Understanding Social Media

Today social media takes on many forms across many technologies – anything from the popular social networks such as Facebook and Twitter to podcasts, forums, picture sharing sites, social bookmarking sites, chat apps and more.

Continually growing year after year, social media is now the #1 activity on the Internet.

With some platforms touting numbers of active users creeping past the billion mark, there’s no denying the marketing power these social platforms wield. But not all social media platforms are created equal….

What is Social Media Exactly?

By definition, social media is any type of two-way exchange on an online media platform which allows for user uploaded content, interaction and engagement. This differs from the traditional, one-way broadcast style of advertising of yesteryear such as radio, television and print ads.

Social Media Goals – What Do You Want From Your Social Media Campaign?

As with any type of marketing initiative your business undertakes, you’re going to want to establish and set up campaign goals. Since social media can be used to accomplish a multitude of goals for your company, you’ll want to know these in advance and build campaigns around and specific to them.

Here are a handful of goals which can be accomplished by implementing the right social media campaign.

Although sales will likely always be your end goal, there are many ways to get there. Determine right off the bat if you’re just looking to drive sales from the get go and then create your campaigns with that goal in mind.

Although social media can be a great way to accomplish a lot of business goals, you should always be looking for a way to get people off social media platforms and back to your site / blog so that you can market to them from platforms that you control – like your blog and email.

With all the tools available today, it’s easier and easier to spread your message across multiple social platforms allowing you to reach an unprecedented number of people – something that was unheard 15 years ago without spending a fortune on an international ad campaign.

Guaranteed your customers frequent at least one of the social media platforms online, so why not go to where your customers are hanging out and engage with them there? Just by asking, you could elicit a ton of useful information from your social customers.

Social media can be an excellent way for companies to deal with customer service. Twitter especially, being real-time and living in the present, it the perfect social media vehicle for this purpose.

If you’re trying to become an expert in your industry (and you should always be aiming to do so), being seen on all the major social platforms is definitely a step in the right direction. If your company is producing and distributing great content on all the main social platforms, people can’t help but see your company as an industry expert.

Maybe you’ve tried all the other forms of online marketing – organic and paid – and you found that you got the best ROI (return on investment) from your social channels. Whether you’re paying for Facebook or Twitter ads, you may just find that prices are cheaper and the targeting options more comprehensive than other PPC platforms such as Google Adwords.

If you have a website then you don’t need us to tell you the importance of traffic. While traffic is never the end goal, it’s a vital step in the process of converting customers. So while you initially want to be driving traffic to your site from your social media efforts, you’ll still need a plan in place to convert those customers once they arrive on your site. Once on your site, you can then direct people to take the desired action – be it making a purchase, signing up to your newsletter, engaging with your blog, clicking and sharing your content or otherwise interacting with your brand.

In addition to setting up goals for your social media campaigns, you’ll also want to make sure that you choose the right social media platforms to take part in. One way to do this is to determine what “tense” your customers are in. Knowing that different platforms are targeting people at different stages of the purchase decision process will help you in determining which platform will provide the best results.

In the chart below, we’ve outlined whether each platform is targeting people in the past, present or future. To further illustrate this, think what people are writing about on each platform. Are they talking about something that has happened, is happening in their lives or something that they want to have happen.

Now that you know what you want to accomplish with your social media campaigns, it’s time to choose the right platforms for deployment.

We’ve broken down the top tier social media platforms below (click the PLUS sign to get a list of PROS and CONS for each platform):

  • Facebook
  • As the #1 social platform with well over 1 Billion active users, Facebook provides businesses a way to reach an unprecedented amount of people – all in one spot. And since more than 80% of daily active FB users are outside the United States, it also provides the opportunity to test and engage in foreign markets.

    PROS

    + Most popular social media platform with well over 1 billion users on both desktop and mobile.
    + Good business page and user analytics included
    + Great for running contests & promotions and now provides the ability to buy without leaving the platform.

    CONS

    + Requires consistent effort – FB’s algorithm, Edgerank, necessitates interaction in order to gain viewership – take a break from posting and engaging and your viewership will suffer
    + You need to pay to play – you’ll be unable to reach the majority of your page’s fans without a paid advertising campaign

  • Twitter
  • As Twitter is all about the here-and-now, it’s like text message insomuch as people expect more immediate replies and engagement on this platform. Since customers started using Twitter to complain about companies / brands, many brands have turned this to their advantage and are successfully using Twitter as a way to solve customer complaints and issues in real-time.

    + PROS

    • Great platform for managing customer complaints
    • Now allows images / video and has integrated a Buy button
    • Allows you to build a following by curating other people’s content

  • LinkedIn
  • As the largest professional social network, LinkedIn touts more than 300M users worldwide with an average annual user income much higher than users on other social platforms.

    + PROS

    • Thee social media platform for business with over 300M users in 200 countries
    • Average LinkedIn member has an annual salary of 100-150K+
    • Great for building / cultivating business relationships and reaching decision-makers directly

    + CONS

    • Not as big a fan base as FB, Twitter, Youtube etc
    • A lot less interaction on the site compared to other networks
    • Advertising on this platform is more expensive than on other social / PPC platforms

  • Pinterest
  • Pinterest is an online bulletin board where people (mostly women) “pin” images about things that interest them. These images or pins can be grouped into themed boards.

    + PROS

    • Very active, image-based platform
    • Go to platform for DIY, food/drink, and home décor
    • Great for showing how to use your products / services
    • Have integrated Buy button functionality

    + CONS

    • Mostly women-based audience with more than 90% of pins being pinned by women

  • Google+
  • Although not one of the sexiest social media platforms out there, it is starting to become one of the biggest. And having an active presence on Google+ will play a small but favorable role in site rankings.

    + PROS

    • Evidence suggests maintaining an engaged G+ account (slightly) helps your site rank in the SERPs
    • 3rd largest social media platform with over 300M users
    • Easy integration with Youtube

    + CONS

    • Not as exciting an experience or as interactive as other social media platforms
    • UX isn’t great

  • Youtube
  • With more than 1 Billion unique visitors each month, Youtube is the 2nd largest search engine next only to their parent company, Google.

    + PROS

    • 2nd largest search engine on the Net
    • Although engagement definitely plays a part in rankings and views, it’s not as as big a factor to views as in FB
    • Allows for a more set-and-forget approach than other platforms such as FB and Twitter
    • Currently one of the cheaper social advertising options available

    + CONS

    • Hard to stand out from the crowd without great content & proper video SEO
    • Video development can be time consuming & expensive
    • Maintaining regularity on Youtube, although very much recommended, requires a serious investment of time, effort and money