The social marketer’s guide to the galaxy: Six social media marketing tips for your business

Originally published at integritystl.com

With over 2 billion active users, it’s no secret that social media is high on every digital marketer’s priorities. Social media is at the core of many of our own clients’ marketing strategies, and makes it into most of our traffic generation, content strategy and branding proposals.

But how do we successfully take a client’s Facebook page and turn it into a brand awareness machine? How do we manage the ever-growing list of platforms available to companies in every industry from hospitality to retail, technology to finance? We plan, listen, focus and measure! Here are our best tips for brands seeking to find their place on social.

1. Plan for change.

When it’s time to get together with your team and hit the whiteboard, don’t forget that your strategy has to be flexible. Have you ever felt like there’s a new social platform, or a new way to use an existing platform, every few days? That’s because it’s practically true! Social media is constantly evolving, and your social media marketing strategy should account for it.

Budget for research. Plan for learning curves. Never count on stagnancy in an industry known for rapid growth and change. When you get an email from Twitter announcing their new business tools, you’ll be happy you have the time to learn how to leverage those tools for your business. When Pinterest updates their remarketing tag, you’ll be prepared to make the necessary changes to convert at even higher rates.

2. Find your focus.

A lot of clients that are new to social media marketing find the prospect of putting their businesses out there pretty daunting. These clients are usually under the impression that when they decide to use social media, they have to use all of it. That’s simply not true. The key to putting your efforts where they’ll convert is knowing what platforms your target audience is using.

If you’re dealing with a customer base of older adults seeking health care advice, Snapchat isn’t where you need to be (for now, at least). If you want to reach 18-year-olds who are heading to campus, LinkedIn shouldn’t be your priority. Once you’ve done your research and know where you need to be, you can focus on tailoring your content for those platforms. By not trying to force your way onto platforms that aren’t right for your business, you can spend your time and energy on marketing efforts that’ll actually convert.

3. Build a content calendar.

Never underestimate the power of organization. A social media manager can certainly get away with simply logging in every day and finding content to share. But the most successful digital marketers will use a content calendar to collaborate with their teams, coordinate marketing efforts across all their paid and organic platforms, from blog posts and social media to email blasts and SEM landing pages.

There are tools designed specifically for building and maintaining content calendars (see CoSchedule). There are also multi-purpose tools that can be manipulated to fit your content calendar needs (see Trello). Here at Integrity, we’re partial to the power of a great spreadsheet. Google Sheets is our go-to for creating flexible content calendars that we can collaborate on internally and easily share with clients.

4. Leverage the best tools.

There are more social media management tools out there than there are social media platforms. There are tools for scheduling posts, for receiving and replying to mentions, for analyzing post performance – you name it, it’s out there. We use a few different tools, each with its own purpose:

  • For social listeningHootsuite is a robust social media management platform with scheduling and publishing abilities, but we love it most for its social listening functionality. You can set up “streams” that search social media platforms for mentions, search terms and phrases, hashtags and more. You can then share and respond to the posts directly through Hootsuite.
  • For social publishingBuffer is our all-time favorite publishing platform. You can create customized schedules for each platform and easily schedule posts at those predetermined times each day with a click of the “Add to Queue” button. With a paid plan, you can see your posts in list or calendar format, check out post-level analytics and add team members.
  • For Instagram contentLater makes searching for and sharing user-generated visual content easy. With an intuitive web interface and mobile app, you can see all your favorited posts in one place; search for hashtags, locations and users; and store photos to share later.

There are more free and paid tools available than we could possibly list here. The key to leveraging them successfully is finding the ones that work best for you and your team.

5. Listen to your audience.

As a social media manager, one of my favorite things is discovering that my clients’ fans are basically creating content for me. Think about it – the reason you want your business on social media is because you know your audience is already there (remember those 2 billion users?). Listen to your audience and you might just find they’re doing a little bit of the work for you. Follow terms and hashtags related to your product; track posts from your location if you have one; stay on the lookout for posts you’re tagged in.

Our client The Moonrise Hotel has a very popular St. Louis rooftop bar – a prime spot for Instagram lovers to snap an awesome photo of the sunset or a pic of their favorite cocktail. We use Later to keep up with all the photos posted by people at the hotel, and then re-share them (always with permission, a big thank you and a tag, of course!). This keeps our followers engaged and gives us an eclectic mix of photos from the diverse array of bar-hoppers hitting the Moonrise.

6. Test and measure.

Everything we do on the web is based on data. We wouldn’t suggest putting in the time and effort to build a fully responsive website if we didn’t know that the numbers are there to prove that today’s web users are mobile. We also wouldn’t suggest using just one version of a Facebook ad. We’d say, “Let’s test one ad with this image of the product and one with this image of a person using the product.” Then we’d let those two versions run, see which one is converting, and adjust our efforts based on what we’ve found.

We’re obsessed with reporting and analysis. For social media, that means looking at numbers, translating them into insights and constantly evaluating the effectiveness of our content. It’s what has helped us grow our clients’ social audiences, increase their sales and keep their consumers happily engaged.