My biggest regret from the previous recession – or perhaps simply lesson learned – was not focusing enough on social media marketing.
Back in 2008, just before the recession started, I set up my first company. Digital marketing was in its infancy at the time, and everyone was just starting to experiment with it. We all wanted to be all over all of the social platforms; Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest and eventually Instagram – immediately leaping on any new format that happened to pop up. But, as a solopreneur it felt like it was simply too much to carry out my daily tasks and manage all my social media accounts at the same time.
As a result, I gradually started shifting the focus from social media marketing over to whatever other work was deemed more pressing because alas – at the time – I didn’t see the value in posting on social every day. As is often the case, I devoted too much time to firefighting, rather than proactively managing my strategy.
Which is a shame, because it is now very clear that this was a wasted opportunity. Ten years ago, it was relatively easy to build an audience. When you followed someone they were very likely to follow you back – regardless of platform – and the whole social media scene operated without the restrictions and limitations that are prevalent today. This meant that amassing thousands of followers was a relatively easy task and didn’t take a great amount of work or any special skills. Facebook still showed your posts to all of your friends, business pages didn’t bug you constantly to pay for ads and reach… essentially, life was simple.
Fast forward ten years, and we have a completely different social media landscape. The platforms have become so diverse and complicated that they each have their own etiquettes of dos and don’ts, whilst companies now hire dedicated social media managers to advise on the ever-changing algorithms; not only to gain results but to actually avoid penalties. Facebook’s organic reach for business profiles is said to be less than 2%, and increasingly pretty much every social media platform limits organic reach in favour of paid ads.
Of course, the fact that things have become more complicated doesn’t mean that we should ditch social media altogether. On the contrary: when used properly, social media platforms can be a great way of growing your audience, building your tribe, driving traffic to your content and generating leads.
What’s more, the social media platforms of today have become so advanced and widely used that instead of spending a fortune on customer research tools, you can now obtain first-hand feedback and metrics on the efficacy of your strategy; meaning you can be far more considered when adjusting our offering or marketing communication. With the help of social listening you can monitor and respond to your customers’ feedback, spot new trends and build new relationships within your industry.
Yes, yes I hear you say – that’s all very well for the ‘big boys’ who can afford to get engaged and do it properly. Well, if you’re operating on a small budget and still wondering whether social media marketing is the right option for you to grow your business, then read on.
Let me share my top tips for winning on social media:
1. Determine (and Master) Your Channel
As Mark Ritson says, “The first rule of marketing is you are not the customer.”
This means you don’t necessarily start in the place you feel most comfortable and spend most of your time scrolling. Just because you’re an Instagram addict doesn’t mean your market is. The type of channel you use depends on your niche, your customer’s age and interest.
Instead of focusing on all social media platforms at once, determine – and focus – on one or two channels where your audience hangs out. Once you have a platform figured out, and somewhat automated (more on this in a later post), add the next one. This way it is easier to build up followers on one platform without getting overwhelmed, and direct them over to another one eventually, so that you already have a few cheerleaders to start a new account with.
In addition, make sure you have a purpose for your account. As a creative entrepreneur with a lot of visual content your best bet is probably starting with Instagram or Pinterest. If you have video production capabilities you may opt for YouTube. If you target a younger audience then Snapchat and TikTok might work best for you. If your main purpose is building a community, then opt for Facebook.
And don’t forget logistics. Take into consideration your bandwidth, and what you have the time, resources and knowledge for in terms of creating, monitoring and engaging with content.
2. Optimise Your Brand’s Real Estate
Getting the basics right will make your profile look professional, and a brand worth following. Creating a profile on social media seems like a pretty simple task, but this is where many companies fall short. When setting up your social media profiles, make sure you take advantage of the real estate provided in your profile/bio sections.
Use consistent (branded) images for your profile and header/cover images across all of your social media platforms and website. Optimising these images to the given platform will save you some headaches (think about how these images will look when expanded, shown on mobile/desktop, etc.)
Be discoverable in search: use keywords so that your profile can be discovered for your niche, industry or business. Fill out all the information to maximise your chances of being organically discovered; incomplete bios can lower the chances of visibility in search. Cross-promote your channels, and place a trackable link back to your website within your bio, when possible.
Communicate your brand’s values and beliefs in your bio copy. Include a call to action to maximise your chances of being followed.
3. Build Brand Awareness and Connect Through Content
As Gary Vaynerchuk once famously said: “Instead of talking about how many people see your content, we need to be focusing on how much value that piece of content actually brings your audience”.
