Social media has been the whipping boy of digital marketing for quite some time. It has been used, abused, and disregarded for far too long. But marketers mistreat social media at their own peril.
Be kind to social media. Use it as it was intended to be used. Only then can you look to shape it to your advantage.
Here are 4 things you should not be doing and 8 things you should.
4 Practices to Abandon
1. Treating Social Media as Your Marketing Slave
Before you even think about marketing, lead generation, and everything else you don’t yet deserve, remember why the vast majority use social media – to socialize. You could quote a plethora of marketing metrics, but socializing is perma-fixed as the social media raison d’être. As marketers, we’re clearly intruding.
I like Moz, yet here they are on my feed. If this appeared next to an emotionally-charged post from a friend, my association with it certainly would not be positive. The proximity to my personal world is too close. It’s just creepy. Go away.
People are accustomed to ads on other media, but still not yet on social. So, to have any chance of success, you almost have to befriend your audience. You must appeal on a completely different level than any other medium. Like a potential friend, you have to be liked (in the now very traditional sense).
- Be sociable. Make friends. Be humorous, witty, and light-hearted. Be confident in your knowledge, yet humble and personable; agreeable while maintaining your opinions. Be respectful, respectable, and polite, and willing to listen and learn. Take criticism and respond with poise, and always respond. Be approachable and available. Garner respect and trust from everyone you encounter.
- Be yourself.
- Be memorable. Become a hashtag laureate.
- If you can’t be all of this, hire a team that can.
It’s less about reaching out, and more about welcoming people in. And once in – once a user is proud to acknowledge their interest in you – there are very few limits on what can be achieved.
On social media, the chasm between marketers and consumers is vast. But once bridged, the relationship is rock solid, and your followers enthusiastically take whichever path you guide them on.
2. Thinking that having a Company Account Qualifies You as having a “Social Media Campaign”
You created some profiles for your business. Well done. Take a bow. But think again if you reckon that customers share the same admiration of your shiny logo on Twitter or Google Plus. Vanity has no place on the commerce side of social.
Having a brand presence is great, but that’s the easy part. Understanding the strange dynamics and the intricacies of interaction on social media is the tricky next stage. Accomplish this understanding, however, and the social realm is yours.
- Show you’re on the level. As you update your profile in your 3-piece Versace suit in your floor-to-ceiling glass office, it’s possible you’ll soon be in deep discussion with someone in their underpants sitting on their sofa, eating a bowl of coco-pops at 2:30pm while the XBox loads up. On social media, we are all the same. Besides, today’s slob could be tomorrow’s executive. Elitism is dead.
- Having said that, it’s important to customers to know the person they’re speaking to is of a certain standing, even if it doesn’t quite work the other way around. Staff (especially managerial staff) need their own accounts. Customers get a buzz out of interacting with a human who has a great job title. In a study by Brandfog, 82% of respondents were more likely, or much more likely, to trust a company whose CEO and leadership team engage with social media.
- These staff should interact with the company account as well as each other and customers. Show customers what a tight-knit group you are. All of your names should appear regularly in the feed. Show customers how accessible you are.
Never has the link between business and consumer been so personal. It should not be exploited or neglected, only balanced. If everyone’s on the same plane, it’s much easier to tilt things in your direction.
3. #Relentlessly #Abusing #Hashtags
Even to the untrained eye, these profiles and tweets look like they should be avoided:
Hashtags now scream “I’m marketing to you!” or “I’m desperate to be found!” Have confidence in yourself. Words are more than enough if you have something worthwhile to say.
Be clever or funny. Hashtags are great for summarizing an update. Done well, they fire synapses and make brains tingle. Truly memorable marketing.
4. Promising Much but Delivering Little
Attempting to go viral is trending. Social shares are highly prized, and click-through rates have become a dangerous measure of success. A high CTR may go down as a victory for the display team, but if the content within doesn’t do the cover justice, the whole piece can do more harm than good.
Each element of a social post is now under scrutiny, and A/B testing easily sorts the traffic magnets from the time wasters. But it’s all so unerringly clinical. And shallow. I’m not saying that optimizing posts is a bad thing, far from it. But putting lipstick on a pig is not what it’s about.
Upworthy.com has surprised us all. Its meteoric rise is based on one element, albeit a hugely important one – the title. This is nothing new, since titles have been selling publications for centuries. Upworthy spends a huge amount of time on them, and they produce fantastic results.
