Social media marketing sounds simple enough to many newbie business owners, but they need to recognize the difference between personal social media use and professional use.
Think about it like this: if you make a good pot of coffee to serve your family, then that’s something you can manage on your own. But if you plan on serving 1,000 cups of coffee to peers over the course of a three-day business conference, then that’s an entirely more complex matter!
Everything gets more complicated when you move from personal to professional, and the results matter more, too.
Suddenly, you aren’t just posting on your Facebook when you feel like it. Nor can you just feel good about the occasional reply and like. Instead, you’re actively trying to drive business goals and represent your brand in a likeable way.
The dramatic difference between the two approaches catches many business owners off-guard. To help them out, here are a eight secrets the pros use when it comes to social media marketing — and that many small businesses overlook.
Write Down a Policy and Style Guide
Ask them to tell you what the business’s social media policy is, and you’re just as likely to get dozens of different answers. In fact, most employees may look you back blankly in the face.
A social media policy guides the brand voice as well as the decisions a business makes when posting. So, if you were trying to pick between two image types, the social media policy could help you decide on the one that aligns better with your social goals.
Set policies for employee social media use, too. Make sure they know they represent the company! Let them know what sorts of offenses could get them in hot water, including posting extreme political opinions or offensive takes.
Creating a social media style guide can similarly help make posting easier, especially if more than one employee handles the duties. Align everything in your policy and style guide so that your social media accounts can support both your brand and your marketing goals.
Target Your Content and Conversations Towards Personas
Some small businesses get HUGE social media followings …of people who would rarely buy anything from them.
There is a big gap between mass engagement and targeted engagement.
You want your posts to speak to a highly targeted audience based on the traits of your best customers. For instance, if you pitch your services to existing IT departments, don’t be shy about using jargon. Stay current on any discussion, too, so that your ideas don’t seem dated.
But if you want to offer managed IT services to regular businesses, they may not know a CAT cable from a cat collar. Feel free to post basic how-tos, and try to keep terminology approachable.
Decide upon the segments you want to speak to in order to raise your chances of success. Imagine traits of a single person in this segment, including their typical job role, the things they value most, and broad aspects of their personality. This is your “persona” for an idealized version of a target audience group.
You can even name them! That way, before you decide on a post to share or an image to use, you can ask something like: “Would Sarah the retired optometrist care about this post?”
Strategize, Set Goals, And Ditch Vanity Metrics
Always set goals for your social media usage. It should serve a concrete purpose that ultimately benefits your business.
Common social media marketing goals include:
● Raising website visits
● Generating leads through job quotes
● Helping introduce new products to people
● Getting more participants for events, contests, and things like webinars
● Upselling existing customers
● Reminding prior customers to return again
● Promoting a specific brand value, especially through philanthropy
No matter what your goals are, ensure they actually help your business get more money or improve its brand.
For instance, having a certain number of “likes” or shares from a post promoting your content should not be a goal. These are vanity metrics. Instead, you should monitor the amount of actual visits to the content on your website. Ideally, you will also have targets for the percentage of people converted from social to content to signing up for your related offer.
Carry on Actual Conversations and Engage
Don’t just post into the void or post things you, personally, want to read.
Everything you post should be targeted towards the personas you have created and tied towards business goals.
With this in mind, you want your audiences to feel like your brand is carrying on a conversation rather than just talking at them.
Respond to certain positive comments or interesting ideas. Try to see if you can get the full perspective from people who have something negative to say. Make each response feel personal, not canned.
Give your audience opportunities to take center stage. Post a question for them, like “what are your favorite ways to save money?” Ask them if they would like to see more of certain content types, or less of certain post types.
Also, make your social media use broader than just posting on your own page. Use social listening tools to monitor brand mentions and jump in on messages when you think it’s worthy of a conversation. Find other business pages, and engage with them like you would want others to engage with you.
As Andrew Kucheriavy of web development company Intechnic writes, “make [sure] your interactions are meaningful! Networking is about adding value to a relationship.” https://www.intechnic.com/blog/10-common-social-media-marketing-mistakes-to-avoid/
Make Time for Off-Schedule Posting
Many business owners go ahead and queue up an entire month’s worth of content in advance.
This is great! Having a schedule makes the social experience more consistent and professional for your audience.
But you shouldn’t be shackled to this schedule.
New articles and ideas will pop up on your radar all the time. Maybe something interesting happened in your industry this week. Maybe you just snapped a great photo of your team at the office.
