevant conversation.
  •     Earn permission: Once you have gained some traction with a particular influencer, you have possibly the earned the permission to ask for help in sharing content or engaging with your content.
  •     Provide a benefit: Make sure the influencers understands what's in it for them. Perhaps your post will link to content they published. Or, maybe you will cite them as a source in one of your pieces of content marketing.
  •      Make your request frictionless:  When asking the influencer to do something for you, make it as painless as possible. Make the influencer have to do as little as possible to help you out, like simply retweeting an industry-influencing blog post authored by your company.

When approaching influencers, transparency is also key. It's best to be honest and upfront about who you are and what you represent. Also, don't contact an influencer from a spam-y or unclear email address. That's a big turnoff. For example, don't approach influencers from your company's contact or customer service email addresses (like info@companyabc). Instead, make sure that the email is coming from a real person's email account with a personalized message that let's influencers know you have a clue about who they are and why they are important.


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