A user’s expectation, though, is raised upon seeing Upworthy’s titles. Their content, on the whole, delivers, but it is one thing to do it on a news syndication website, where the content is hand-picked from an almost infinite source. It’s another thing to do it for a small trade website or similar.
- Produce amazing content every single time.
- Spend time optimizing clickable elements of posts.
- Produce amazing content every single time.
- Measure success by conversions and on-page metrics. Your bounce rate is a good indicator of how great your social posts are vs. how great your content is.
8 Practices to Adopt
1. Use Social Posts – Text Hacks
If you’re confident your content is awesome, here’s what you should be doing to your…
4. Use Numbers for list posts à la Buzzfeed
People like lists. They’re easy to digest. Odd numbers have been shown to work better than even numbers, but do mix it up.
In SEO, URLs are an important navigational tool so we spend time optimizing them. Social media is just the same. Users want to know where you’re taking them. If possible, do not use generic URL shorteners on social media.
If a full/truncated URL makes your post a bit cramped or messy, consider using a custom URL shortener. They look cool and very professional, and you can add a new element to your brand-building portfolio.
This is where your text currently truncates:
Follow these practices in your text:
- Get to the point in your first paragraph. Fluffy intros are horrible on blog posts, but they’re absolutely inexcusable in snippets.
- Do not use desperate advertising script.
- The snippet text should contain, or allude to, the hook.
- Use keywords. Keywords have a bad reputation because of their association with optimization. But a keyword or key term simply should be a succinct articulation of the main point of your article. Use them naturally and they theme your text and make for an easy-to-scan read.
2. Use Social Posts – Image Hacks
The internet would be a shadow of itself without images. Google has known this for a long time, yet has struggled to accommodate images in their algorithms.
Social media leans even more toward visual content. As a marketer, you have a matter of seconds to grab attention. To convey a thousand words in an image is not cliché. Each image has its own dimensions, but it’s the previews and thumbnails that you need to pay particular attention to.
Follow these practices for your images:
- Keep it simple. A spectacular image at full res may be just a jumble of colors in a thumbnail.
- An image should have only one subject. Choose one person/item/graphic that most completely tells your story. Like your titles, aim to shock or evoke emotion.
- Upload at a higher res than required to keep things clear.
- If you include text, keep it simple. Sans serif and sans italics = sans ambiguity.
3. Form Device-specific Marketing Streams
With the exponential growth of mobile internet, device-specific marketing is a no-brainer. Mobile internet is synonymous with social media. You should be accommodating mobile devices. But knowing how your users are viewing your posts will push you to produce highly-targeted output. Know:
- The devices accessing your website
- Screen dimensions
- What’s visible
- Screen’s resolutions
- Hardware capabilities
- What your page/ad looks like in Tilt
- Where and how paid ads appear
4. Build Your Name as a Valuable Entity
Reputation is valuable, and for no one more than online authors. Social media allows reputation to spread like wildfire, positive or negative. This reputation – your online identity – must, at some point, be taken into account by Google as a ranking factor.
Even with Matt Cutts’s recent definitive denial that Google uses social signals in their algorithms, they’re going to have to do it at some point. Currently, Google’s primary ranking factor is inbound links, and a strong and reasonably reliable one it is, but it’s restricted to a learned few: those who run websites. Social media gives everyone a vote. But it’s a giant task, given how easy it is to “like” something.
Assuming that Google will understand social signals better in time, there still is a lot of data that Google can use to build a picture of you and assign your name a “value.” Here’s my take. All of the following likely will, in the future, apply to social media, too:
“Level” uses Google’s (current/future) analysis of the quality of the element
- Level of authored content
- Level of sites linked from G+/other (future) accredited sites
- Level of interaction on your post
- Level of discussion generated
- Level of commenters
- Frequency and value of your posts
Sites you contribute to
- Level of the site
- Tenure of authorship
- Level of author “neighborhood” on the site
- Level of the website you represent / link back to in author bio
- Frequency and value of your posts
Your individual blog posts
- Level of post
- On-page metrics
- Level of discussion generated
- Level of commenters
- Your level of interaction with commenters
- Social shares/activity
- Level of those socially engaging your posts
- Negative engagement from commenters
- Comment ratings/level of raters
Your actions when signed into Google
- Your level of engagement on niche-relevant sites
- Level of sites
- Level of those you interact with
- Level of discussion generated
- Click-throughs from your backlinks (posted in comments/author name)
- On-page metrics from these click-throughs
- Level of interaction / level of commenters on your site from click-throughs
- Name mentioned in context
- Level of content surrounding your mention
- Level of site
- Level of discussion generated around your mention
- Level of your interaction (a “point” simply for interacting, surely?)
