Tag: Social Media Marketing

Email marketing best practices 2019

How to Get Results from Email Marketing in 2019

Email has been around for decades. The first email was sent in 1971. By the late 1990’s, adoption of email had soared.

Twenty years later, we’ve seen many incarnations of email marketing as technology has changed and marketers have had to find new ways to reach their audiences. We frequently hear claims that email is a dying channel, yet this doesn’t play out in research.

Email marketing best practices for 2019 are another evolution in the cycle, although there is a crucial element that remains unchanged; effective email content is about your audience.  Here we’re outlining some key challenges and best practices for email marketing strategy in 2019:

The audience for email campaigns

The rumors of the death of email marketing have so far proven to be just that – rumors. There is still a significant audience for email marketing. In fact, take a look at these stats from OptinMonster – the audience is basically anyone over 15-years-old!

Email marketing best practices 2019

One of the important basic steps to take with any sort of marketing strategy is to clearly define who your target audience is first. Email is still relevant and used by most customer types you can think of, but it won’t be the best channel for all of them. Do your own research into your intended target audience to understand their preferences.

OptinMonster further delves into statistics on email marketing and shows that, while email is now an “old” channel, it’s still more likely to reach its intended recipient than social media. With algorithm changes on social channels, reaching your audience organically can be challenging, whereas you can see in the data below, industry averages for email open rates are much higher.

Email marketing best practices 2019

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Biggest problems with email marketing

Once upon a time, emails were something of a novelty. The movie You’ve Got Mail highlighted how everyone used to notice when they got an email and there was some level of excitement over it.

The basis of most challenges that we have with email marketing now is that we don’t notice our emails anymore. The average office worker now receives 121 emails per day. We are so bombarded with emails, texts, pings, tweets and any other form of communication that it can be overwhelming. The biggest challenge for today’s email marketers is finding a way through all the noise.

Here are some of the most common problems that businesses have with email marketing:

  1. Their email list isn’t growing. Ideally, you want a constant flow of new subscribers to communicate with.
  2. Their email open rates are low. This means that few people who receive the email are actually opening it.
  3. Their overall engagement rates are poor. This might include things like a low click-through rate, or low conversion rate from the click-through.

The good news is that all of these issues are fixable with the right email marketing strategy in place.

Before we move onto some tips for getting results from your email marketing, take a peek at these insights from a Litmus poll on the biggest challenges facing email marketers. The answers given by those surveyed provide some clues as to how those issues we’ve highlighted might come about (although some are very specific to larger companies).

Email Marketing Challenges

How many can you identify that could also be an issue in smaller businesses? We see several: low insight into performance, poor tools, lack of quality data, bad strategy…

Get better results from email marketing campaigns

If you’re going to do email marketing in 2019, then you need to approach your email campaigns strategically. Emailing like it’s 1999 won’t work! Here are a few marketing tips for better results:

Establish email marketing goals

One of the first email marketing best practices is quite simple – every good marketing strategy has established goals. Principally, each individual email marketing campaign should establish who you want to reach and what you want them to do.

The goals you have will dictate the type of campaign you should send and the email content to include. Here are a few typical examples of email marketing goals:

  • To build brand loyalty among subscribers.
  • To nurture a relationship with subscribers so that your business is visible to them.
  • To boost engagement with your business. For example, perhaps you want more people to see your content or to follow you on social media.
  • To re-engage customers who have not been active with your business.
  • To sell something or get sign-ups for something you have on offer.

Importantly, having goals to work toward allows you to measure and understand whether your email marketing campaigns are effective. If you send an email with a goal of getting conversions but find that there are less than you had hoped, you can start to drill down on why that is happening. We know that email marketing can work very well, so what’s holding your campaigns back?

Understand the mechanics of an effective email

What makes for an effective email? To begin with, you need to get the mechanics right. Here are a few important points to understand:

  • Email deliverability – This refers to the email successfully arriving in the recipient’s inbox, rather than their spam folder. There are some steps you can take to improve email deliverability:

    • Maintain a good reputation for emails. Most email services will show you how you’re doing in terms of spam reports and unsubscribes – excessive amounts of these indicate a poor reputation.