Promote Content Posts to Put Them in Front of Targeted Audiences
Promoting content on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter can be highly affordable. More importantly, it can grow your audience beyond people who already follow and interact with your pages.
Start experimenting with promoting certain posts and using custom audience building features. Platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook even offer the ability to target specific companies or hyper-local areas.
If you put just a small budget behind a few key posts a month, then you can quickly multiply the number of people who see your messages. You also generate valuable data based on who does and doesn’t interact when they see certain posts.
Give yourself the chance to actually share content during opportunities like these rather than hoarding it all until next month. If you set aside, say, an hour each week to make time for unscheduled postings, then you can flesh out your existing content and make your page feel more organic.
Just remember to stick to your policy, goals, and persona guides. Also, proofread twice!
Don’t Assume Social Media Marketing Is Easy to Do Yourself
There’s a reason “social media manager” is a full-time job at most big companies. Even for small businesses, managing it all and doing it right can be tough.
On top of that, you may not have the time to dig into your data or revisit your strategies and guiding documents.
So seek out help. Share the burden with others who are qualified and whose judgement you trust.
As Social Media Week observes: “Long gone are the days when you could rely on an intern to manage your business’s social media accounts. Either hire an in-house expert, or outsource to a social media management firm.”
Crawl Before You Walk, Walk Before You Run
As with anything in business, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Stick to one or two social networks at first. Otherwise your pages could feel like soulless cookie-cutter copies or, worse, ghost towns with nary an update in months.
But if you stay focused on your goals and your principles, then you can start out small to find gradual success. Only once you get the hang of it should you start to scale out and do more.
Email marketing has come back in full force, and brands that know their way around best practices can reap huge returns.
According to a survey of marketers conducted last summer, the average ROI from email campaigns was over 100 percent! This ROI beat out other marketing channels by over four times, including social media, paid search, and direct mail.
One study from 2015 even found that email marketing could generate as much as $38 for every $1 spent, which equals a mind-blowing 3,800% percent ROI.
For anyone trying to squeeze more out of their email marketing or turn around their lackluster campaign success, here are 7 pointers for increasing the effectiveness of your email efforts.
Segment Your List (Or Risk Being Irrelevant)
Talk to people about topics, products and ideas they are interested in.
According to an infographic by Mailigen, using segmented, relevant messaging more than doubles your open rate while driving 18x more revenue for your campaigns.
This approach makes a lot of sense if you have ever been to a party where someone is droning on and on about something you just don’t care to hear about or have any interest in. “Have you seen how expensive jogging strollers are these days?” they ask, not bothering to remember you don’t have kids and haven’t jogged since high school.
While the person talking may feel like they aren’t being terribly rude, to the recipient it can feel a bit more personal. “I don’t care what you are actually interested in” the person communicates. “Everyone is equally interested in what I have to say.”
Not having email segments is the same thing. Ensure your list is segmented by buyer persona so that every message is as relevant as possible.
For people who self-subscribe, you can even give them a chance to customize the content they receive by interest, product category and other choices from a pick-list. Just don’t count on them to do all the work of segmenting for you!
Using an email automation system like Constant Contact or Mailchimp is critical to keeping these segments organized, but you can also potentially do-it-yourself by just separating your mailing lists into separate content buckets.
Once you have segments established, take a moment to strategize the difference between each segment based on consumer traits, progress through sales pipeline and other situations. Then, outline the type of content that would be most relevant to each segment as well as what would be least relevant and should not be sent.
Taking a moment to get to know your audience can dramatically increase your open rates while lowering the amount of frustrated subscribers.
When we hear our names — even if we know it’s someone else with the same name being called — we tend to take notice. Chances are good that your parents were pros at this technique. When they said your name before a sentence, you knew they meant business!
We have the same reaction when we see our names in an email. Personalization with a name and other details increases open rates by 26 percent, and it can even help drive brand affinity.
Note that personalization involves more than just adding a first name to an email. The entire message should be framed as if the recipient is having a 1:1 conversation with the sender. LinkedIn has become a pro at this tactic. They use personalization in a way that makes you sit up and listen.
The above message not only includes a name but signals that an exciting activity has happened. It says people are looking at your profile. Think of ways to mirror this effect so people get excited or intrigued just from looking at a subject line.
