In November last year, a $3 billion cash acquisition offer by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for the fledgling social media network Snapchat made headline news. Mostly because Evan Spiegel, Shapchat’s founder, turned him down.
You’d be forgiven for wondering, as you half digest the headlines while focusing on the more important morning task of making coffee with one hand while eating a slice of toast with the other, what on earth Snapchat is anyway. It’s OK, unless you’re in your teens or early 20s it wouldn’t be on the tip of your tongue (which is now burnt because you always go for that first sip a bit too soon… me too). But for social media commentators ‘it’s the next big thing’ and so, for anyone with a burgeoning interest in social media marketing for their company, it’s just one more thing to add to the list, right? Right underneath Reddit, which you’d also heard was the next big thing until certain bloggers on LinkedIn said it may no longer ‘be all that’. Argh!
Take a deep breath – and strategise
If your first concern is whether you should be using social media and online digital content for your business, then the answer is ‘yes’. Back in 2010, McKinsey & Co identified what it called the ‘networked enterprise’ in a four-year study of more than 3,000 US executives whose companies use ‘social technologies’. The findings showed that the companies that fully took advantage of social networking and blogs “are not only more likely to be market leaders or to be gaining market share but also use management practices that lead to margins higher than those of companies using the Web in more limited ways.”
So, using social media in its various forms is beneficial. But where to start? The social media marketing landscape can seem confusing but it’s not that hard to navigate if you take your business as your starting point. As with any form of marketing you need to get a strategy in place for any social media efforts to be effective. And the start of any good strategy is to think about your business and marketing goals. For example, do you want to create more brand awareness or do you need a mechanism for dealing with customer feedback? Do you want other businesses, potential partners or clients, to find you? Once you have those in place you can think about how social media could help support those goals.
The next step is to listen. Signing up for Google Alerts can help you discover who is talking about your area of business and where, and allow you to focus on the social media channels that are consistent with your audience/customer base. As a very basic rule of thumb, the different channels break down like this:
- Facebook users are mostly between 25-44 and mostly female
- Google+ users are mostly male and in their early 20s
- Twitter and YouTube are a pretty even male/female split, with the majority of users between 25-44
- LinkedIn users are mostly male and aged between 35-54
- Pinterest is used mostly by women – 80% – aged between 25-55
What this means is that it’s highly unlikely that you’ll need to be active on every single social network going. Twitter is a safe bet for most businesses, but if your company doesn’t have anything inherently ‘visual’ to offer, you probably don’t need to worry about Pinterest or Instagram.
What you say and when
Once you’ve got your demographic in mind and the channels they are most likely to use, tune into how they are talking on each respective channel, because each one is different. For example, you wouldn’t post on LinkedIn – a more professional, business-orientated environment – in the same tone of voice you would use on Facebook, which is much more relaxed and non-salesy.
It’s also a good idea to experiment with posting at different times of day to see when you get the highest levels of engagement – you don’t want to be a busy fool updating your Facebook page at 9am if your target audience isn’t logging on till they get home from work at 7pm.
But consistency is key. Regular, quality updates keep you foremost in people’s minds, which is why it is a good idea to schedule posts ahead of time using a free tool such as Hootesuite. And by quality, I mean try to post something that is going to be of value to people – not just a bland broadcast about your company. If people respond, get involved and talk back – there’s a good deal of social etiquette involved in social media.
Finally, measure and evaluate what you’re doing online. Social media channels offer their own metrics for business pages and the beauty of social is the ability it gives you to be nimble. If something doesn’t work one day you can try something else the next.
That’s all a very top line view on how to get started on social. There’s always the agency route (ahem) if you need help.
Don’t freak out. Get your social freak on.