    • Stick to a consistent send schedule. This can also contribute to your reputation and if your schedule is erratic, your emails may be rejected by the user’s IP. Additionally, a regular schedule helps to ensure that subscribers remember who you are!

    • Clean up your email list regularly. If you keep getting bounces or subscribers who haven’t opened your emails for a while, purge them.

    • Use branding in your “from” field. For example “Danny from One Week Website.” This has been proven to help reduce spam complaints and increase open rates.

  • Have your emails optimized to be read on mobile devices. Emails are now opened more often on mobile devices than desktop. Furthermore, if your email doesn’t display correctly on mobile, it may be deleted within three seconds. Most email service providers now offer email that automatically works with mobile, but it pays to check yours.

  • You need to be good at crafting an email subject line. If you’re past the deliverability hurdle and your email is now sitting in an inbox, whether it gets opened or not may depend on how much your subject line stands out. This is something to A/B test and work on improving over time.

  • Your email content needs to be valuable for the intended audience. One of the quickest ways to end up with a poor reputation score is to send out emails for the sake of it, or with poorly thought-out content.

  • Your “call to action” must be clear. So you have a goal for the email, have you made that obvious to the reader? If you’re hoping to get them to take another step, it needs to be clear to them what that is.

Personalize your email content

According to a survey by DMA Insights, 53% of consumers say that they receive too many irrelevant emails from companies. This often happens when companies take a “spray and pray” approach to email campaigns. They blast out the same email to everyone at once, no matter what their interests are or how they came to be on the email list.

The bottom line is that a more personalized approach where you segment your list (such as by interest, or by stage of the buyer’s journey), will improve open rates, engagement rates and your overall conversion rate.

Personalizing email content is often pegged as one of the hot email marketing trends for 2019, but realistically, it goes beyond a trend. Ensuring that your emails are relevant to the people receiving them is one of the core best practices of any type of marketing.

Here’s where it gets interesting – while we’ve known about list segmentation for years, today’s technology allows us to go even deeper. We’ve got more automations available based on customer behavior, for example. You can set up “rules” that say “if they do this, then send them that email.”

The use of “big data” to gather insights that further help to personalize content is also growing. However, along with that has come a surfeit of data. There is so much available that your average marketer often can’t possibly analyze it all on their own. Artificial intelligence is increasingly being used to sort, analyze and report on data.

What does this mean for email marketing? AI can allow you to go beyond segmentation to get even more personal with your emails. Several modern marketing platforms are enabling this use of AI so that businesses can automate a more personalized approach (because who has time to craft each email personally?)

As Smart Insights puts it:

“People have come to expect retailers to deliver content that recognizes their unique tastes and interests. For marketers, that means segmentation just won’t cut through the clutter: to drive engagement, email content must appeal to the individual on a personal level.”

Grow your email list the right way

When it comes to new subscribers, think quality over quantity. This means building your email list the right way with the right people on it, such as via a landing page with an opt-in, not by buying email lists or importing from dubious sources.

In fact, new data protection laws are often prohibitive of sneaky old ways of building an email list. The EU GDPR is big on “permission based marketing,” meaning that you should have obtained consent from people in order to email them. For businesses in countries outside of the EU, this is important to know – the laws apply to you if you are considered to be storing or processing the data of any EU citizens.

Outside of data protection laws, it just makes good sense to have appropriate permissions to email people. You’re not doing your reputation any favors if you blast out emails to any address you can get your hands on. Besides that, there is definitely a trend pointing to the tightening of data protection laws – we don’t know whether the US or others may follow the EU example.

With GDPR compliance in mind (because let’s face it, you don’t know who might fill out an opt-in form on your website), you need to explicitly get permission to continue to send emails to people. You can’t assume that just because they’ve filled out a form requesting your lead magnet that they can now be subscribed to your newsletter. You need to get their permission without pre-checking any boxes for them, like the example from SuperOffice shown below:

Email marketing best practices 2019

Using some type of “lead magnet” – a giveaway that entices people to sign up with you is still a great strategy for growing your list. The trick is to choose something that is most likely to encourage the right people to sign up, usually something that will be of specific value to your target market.

