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Choosing the Right Social Networks for Your Company

Pretty much every business has a social media presence these days.

But most of those companies are missing something—social media mastery. Most often I see companies making one of two common mistakes. They either stick only to the most high profile sites, such as Twitter or Facebook, or they try to carpet-bomb every site that boasts decent traffic.

Each approach carries drawbacks. While marketing on Facebook or Twitter can deliver admirable benefits, it’s not the right tactic for every type of business; failure to explore other platforms can also mean squandered engagement.

At the other extreme, there are more than 800 social media platforms in cyberspace—and marketers who try to be active on even a few dozen are setting themselves up for failure. It’s just not possible to effectively manage that huge of a social universe.

Being strategic works

What does work: being strategic. By picking the top five platforms aligned with your buyers, you’ll have the opportunity to study and really master your performance. And by master, I don’t simply mean posting content and engaging with visitors. I mean finding and practicing the best tactics to boost engagement and grow your customer base.

Those tactics aren’t always the obvious ones. Take a look at how top brands handle their social media marketing. Skittles.com, for instance, launched a highly interactive social presence involving user-generated content. It sparked a firestorm of discussion that created more attention than Skittles has seen in years. Denny’s is another brand that’s used a highly creative Tumblr to claim the social media spotlight.

Will bold tactics work for everyone? No. Some companies will drive the biggest rewards by sticking closely to tried-and-true best practices. The point is that you must curate your social presence deliberately in a way that manages your online reputation while intensifying your connections with your buyers.

These can determine your social media success or failure:

Becoming a social climber

While you might be tempted to look at how many members a particular social platform has, it’s smarter to focus on reaching your distinct buyers. The age-old B2C versus B2B division often has everything to do with this. For instance, LinkedIn users are more likely to have a college degree and enjoy higher purchasing power than users on other platforms, while Instagram users are younger than other platform audiences and tend to be interested in B2C brands.

Twitter, of course, can offer a direct path to communicating with otherwise inaccessible business leaders. Facebook tends to be more about B2C marketing, since consumers love using it to communicate feedback and enter contests. Making B2B connections and dealing with the different privacy settings, on the other hand, makes collaborating with other businesses on Facebook more difficult.

Content type is another important consideration. If your business is heavy on written content, you won’t want to spend a lot of effort on image-driven sites like Pinterest. A text-driven platform like LinkedIn will let you share your knowledge with more potential buyers. But if you do produce a steady flow of appealing images in your marketing, forums like Pinterest, Flickr and Slideshare could be just the place to dazzle new customers.

None of this means you can’t think outside the box. If you’re a B2B brand active only on Twitter and LinkedIn, experiment by posting infographics and helpful templates. If they perform well, that’s an indication your buyers would like to engage with you on a more visual platform.

Laying the foundations of social campaign success

Social success doesn’t hinge on platform selection alone. It’s a great first step, but after that you’ll need to turn your strategic efforts toward creating, measuring and modifying your social content. This isn’t an overnight endeavor; it generally takes 30-60 days to find your ideal voice and cadence.

You’ll start with the foundation of every well-managed social marketing program: the editorial calendar. This keeps everyone on track, fosters group buy-in and helps other departments contribute their updates and perspectives.

Also important are good metrics to tell you where you’re performing well and where you need to course correct. If you’re losing followers, you might be posting too much. If a certain type of content is getting a high amount of shares, great – now you know what to create more of. Every post should have a purpose, whether it’s to educate, engage, provoke a reaction, or inspire new leads.

Social can also be a great testing ground. For instance, I once wrote a blog post that didn’t perform well when I shared it socially. Rather than sending it on to my email list, I sent a Slideshare instead that was well received. So don’t be afraid to do a few test runs on your social accounts.

Headlines, images and calls to action should all be monitored to see what is and isn’t working. At what time of day do your blog posts get the most comments? Which links get the most click-throughs? Just bear in mind that a small amount of fans or followers will make it more difficult to gauge performance.

Ultimately your social success is a matter of that old saying to work smarter—not harder. Cyberspace might be flooded with social business accounts, but most lack that aforementioned mastery—allowing you to seize the advantage by strategically shaping and refining your presence.

Choose the right social networks and manage your content thoughtfully. You’ll build a vibrant social media personality that keeps buyers fascinated by your brand.

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