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Social Media

Social Media

The corporate use of social media is key to modern marketing. Not only is it one of the most powerful tools to drive online traffic to your website, it also helps you establish brand authority while enriching your customers' online experience. Social media provides a wide potential reach as well as the chance to communicate with prospects and customers in organic, personalized ways. It enables you to share your brand's story with your stakeholders, helping them build more personal relationships with your brand, product or service. 

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Social Media Marketing

The social landscape is evolving fast and marketing along with it. This is because today’s consumers are actively participating in an increasingly digitized world – buying and selling, socializing, seeking out information, and entertaining themselves online. Buyers are increasingly comfortable with the idea of buying via social networks, with current data showing that three-quarters of social users now follow brands whose products they’re interested in. Live video has developed into an exciting way to interact with users in real-time through Facebook Live, Instagram Live, and Twitter’s “Go Live” feature. This mercurial rise of social media technologies in particular has led industry observers and evangelists to conclude that social media has matured a great deal, and has now evolved into a pure prospecting platform.

This being the case, companies and enterprises alike need to think about going beyond the ‘social'. They need to appreciate social media as a ‘digital' approach to their marketing strategies and as a result, they must coordinate highly fragmented audiences across hundreds of channels using a variety of digital technologies and media to influence consumers.  

But why social media?

Many companies ask why they should consider social media as a sales and marketing channel. Well, if you knew that your prospective customers spent time in a particular place, wouldn’t it make sense to set up a storefront there – or at least post an advertisement? Facebook crossed 2 billion monthly active users, as of quarter two of 2017. The world population has grown to over 7.5 billion by now, and one out of every four humans on this planet has a Facebook account. Other stats indicate that Instagram has 800 million active users, LinkedIn has 467 million, Twitter has 330 million and Snapchat has 173 million. The point here is that social media is the fastest growing marketing trend; it has grown even faster than the Internet itself. Such a seismic shift has not been seen since the TV overtook radio more than 6 decades ago. This growing population of consumers on social platforms alone is enough reason why marketers need a social media strategy in their marketing processes. However, there are also other benefits to making social media an essential part of your marketing strategy:

1. Let’s face it: social media is where conversations about your products and services are happening with or without you. It is not about whether your customers  are talking about you, it is more about you paying attention and participating in the discussion. This is why social media, which you might think of as a potential threat to your brand, may actually be the stepping stone to building loyalty and advocacy among your employees and customers.

2. Social media networks make you and your brand appear more human and approachable. As the business landscape changes, companies have to adapt to the changing expectations of their customers. One of the trends that social media has caused is the expectation that companies appear and act more human. Reviews, comments and word of mouth have forced brands to be more active on social platforms. As a matter of fact, did you know that more than 33% of European online consumers make purchasing decisions based on peer reviews; and not on the messages you send them? Social media channels provide avenues for your customers to connect with each other to facilitate evaluation. Thus, participating actively in those conversations can help put you back in the loop. This will give you some influence on purchasing decisions, and create customer loyalty.

3. Social media takes lead generation to a whole new level  A professional platform like LinkedIn can reinvent the way brands prospect. By joining relevant groups and commenting on posts, companies can engage with leads in a non-intrusive way. When you do connect, it’s a whole new experience from both sides of the conversation. Maybe you’ve already connected with a particular prospect and engaged them in a conversation by commenting on a post of theirs. Those engagements will make a significant difference in whether or not they answer your call or open your next email.

4. Social media networks today essentially serve as the world’s largest focus group. Businesses can have highly personalized one-on-one interactions with their customers with better interaction rates than traditional marketing options. If what you’re selling is not meeting customer needs or expectations, there is no better way to become immediately aware of its shortcomings than to maintain a close watch on customer reviews and comments. It also enhances customer input into the product development cycle.

5. Social media is one of the most effective ways to reach your customers and move them up the value chain from the awareness level to passionate advocates of the brand. This is especially true when you consider a study by Chadwick, Martin & Bailey which highlights the fact that 67% of social media users are more likely to buy from a brand they follow on Twitter, and 79% are more likely to recommend a brand they follow on Twitter.

Breaking down Social Media Marketing

It is certainly fair to ask, at this point, what exactly is this Social Media Marketing we are going on and on about? A rough definition would be that social media marketing is a marketing strategy that leverages the various social media channels to raise visibility on the social sites and the internet for the purposes of promoting a company's products and services. In other words:

"Social media's primary benefit to your communication strategy is its ability to build relationships and communities between individuals who share interests and who would not be brought together otherwise except for those interests. If you play the role of bringing people together around a product, vice or interest – you increase your credibility, build your brand and may, in time, increase your profitability by creating a loyal following". Small Business Trends. "Why Social Media should be a Key Ingredient in Your Marketing Mix" by Ivana Taylor.