If you were to say, offer a drawing for a new iPad in return for signing up, then you’d probably get a lot of people who just want an iPad but otherwise aren’t a great fit for your business. When you offer something that answers a specific pain point or really will only be of interest to someone who is a genuine fit, you get a better quality list.

Know your email marketing types

Your email content should vary with the goals of your marketing campaign and the specific stages or needs of the email recipient. OptinMonster describes email types as either promotional emails, relational emails or transactional emails. Each has their own purpose to fulfill:

  • Promotional emails – These talk about new products, sales or offers. For example, you might send an email with a coupon code for a special deal or advertising your Black Friday specials.

  • Relational emails – These deliver what you have promised to the subscriber. For example, your weekly newsletter, an email course, or information that is of value to the subscriber.

  • Transactional emails – These include all those emails that relate to an action that the subscriber took with you. For example, a welcome email for subscribing (always send these!), confirmation emails for purchases, and sign-up or changes to subscriber detail confirmation messages.

An effective email is one that the recipient expects to get and that delivers value to them. Even the welcome email can be used to say more than just “hi.” Think about anything useful you might be able to include to get the subscriber started. Other transactional emails can also offer a bit more value, for example, what if your purchase confirmation included a video about how to use the product?

Promotional emails tend to be more effective if they’re not sent out constantly (unless your business is something like Groupon where people expect to be sent emails on different deals). Otherwise, you don’t want your email list to become immune to receiving offers from you.

As for your relational emails, keep one core principle at their heart – sharing something valuable. If you don’t have a lot to say in your weekly newsletter this week, think about one relevant snippet that your audience may find useful. Engagement rates remain strong when you avoid emailing just for the sake of sending something.

Of note from recent trends in email marketing is the emergence of interactive emails. These emails allow people to take action from within the email, rather than be taken to another site when they click on a call to action. For example, a customer who bought a product may be able to give it a rating from within the email.

Use good email marketing tools

Email marketing strategy is always better if you use good-quality tools to help with the task. The best service providers include professional email design, the ability to create email automation sequences, and a useful analytics function so that you can monitor your campaigns.

If you go looking for an email service, you will find a large number of options available to you. These vary from free (with restrictions on subscriber and email numbers), to hundreds of dollars per month. The difference is generally in the features available. The higher-cost providers tend to offer more ability to segment lists and to automate functions. These are often great for companies with a large list, but a small business with a smaller list may be able to achieve their goals by starting out with a free account from someone like Mailchimp.

One hint for improving your odds of a better response is to use tools that help you to avoid making mistakes. From the client perspective, it’s just not a great look to receive error-laden emails, emails that don’t open properly, or emails with simple mistakes (like calling them “Jenny” instead of “Danny!”). Email tools such as GetResponse allow you to test out your email in different, popular email clients before hitting send. This way you can avoid some of the more elementary mistakes that can wreck your marketing efforts.

When you test out your email, pay attention to how it reads. Is it easily skimmable? Does the formatting change at all for particular email clients? Think about the things that make your email “easy” for the reader.

Here are a few tips for what to consider when choosing an email provider:

  • Does the email software integrate with any other software that you use and need information from? (For example, sales software)
  • Does it offer attractive, mobile-optimized templates?
  • How does the software handle responses? For example, if you have a large list and get a lot of responses, you might want the software to organize responses into support tickets.

Measure your marketing strategy

A major component for getting results from your email marketing strategy is to measure and test your campaigns. You’ve got to have the right metrics defined (dependent on your goals) so that you’re taking action on things that make sense.

For example, it’s unlikely to be worth adjusting your landing page or wherever you’re sending people in the hopes of a conversion if you have poor click-through rates in the first place. If people aren’t clicking where you’d like them to, look more closely at testing things like:

  • The layout of your email – is it confusing or difficult?
  • Your call to action – is it compelling and clear?
  • The content of your email. For example, is there so much going on that people miss the call to action? Are they being torn between multiple calls to action? Is the content really delivering value?

