Best Practices for Effective Social Marketing
Social marketing is when you approach social media with a strategy and develop that strategy to yield measurable results. We sometimes make the mistake of thinking we understand social media since many of us may have started using it personally to connect with friends, but using social media in a business to business (B2B) environment requires added strategy and focus. In order to successfully utilize social media you need a social marketing plan. Social media should be a component of your overall marketing communications (marcomm) plan. It can be an effective supportive element of a marcomm program when it is approached strategically.
It’s Free – So Let’s Use It
If you think social media is great, because it’s free, you’ll probably receive pretty much what you paid in your results. Social marketing requires a financial commitment because it’s time intensive and requires a staff commitment to consistently manage an effective approach. Plus, research and monitoring can involve instruments with a cost, and a continuous improvement process is always needed. Jumping into social media without a fully developed plan because it is quote “free” is where many of the related issues begin.
Other common mistakes include:
- Focusing on the technology platforms (devices): Effective social marketing focuses on objectives, effectiveness, monitoring and measurable results. If you do this, your plans evolve beyond the technology.
- Following perceptions: To set the right objective you need to ignore perceptions and pursue research. Just because Facebook and Twitter have very large audiences they might not be the best place to find your target audience.
- Focusing solely on the brand: Best practices have revealed the most effective B2B social media has a personal element, even when representing a brand.
Tips for Effective Social Marketing
- Develop a vision for your social marketing – a clear and concise image of success which will steer your objectives and strategies
- Be willing to commit staff, resources and time to the endeavor
- Develop a ROAD Map – Research, Objectives, Actions, Devices
- Research – Listen, gather intelligence, segment groups by social behavior
- Objectives – Align with target audiences and metrics – you can achieve both quantitative and qualitative goals
- Actions – Prioritize by your efforts and actions by effectiveness
- Devices – Select the right technology – use various tactics for each social media platform.
Top Challenges in Social Marketing
- Getting audiences to engage
- Finding time – social marketing is very time intensive
- Converting audiences to customers
- Lack of effective strategy
- Making the financial commitment
Email Marketing is Still Important
Email marketing can be a very effective tool in an overall social marketing strategy. Since email marketing is the number one permission-based preference for most audiences, it works well to utilize with your social marketing goals. Social media is a great option for email list growth. Research shows that people have different approaches and interests and your social media and email audience will not necessarily overlap.
Make your email content easy to share, for example use newsletter article titles which are 140 characters including the shortened URL. Limit the number of social sharing buttons to about three to four options. Place social sharing buttons in a prominent position at the end of the message.
Segmenting by Social Behavior
There are three types of users behaviors on social media – the silent majority, the vocal minority and the social authority. You need tactics to target users for all three to be effective. Getting people who are social authorities to talk about you or share your content is often much more effective than just pushing content out to the silent majority masses who just sit back and watch, but don’t engage. Segment your targets and have strategies to reach all three types of users.
Social Marketing Monitoring
There are many useful social media monitoring tools which are free. Start out with these and build from there as your social marketing sophistication level grows. A few free options are Twitter Grader, Google Analytics and Social Mention.
The following is a summary of some of the best practices to pursue in your social marketing planning process:
- Carve out a social marketing section on your overall marcomm plan
- Determine other areas which need enhancements in order to make your social marketing more effective, such as developing a blog or improving your website content and management
- Assign staff to align with your social marketing goals
- Set a social marketing budget and responsibilities
- Align social marketing with company values
- Create a social media policy
- Create a content audit – repurpose your current content for a social media editorial calendar
- Your website and blog should be the hub of your social marketing structure and you should have strategies in place to fuel visitors movement from your hubs to social media and vice versa.
- Put conversion tactics and measurement in place
- Social marketing shouldn’t just involve your brand talking, it should be personalized with content from identifiable people in the company
It is a little easier to achieve quantitative results for B2C marketing where you have shorter sales cycles, but quantitative results are still achievable in B2B arena. To do so you need to track how prospects come to your website and blog and the social media where they are originating. Also, create ways to convert your audience on social media by driving them to landing pages and other conversion tools.
Compliance concerns in the insurance industry can bring about some added issues for marketing organizations and carriers, but if you already vet your content for your website, blog, websites, emails and other communications with compliance then it should be easier to repurpose it in your social marketing strategy.
Good social marketing is a cyclical process focused on a continuous improvement process. Get started by carving out a spot for it in your overall marcomm plan.
By: Peggy Porter, Marketing Director, Insurance Insight Group
Marketing Sherpa Social Marketing ROAD Map Certified