I remember when social media was fresh and new. Everyone was either excited or dismissive, but very few could explain precisely why. It was new. That’s it.
Since then we’ve seen social media become a powerful tool in the digital marketing landscape.
Some still thumb their nose at social media, but, social media marketing is not a waste of time just as much as it isn’t the solution to all your marketing woes. Social media is just another channel where you can connect with your audience. How you connect is up to you.
There is no silver bullet for marketing. Never has been and doubt there ever will be. Two reasons why: money and competition.
Maybe you remember this exchange between Senator Orrin Hatch and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg during the hearings on the 2016 elections…
Sen Orrin Hatch: How do you sustain a business model in which users don’t pay for your service?
Mark Zuckerberg: Senator, we run ads.
Senator Hatch: I see. That’s great.
That is great, for ole Zuck. He makes money by selling access to eyeballs. There never was a real democratization of communications, just a change of venue. What was once done on radio, TV, and in print, is now also done on social channels.
These channels want to make money. They need to lure people to their platforms, and when they’ve reached critical mass, they charge for ad positioning.
There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, it is an age-old business model: build demand, charge for premium service and access to users. The lesson here is that nothing comes for free.
Success in marketing takes hard work and money. Never assume that social media marketing is either easy or free.
Eyeballs are at a premium on social media channels. When you market here, you’re competing with other businesses, other people, ads, and lots of distractions.
Simply posting on social channels was never enough. You have to stand out from the crowd. This doesn’t always mean doing something crazy to “go viral.” Trying to go viral is like trying to win the Mega Millions jackpot, it’s fun but it rarely pays off.
To stand apart and gain attention, you must show consistent value. You have to train people to recognize you as a source of value when they are scanning their feeds.
How do you do this? Let’s break it down…
Maybe you’ve heard of Influencer Marketing. Basically, this is the process of using popular people to pitch your products. Sound familiar? It’s not much different from an actor pitching a product on TV.
“Get me a Kardashian!”
The difference is that social media influencers aren’t always celebrities (the same could be said about Kardashians). And most of the time we’re really going after micro-influencers. These are the experts, the hyper-connected, the involved, anyone with a large following who has the respect of that following.
Mel Gibson gets on my nerves (where’s he going with this?). But, one of his movies has one of my favorite pieces of advice… “aim small, miss small.”
If you consistently go after the big fish, you’re wasting your time. Even though we live in a world of 1’s, 0’s, bots, and algorithms, human connection is still a winner.
Spend time on channels that matter to your audience. I’m not going to tell you which channels make sense for which audience because that would assume that I know your audience.
No one can say with 100% certainty that LinkedIn is the best for B2B social media marketing. Just as no one can say that Facebook or Instagram are the best for all B2C social media marketing.
Ask your clients where they spend their time and what sorts of things they do there. Are they looking for useful information? What could you post on that channel that would help them?
Also, spend some time on those channels and make real connections. This is where most companies fail.
I was at a local Chamber event here in Frederick, MD the other night talking to their VP of Marketing. They’ve recently invested in a digital marketing position and it’s already paying off. They have a real person managing their social channels, interacting with members and non-members.
Their metrics are exploding. Why? People want to interact with people, not bots. It takes two to have a conversation. Conversations get attention on social media, both from people scrolling through their feed and from the algorithms. Interaction builds interaction.
On any channel and in any industry there are people who get attention. These are the respected experts in your field. The “go-to” people. The “oh, you need to talk to so and so” people.
Find these people and engage with them, don’t stalk them. Remember, they put their pants on one leg at a time, although I think some people just slide both legs into their pants at the same time so that’s a stupid saying.
Anyway, interact and get to know these people. If they wrote a book, read it and then post an honest review on your blog. When you share that post, tag them.
Recommend them as resources to people asking for help. Comment on their posts and offer actual insight. Be funny if that works for you. Just be you and make a friend. Again, these are normal people. They want to engage and have exchanges about the things that matter to them. Those things also matter to your target audience.
By engaging and forming real connections with these industry influencers, you will be well on your way to building your own influence, both as a company, and as a human.
But, it’s not just about who you know, it’s about what you say…
Social media is funded by advertisement but it’s fueled by engagement around valuable information. People don’t gain influence on these channels simply by being there. They build their value by offering useful and valuable information to their followers.
This is how you build your influence, by offering useful and valuable information.
Take a moment and think about the influencers in your industry. What do they post on their social channels? It’s possible that they’re prolific content creators and post mainly stuff they’ve created. But, this is very rare.
Most of the time an influencer will post a mix of their stuff and other people’s content (you down with OPC?). They have become a go-to resource. People follow these influencers because they consistently post links to useful articles in addition to their own insights. They post 20% their stuff and 80% OPC!
To become an influencer in your industry, you need to create content AND share other people’s content. To find this content, start with the blogs you read, the podcasts you listen to, and the books that shaped your thinking. Share these things with your audience.
I would recommend subscribing to the feeds and newsletters of some of your favorite bloggers, authors, and podcasters.
For me, one example of this is Christopher S. Penn. Chris is a beast (that’s a good thing). He is a prolific writer and excellent speaker. Even with all the content he creates, he still finds time to put together one of the best email newsletters in our industry. In it are links to tons of articles that he thinks are a must read.
You better believe I’m going to share his recommendations on my social channels. And this is the type of thing that has helped me build my following on channels like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. I take that 80% very seriously.
The 80% will help you build a following but it’s the 20% that builds your authority. It’s that authority that makes you a solid influencer.
We’ve written a ton of articles about content marketing so I will defer to those for more information on how to create content with authority.
Your organization needs to generate lots of useful content. You already know this if you read any of our stuff. But, you also need people on your social channels who can manage the conversation after the share.
Don’t let your 20% be spray and pray. Simply sharing a link to something you’ve written is not enough. You need to use that content to start a conversation.
For example, try offering a portion of the article as your social media post. Pick a thought provoking piece of an article and share that, without the link at first. Start a conversation by asking a question at end of your post.
Then, as the conversation grows, post a link to the full article in the comments. This does two things…
Never forget, social media marketing is about…
Number 3 is the ultimate goal. But, you cannot achieve number 3 without a lot work on 1 and 2. Keep your eyes on prize!
Influence doesn’t happen overnight. The only way to drive a bunch of traffic to your website quickly is to pay for it. This isn’t a bad thing but paid traffic is only sustainable while there is money.
Once the money is gone, so is the traffic!
Building real influence takes time and is a lot of work. But, it pays big dividends in the long term.
How do we get this traffic? Hard work. We’ve worked very hard for many years to build those followings by doing the things I talk about in this post.
Of course, let’s face it, the corporate channels are never going to be enough. Your people are the real resource when it comes to social media marketing. Work with them to create a social media plan:
Make your team part of your social marketing strategy. Give them the content tools they need to generate the good stuff. And empower them to build a following and grow their own influence. Just make sure that they understand the goals…
Anyone on your team who has a presence that in any way represents your organization is one or more of the following…
If they understand this, it will go a long way towards building a solid and successful social media marketing effort.
If you take anything away from this article, let it be this…
Successful social media marketing takes great content (yours and OPC), real people, and useful audience engagement. Keep at it and, given enough time, you will see results!!!
This post originally appeared on the Wood Street Journal. Repost with permission.