You can also A/B test things like:

  • Different subject lines and their impact on open rates
  • Plain text versus images
  • Short versus long content
  • Placement of any calls to action
  • Landing page text and its impact on conversion rates.

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Final thoughts

Email marketing in 2019 is still a strong, relevant channel to engage with your customers. Of course, the caveat is that you can’t be using old “tactics” with your email campaigns. Today’s audience is more seasoned and savvy – they expect companies to deliver them value in emails, not another addition to their spam folder!

As with websites, software and any other touchpoint with a customer, think about the user experience for your email recipients. The most effective emails tend to be hyper-targeted to them and easy to interact with.

Remember to consider data protection issues and building your email list the right way. The trend for tougher laws on this isn’t going away – in fact there is a lot of consumer demand for it. With some simple planning and tools in place, you can build a quality email list of engaged subscribers.

Social media marketing

The Small Business Guide to Successful Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing has become a necessity for small businesses.

You may already have a website and a local customer base, but social media helps to further boost brand awareness. In fact, 44% of local businesses rely on social media for brand awareness, while more than one in three internet users say they go to social media to find more information about a brand or product.

Many small business owners hesitate over social media because it’s one more thing to manage in their vast to-do list. However, investing some time and effort into social media can pay off, especially if it helps to draw more customers to your business.

The key is to do social media strategically. As a small business, you don’t have the resources of the big brands and their massive social media operations, but you can take a targeted approach to reach “your” people.

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How to choose the right social media platforms

Start by clearly defining your goals for social media, your target audience and identifying the best platforms to choose that will meet those criteria. You might choose to be on multiple platforms, but as a general rule, don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you find yourself trying to juggle too many social media channels, you can end up doing none of them effectively.

How do you choose the right social media platforms? There are two main factors we would take into account:

  1. Know the purpose of each social media platform
  2. Know which platforms your target audience is most likely to use.

You need to understand the underlying purpose of each social media platform to know how you could use it to meet your business goals. Just because a platform is popular, doesn’t mean it will be a good fit. The graphic below from CNBC gives a short and sweet summary of each platform (although it is a little dated – Google+ was recently taken down).

Social media marketing

You may already have an idea of the types of content you’d like to post to social media, so this can be a consideration for platform choice too. For example, if your content is big on visuals, you’ll want platforms that show visual content well. Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook are all channels where users look for hot visual content.

Another factor is the resources and skills that you have at your disposal. For example, if you aren’t great at video and don’t have the means to have quality videos made, then YouTube probably isn’t the best choice for you.

As far as knowing which platforms will be the best fit for your target audience, there is data widely available to show you who is using each platform. You may not be able to get an exact profile match, but you’ll be able to find key demographics.

For example, take a look at research into social media platform usage and demographics from Pew Research or Smart Insights. You will also find information on social media penetration across different countries and benchmarks for engagement.

Social media marketing

You can see that YouTube and Facebook are the most widely used online platforms among U.S. adults, but here is where it’s important to have your own audience defined. Among millenials and Gen Z, Snapchat and Instagram are more popular.

What to post and when

A universal rule across social media platforms is that businesses shouldn’t be “salesy” all the time. In fact, some of the most effective content for driving business goals doesn’t appear to “sell” at all. For example, content that is designed to provide useful information or to be entertaining. The bottom line? Based on your target audience profile, post the things that are interesting and valuable to them, NOT posts that are primarily based on your business interests. (Although of course you should occasionally post about new products or sales you are having).

Getting to a more granular level, it’s about understanding what is most appropriate for the platform you are using. Facebook is multi-purpose in terms of types of content you can post. You might choose pictures, text-only, text and pictures or videos. The aim is to build up a fan base on your business page and get people liking, sharing and commenting.

Twitter is much more fast-paced with home feeds updating a constant flow of tweets. It’s about sharing quick pieces of information or imagery enticing enough for people to notice and click on in the moment. The audience tends to skew older than platforms like Snapchat.

Below, we’ve put together a table of suggested content types for different social media platforms, along with a recommendation for how often to post on each. This recommendation is taken from research published by CoSchedule, but as always, it’s important to test for your own business to figure out what suits your audience. Mix up your content and frequency until you have found your own rhythm.

