Is your start-up on social media? Just kidding – of course you are. Whatever your sector, whoever your audience, you already know that you need to have at least one active social channel; it’s as important as a contact form on your website. Whether you’re a B2B firm sharing thought leadership on LinkedIn, or a consumer brand putting out a whole vibe on Instagram, you already know that you have to reach your customers where they live. And you know that means picking the right platform, and speaking the right language. So to speak.
But how much thought have you given to really making the most of social – and avoiding its traps? To succeed and stand out amid all the noise, you need to be very strategic about what you do here.
There’s a lot at stake.
Today’s consumers are extremely sensitive to overly promotional messaging. The harder your sales pitch, the faster they turn off. On the other hand, social media gives you a chance to give them something worth listening to.
According to 2022 research, 57% of the world’s population use social media – including almost everyone between 15 and 64. The wide range of platforms in use provide something for everyone and give you, as a brand, a great opportunity to select the audience most relevant to your offering, and to talk directly to them.
With paid ads on the right platforms, you can get highly focused in your targeting, while also using organic content for a non-intrusive, opt-in experience. And it goes both ways: you can listen to customer feedback, measure their response, observe wider trends and keep tabs on your competitors.
Even better, you can work with influencers to multiply your reach and gain audience trust. Influencers don’t just have the numbers – they have powerful parasocial relationships with their followers, making those users far more responsive to messaging from the influencer than from you directly.
And then there’s the potent lure of viral campaigns. Maybe if you make a really funny video or start a super cool hashtag, your message will rocket around the world without any more ad spend. That happens all the time, right?
Uh oh. There’s a lot to watch out for, too.
It’s not as easy as it looks.
Let’s start with viral marketing. Sure, that can happen – but it’s really unreliable. Maybe you’ll hit the jackpot and get that post shared as many times as you hope. Maybe it will even translate into sales! But… maybe you swing and miss. Maybe that failed effort leaves your brand tainted with the dreaded cringe. Maybe your hashtag gets overrun by trolls. (Friendly hint: asking your audience to create free publicity for you may be asking for trouble. Don’t ever forget that the social media mob can have a really mean sense of humor.)
Influencers, too, can bring an array of problems and risks. You need to choose the right person, with the right audience fit, at the right price. You should provide enough guidance, but not micro-manage. Make sure they disclose the paid relationship. Make sure they don’t embarrass you. Make sure they meet expectations – and that you meet theirs. You might think they’ll be excited to work with you, but each influencer is running their own business; it’s not about favors or free merch, the numbers have to add up, and you might be surprised at how expensive they can be.
And without getting into any of that, you still need to know a whole lot about each platform you use: the rules and the culture. Just as you don’t want to fall afoul of official policy and get suspended or shadowbanned, you need to be careful – maybe even more careful – not to turn your audience off by ignoring unspoken rules of behavior. Social platforms may make their money off brands, but in your customers’ eyes, they belong to the users, so watch your step.
Remember that social media fulfills many roles at once. It’s advertising, PR, customer service, and more. Yes, that means it can be a great asset. But it also gives you so many ways to screw up.
So what are YOU doing here?
By now it should be clear that you can’t dive into social media marketing without a plan – and that plan had better be intimately connected to your fundamental marketing strategy. You need to figure out your specific goals: are you looking to build your audience, generate leads or improve your reputation? How will you do that? What are the right channels for you to use – where are your customers, and just as importantly, which channels can you use well? If you don’t have the skills to make attention-grabbing video, then (at least until you can hire them) better stay off TikTok.
You need to figure out your tone of voice, the story you’re telling (of course you’ve already got a solid brand strategy in place… right?), and how to tell it. Social media is about both content and connection. Your branding strategy can be used to generate a storytelling framework that will help you spin endless content ideas, and ensure that they are relevant to your audience. It should never be random. Everything you do on social platforms should serve to build your relevance and credibility in the eyes of your customers, showing your company values as well as how you can add value.
If you’ve got all that figured out, you’re ready to join the party. If not… let us help. Content and branding are where we shine; let’s get you ready to dazzle!
Image 1: Photo by Tinthia Clemant on Pexels