Segmenting your user base by the products they have bought (or expressed interest in) is another way to connect more deeply right from the subject line. “New Jeep Anniversary Fog Lights” can be a way for a Jeep Wrangler owner to have immediate interest, for instance.
Data shows that this type of personalization is table stakes for marketers with successful email programs. “88 percent of those that exceeded revenue expectations have personalization measurement systems in place,” says Inc.
Test Subject Lines Rigorously
A lot of marketers mess up promotional emails right from the moment they begin creating the subject line. You should scrutinize your subject line, get in-house feedback from a fresh set of eyes, and A/B test different subject lines before rolling out massive campaigns.
The first step is to make sure you are using some sort of subject line preview tool, like this one. Seeing your subject line visually helps you better-imagine how a recipient would react to it in their inbox.
Take special note of how the email looks on mobile devices since over half of email opens come via mobile. People tend to filter out what emails to read by the subject line alone. 69 percent of email recipients will report a message as spam based solely on the subject line.
Worst words to use worst words:
5. Whitepaper, journal, report
Some of the best words include:
1. [Recipient Name]
3. Thank you
6. Subject 1 | Subject 2 | Subject 3 (e.g. “Bid Bonds | Liability Insurance | Worker’s Comp”)
Note that not every “common marketing knowledge” pointer like this list may work for you and your audience. Always test to be sure!
Promise to Not Waste Their Time by Always Signaling Value
Thinking like a recipient means coming up with ways to offer something they might actually want. For sales and promotional offers, think of the hottest product they might want or the best offer possible. Don’t just tell them there’s a “sale”; tell them what that means.
Humble Bundle, which offers discount video game bundles, leads with its most popular game in the package.
When offering something non-material, like information, explain clearly how the contents of the email benefit the user. It could be something deep/important like “Want More 5 Star Reviews☆☆☆☆☆?” or even the promise that “You’ll Laugh Way Too Hard at These Marketing Puns”.
Many email marketers find great results by telling their audience how they can get more out of the products or services they already use.
The New York Times has gotten this down to an art. Since there is a million different pieces of content on their site other than what you see on the homepage, they take it upon themselves to inform subscribers about how they can learn and do more on NYTimes.com.
Use Powerful Images and Video to Get a Reaction
HTML-based email templates have transformed inboxes from a boring wall of text to a gorgeous place for showcasing compact content or well-designed advertisements.
Images are especially important for mobile since they make messages more colorful and intriguing as well as easier to read. Since 80 percent of email users are expected to access their inbox via mobile at least some of the time by 2018, thinking about their needs is vital.
Using human-centered images like this stock photo can invoke emotion and draw the eye to certain email sections.
Make sure you have text-only alternatives for image blockers, and try not to get too overboard with the images you use. Using images in a sloppy or unappealing way can sometimes hurt rather than help.
Using video embedded within email or as a link can likewise help you improve open rates and click-throughs. According to one source, just using the word “video” in a subject line can boost clickthroughs by 65 percent and opens by 19 percent.
Tell People What to Do with a Single Call to Action
This one is simple: every email should have a call to action (CTA).
Your CTA can be nearly anything, including:
● Go buy this product
● Take advantage of a limited-time offer
● Try our tips
● Go learn/read more at this page
● Attend our event
● Upgrade your current service package
● Book a free consultation
Ensure that your CTA is crystal clear and compelling. Every recipient should know exactly what you want them to do and how to do it.
Providing a landing page after clicks to direct them more linearly to an offer can help simplify the process further. That way, your real CTA is just “Click Here,” and then you can drive more complex conversions from the landing page.
Avoid conflicting CTAs or multiple messages. No matter what you say, your ultimate conclusion leads the audience down ONE possible path. This practice will help your clickthroughs thrive.
Stick to Best Practices to Drive Success in Email Marketing
Mastering email marketing takes a lot of experimentation, practice, trial-and-error and attention to detail, but by following the best practices mentioned above, you can be well on your way towards greater success.
Just to recap your keys to success:
1. Use segmentation to maximize relevance
2. Personalize emails to get attention
3. Test subject lines, mind your length and think like a recipient
4. Promise true value to the recipient through your word choice and messaging
5. Use emotional images in your layout
6. Direct people to act with a single strong CTA
7. Use analytics data to optimize your approach over time
Pay attention to what your data tells you, and keep up with the latest email marketing trends and advice on our blog to learn best practices that make you an email genius over time!