Social Platform:Content Type/s:How Often to Post:
FacebookCurated content, videos, photosAt least once per day
TwitterNews, GIFs, snippets from and links to blog posts15 tweets per day
InstagramHigh-quality photos, quotes, stories1 – 2 posts per day
PinterestPhoto guides, infographics, “how to’s”11 pins per day
LinkedInProfessional content, blog posts, company news, jobs1 post per day
SnapchatEngaging stories (video or photo)At least daily (stories last for 24 hours)

There aren’t any hard and fast rules for social media, as long as you use the platform as it is intended. One tip if you’re stuck for ideas on content is to look around at what top business accounts on the platform in question are doing. There are always studies being done into which posts are the most effective that you can do a search for.

Alternatively, try setting up alerts for keywords or topics related to what you do. This will keep you abreast with what is being posted and you will be able to see which content gets good engagement.

How to get engagement on social media

The whole idea of social media is to be “social.” If you can get good engagement on your social media channels, it tends to beget further engagement. Good engagement means that your posts get shown more often to more people and you have the potential to reach new customers.

To begin with, you need to make sure you are delivering content that is worth following. The old post-for-posting’s-sake approach won’t do for the overall profile of your business. Make sure all posts are well-thought out and conducive with the messaging that you want to send as a brand – you’ll confuse people otherwise.

Think about the types of content that get people responding. A simple one is to ask a question. “What was your first car?” is a post that is much more likely to get a response for a car dealer than simply a picture of a car.

Another strategy is to tell interesting stories. Look at Humans of New York on Instagram as an example. They tell the stories of real people and the audience always responds. Why? Because we are wired to pay attention to stories. We’ve used storytelling for thousands of years to form connections with one another.

There’s an obvious strategy that many businesses often mess up – actually being social. This means starting conversations, joining in conversations and responding when people take the time to comment or send a message. If you don’t reply to questions on your posts, for example, people notice and soon lose interest. They figure that you’re not really active on the social media channel anyway.

Furthermore, there is data to show that social media has become a vital platform for customer service. 80% of customers engage via social media while 54% prefer social messaging channels for customer care. If you’re not responding quickly, it just may cost you the customer.

How to effectively use paid social media marketing

Most social media platforms now have their own paid marketing options. This means you can run advertisements that appear “native” to the channel, such as sponsored posts on Instagram.

Effective use of paid social media marketing means having a good understanding of the platform you are using first. You need to understand your audience and know the types of posts that they engage with. You need to have clear calls to action that help drive people toward the end-goal that you have.

Paid social media can have some great advantages over other types of paid advertising. It can be very cost-effective, particularly because the social platforms offer you ways to narrow down your target audience. This means that your ads only get shown to users who meet your criteria, rather than shown to just anyone.

Our best tips for getting the most of your paid social media are:

  1. Go in with a very clear audience definition
  2. Have well-defined goals for your advertising
  3. Take the time to craft engaging ad content
  4. Test, iterate and re-test.

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Final thoughts

Your small business needs a presence on social media if you want to boost awareness of your brand. Increasingly, consumers are turning to social media as they search for products and services, and they’ll often buy from businesses they trust from following on social media.

One of the major challenges for small business owners tends to be the time and resources to do social media well. We suggest that if you are limited on those things, you choose the one or two platforms that are most likely to put you in front of your target audience.

From there, it’s about learning the particulars of your chosen channel. Understand the intent and the desires of the audience using it. Post regularly and do what you can to encourage engagement. Supplement with paid social media campaigns.

It may seem like a lot of work, but social media has become essential for businesses. Don’t let yours be left behind!

Social media marketing Social media marketing

How to Create a Social Media Marketing Plan for Your Small Business

Does your small business have a social media marketing plan?

Over the last decade or so, social media has become a key part of marketing strategy for most businesses of all sizes. Those who tend to do well from their marketing efforts are the businesses that have strategized and planned their approach.

Your social media marketing strategy should paint a clear picture of what you want to achieve with your social channels and how you’re going to do it. It’s easier to execute well when you have a plan, right?

