At its core, social media can be considered a form of “borrowed” media: whether you’re a business or just an everyday user, you are renting (either with time, money, or some other currency) someone’s platform to create and maintain relationships. And regardless of what type of user you are, it seems that it is absolutely crucial to use these platforms to stay relevant and up-to-date with the world’s ongoings. It is especially important for businesses to stay current, and using someone else’s platform makes it so simple to stay in-touch with your current customers, and to acquire new ones.
With traditional marketing channels, interactions between a customer and a business are usually impersonal and are somewhat mass-produced (i.e. TV commercials). Not only are they impersonal, but they’re often expensive. Customer acquisition costs are crazy expensive, and your customer lifetime value (remember, CLV = monetary margin X customer lifetime in months – acquisition costs) could decrease by quite a bit if that person doesn’t feel special, or particularly engaged with what you have to offer. Social media offers plenty of personalized face-time with both current and potential customers and it’s inexpensive, which helps reduce those acquisition costs to far, far less. And okay, maybe MySpace didn’t really do too much for B2C relationships back in 2003 when it was created, but Tom Anderson definitely started something that’s become far more than just a fad.
I’ve talked previously about good content, bad content, and why it’s important to businesses to know the difference. 80% of your content, the good kind, should be informational and relevant to the first two steps in the buying process (the awareness and consideration stages), and the other 20% can be semi-promotional, but not braggy. No matter what platform you’re on, no one likes to see you brag about how amazing your product/service/baby/car/whatever is. Chances are, it’s not relevant to them. You know what else is important AND relevant, dear readers? Knowing what kind of content belongs on what social media site. This is where, once again, buyer personas come in handy and allow you to figure out where your ideal customer spends their time and what they look for on different social media sites.
According to Moz, Facebook has 1.19 billion regular users; if you’re not on there, you’re probably doing something wrong. Also, according to Moz, half of users who “like” a brand page do so because they have had a positive experience with that service. Facebook is all about Word of Mouth (like, the most necessary component of marketing), sharing cool content, and staying connected with both people you haven’t seen in 10 years and with brands people really respect and engage with. There’s plenty of sharing power, and with power comes responsibility, so make sure to post and create content that is not only informational, but also “hilarious, sad, beautiful, interesting, inspiring, or simply awesome” (like cool comics from The Oatmeal, Facebook users LOVE pictures and infographics). Having a bigger audience creates more authority and visibility for your brand and the content you create, and seeing how Facebook has the most users, it’s pretty obvious that you should be on there sharing that content and delighting your audience.
(Another note about sharing, regardless of the platform: have your employees share things too. They have lives (most of them, hopefully), and friends! And families! And other people who they can spread information to about things, like your business. Social media has plenty of momentum, and encouraging employees to share content relevant to your brand on sites like Linkedin or Twitter extends your reach.)
Like Facebook, Twitter has lots of shareability. It’s an easy way to promote your brand and ask/answer customers’ questions, as well as have more personalized interactions with them. And then, of course, there’s the hashtags. They spark conversation, as well as give you a bigger audience (and more authority!). Twitter allows users of all kinds to discuss different trending topics, whether it’s somewhat silly things like explaining the 90s in four words, or more serious world events like Charlie Hebdo. It’s important for brands to differentiate themselves and talk about topics that are relevant on Twitter, but they also need to be thoughtful and insightful with the content they post: sometimes inappropriate tweets can still be funny, but other times they can be incredibly insensitive and lose a business plenty of credibility and customers. Case in point: Charmin’s #tweetfromtheseat was funny, Kenneth Cole’s tweet about protests in Egypt? Not so much.
One social media platform with a lot of growing potential is Snapchat. Teenage girls love it, but it’s also become very useful for companies that want another way to stay in touch with customers: over 26 million people in the US alone use it. I won’t babble too much about it, but Forbes wrote a cool article about using the app as a marketing technique. Think about it: Snapchat allows for casual and personalized communication between users, can show people what your business is all about by giving them a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on internally, and it makes you appear more real and human. All this makes your brand and business relatable, and a lot more fun.
So, if anything, getting yourself noticed on social media comes down to several things:
- Knowing your audience.
- Knowing what to post, where to post it, and when (content, content, content). And using things like hashtags to get your content noticed.
- Asking questions, and not being a jerk: Everyone else loves to talk about themselves online, differentiate yourself by inviting your customers to talk instead.
- Having a personality, and being human: Being human makes you likable and relatable, which in turn makes you more engaging.
- Clickbait is the bad kind of content, and you shouldn’t be sharing it on social media. Or, creating it.
Analyzing your social proof, shareability, and leads generated by different platforms will help you figure out what social sites you should be allocating the most time and resources to. Make social media part of your company’s culture, and focus on the quality of the content you post on those borrowed media platforms, not always the quantity.
As a random little anecdote, here’s the history of the hashtag, as told by HubSpot. As I was writing this post, I started wondering why exactly Twitter chose the pound sign to turn into the hashtag. I’m still shocked that hashtags (and Twitter!) have existed for almost eight years now, and how commonplace they are among multiple social media platforms. I mean, MySpace was still cool eight years ago. Remember MySpace?