This year is proving to be a pivotal year for social media, and although there are trends that come and go, we're going to discuss ways that social media is changing and some key directives on how to incorporate these changes into your overall content marketing strategy.
2017, in a nutshell, was a year filled with trial and error when it came to social media. As the digital landscape of marketing continues to evolve, organizations were testing and analyzing new strategies, tech stacks, and analytics to integrate social media into their inbound marketing strategy. After carefully listening, following trends, and watching behavior on social platforms, 2018 is the year to go beyond ads and engagement. Add these 6 proven social media changes in order for you to remain relevant and see success in 2018.
Writing this piece made me realize how many opinions and different information sources there are on this subject. After researching more, I decided to cut out all of the noise, fluffy solutions, and magical strategies. Instead, in this article, we’ll literally and figuratively break down what matters in 2018 when going S-O-C-I-A-L.
S - Strategy
O - Optimization
C - Customization
I – Incentives and Offers
A - Automation
L - Listening/Learn/Leverage
Social Media: Not just your Intern's Job Anymore
It’s always surprised me that very few companies are using social media the right way. It’s often an afterthought or given as a side task to the summer intern. This kind of lackadaisical effort very rarely brings in qualified leads, and it won’t in the future.
Some businesses realized people search Twitter and other platforms using hashtags. Posting things like “Check Out My Blog,” or “Learn About Our Service/Product,” and other generic snippets with hashtags isn’t a strategy. From an inbound content marketing perspective, the aforementioned examples aren't a strategy because it is redundant and non-engaging, not targeted on your desired demographic, and lacks a focus on quality. Using trending hashtags like ‘#MotivationalMonday’ can be helpful in your strategy, especially on Instagram and Twitter but keep in mind your audience and which hashtags would resonate with your target audience – making it easier for them to find you.
Let’s quit all the guessing games and get results through reflection and analysis, and finally start looking at social media as a critical component to your marketing strategy. I’ve broken down the elements of ‘S-O-C-I-A-L’ media strategy to help you better understand how social media marketing is evolving and what to pay attention to this year to use social media successfully.
S - Strategy
We need to start thinking of your social media strategy like you would with your content marketing strategy. In order to sync the two up and have a cohesive and successful plan in place, is to focus on the inbound marketing funnel: Attract, Convert, Close, and Delight. Then have a clear understanding of how your social media content can resonate with a target audience at each of these phases. Here are some effective and innovative ways to build our your social media strategy.
- "Furthermore, authentic content is a surefire way to earn your followers' trust: 91% of customers want brands they follow to be authentic in their social media posts, according to a study by Bonfire Marketing. One highly effective way to convey brand authenticity is to post ephemeral content, like Instagram stories and Facebook stories and live videos. Not only does ephemeral content encourage views because of FOMO (fear of missing out), but the raw clips and footage also convey a spur-of-the-moment authenticity that excites and attracts followers." By Olivia Williams, WSI
- Sharing success stories, reviews and testimonials paints your company as credible and reliable.
- Paid Ads are a great way to really hone in on your personas and SEM ads in 2018 are performing extremely well, HubSpot shows that business is increasing their paid ad budget especially on Facebook.
- AAAAA - Audit, Ask, Analyze, Adjust, AND At (@) Mention. If you already have a social media strategy, you need to do an audit of your entire social and content strategy. Look for ways to apply all of the key elements in this article and get results through tone, consistency and listening to what your target audience wants. Ask. Sound simple right? It is, again in a customer-centric world, try offers & incentives, and even have contests to drive engagement and get people to participate in surveys. Also, you can simply ask questions, see what your audience says and adjust accordingly.
Whether you like it or not, social media is not going anywhere. Now that technology and marketers are learning from past success and failures, if you want to play the game, you have to play the game right. You have to have a strategy. The days of ‘organic’ social are gone.
O – Optimization
Just like you would need to optimize a blog, it’s equally important to optimize for social media. Here are some ways that you can be sure you’re fully optimizing your social media posts.
- Be consistent in maintaining your presence – You’re starting a conversation that you want visitors to engage in on a regular basis. To do this, you should post at least once a day and up to three times per day on average.
- Use hashtags – Find hashtags that influencers in your industry use. This opens up a conversation between you and your audience.
- Be sure to include an image with all your posts -content with quality Images are over 50% more likely to be read.
- Utilize multimedia - When and if possible, multimedia creates more engagement because it provides another way for your audience to interact with you. Facebook Live is a perfect example of how, in a twist of irony, no matter how much data or technology we use, we are human beings that enjoy face-to-face interactions and watching in on other's lives.
- Analyze your posts – Use tools like HubSpot that will track your campaign efforts in addition to being able to integrate posts, schedule, add images, and engage with your audience. Here are free templates that you can use as your social media resources.
- Link back to your site - I cannot stress the importance of this! Think of your blog, videos, and other content as the show and social media as your stage. In order to drive traffic and grow your brand, Providing awesome content that isn't a sales pitch but does show your expertise, credibility and will increase traffic and SEO rankings if properly executed.
"Social media keywords generally work best with sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook, but this idea works just as well when it comes to Twitter. If you are ever going to update a status on your account, try and use your keywords as much as possible. Although this may be difficult when linking back to another web page, it’s entirely possible to add it into a status description or use as a hashtag." - Neil Patel
Earlier I mentioned all the noise that can distract users from viewing your posts, in other words, you have a few short seconds to grab the reader's attention and get them to take action. If you want to convert your audience and move them down the funnel, speak succinctly and to your audience. When you have limited characters and time to stand out - write clearly, with purpose and substance, and most importantly for conversion, include a CTA or Call-To-Action.