Let’s take a closer look at what the core elements of your social media marketing plan might look like:

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#1. Know your current social network status

Before you put pen to paper on a social media marketing plan, you’ve got to know where you’re starting from. If your business is already on social media platforms, do a self-audit to understand how they are doing.

You can look at:

  • The social platforms you are on. Are you posting regularly and are you getting engagement?
  • The audience you are attracting (if any). Are they a good representation of your target audience?
  • Your business presentation on social media sites. Are you communicating what you’d like to be, in the way you’d like to say it?
  • Which social networks (if any) are bringing you the most value?
  • How does what you are doing compare to any competitors?

Gather and hold this information to help you make decisions during the planning process. Importantly, you should also run a check for any “imposter” accounts – those operating under your business name that pretend to be you. If there are any, these can be reported to the relevant social platform.

Social media marketing

#2. Set goals for social media marketing

What exactly does your business want to achieve from social media marketing? Everyone wants some sort of return on investment, what do you consider that to be?

Now that you know your current position, you’re at the first step for beginning a social media strategy. Goals will help you to know what to measure and how to measure it. We like to use the SMART method, indicating that all goals should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound.

An important part of setting these goals is that they will help you to define the most meaningful metrics for tracking them. There can be a lot of “noise” in social media and it’s easy to get caught up in it, losing track of your real business goals.

Take Facebook “likes” for example. What do they really mean? It’s easy for anyone to quickly click “like” as they scroll by, but this doesn’t tell you that they’re actually engaging with your brand or even that they’re part of your target audience. “Likes” and metrics such as retweets tend to be “vanity metrics” – they feel good to get, but they don’t provide you with anything of substance.

It’s important to stay focused on the things that are meaningful and contribute to your core social media goals. You may even have different goals for different channels – that’s fine, as long as you articulate and measure them.

Some common goals for social media presence include:

  • Driving brand awareness
  • Positioning your business or its people as thought leaders
  • Using social channels to drive traffic to a website
  • Engaging your specific target market
  • Improving customer retention
  • Driving leads and sales.

#3. Know your target audience

“Customers are your best teachers. Learning about your customer’s beliefs, values, and priorities teaches you which selling points you should emphasize.” Mark Goulston

Defining and understanding your target market helps you to hone your social media strategy. Why is this important? Well, there are millions of people on social media and probably just a fraction of them represent your ideal customer. You can waste a lot of time on social platforms, or with curating content that doesn’t attract the right people.

Sometimes people worry about being “too narrow” with their approach. They think that they’ll lose business by ignoring particular audiences. This isn’t usually the case though. For example, if you sell binders for snowboards, why would anyone who is not interested in snowboarding buy them? It’s the sort of product that people who know snowboarding buy for themselves.

From a social media marketing perspective, it’s important to know your customers well so that when you share content, it is selected to be of interest to them. One key part of doing social media well is that you don’t just try to “sell” all the time. You need to be putting up regular content to drive engagement. Without both regularity and engagement, social media platform algorithms start to throttle your organic reach – they assume the audience isn’t interested.

What do you need to know about your audience? Here are a few key items:

  • Their demographic information
  • Any geographic information if relevant
  • What their main interests are (including pages they might be following)
  • What their main problems are.

If you run Facebook ads or any other kind of social media advertising later, this information helps you to segment your audience for those ads. This is a much more efficient use of your marketing spend.

#4. Research competitor social media sites

Do your competitors already have a social media presence? This is a good opportunity for you to learn, not so you can copy them, but so you understand what might work for you. After all, you will have similar user bases, right?

Here are a few tips for researching your competitors:

  • Find which social networks they are on. Look at the numbers on their pages – this can be an indication that the social platform is a good match for the target audience. (Not all platforms will be – you are much more likely to find a 22-year-old on Snapchat than Facebook, for example).
  • How quickly is their following growing?
  • What sort of content are they posting?
  • What is their social media engagement like?
  • How often do they post?
  • What are their strengths and weaknesses?

To help you out with your analysis, there are some tools you can use for further insights. For example, BuzzSumo will show you the number of social shares they receive, while Brandwatch provides some deeper insights.

