It’s rare to find a business today that is not using at least one social media platform to try and promote their business.
With the majority of the world’s population on some form of social media platform, it’s easy to see why social media has become such an integral part of many businesses’ marketing activity, however, one thing we see a lot of here at Digital Hothouse is social media platforms being used ineffectively (and we include some of our own social media activity in this).
In order to be effective, social media needs a strategy. All too often, social media is seen as an additional thing you have to do as part of your marketing activity. It is often disconnected from the rest of your marketing strategy other than a footnote that says, “Share on social media”.
We are sometimes guilty of this ourselves. In times when we get snowed under with client work (most of the time!), we simply don’t have the time to sit down and plan out our social media activity strategically and end up simply sharing content we think our audience will enjoy and engage with. We don’t usually have time to measure the success of this and so, our social media activity is not anywhere close to as effective as it could be.
Without a strategy, a lot of time spent on social media management could be wasted. Social media is simply a marketing channel – an outlet to promote your business and like all other marketing channels, you should set out clear goals and KPIs for your social media platforms. Otherwise, how do you measure success or failure?
Social media is still considered, by too many businesses, as something they should be using because their competitors are using it or because someone told them to use it. The truth is, you should be using social media for your business if your audience or your prospective audience is using those channels and are likely to engage with a business like yours on there.
Social media is time-consuming and can be ineffective when there is no strategy and no thought of your target audience in mind.
That being said, it’s not all bad news. As we stated at the start of this post, nearly the entire global population is using at least one social media platform so the chances are pretty high that there will be customers out there that are interested in your brand, your products or your services that are using social media – you just need to think strategically about how you are going to reach them.
Why should you use social media?
We’ve talked about why you shouldn’t use social media (if you don’t have a strategic plan), but why should you use social media?
Well, there are a number of primary reasons that successful businesses choose to use social media platforms as a viable marketing channel for their business. These include:
- Raise brand awareness
- Build a community
- Distribute content
- Lead generation
- Customer service/support
All of these are viable reasons to utilise social media platforms as part of your overall marketing strategy. And whilst businesses are using social media platforms to directly drive sales and revenue, all of the other activities in the list will help to contribute to growing your business indirectly – you just need to be able to measure what success looks like so you can keep doing more of the things that work and less of the things that have very little impact.
There is also growing evidence to support the overall impact of social media on a customer’s purchase decision. In a 2021 article by Stackla, they reported the following stats:
- 81% of consumers’ purchasing decisions are influenced by their friend’s social media posts (Forbes)
- 66% of consumers have been inspired to purchase from a new brand after seeing social media images from other consumers (Stackla)
- Consumers are 71% more likely to make a purchase based on social media referrals (Hubspot)
These are telling statistics that show the power of social media platforms when used strategically. What is clear, however, is that businesses need to be able to determine and measure clear objectives when it comes to social media performance to be effective. Let’s take a look at how.
How to meet business objectives with social media
First of all, you need to set your business objectives. These will usually relate to sales and revenue or potentially expanding into a new market segment or region for example. Once you have determined your business objectives for 2022, you then need to consider how social media can help you meet those business objectives.
This needs to be a very separate exercise than simply thinking about how you will meet your business objectives in general. You need to get focused and think specifically about the opportunities that social media presents.
Let’s take the example objective from above that you are looking to break into a new region in 2022. Let’s say you are a New Zealand-based golf ball manufacturer that has built up a good customer base in New Zealand and now you want to start to sell your golf balls in Australia.
Social media is a great channel for you to use to help you to achieve your objective of breaking into a new region. You can use tools like SparkToro to find relevant influencers in the AU market for golf. You can research specific hashtags on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook to discover people in Australia that are talking about golf and start to build a relationship with them. You could use Upfluence to find specific influencers in AU – people that fit with your brand and use the platform to help manage your influencer relationships.
One of the key factors that will determine the success of your social media activity is ensuring you are reaching people on the best platform. Research is crucial and this is where you will discover the platforms that your audience is engaging. If your research shows that none of your target audience is really using Facebook, don’t feel like you have to pursue it. Equally, if you have seen success on Facebook in NZ, look at what has driven that success and how that can translate to the AU market.
Once you have identified the best platforms to engage with your audience, you then need to look at the buyer journey and how social media can tie in with your overall marketing strategy. Be strategic about your use of social media. You don’t have to publish everything on that platform. Only publish the content that is relevant to that audience and make it meaningful.
All social media platforms offer different opportunities and it’s those opportunities that should drive your strategy. Maybe a good strategy in a new market is to create a closed Facebook group for a particular group of customers and build loyalty through the group that encourages word of mouth promotion. Instagram may be a great platform to tell your story, particularly if what you do is very visual so the increasingly popular “Stories” feature may add some real value to your business. The key is to understand the features of each of the platforms and maximise them to enhance your social media strategy and help you to achieve your business objectives.
Choosing the right social media platform
The number of social media platforms to choose from seems to grow every single year and many businesses fall into the trap of believing they need to be present on all of them to be successful. The truth is unless you have a huge team of people managing your social media presence online, the chances are, this approach will fail. It’s very difficult to be exceptional across 5+ platforms.
Instead, focus on the ones where you feel you will drive the most value for the time invested in creating content for those platforms. If you don’t have the necessary skills to create and edit video content, don’t choose TikTok or YouTube. Video editing is time-consuming and requires a technical understanding of editing to create a professional end product. Poor production quality is a big turn off for many customers in a world where high-quality production is all around them.
Don’t try and force content that is not suited to your business. If you are not a visual business, Instagram is probably not for you. That’s ok. It is better not to be on a specific platform than be on it publishing poor quality content.
Be selective and be strategic when determining which social media platforms to use to achieve your business objectives. Play to your strengths and don’t overstretch. If you are finding a lot of success with a particular platform, see whether the content is transferable and whether the audience on another platform differs from the one you are already on. If you are simply going to publish the exact same content to the exact same people, you would be wasting time and effort and you should stick with the platform that is going well.
Everything you do with regard to social media should be strategically considered. From choosing the platform to publish on, to determining the objectives and outcomes of the content you actually publish. Like every other facet of your marketing strategy, make sure social media is treated equally and with equal consideration for everything you do. It’s not a disconnected channel that you simply push the publish button on. Every action on social media is in the public domain and can positively and negatively affect your brand.
The key to using social media strategically in 2022 is to set clear objectives that are in line with your overall business objectives. How does what I am doing on social media contribute to the overall business objectives? When you are creating a social media content plan, add an extra column for “Business Objective” and make sure you include a note about how a particular piece of content is going to contribute towards you achieving those objectives.