Social media marketing refers to the process of gaining website traffic or attention through social media sites. Social media marketing programs usually center on efforts to create content that attracts attention and encourages readers to share it with their social networks. The resulting electronic word of mouth refers to any statement consumers share via the Internet about an event, product, service, brand or company. When the underlying message spreads from user to user and presumably resonates because it appears to come from a trusted, third-party source, as opposed to the brand or company itself, this form of marketing results in ‘earned media’ rather than ‘paid media’.
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Social media itself is a catch-all term for sites that may provide radically different social actions. For instance, Twitter is a social site designed to let people share short messages or “updates” with others. Facebook, in contrast is a full-blown social networking site that allows for sharing updates, photos, joining events and a variety of other activities.
Why would a search marketer — or a site about search engines — care about social media? The two are very closely related.
Social media often feeds into the discovery of new content such as news stories, and “discovery” is a search activity. Social media can also help build links that in turn support into SEO efforts. Many people also perform searches at social media sites to find social media content.
Social Media For Marketing: Developing Your Goals, Social media marketing can help with a number of goals, such as:
- Website traffic
- Brand awareness
- Creating a brand identity and positive brand association
- Communication and interaction with key audiences
According to the 2014 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report, content marketing is on the rise, with 93 percent of marketers using content marketing, compared to 91 percent last year. For most, this is not all that surprising.
Also not surprising: 42 percent of B2B marketers consider themselves effective at content marketing, up from 36 percent last year.
Getting marketing value out of content
Content marketing has existed in offline marketing for many years; the modern term “Soap Opera” derives from the fact that this popular format was sponsored by washing-powder companies. The contrast to this is modern commercial breaks, which have become increasingly less effective as modern recording devices have developed features that allow viewers to essentially to bypass advertising.
The lesson to take away from this contrast is that most users instinctively understand that quality content has to be paid for somehow. Thus, they are unlikely to object to a sponsor’s name being referenced as having enabled the posting. They are less likely to engage with blatant advertising or with badly-disguised advertising such as the “infomercials” used on shopping channels.
Getting content noticed
The second key point about content marketing is that it only works if people can actually find the content. If your plan is to host it on your own website, then you have full responsibility for making sure that users know both what is there and how to access it. This means that you will also need to look at your social media strategy and your direct contact strategy. It is highly recommended that you pro-actively make users aware when fresh content is added, which should be regularly, rather than relying on them to remember to check.
Developing a content marketing plan without identifying the target audiences is like shooting an arrow in the dark. If you don’t know who you are trying to reach, then regardless of how remarkable your content is, it will have little chance for success.
In identifying the target audience, don’t jump immediately to your current customers. They may or may not be the right customers for your business and offering, and they may or may not be the customers you aspire to work with.
During this part of the process, you should be asking questions like:
- Who are your best customers?
- What types of issues are they concerned with?
- What types of information do they consume to address those issues?
- Where do they get that information now?
- How do they typically interact with information, and the companies that produce that information?
Look beyond the statistics
A blog may hit the right notes in terms of raw statistics, which is to say, visibility and traffic, but may still be a bad match for your business. Conversely smaller blogs, which are still establishing themselves, may provide more value. Have a look at what is being said about you already and see if there are bloggers who look like they might be actively interested in engaging with you or even promoting you.
Competitive & Aspirational Benchmarking
You’ll want to get an understanding of what your competition is doing with regards to content marketing, as they are competing for your buyers and influencers’ mindshare on a daily basis. Anyone in the decision-making seat has limited time to consume information, and therefore they will select only the most remarkable content.
Don’t forget about your aspirational peers, though. Your industry may be behind the times, and your competition may be doing things the wrong way. Make sure you include a company that you know is executing content marketing successfully, and benchmark against it.
Process, Team & Tools
All the cool content ideas in the world will mean nothing if you’re not able to establish the right team and process to execute content marketing, and give them the right tools to support it.
Process and team decisions are driven by goals and objectives. To address some of these issues, you first have to decide whether you are insourcing, outsourcing, or executing in a hybrid model. Staffing and operating a content marketing team is no easy task, even if you’ve assembled a dream team. Trying to assign content creation tasks to an existing and possibly already overworked staff is an even more difficult way to execute a successful content marketing strategy. Consider your team structure carefully.
For maximum content marketing effectiveness, you’ll also need a little technology. In particular, your plan should include an exploration of:
Authorship markup, in particular, is my number one tactic for local SEO this year, enabling proprietors’ photos to appear as icons next to their listings in SERPs, drawing in consumers’ eyes and clicks., the Twitter Cards protocol allows tweets containing links to display in a richer format, with more content visible and integrated as part of the tweet.
Twitter provides a number of types of Cards: Summary, Product, Photo, Summary Large Image, Player, App and Gallery. Twitter also recently released a Lead Generation Card for a select group of brands.
For small business blogs, Twitter cards can be great for online brand development. Similar to rich snippets in search engine results, the enhanced layout makes the account’s tweets more noticeable and engaging, causing their links to appear more legitimate, thereby reducing consumers’ hesitancy to click through. This treatment likely will correlate to increased click-through.
Social media is a powerful and affordable marketing tool if it’s taken seriously. Instead of a shotgun approach, follow these steps to create a social media marketing plan with a focused, refined strategy that can generate results.