#5. Choose your social media channels

Based on your goals and your target audience, decide which social media channels will be the best for your business. As a small business, you tend to have some fairly hard limits on time and resources. This means it’s important to choose your social platforms wisely.

Sometimes people try to do all of them at once, but find that they are overcommitting themselves. What ends up happening is that they’re spread too thinly to conduct any one social platform well. It’s better to pick one or two that you can commit to. The best choice is simply to choose where your target audience can be found.

How will you know? The research you’ve already conducted should have revealed demographic information – this is easily checked against statistics from data companies for social media platform usage. Try Smart Insights or Pew Research, both of whom conduct annual studies.

Importantly when you make your choice, you should also consider the types of social media content you are willing to produce or curate. Different platforms work best for different types of media. For example, there’s no sense in committing to Instagram if you won’t be able to regularly post high-quality images.

Social media marketing

#6. Document your social media strategy

We’re fans of documenting your social media strategy, along with any other business processes. This helps greatly to create a cohesive and consistent marketing plan, no matter who comes and goes in your business. It’s important to keep everyone on the same wavelength.

Your social media plan should be the governing document for “how we do things around here.” You don’t want someone going rogue and posting things to your social accounts that aren’t a good fit for the business.

You can include any or all of the items we discuss in this post, and you should definitely include:

  • The tone or voice to be used in your posts.
  • A description of your audience and what interests them.
  • Post types that are acceptable, or unacceptable.
  • Any policies that you have for engagement. For example, when someone private messages or mentions your Twitter account, how quickly should a response be made? What are the rules of engagement? Are there some things that must be escalated? Are there some types of messages that will get the sender blocked? (As public platforms, ANYONE might be commenting or messaging you!)
  • The goals for social media marketing and the metrics used to analyze them.

#7. Optimize your social media presence

Whether you’re starting from scratch or revamping your current social media presence, it’s always a good idea to optimize your social media accounts. This means setting them up to give the best possible impression, deliver what your audience will need, and get you noticed.

Sometimes this looks different for each individual social media channel. For example, many businesses use Twitter or Facebook for customer service queries or issues, whereas they might be using Instagram stories or Pinterest for sharing company culture or product information. If you have a preference, let followers know how to contact you for help or any other reason. Optimize your social profiles based on your goals for the platform.

At a basic level, optimizing social media platforms means:

  • Ensuring all information fields are filled out. Have you noticed the number of businesses that haven’t included a website link in their social profiles?!
  • Using high-quality images that are sized correctly for the platform. Make sure you have a good profile picture and any other common pictures, such as cover images.
  • Conduct keyword research to find what terms people will use when searching for businesses like yours. Use keywords in your available fields, such as “about.”
  • Using any calls to action you have available. For example, a Facebook Page allows you to have a button CTA – what will you ask people to do?

#8. Share content that engages your audience

In the end, the success of your social media marketing plan is all about your content. If it doesn’t grab your target audience, you won’t get very far. To do this, you need a good understanding of your audience and their intent when they’re using your chosen social media channel.

One of the first things to do is to develop a content calendar for your social media channels. There are tools that can help. For example, use Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule out posts into the future. Just remember that you need to be checking in and responding regularly. You can’t automate engagement!

While there have been questions as to whether using a third-party app for social media posting impacts reach, there have been multiple studies (including this one) to suggest this is not the case. Again we’d emphasize that the point of social media is to be social. You can’t set and forget it if you want to generate audience engagement.

You can look for inspiration from what other successful businesses are doing. For example, check out the Shorty Awards, or look for posts about “the most successful social media campaigns.”

If you’re relatively new to social media, or if your business hasn’t been particularly active, what you post may be a case of trial and error. You can use your best guess based on the data you have collected as to what might engage your target audience, but otherwise, test out different types of posts.

#9. Drive traffic to your social accounts

These days organic reach can be a bit of a lottery. We’ve entered an age when social media platforms are maturing and “pay to play” is here to stay for businesses. It’s still important to post regularly on your social media channels, but if you’d like to drive traffic consistently, you will probably need a bit of help.

