Social media marketing is a specialised field, but that does not mean that the principles and common sense used in a good marketing strategy need to fly out of the window. Although a social media marketing campaign can appear to be low or no-cost apart from the time involved, this is not the case. Using the wrong platforms, getting the tone of the campaign wrong or attracting the wrong sort of content can all cause costly damage to the brand.
There is a lot to consider - here are some ideas and examples of how customers might use the social sites.
Which sites should be targeted?
Eschewing the obvious answer 'as many as possible' - consider what happens on social sites, who uses them and how they come and go.
Social media sites can grow rapidly - and drop out of fashion just as rapidly. The old 'usenet' groups now have very few users, but fifteen years ago when they were the only practical method of online discussion and communication they were extremely popular. The newer social networking sites have also waxed and waned. Myspace.com is a good example - down from fifty million users to twenty million in the space of one year (December 2010 - December 2011). Meanwhile Tumblr and Pinterest are growing - the rate of increase is slower than the drop shown by other sites, but steady. Pinterest has been described as 'Facebook without the complaining' and could well be the next 'go-to' social site. It allows images, videos, blogs, 'likes' and links to the other social networks, and is attracting attention for this 'one-stop shop' capability.
Consider also the time spent by users on social sites, rather than the number of individual visits. A short visit may count towards the access statistics, but is of less use to the brand than a longer visit where the consumer is far more likely to be reading the content, engaging with it and (hopefully) planning to spend some money.
For 'time per visit' Facebook is currently well ahead of the others. As most Facebook users will know, it can be addictive, leading users around their friends and to the sites that their friends have 'liked', and it is a good place to make hours disappear! However as Pinterest and Instagram grow in volume, and become more integrated, the time spent on these sites per visit is also rising.
For sheer volume, Twitter is the leader with billions of Tweets. Of course volume is not all - analysis of the contents of tweets produces the statistic that well over 45% are what was uncharitably categorised as 'pointless babble' - items such as 'what do I have for dinner?', 'just fell over' or 'very drunk now'. However Twitter has moved rapidly into everyday life and language, and the short hashtags and ease of use makes it ideal for an audience on the move.
How does your target audience use the social media sites?
Think for a moment about how you use the various social sites, and how the people that you know use them. There are an infinite number of possible profiles, and gathering information about how your customers see you is one of the key inputs to your social media marketing plan.
Here are some examples of varying online behaviors among a small group.
1) Someone aged 35-45 with a job in engineering or government IT. This person keeps their personal and professional lives separate, and limits their online presence due to concerns about security. They may not be using social media on a mobile device. Their usage pattern might be:
- Facebook for friends and family, for chatter, for keeping in touch
- LinkedIn for professional contacts, current resumé and job hunting
- Flickr for sharing photos
2) Someone in the 25-30 age bracket with a job in new media. This person uses mobile devices, likes to be constantly in touch and frequently updates their profile and information. They use:
- LinkedIn for job hunting
- YouTube to showcase their work, and to comment on the work of others
- Twitter for frequent tweets and following other users
- Facebook - for posts, photographs
- A blog on WordPress, linked to their other profiles
3) A 22 year old just starting up their own business, for example in cake decorating or fashion. This person does not have many 'real world' contacts yet, and so is leveraging a large network of 'online friends' to try to kickstart the business. They will be a frequent mobile user and will be relying on images to attract customers. They use:
- A Facebook group for advertising to friends and contacts, plus their own personal page
- An active Pinterest page, showcasing the cakes or fashion items
- Postings on Instagram
- Twitter for spare time, celebrity gossip and news
These are just a few permutations - but even this small sample shows that a social media marketing campaign needs to be carefully tailored for the target group. For instance, they all use Facebook but they will check it with different frequencies and for different times. In addition, some may screen out or be irritated by advertising, while others will follow it.
What should be considered for multi-site updates?
The social media sites provide useful tools to link up profiles, lessening the work required to have a presence on several sites, but updates still need to be tailored. For example, the short posting needed for Twitter will seem too abrupt on Facebook, and Pinterest needs an attractive, eye-catching image as well as text.
The tone of the postings or tweets will also need to be tailored to the audience. While there is no need for 'txt-speak', mirroring the language and concepts used by the target audience is always a way for a brand to build friends. For an international site, the use of American or British English will be relevant - many such sites offer a choice after detecting the location of the user. Sites aimed at non-English speakers should also offer multilingual postings.
How can I measure results?
There are many tools available to monitor social media marketing. Just like the sites themselves the tools come and go, but the current leader among the free tools is Google Analytics.Web traffic analysis and monitoring has come a long way since the early days of simple visitor counts. It is now possible to track exact paths through the site, time on each page, conversion rates, use of mobile platforms and dozens of other metrics. Your main problem may be making sense of the data - this is where you will need to acquire or hire in some social media marketing experience.