Credibility is often gained by being a reliable resource and industry expert. Don't be afraid to pull out all the stops for a visually pleasing campaign by offering premium content, showcasing videos, aesthetically pleasing photos, and infographics. These are 'teasers' and make the reader more likely to click on your content.
Instagram stories and Facebook Live are personal ways to maximize your reach. But the best way to use these platforms for conversions is to frequently put out blogs and back link them to pillar pages on their site which will not only increase your SEO ranking and traffic but drive higher conversion rates.
Chat-bots in Messenger Are Not a Trend, They Are The New Normal in Social.
"As Facebook Messenger grew, the number of bots in Messenger also grew — from 33,000 to more than 100,000 in just a year15. There are also chatbots in WeChat, Slack, Viber, iMessage, and many other platforms.
A survey by Oracle found that 80 percent of senior marketing and sales executives around the world are already using chat-bots for their business or plans to use them by 2020. It’s easy to understand why. Chat-bots can be used for a wide variety of purposes such as marketing, payments, customer service, and more. They will allow businesses to automate and scale many manual processes and enjoy massive cost-savings. Juniper Research estimated that chat-bots will help businesses save up to $8 billion every year by 2022." - According to Buffer Social's article on Social Media in 2018.
According to Business Insider, chat-bot adoption is also taking off on the consumer front. "More than half of Americans between the age of 18 and 55 have used chat-bots before. And consumers seem to be enjoying their interactions with chat-bots, too. A survey of 5,000 people by LivePerson found that 38 percent felt positive about their chat-bot experiences while only 11 percent felt negative."
I – Incentives and Offers
2018 is the year to really ramp up your efforts to engage with your audience, which will increase your reach, brand loyalty, and connect visitors and followers on a personal level with your brand. Let’s be honest, everyone likes to be included, valued and get a deal. By offering an incentive to increase your followers, you’re actually extending a channel of communication and trust.
Facebook provides these best practices to follow when creating incentives and offers for your clients:
- Make discounts substantial. Offers with free items or with discounts of at least 20% off will reach more people.
- Use an engaging image. Photos of people using a product often perform better than photos of a product by itself, and both generally perform better than logos.
- Set an expiration date. Give people a few days to discover and claim an offer and allow time for your offer to be shared among friends. The ideal length of an offer is 7 days.
- Promote your offer: After creating an ad for your offer, pin it to the top of your page to help it get noticed.
Take a look at these recent social incentives and offers on social media platforms:
Participate in @OpenStack's survey about your experience at the #OpenStackSummit & be entered to win a free pass to the Berlin Summit and a 4-night hotel stay! https://t.co/VA5H69XeFr #WinATrip #Berlin pic.twitter.com/roJLkGghAa— VEXXHOST, Inc. (@vexxhost) June 14, 2018
If you haven’t already heard, today is the last day to join, renew, or upgrade your Sportsmen’s Alliance membership. Don’t miss out on a chance to win some great gear. #protectyourpassion #huntervationist #iamthealliance @sportsmensall pic.twitter.com/F6X8OXaT1c— ALPS OutdoorZ (@ALPSOutdoorZ) May 17, 2018
Below are my top 2 most successful marketing automation tools for social media. Having automation for your social posts is necessary if you want to maintain an editorial calendar, making your life and your clients much easier.
Not only do they offer everything you need to execute your social strategy, they also just came out with a new social media certification course so you can move forward in 2018 with a game plan. Like many social media publishing tools, you can schedule, draft, include images, add campaign information, and publish posts all in one spot. However, HubSpot is an inbound marketing and sales marketing software that has numerous capabilities to attract, convert, and close leads.
- Databox is an awesome KPI tool that gives you the option for customized dashboards to easily track your metrics. They even offer a trial for a free social media dashboard. As we all know, interactive media and video is king and we cannot get enough of it. Databox's analytics have shown that “Video, alongside podcasting, are the two most trendy topics in 2018.” Their recent blog goes into detail on the three reasons listed below on why video is so successful this year for social media strategy:
- “Facebook’s algorithm promotes video content from Facebook Live”
- “YouTube is exploding in popularity, especially among younger audiences.” “There is now a big enough audience to search optimize your YouTube videos and see returns from ongoing organic views.”
- LinkedIn Videos are proving to be performing well also.
L – Listen, Learn, Leverage … Wait, Did I say listen already?
In a customer-centric world, listening to clients had been emphasized for years. With all of the technology available, and the daily analysis of our messaging, tone, reach and KPI's, listening is an art. If you have developed your targeted personas, and buyers journey, you should hear what your client's needs are. If you don't, it's ok to just ask. Surveys and blunt questions on platforms show you care about your current and prospective clients. They determine how marketers adjust their strategies, so it's imperative to actively listen, address concerns and suggestions, and learn from past campaigns.
Top-tier journalists/media influencers, bloggers, and industry experts all need company mentions, insight, content, and quotes. Connect with like-minded movers and shakers and mention them in your posts. They ARE most likely listening and watching also and the more you leverage relationships, the more visibility you will have.
A recent article from Entrepreneur.com provided the following stats that will enable you to listen in a digital world. “When brand messages are shared by employees on social media, they get 561 percent more reach than the same messages shared by the brand’s social media channels.”
- “Brand messages are re-shared 24 times more frequently when posted by an employee versus the brand’s social media channels.”
- “On average, employees have 10 times more followers than their company's social media accounts.”
- “Content shared by employees receives 8 times more engagement than content shared by brand channels.”
By applying the S-O-C-I-A-L in social media this year and beyond, be sure to incorporate a robust strategy, optimize your posts, use conversion tools, engage with your audience through incentives and offers, remember technology is your friend and automation will help you get ahead and stay on target, and lastly - learn from your audience by listening, and leverage your relationships to interact with influencers and industry experts.