A key part of your social media marketing plan should include any paid strategy that you have. Most social channels now have their own paid marketing tool, giving you the chance to reach a wider audience and gather important insights along the way.

Facebook advertising allows you some complex segmentation tools as well as deep analytics for your ads. You can view results during your ad campaigns and make adjustments as necessary.

Besides forms of paid social media marketing, share your social accounts everywhere! You can include “follow us” links for each channel on your website, put links in email newsletter footers or signatures, include them on your business cards, and even share across your personal accounts.

Lastly, we really meant it when we said your content can drive your social media success. If you’re regularly sharing strong content, you start to get people engaging and sharing. This draws more people to your pages, to continue a cycle of drawing traffic.

Social media marketing

#10. Invest in social media tools

As a small business, you have a huge list of responsibilities that fall on you. It’s nice to have social media tools to take care of some of them, right?

The best social media tools help you to stay on top of important data so that you don’t miss anything. They help you to automate key tasks and free up your time to create more of that great content.

It can be a little overwhelming when you start to look for marketing tools. There are now many options and mixes of features. We’d suggest that you start by looking at the little tasks that you need managed and take it from there. Some tools will automate tasks completely, while others will make them a lot easier. Some are purely for social media, while others are for content marketing of all types. For example, there are tools for:

  • Checking on marketing trends and influencers
  • Finding popular content
  • Tracking in-depth analytics (more than social platforms offer as a standard part of their features)
  • Social listening – tracking trends and mentions of names or topics
  • Scheduling your posts
  • Creating or editing images
  • Creating animated videos
  • Setting up “rules” for tasks

The aim is to have your social media marketing plan running as smoothly as possible. You’re human and you get busy – it’s nice to know that doesn’t have to mean dropping the ball with your social media channels.

#11. Stay on top of social network engagement

A big part of improving your organic reach is being consistent and timely with how you engage on social media. We’ve probably all seen those social media accounts where someone asks a question or says something in the comments that really requires a response, only to receive crickets.

What is acceptable in terms of response? Consider these statistics:

  • 45% of consumers turn to social media first for questions or issues
  • 21% would rather message on social media than contact the company over the phone
  • 21% of consumers are more likely to buy from brands they can reach on social media
  • The average user waits just four hours for a brand to respond on social media
  • The average brand takes 10 hours to respond.

Timeliness on social networking sites is critical. Let’s just say you have a potential customer who doesn’t know you very well yet. They message you via one of your social media channels and wait for a response. And wait. Eventually, when they haven’t heard back within a few hours, they check out a competitor and send them a message. The competitor responds within a couple of hours… You get the idea – having a service level agreement (SLA) for responding is important. Even if you can’t respond within a couple of hours, letting people know what to expect helps.

Facebook provides impetus for brands to respond quickly to messages by having a badge which indicates how responsive you are to messages. In order to get the “very responsive to messages” badge, you need to have achieved both of:

  • A response rate of at least 90%
  • A response time of less than 15 minutes.

If you have the “very responsive” badge, all visitors to your page will see it. If you don’t, only page administrators will see your responsiveness statistics.

Besides the messages you receive that require a quick response, it helps to stay active in the comments of any posts too. If someone has something to say, respond and keep the conversation going. When people see that you respond, they’re more likely to engage.

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#12. Test your social media strategy

For most small businesses, your first run at a social media marketing plan won’t be perfect. You’ll learn things along the way that help you to guide your marketing strategy and make changes where necessary.

Tracking your results with your metrics tools (such as Google Analytics) is critical so that you understand objectively how you are performing against your social media goals. It’s also worth noting, sometimes you need to be prepared to wait for results. Established pages with larger user bases see results from posts or campaigns more quickly. It can take a bit of time to build up a regular following – commit to consistency.

Another strategy for gathering useful data is to split test (or A/B test) your campaigns. This involves testing small elements to see what works better. For example swapping out images or text. The Facebook Ad Manager allows you to do this.

Once you have gathered some solid data, analyze it and look for where you can improve. Re-evaluate, re-test and update your social media strategy regularly. Over time, your social media channels can form a key driver of traffic and a valuable asset to your business.