Whether this will happen this year or in 10 years is immaterial. In fact, being open to it happening in the distant future lets the mind wander, removes barriers, and allows us to contemplate all possibilities. Doing this certainly is no waste of time. It has the real-time benefit of building up your name to special levels.
5. Use Psychology for Conversion Rate Optimization
It’s high time for success on social media to not be judged solely on shares. Social campaigns should justify themselves by conversions, like any other strategy. There are many, many conversion rate optimization tips being offered. I can’t possibly pick just a few to highlight, so here are some great resources that can be applied particularly to social media:
Quieting the Lizard Brain by Seth Godin – 99u.com
“Part of our survival instinct is the tendency to notice differences in our environment”
Takeaway: For your posts to be successful, you must know your environment, and stand out.
The Sweet Science of Virality – Slideshare.net
“Too vague and I don’t want to click. Too specific and I don’t need to click”
Takeaway: Social headlines need a “curiosity gap” (slide 37).
“Sound bites are like proverbs… easy-to-remember, easy-to-quote nuggets of wisdom”
Takeaways: Sell the product using one big idea. Short sentences improve the rhythm of copy.
Triadic structures are short, sharp, and sticky, and easy to remember (and so are alliterations)
“Because we actually don’t know our preferences that well, we are susceptible to influences”
Takeaways: When presented with difficult, complex options, people often will choose the default option if available, so make users’ decisions for them. When a useless or less appealing option is present, it pushes people to choose an option rather than choose nothing.
6. Social Media is the Perfect Platform for Your Creative Genius
Are you good at thinking outside the box? If so, your arena awaits. Check out these famous examples of social marketing masterpieces:
Tony Hawk’s Annual Twitter Treasure Hunt
Back in 2009, skateboard icon and entrepreneur Tony Hawk thought of leaving one of his skateboards in a cul-de-sac and decided to tweet its exact location. This spontaneous idea has evolved into an annual treasure hunt that takes place in April. Watch this.
Nike+ offers users an app which tracks their exercise progress and allows them to share it on social media. This, undoubtedly, increases motivation and competition, and, in turn, greatly increases Nike’s brand presence. This concept can be applied to many offline activities for the products or services a business offers. Just a little thinking outside the box required.
Volkswagen’s Twitter Zoom campaign
This borders on ingenious. Volkswagen hid tickets to the sold-out Planeta Terra Festival in Sao Paolo, Brazil, across the entire city. Hosted on a micro-site, the tickets were pinpointed on Google Maps but at a far zoom. The only way to zoom in was for Twitter users to tweet the hashtag #foxatplanetaterra. The more tweets it got, the more it zoomed in, until the precise locations of the tickets were revealed. The hashtag trended number one in Brazil in under 2 hours.
Offering prizes to those who tweeted a picture of themselves with their hand stretched out, along with the hashtag #ifihadsuperpowers, Radioshack surprised everyone by turning the respondents into superheroes and tweeting the photo back to them. This was done using Twitter’s Promoted Tweets service. 65 million impressions were garnered in just 24 hours. The ROI was described as “stratospheric.”
7. Google+, G+, and Google Plus
It’s been said time and time again, but it needs to be said once more:
Complete your G+ business page in its entirety and treat it just like the website you’re paying so much attention to. In fact, think of it as nothing less than your shop front on a street that only Google uses.
8. Explore Other Networks
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut and utilize only the big three. But there are many more social networks out there, each with their own benefits for marketers. Here are my top alternatives:
- Mobile chat services – teens (the next generation of consumers) are migrating in droves to chat services like WeChat and Vine
- Ning – the ultimate social brand builder – you can create and define your own social network
- Pinterest/Instagram/Flickr – a necessity if you produce images
- Triberr – big asks of bloggers but huge rewards
Social media is a marketer’s dream. Never has the reach potential of even the smallest of businesses been so great. Such openness-to-all-comers brings with it lots of mistakes and misgivings. But, while there is much to be said for sitting back and watching others define what should and should not be, it doesn’t compare one iota to carving the path yourself. With just a little bit of foresight, you’ll be well ahead of the game.
About the Author: Richard Eaves is a Digital Marketing Specialist for Smart Traffic, a multi-award winning agency. He developed a passion for SEO while working as a webmaster, and has gone on to help a multitude of SME and blue-chip companies with their digital campaigns. His particular specialties are technical onsite SEO and content development. Catch up with him on Twitter and Google+