Social media can be one of the most powerful tools in advertising. Consider the fact that Instagram, launched less than ten years ago, already has over one billion users. Or the fact that Kylie Jenner is currently the youngest billionaire on earth due to her social media presence. But should you be on Instagram? What about Facebook or Twitter? And what type of content should you produce and promote?
Social media has never been a one-size-fits-all type of marketing tool. That’s why there are so many different platforms. However, there’s at least one that’s right for your business. Knowing how to harness the capacity of a social media campaign begins with knowing who you’re trying to reach and what you’re attempting to accomplish. Today we’re going to take some of the confusion out of the complex world of social media by talking about how to go about launching a social media campaign, including knowing which platform would be most effective for your business, what you should post/ how you should use the platform and when.
But first, which platform is right for which business? Start by answering the following two questions:
What is my target demographic? What age range does your business primarily appeal to? Are you targeting men, or women, or both? Are these more artistic types or corporate types?
How visual is my product? More visual products tend to be things such as a travel blog, a wedding catering business, a fashion line or a new, cupcake bakery. Or are you offering a less visual product or service such as accounting work or building inspection services? That’s not to say that a less visual product can’t be made more visual through creative advertising, but note that some platforms that cater to more visual products will generally be less effective platforms for those types of businesses.
Let’s take a look at five of the biggest platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn as an illustration.
These are just high-level guide-lines. It’s possible to be on Instagram if you’re an oil company; BP is. And it’s possible to use Twitter to link to a fashion house. But if you’re looking for the platform that would make the biggest impact and would be the most effective for those industries, those platforms are not going to be the hardest hitting ones.
Also, there are slight differences between these. For example, both Instagram and Pinterest appeal to very creative, artistic people who are looking for those types of brands and inspiration. However, Pinterest pins have a vastly longer lifespan than those on other media platforms due to the re-pinning capability. That said, Instagram users, who tend to frequent the app daily, have some of the highest engagement of any platform. And Twitter is a phenomenal tool for those businesses that want to engage with their customers regularly in a more conversational fashion (such as in customer service).
Therefore, it’s crucial that you determine who you’re trying to reach and what you need to accomplish before you can choose between these. Of course, you can use all of them simultaneously, but that has the potential to take you away from the target applications where you might have a better return. Unless you have a media department, it’s usually more effective to choose the 2-3 most effective platforms and to use them more frequently.
When to Post Content
Which brings us to our next question: how often should you post content? At first glance, it’s tempting to say that there’s no such thing as too much information…except that there is. There’s a happy middle ground between being forgotten and being so annoying that people no longer follow your company.
At the risk of over-simplifying, I would say that persistent, weekly posts are the safest estimate. There’s a lot of noise in the social media world. Any less frequent than that and you risk being overlooked when your target consumers realize that they need, or want, your type of product and service. But, of course, frequency depends on what type of content you’re providing.
If you’re on Twitter and you represent a political agency, a book club, or motivational life seminars, you might put out a quick quote or statistic every day (or more). Because the content is brief and is of the type that people might want to see daily, that quantity could easily be digestible. But I’ve come across people who post upwards of 10-20 (or more) posts per day on Twitter. For most consumers, that is simply too invasive and demanding for their appetite.
There are also a lot of great surveys and studies that have been (and are consistently) done to determine when traffic is most receptive to new content on each platform. For example, if you’re on Facebook, are users more likely to see your content if you post it at noon on Monday, or first thing Thursday morning? And did you know that, according to a Dan Zarrella research study, Twitter engagement is 17% higher on the weekend? Timing matters!
There are a number of social media marketing companies and studies out there that you can access. Here’s a snapshot of recommended timing that the Huffington Post published a couple of years ago that I believe is still very relevant:
Choosing Your Content
Now that you have a better idea of where you should post and when, it’s important to consider what type of content best suits your business and target consumers. Again, these are guidelines, but consider the following ideas.
