Perhaps the best-remembered scene in the classic 1996 movie Jerry Maguire, is when the swaggering star athlete played by Cuba Gooding Jr. tells his agent played by Tom Cruise to (let's all say it together) "SHOW ME THE MONEY!"
Well, when it comes to making the case for social media marketing, we can just as enthusiastically scream "SHOW ME THE NUMBERS!", because the statistics are in — and they're very inspiring and impressive:
Obviously, your goal is to reap the rewards of social media and avoid the risks. But right now, that may be easier said than done; especially if you've dipped your toe (or maybe taken a deep dive) into the social media marketing pool, only to find that the water was much colder and less inviting than you were led to believe. Indeed, for every social media marketing success story, there are more than a few cautionary tales.
As such, if social media marketing seems confusing — or perhaps intimidating and overwhelming — then be assured that it's fundamentally a strategic process, and not one governed by best guesses or trial and error. Here are the five steps that will lead you in the right direction:
Step #1: Determine Your Objectives
Declaring that you want social media marketing to "increase sales" is like telling your doctor that you want to "become healthy." Yes, this is a worthy aim. But it's also an abstract one, because different people need to take various routes to better health. For some, it could involve getting more sleep. But for others, it could involve getting less sleep!
And so, it's important (and frankly, necessary) to take a step back from the overall aspiration of "increasing sales," and identifying realistic and achievable goals that fit within a social media marketing framework. These objectives could include one, some, or possibly all of the following:
Why is it so important to identify your social media marketing objectives before choosing your platforms? It's simply because some platforms are better than others at achieving certain outcomes. For example, if you're in the B2B space and want to establish thought leadership in your marketplace, then publishing articles on LinkedIn is likely going to be part of your strategic plan. If you're a B2C retailer or e-tailer that sells custom jewelry and you want to increase brand awareness, then publishing photos and short videos on Instagram probably makes strategic sense.
Step #2: Map Your Target Audience
A surprising number of businesses either assume that their target audience is actively using a certain social media platform when that's not actually the case, or more often, they neglect to look beyond the two big heavyweights of Facebook and Twitter.
For example, many businesses in the IT space have zero footprint on Reddit, even though according to KissMetrics.com it's the fifth most active social media platform, and a main source of information, reviews and recommendations for IT products and services. Similarly, many B2C retailers and e-tailers have no footprint on Pinterest, even though it's possible (and probable) that many of their prospective customers check those platforms multiple times a day.
To get an idea of where your target audience congregates on the social media landscape — and therefore where your business should engage them — here are some demographics for five major platforms compiled by StrikeSocial:
Step #3: Analyze Your Competition
It's never a bad idea to take a look at what your strongest competitors are doing in order to get a sense of — as they say in the investment world — "where the smart money is going."
Not only does this competitive analysis tell you where you (likely) need to be in the social media world, but it also helps you understand what the marketplace expects. For example, if you're a law firm and your biggest competitors have a strong and impressive YouTube presence, then you can safely assume that your target audience is going to expect you to have one as well. To put things differently: some of your prospective clients will hold it against you if you aren't on YouTube, simply because your competitors are. They'll see it as a red flag that could keep them from reaching out and sparking a relationship.
Step 4: Build Your Customized Plan
Once you know what you want to achieve, who you need to reach (and where they are), and what your strongest competitors are doing, then it's time to build your customized social media marketing plan.
As with your other strategic plans, this document needs to include timelines, resources, budgets and milestones. It's crucial to have a robust and realistic plan. For example, if you expect to push out four high quality videos a month, then you need to have the people and technology to make this happen — or you need to find an external partner to help you (in whole or in part). The same logic applies if you want to publish a weekly blog, and so on.
Essentially, your plan needs to identify the who, what, where, when and how much for each creative asset. Otherwise, it won't take long — it could be a matter of weeks — before your social media marketing plan becomes obsolete and useless.
Step 5: Execute, Track and Optimize
Once your plan is all set — and it's often profitable to get expert consulting help with this — the proverbial rubber hits the road, because it's time to execute, track and optimize:
Keep in mind that execution, tracking and optimization are not distinct stages or phases, but part of an integrated system. For this reason, ensuring that you have the right expertise, resources and technology is vital. As the old saying goes, if you want the plan to work, you have to work the plan!
We hope that this guide helps your business understand social media marketing: what it is, why it works, and how to take the shortest path to sustained ROI. We invite you to contact us to share your feedback and experiences.
We would also be pleased to help if you need social media marketing advice and guidance for your in-house team, or you want to partner with an experienced digital marketing agency that cares as much about your success and happiness as you do!