Pew Research conducted a 2013 poll of Internet users and found that 72% of all Internet users spend time on social media. Social media is on fire and it is no longer a question of whether your business should have a social media marketing campaign, but how to make that campaign as successful as possible. In fact, if you’re just getting started, you may already be behind the game. Lucky for you, the social media terrain is an ever-changing landscape. Although some of the older marketing tactics may still work, many others will not. If you’re just starting, you won’t have to unlearn bad habits. Instead, you can embrace these 5 factors and base your campaign around what works today.
You’ve probably noticed that nearly every business out there has a Twitter, Facebook and Google+ presence. But, simply having a presence isn’t enough. You must pay attention to how you are utilizing your social network if you want to see a difference over the long term.
Success Factor #1. Timing
You’ve probably heard it said that “timing is everything”. That statement is also true when it comes to utilizing social media to get the word out to your clients and potential clients. In The Science of Social Timing, programmer and social media scientist Dan Zarella says:
“It’s important to know when the highest percentage of your audience is eavesdropping on your social networks—so that when you share content you’ll get maximum exposure.”
Within the detailed infographic that Zarella shares, markets see that around 80% of Twitter users are either in eastern or central time zones. What does this mean for tweeting? No matter what time zone you live in, you should base your campaigns on EST/CST.
In addition, what day you post news can have an impact. For example, Saturday is the busiest day for Facebook users. Each type of social media has a different rush hour. You can use tools like Simply Measured and Follower Wonk to gather analysis and discover who is using which social networks and when is the best time to share out your content.
Some things to keep in mind when deciding the best times to post to social networks:
- Who is your target audience?
- What is their age range and how does that impact what time of day they are on the social media site?
- Is your post timely? If you are having a sale on Saturday, you probably don’t want to post about it on Wednesday, because in the fast-paced online world, it will be long forgotten by then.
If you’re in a rush and don’t have time to research right away, you can use Social Caffeine’s infographic for some rule of thumb times that are best to post to different social media sites.
- Facebook – 1 to 4 p.m.
- Twitter – 1 to 3 p.m.
- LinkedIn – 7 to 9 a.m. or 5 to 6 p.m.
- Google+ – 9 to 11 a.m.
- Pinterest – 2 to 4 p.m. or 8 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Success Factor #2. Use of Images
Twitter limits users to 140 characters at a time and Facebook posts of 80 characters or less get 66% more interaction. However, it can be difficult to get your marketing message across with so few words. This is where images come in handy, because after all, one is worth a thousand words, right? You can get the point across with a picture and the reader will remember it better and be more engrossed.
Images Increase Engagement
Images are proven to increase CTR and user engagement. In her article “7 Powerful Facebook Statistics You Should Know for a More Engaging Facebook Page”, co-founder of Hello Code Belle Beth Cooper writes, “According to Kissmetrics, photos get 53% more likes, 104% more comments and 84% more click-throughs on links than text-based posts. And as we’ve mentioned before, self-explanatory photos seem to perform best.”
In addition, across different social media sites, images have a higher click-through rate, are shared more often and create a visual balance that draws the eye of those visiting your wall. An example is Google+, where images take up a large space and create a nice point of reference between the text posts.
You have several options for images. You can create your own images, use an image someone else has created or use infographics (most are open to be shared, because the creator has added a credit at the bottom and a link to his website). Some resources that might help:
- PicMonkey – If you have a photo that would work perfect as a background, you can edit it by using PicMonkey’s free resources.
- CompFight – CompFight offers the ability to search Flickr for creative commons licensed, high quality photos that are available to use as long as you credit the original photographer. Flickr Storm and Photo Pin also allow you to search for Flickr photos that are available for use.
- MorgueFile – Free amateur and professional photos you can use to create memes or advertising campaigns.
- Cool InfoGraphics – If you’d like to share an infographic on your social media wall, try this site for high quality, well researched infographics that can offer information that might entire someone to buy your product or contact you for additional information.