On LinkedIn, users tend to be corporate professionals, looking for business-to-business advertising. Thus, instead of looking to engage with the average consumer (business-to-consumer advertising), those who use the platform are looking for corporate information, connections, business support, etc. If you’re going to be effective on this platform, you want to position yourself as an expert and provide regular business- or industry-specific articles. Of course, you might also post press releases or other time-sensitive business information.
On Twitter you’ll want to include quick bits of information or provide consumers with an easy way to share with you in a constant dialogue. Some businesses also use Twitter to link to articles and more in-depth content, but this platform tends to be less effective for that type of content than Facebook or LinkedIn might be.
In contrast, Facebook supports a broader range of content more easily. Facebook users tend to be the most receptive to videos. And Facebook can be used for lengthy conversations, photo-sharing, business information, etc. The demographic is broader, but that also means that, for some businesses, it’s less targeted. Facebook is the super-highway of social media. That means that an exceptionally broad and vast segment of the population is there, but that also means that it’s harder to stand out and to receive consistent consumer engagement.
If your product can be very easily and artistically conveyed, Instagram is a great resource. Instagram users tend to be looking for an engaging visual connection. That means that you should be posting primarily photos that connect back to your products or services on your website. This is not the best place for those political facts and figures that you’d see on Twitter. And the platform doesn’t cater as well to those who want to have lengthy conversations.
Pinterest is similar, but slightly different. Pinterest can be used like Instagram, but Pinterest users have a higher tolerance and desire for how-to articles such as a lengthy instructional regarding adopting a minimalist lifestyle, or longer pieces discussing what to see and do in a specific travel location. The key on Pinterest is to provide a visually-engaging photo that links back to whatever content you’re providing, whether that’s fashion, lifestyle advice or a list of recommended science fiction books for eighth graders.
Of course, products are crucial subject matters for social media posts, but don’t forget that consumers, particularly younger ones, want to know more about the company’s mission, its vision and its core values. Social media can be an excellent tool to convey these on a quick and consistent basis.
Planning Your Campaign
Then, if you’re new to using social media for your business, how should you plan your campaign? The answers are as varied and diverse as the number of businesses out there, but I’ll close with an illustration.
Recently I’ve been working with the Georgetown University Hotel and Conference Center. We rebranded everything related to their Marketing Communications, Advertising, and Public Relations to establish the hotel as a boutique location in a quaint hidden spot in the heart of Georgetown. It’s the sort of place where travelers can avoid the hustle of downtown D.C. but are within walking distance to most major attractions and activities. With the rebrand, it was imperative that we relaunch the company’s previously dormant accounts on several social media sites (Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest).
We chose to produce eight posts per month, approximately two per week, covering the following topics: Weddings, the Hotel’s Ambiance, Special Events, and General Activities in the area. Then we established a monthly calendar and chose specific dates when each of these posts are scheduled for release, along with exactly what the subject will be for each date. Each of these posts links back to the company website to drive traffic. That being said, it’s essential that the website is always up to date with the posted content. For example, if we release a post on Instagram reminding visitors to book their rooms for an upcoming Graduation, when they link to the website, that should be one of the leading captions. Social media is not just a means of driving traffic back to your website. The two should also always be in sync with similar content.
And the content should keep your target audience interested and engaged. That means that it (and your website) should constantly be fresh. If there is rarely or never anything new, users grow bored and view your content as less urgent. This is true for any business or industry. If you own a garden center, what is seasonally current and relevant? If you’re marketing a restaurant, do you have a new menu, limited product offerings, or a special tasting event? Whatever is timely, relevant and of interest to your audience should be promoted.
Lastly, it’s crucial to consistently engage with your audience by answering questions or communicating with them in a professional manner that speaks to your brand. Consumers consider social media to be an extension of your company’s customer service. Nothing is more frustrating, particularly to younger consumers, than when a company uses social media but refuses to engage with others.
After all, that is the purpose of social media: engagement. When used to its greatest advantage, a social media campaign has the potential to place your business in front of millions of users where it will increase both brand awareness and sales.