How to use social media to market your business

Kiev, Ukraine - October 17, 2012 - A logotype collection of well-known social media brand's printed on paper. Include Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Vimeo, Flickr, Myspace, Tumblr, Livejournal, Foursquare and more other logos.

Social Media Marketing (SMM) gives you unprecedented access to meet and connect with your customers where they choose to spend time. Over 90% of marketers say SMM benefits their businesses and generates more exposure. Over 50% reported a direct correlation between SMM and sales growth.  The jury is in: social media marketing can and does help your business. But to make the most of the opportunities SMM affords, there are a number of key considerations and competencies to master.

Understand the platform

Social media platforms run a wide gamut from widely used major players to emerging, demographic-specific channels. Strategically selecting the right platform for your business relies on an understanding of who your target customer is and where they choose to spend their social time online. In a 2015 survey of social platform use by adults with Internet access:

  • 72% used Facebook
  • 31% used Pinterest
  • 28% used Instagram
  • 25% used LinkedIn
  • 23% used Twitter
  • 30% of millennial users specifically used Snapchat

But it’s not enough to simply select the platform with the most adult users. You need to understand whether your customers are younger or older, more or less conservative in their online interactions, technology and platform early-adopters or latecomers, or if they gravitate toward interactions and discussions that align with your brand and product or service offerings.

Each platform works differently, and the way you interact with it needs to be distinct. For instance, Twitter and Instagram are strong platforms for discoverability, while Facebook and LinkedIn rely more on existing connections or paid advertisements to reach new users. All platforms report the best results with images, but Instagram and Pinterest value images much more highly over words, to the extent that, unless you communicate effectively in graphic formats, your intent may not be communicated to even those users who do interact with your posts or channel.

Finally, all social platforms are best used for soft selling, or in other words, relationship-based marketing. You need to take the time to understand how regular users on a social media platform like to interact, and then join in that interaction to build credibility rather than jumping in promoting your services, products and brand. Think of it less as a billboard, and more as a way to get insight into who your customers are and to build rapport, connection and loyalty with them. Always seek to provide value via an interaction that’s meaningful to your customers over broadcasting your own goals.

Clarify your brand

Once you’ve understood your customers, the best platform to reach them on, and how they like to interact, you’ll want to make sure you’re clear on your own brand identity. While you want to avoid overtly broadcasting your marketing and sales agenda on a social media platform, ultimately you’re there for a reason: to build your business. To do that effectively, you’re going to grow awareness, cultivate relationships and provide value. For customers to associate value with your business, you want to ensure that everything you do, present and communicate on a social media channel is consistent with the look and voice of your brand.

Develop your strategy

By this point, you should know who your customers or clients are, who you are, which channel best allows you to interact with those clients, and how you’re going to shape those interactions to communicate your brand. Now you need to decide what your goals are for SMM, how you are going to achieve them, and what measures you’re going to use to understand if your efforts have been effective. Are you ultimately there to:

  • Get insight into customer needs?
  • Build brand awareness and connection?
  • Draw customers in to your sales funnel?
  • Promote specific product or service offerings?
  • Do all of the above?

Map out your goals and possible strategies to achieve them.

Be aspirational and approachable

Your brand may be luxury or budget, polished or humorous, accessible or elite. While maintaining your distinctive brand, you want to present it with a characteristic quality that makes it appealing to your target clients or customers and you want to be approachable enough that those customers are comfortable interacting with it and taking next steps. That means a consistent voice across all written content, and high quality images that visually communicate a cohesive, appealing brand message.

Unless your business is in professional photography, stock photo providers such as Dreamstime are a good choice to select images from. Aim for specific graphics over generic, and try to tie in the overall colors of images to your brand, whether that’s sleek neutrals or relaxed beachy vibes, elegant and understated, or fun and bright. Keep in mind that images or video are 40x more shared than other content on social media marketing, so there’s a great deal of value in not only incorporating visual content into your SMM strategy, but keeping it consistent with your brand and business goals.

Measure results and adjust

Finally, SMM, like business operations and marketing efforts in general, is something you want to measure and pivot strategy on continuously for best results. Make sure your goals are tied to measurable results. Track progress and test your tactics, your images, your copy and even different platforms to refine down to the best return on value.

Social media marketing is your opportunity to reach new customers, strengthen relationships with existing customers and grow your business. Invest in a savvy strategy and careful refinements to make the most of these high value platforms.