Facebook now has 1.5 billion registered users, and you can bet your customers are part of this mix. Social marketing is one of the fastest growing forms of digital media, and emarketer.com predicts that by 2017, 1 in every 5 digital dollars will be spent on paid social.
The question I get from a lot of customers is, “I know that social marketing is important, but I’m always strapped for resources and time – so what’s the best way to approach this?” I think one of the best ways to answer “how” to approach social is stepping back and understanding the context of social media.
Understanding social context gives you insights into the most effective way to communicate with prospects and customers – specifically, the right voice and tone. It tells you the best types of offers to entice prospects to buy from you, and how to inspire your existing customers to buy even more.
Take Facebook, for example. As a user, you’re looking to stay connected to your friends. You share and consume information in this trusted circle because your assumption is that if your friend is sharing or likes a piece of content, it’s probably something you’d also like.
So let’s say you’re scrolling your Facebook feed on your smartphone and notice that a friend enthusiastically shares an article about a new restaurant, or even more tantalizingly, uploads a photo of that restaurant’s signature dish. You’d probably look it over and say, “Wow, this looks good. Where is this place?”
Let’s stop right there and break down the components of this interaction — social, mobile and local — and how they provide a key contextual lens for looking at your customers:
Your prospects and customers will pay attention to products and services that their friends recommend, so it’s important you think about the types of content that resonate the most on social. The best social content tends to fall into several of these categories: hyper-relevant, funny, entertaining, short and visual.
At least half the time, your customers are likely consuming social content on mobile devices. Also, your most social customers tend to be your most mobile customers. So if you want your social content to be tantalizing and shareable on mobile, think about your offer on a smartphone.
On a 6-inch smartphone screen, brevity is a must. Scrutinize every word, photo, graphic and offer. Is your text short enough, but still clear? If you were the customer, would the image draw you in? Does the graphic and copy work together to maximize the space?
Is your product local? If so, proximity is paramount. Once you’ve garnered interest from a prospect, the first question he or she will ask is “How close am I to this store or restaurant?” Don’t think of the ‘local’ concept too narrowly, though. If you sell your product online, the related question customers will ask is “How do I get it?”
To answer this question, buy your product and have folks in your company do the same. Round them up and ask for unbiased feedback on the process. Was it simple or complicated? What would they change? How do you stack up to competitors?
(Don’t) Crash a Social Party
One of the best ways to understand social marketing is to think about how we socialize in a real-life context. What if you went to a digital marketing event, and instead of greeting people with a “Hello, how are you?” you opened by talking about yourself and launching into your company’s spiel? Most people would be turned off because you didn’t spend any time listening.
The same thing happens when you don’t listen to your customers on social. Interjecting yourself into your customers’ social lives when you haven’t done your homework will you make you seem like you don’t “get them,” and your content will likely be ignored.
Build Social Etiquette via Automation
How does one person (or a small team) listen to many people chattering away at a crowded social party? It’s OK to begin manually, but once you’re audience has grown to a critical mass, it’s important to think about social listening platforms to help you listen and respond better. These types of platforms — Shoutlet and HootSuite are two that IBM has partnered with — help you hone in on social communications and behaviors that matter most to your brand.
This social listening automation can help in two ways. One, it can help you avoid PR disasters when customers are taking your product or brand to a “bad place” on Facebook. This happens to the best of us, and any PR expert will tell you it’s best to get in front of these situations rather than hoping that they go away.
Social listening automation can also boost sales. By understanding how your prospects and customers talk about your products or services in their “native environment,” you’re like a dutiful anthropologist who takes a step back and understands its subjects before drawing conclusions. So they like your restaurant – great information! But what do they like best? The food + ambiance? The food + price? The food + service? Leveraging these subtle nuances can separate the best marketers from the also-rans.
Paid Social Marketing: Start Small and Optimize
If you’re new to paid social media, it makes sense to learn the ropes before you invest too much of your digital spend. Just like other channels you’ve optimized, such as email, SEO and display ads, paid social media is about fine-tuning as you begin to see the response – what’s working and what’s not.
Managing this manually can cause headaches, and with digital marketers continuing to get asked to “do more with less,” we’re seeing an increasing need for tools that automate and simplify this process — which is why we introduced IBM Social Audiences. By automating the act of querying customer lists, flighting ads and tracking the results, marketers are freed up do more strategic marketing that helps drive ROI and sales.
Listen and Learn
As paid social media is exploding, it’s natural to want to “dive in” and test the waters. Before you do that, I recommend you spend some time listening to your customers on social and thinking about them from a social, mobile and local perspective. Understanding the context of their interactions can give you important insights into who they are and what they want from you, and making the effort to capture subtle social nuances will help you respond effectively, separate your brand from the competition, and boost your sales.
1) Tip Sheet: “10 Tips for Driving Engagement Using Email + Social”
2) Blog: “3 Tips for Incorporating Social into Your Overall Marketing”
3) White Paper: “10 Key Marketing Trends for 2016 and Ideas for Delivering Exceptional Customer Experiences”