Success Factor #3. The Smaller Networks
It is true that the “big three” in social media are Twitter, Facebook and Google+. However, this type of demographic can and does change on a dime. Remember when MSN communities were all the rage? How about MySpace? When was the last time you even checked your page over there? While it is smart to focus on the current social media sites getting the most traffic, add in up and coming and smaller networks as well. Think of your social media marketing plan like a pyramid. At the base are Twitter, Facebook and Google+. These are where you’ll spend the biggest block of your time. Just above those are:
- LinkedIn – geared toward business professionals, this is not only a good place to get out news but to network with like-minded business people.
- Pinterest – a powerhouse of information for housewives and crafters. If your target audience involves women, you’ll want a presence on here.
- SlideShare – geared toward business people, but offers information in easily digested PowerPoint style format. This is one that is growing, so you’ll want to keep an eye on this and get started so you already have a foothold to take advantage of future growth. WHSR took a look at how to use SlideShare to reach new customers and get new business (Mauro’s note: here’s the ultimate resource to leverage SlideShare for your online business).
Nearly every social networking site started small, even Facebook and Twitter. It seems that something new comes along and web users are off and running, the word spreads and it is suddenly the next big thing. Instagram would be one example of a site that young people are using more than in the past. So, it is smart to stay up-to-date on what is new. Some ways to stay up-to-date:
- Ask teens you know what the hot new sites are.
- Set up a Google alert to notify you when an article is posted about social networking or new social networking. You may not catch all of them, but the info will help you see trends.
- Understand that mobile use is growing, so new social media trends that incorporate a heavy mobile use are going to grow more quickly than those that do not.
Success Factor #4. Measuring Social Media Success
How can you know if your campaigns are successful or not? The only way to know if your social media marketing is having an impact is to track it, study the results and make adjustments. Those who are committed to a social media presence need to understand that social media marketing does not equal instant gratification. It is about building relationships with users over a long period of time, showing them you can be trusted and gaining new customers because they trust you enough to retweet or share your posts.
What should you track and measure?
- Engagement Metrics – How many people like your posts? Are they being shared? Are you tweets retweeted? You can use sites like Social Bakers or Google Analytics (Social Metrics).
- Conversion Rate – Are the posts doing what you want? If your goal is to get the social media follower to visit your website, how many are clicking through? Use your site’s traffic metrics, usually found in the Control Panel. Where is your traffic coming from? Use specific landing pages, so you know when a specific image was clicked on or a specific ad campaign had success.
- Branding Success – How successful you are at branding your business can have an impact on your conversion rates. Try to get your users tweeting a hashtag for your company, perhaps by offering a contest for those who use the hashtag. Use your company name in each thing you put out there. Reach out to customers. Ask for retweets and shares. Have a specific purpose in mind and a specific tag line and put it out there. If you find it isn’t successful, adjust it and track again. Repeat until you find a branding strategy that is successful and represents the core of your business.
Success Factor #5. Getting Help
Keeping up with a social media marketing campaign for just the big three can be an overwhelming task for most busy business owners. If you own a small business, you may not have a PR team to help with posts, contests and graphic creation, which means all that extra work falls on your shoulders. Analyzing how successful the posts are and adding smaller networking sites might seem impossible.
Consider getting some help with your social media marketing.
- Hire an older child. This offers tax breaks, gives the child his own spending money and teaches him valuable skills to use in a job or running his own company one day.
- Enlist the help of a college student. College students need internships to build their resume or portfolio before graduation. Consider enlisting the help of a graphic design student, someone studying marketing and PR or a journalism student.
- Hire a social media specialist. If you have a bit more money in your advertising budget, consider hiring a social media specialist to do some of the legwork in building your social media reach. In addition to freeing up your time, the specialist should be well-versed in new venues to market your product as well as the best times and methods to use.
Quick Wrap Up
The five factors above will affect your success rate with social media marketing, but probably the biggest factor to succeeding is being open to new ideas and new platforms.
If it is one thing, the Internet is fluid.
What works today might not work tomorrow. And what works after that might be an entirely new game. Talk to others in your niche market, read marketing tips and be open to fresh advertising ideas.