A fresh crop of statistics courtesy of Huffington Post reveals that consumers and marketers were hungrier for social media than ever during 2012. Some one million websites have now integrated with Facebook, while 34% of marketers generated leads from Twitter marketing.
With user numbers on the still relatively new networks Instagram and Pinterest exploding (over 5 million images are uploaded to Instagram each hour), marketers now need to work harder than ever to capitalise on their vast reach. Naturally, each business must create a social media strategy bespoke to its needs, yet five universal rules apply across the board:
1. Offer value
It is surprising, given the ongoing discussion about value-driven social media marketing, that so many businesses still fail to put their audience first. People don’t follow your brand on the social networks to be advertised at. It’s a brutal truth that they probably only want to hear about your products or service if there’s a coupon or money-saving deal involved. Before posting anything to any social media channel ask yourself the following: Is it useful? Is it interesting? Entertaining? Funny? Aesthetically pleasing? If it doesn’t tick at least one of these boxes, go back to the drawing board.
2. Participate often
Despite being advised to “join the conversation’ and “engage with your audience” since the dawn of social marketing, many marketers get so caught up in their own posts that they forget to interact. Investing time and effort in nurturing relationships through participation applies as much to the newer social channels as to Facebook and Twitter. Take Instagram for example. Businesses that take the time to like and comment on other users’ photos rather than endlessly posting their own images tend to enjoy greater success.
3. Be current
Social networking is much to do with discovering and sharing what is happening in the world. Brands engaging on social platforms shouldn’t assign themselves to a separate marketing silo. Wherever relevant, companies should creatively align themselves with current events to leverage popular culture. It positions the brand as engaged with the world and connected to its audience. In our experience, posting photos, comments, trivia or tips related to recent news or holidays always drives likes and comments.
4. Be consistent
Have you ever visited a company Facebook page only to be greeted with a paltry number of Likes and no posts fresher than three months old? Chances are that you formed an immediate negative impression of the business. You may have even wondered if the business was still up and running. Consistency is key in all areas of marketing and communications, but nowhere more so than in social media, which thrives on real-time interaction between brands and their customers. Creating social media assets and failing to keep them up to date with regular, consistent posts can actually work against you, so be sure you have long-term resources before launching into social media marketing.
5. Vary your content
We’ve all seen social media accounts that are guilty of churning out the same type of posts day after day. Yes, they are being consistent, but it’s equally important to keep social activity fresh and engaging. On Twitter, for instance, it works well to mix up original posts with replies and retweets – this also ensures that you are sticking to tip 2 by participating with your community. On Facebook, make use of questions, articles, quotes and polls to keep your audience’s interest piqued.
When developing a content plan, remember that images are now the most effective way to be heard above the noise on social media. Images are consistently the most clicked on and shared form of content on Facebook, so get a concrete visual strategy in place.