It's official: social media is a major driver of traffic to brand sites. In December of 2014, the top eight social networks collectively drove more than 31 percent of overall traffic to websites, an increase of 22 percent from 2013.
This trend is resonating with brands everywhere. According to Forrester Research, advertisers will spend a projected $12.3 billion on social marketing in 2015. By 2020, the expectation is that brands will spend a whopping $27 billion on social media.
As social becomes a larger part of brands' overall marketing mix, it's increasingly important to optimize social engagement. In an effort to help identify how brands can excel in social marketing, I've compiled five principal mainstays integral to social marketing success.
Developing a cohesive social brand strategy is one of the most important steps toward creating social marketing campaigns that work. Your strategy is your social marketing blueprint, and as such, it should be an integrated part of your broader marketing plan.
When you're considering this part of your overarching social strategy, focus on where resources should be allocated for maximum efficiency, along with which platforms would be most effective for your brand. Not everyone needs to be on Pinterest -- but for a brand that is very visual, Pinterest might be the best choice. Or maybe you've seen that Instagram is where your demographic lies.
In the case of DC Comics, the brand splits its time between Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. As it has the largest following on Facebook, that has become the DC Comics social hub, and the place where it's most likely to post articles, videos, and images related to the brand. The key is to define exactly what you want to achieve, and what you can realistically expect social media to do for you.
Social content creation
As social platforms continue to evolve, drawing consumers by the millions, developing engaging social content has become critical. Posts with videos attract three times as many inbound links as plain text, and having "interesting content" is one of the top three reasons that people follow brands on social media.
After years of prioritizing photos within the feed, Facebook recently changed its algorithm to elevate video content in importance. This creates a challenge: Most social marketers, regardless of their core competency, are not equipped to create content that's as high-quality or compelling as their brand's TV spots and print ads. They're certainly not able to do it at a frequency of 10 to 15 times a month in order to keep consumers engaged and coming back for more.
To make sure that social content is well crafted but also delivers on metrics, it's imperative that brands create a content development plan that incorporates input from both creative and social strategy. Content needs can vary significantly from one advertiser to the next, so brands must determine exactly what's required, how it will be created, and how it will be promoted. Once the content development plan is in place, social promotion/outreach is the next step in increasing engagement for your brand.
Organic reach has decreased dramatically on sites such as Facebook, where organic posts now average a reach of approximately 6 percent. That's a drop of over 50 percent in the last year. While that number goes up for brands with fewer than 10,000 followers, it still behooves brands and their agencies, shops, and marketing firms to focus on other opportunities to drive traffic – opportunities that include social promotions, blogger outreach partnerships, and paid media campaigns.
Social promotions can be an effective way to help generate organic engagement and shares by inviting consumers to take action. One example of this comes from Domino's Pizza. A few years ago in the UK, the brand invited consumers to tweet #letsdolunch, and reduced the price of its pizza based on the number of tweets that were received. Domino's eventually gained enough engagement to warrant a 50 percent price discount, increasing its lunchtime orders while rewarding customers.
More recently, E! Online invited fans to tweet or Instagram photos of themselves sporting one of the latest fashion trends. Those who tweeted using the #youworeitbetter hashtag had a chance to win an appearance on the new E! show, "Who Wore it Better?"
The benefit of partnering with blogger influencers, meanwhile, is twofold: your brand reaches its follower base, and bloggers provide authentic third-party content. The growing popularity of video bloggers and social media influencers who produce content on sites like YouTube creates an opportunity for brands to insert themselves into the social video conversation.
Engaging with your brand's fan and follower base is obviously important, but it can be time consuming and overwhelming for brands. While there are numerous tools available to assist in facilitating community management efforts, advertisers should focus on three areas: establishing your brand voice, creating ongoing content schedules, and engaging in a dialogue rather than a monologue.
While this all seems simple enough, discovering your brand voice and then maintaining it across all of your communications can be a monumental task. Remember, brand voice doesn't just apply to your social media posts, but to direct responses to customers and social site users as well. Having a content schedule will help you develop a posting cadence, manage content, and make sure you have a consistent presence online. When you can see the big picture, it's easier to remain on-brand and spot any tonal discrepancies.
One last thing to keep in mind about community management is that social media is a conversation. Value the feedback of your fans and followers. Respond sincerely and in a timely manner. Letting questions from fans lie fallow for days can create the appearance of social account neglect, and that's a major problem considering that community management is essentially the face of your brand within the social environment.
Analytics and reporting
As you develop your social strategy, it's important to set benchmarks for success. Analytics plays an integral role in defining your results. You might have numerous platforms for providing social reporting at your disposal, but it's critical to continually monitor social activity. This is how you shape future social content development, strategy, and content schedule plans. Using analytics can be extremely beneficial both in defining what works best for you, and in optimizing engagement moving forward.
The digital marketing industry is advancing every single day, and we're advancing with it. We're no longer in a place where marketers jump into social headfirst. That said, it's easy to get caught up in the daily content crush and lose sight of your social media goals. When you need a reminder, refer to this list. It's sure to help you get back on track.
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