Social media comes down to one thing: what value are you providing?
Ideally, your content should consist of a mix of original and curated content. Original content is the type of content that you create as part of your social media campaign. This should be designed/created to fit in with each channel. Curated content can be something you share from the web (keep in mind that you should only share content that is valuable and relevant to your audience), or content your users generate.
“Instead of talking about how many people see your content, we need to be focusing on how much value that piece of content actually brings your audience.” Gary Vaynerchuck
Use User Generated Content if it fits in with your business and marketing. Make people feel that they are part of your story, give them a chance to participate in your brand’s narrative.
Don’t put the same content across your each of your channels; use each one of them for a different purpose and post content that works best on each channel. Include a call to action within each post. Ask questions. Nurture with direct messages. Social media is a dialogue, so open up conversations.
Build upon relevant creative assets. Create content focused on inspiring, educating, and entertaining your audience. Create interactive content. Share your content multiple times, in different formats. Experiment and test your content to see what works. Play on your strengths and be approachable. Create intentional captions with a headline that grabs attention.
Pin your best content to the top of your profile. This is the first post people see (pinned posts are supported on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn).
Do your research, find your customers and get involved in conversations online. Find influencers in your space and connect with them, interview them, collaborate with them. Cross-collaborate with other brands/platforms which have a similar following to yours. Offer to create content for them and ask them to promote it for you, whilst in return promoting theirs. Give before you ask.
4. Analyse Your Results
Don’t build your content strategy on false assumptions that are based on your own experiences.
Analytics on social media should become your best friend. Setting goals and tracking your results provides you immediate feedback on which of your content gains the most engagement across your channels. Identifying which content your audience finds valuable will help you improve your efforts, and create winning content.
Not all posting times are created equal, so when you’re not getting the desired engagement on a post take this into consideration. Post at the right time to make sure your audience is online and can interact with your content. Each platform has its own analytics tools that will give you plenty of data to start with.
Besides analysing your own performance, make sure to analyse your competitors’ profile and posts. This should also help you create better content and understand where you should focus most of your efforts.
5. Be Consistent
Even though the algorithms worked differently ten years ago, one thing hasn’t changed much: the fact that social media channels reward consistency. There is a simple reason behind this: they rely on content for people to return to their platforms, and the more content we produce for them, the more often users return. This attracts advertisers, and advertisers are ultimately what helps them to put the pennies in their pocket.
The biggest mistake that I still see small brands making hasn’t actually changed that much. Just like us when we started, they still want to be present across all platforms. Unfortunately – as the workload gets out of hand – they slowly start losing momentum and stop being consistent. When you do this, the algorithm punishes you, you become frustrated by the lack of results you get, and ultimately, you stop focusing your efforts on social media marketing.
The best solution to avoid social media burnout is to create a social media calendar and stick to it. This can be done very effectively using a simple Excel sheet, or a Google document. Colour code your channels and plan your content a week or a month ahead. Include your images, headlines, captions and keywords/hashtags, so that when it’s time to post, you have content prepared.
This carries massive benefits; it means you’re creating content precisely when you’re in the ‘creative zone’, but it also eliminates the risk of overlooking your social media content if you find that – a month later – you’re knee-deep in firefighting and problem solving in other areas of your business.
Do just be mindful of your post schedule though, especially as momentous events occur in the wider world. Imagine having scheduled a post a month ago about enjoying a drink at the pub with colleagues: deep in the midst of our Covid-crisis that would have gone down like a lead balloon. And you don’t want an r/corporatefacepalm on your hands, do you? (N.B If you didn’t get that reference, you need to be adding Reddit to your social media repertoire…!)
Technology is no longer for geeks. Social media has changed the way we do marketing and communicate with our customers; now everyone can have a voice and share their opinion. With a bit of creativity smaller entrepreneurs are now able to punch well above their weight: creating awareness around their products and scaling their companies in a truly cost-effective way.
Challenging times like this can be used to build an audience, or – if you have one already – connect with them more effectively. Use social media for what it’s been invented for; socialising, and networking. Speak to people, but more importantly: listen to them. Listening to what your customers want will take your business to a whole new level, as you’ll understand their pain points, and – if needed – pivot your business to create solutions for them.
Social media is a long game. So strap on your social media shoes and chug an inspiration-based cup of coffee, because this is a race you can win.
What’s your favourite social media channel and why? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Designer. Founder of Trendeavour. Fashion & retail specialist by day, content creator & digital marketing geek by night. Coffee and instagram addict. Crazy about her dog.