Social media marketing is part of a modern trend known as web 2.0 that primarily refers to the change in the way which software developers and users use the web. The modern use of the web is more collaborative, interactive, and user-driven. This enhances creativity and knowledge exchange, and enables participation through open applications and services. The user is enabled to create, share, repurpose and remix content, copyright permitting. Social media makes use of blogs, social networking sites, Really Simple Syndication (RSS), online videos, social bookmarking, wikis, photo sharing, message boards, news sharing, and podcasts (among others) to reach a large targeted audience. Although this intermingling of digital sub-strategies may seem overwhelming, the biggest takeaway from ‘social selling,'  ‘conversational marketing' and the whole web 2.0 is simple: social media keeps on evolving as a way for prospecting.

Let’s now look at the advantages of social media marketing.

Advantages of social media marketing

Here’s is a look at some of the advantages of social media marketing and why your business should not miss out on this.

1. It increases your reach. Business can reach a wider and larger targeted audience spontaneously without having to pay large amounts of fees in print or television advertising. The reach that you get on social media from posting quality organic content alone is hard to replicate anywhere else. Add in some spend for advertising to push your campaign, and you have a highly targeted ad running for low cost, compared to most other marketing channels.

2. It increases traffic as well as leads. By sharing content on social media regularly and linking it back to your website, you will help to drive constant traffic there. Think of social posts as billboards that serve to capture the attention of your potential customers online. Using them, you will be able to educate your audience with valuable, relevant and interesting content about you, your product, or your industry, while at the same time converting them into solid leads for your sales department. However, you should make sure to vary the type of content you share between your own blog posts, content offers, images, and content from other sources. Video is taking over, so be sure to create and share your own videos often. In addition, don’t forget to keep promotional posts to a minimum. A good rule of thumb is 80/20 that is, out of every 10 posts you share, only two of them should be self-promotional. The other eight should be content from other sources that your audiences are likely to find useful and relevant.

The content you share, coupled with a proper SEO strategy, makes your inbound social media marketing to be another path leading back to your website. This can improve your search engine rankings in addition to keywords. Boosting engagement on social media by sharing the right kinds of content and posting consistently will help demonstrate your value. If prospects are sharing and interacting with your content on social media, search engines will recognize that the content is high quality.

3. Increase brand awareness. Social media is a perfect channel for increasing awareness and exposure for your brand. It provides another avenue for consumers to find your company as well. Especially for B2B companies demonstrating your authority and leadership in your industry is important as people will want to work with you. An active social media presence will help you to seem more trustworthy to potential customers. Share content that is relevant and interesting to your audience, and that also demonstrates your expertise in the industry. Don’t forget to add links to your social media profiles on your website and blog so that it is easy for prospects to follow you.

4. Increase and optimize lead generation. Social media marketing strategies complement other marketing strategies for businesses, like paid advertising campaigns. Research shows that 66% of marketers see lead generation benefits with social media by spending just six hours per week. Social media is a great investment; companies can use social media posts to educate their audience and help move them along the buyer’s journey.

5. Gain insights and data for your research. Social media sites present great opportunities for harnessing critical user information, like their user profile data (both demographic and preference based), which would come in handy in market segmentation (especially when done in accordance with GDPR) for the purposes of targeting a specific set of users for advertising. Using social network ad planners, such as Facebook’s Ads manager or Google Display planner, can give you rich information about the size of your market, and things that consumers like.

Additionally, social media can also be an effective channel for identifying decision makers and opportunities, which is important when it comes to closing sales.

How to create a Social Media Strategy and Implement it

Before you start posting on various platforms, it is important to have a strategy; this ensures that you launch and implement without burning out. That’s why we have listed below the most important steps of creating a social media strategy:

1. Define your audience. It’s important that you know who your audience is and what they want to see on social media channels, as this will be key to crafting content that they like, comment on, and share. Create buyer personas; these will allow you to think of your potential fans, followers, and customers as real people with tangible wants and needs. As a result, you will be in a position to think more clearly about what to offer them.

2. Define your social media marketing goals. Companies should define the goals of their social media strategies. Is it to increase traffic, brand awareness, expand their markets or provide a customer service platform? Setting goals in advance will help keep their social media team accountable and increase their likelihood of success.

3. Research the competition. Know your social media enemies and get ahead of your direct competition. Chances are, your competitors are already using social media. That means you can learn from what they’re already doing. Conduct a competitive analysis, as this will allow you to understand who the competition is and what they’re up to. Whether it is formulating ideas for your own content marketing strategy, or figuring out what your audience needs in order to be nurtured effectively, paying attention to social metrics associated with content relevant to your industry is a must-do. It will undoubtedly help you  get a good sense of what’s expected in your industry.

Social listening is also a way to keep an eye on the competition. Here you can leverage tools  such as Hootsuite, which will enable you to track your competitors’ accounts and relevant industry keywords. As a result, you may notice strategic shifts in the way competitors use their social accounts. You may even spot a specific post or campaign that really drives the point home.

4. Choose your ideal languages, especially if you are targeting multiple regions that speak different languages. You should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Should your blogs be in multiple languages?
  • Should you create a new social profile for every language
  • Should you monitor social media platforms in multiple languages?

Keep in mind that 9 out of 10 European internet users prefer to browse in their own language, so if you want to engage an audience in non-English or non-German speaking countries, it is essential that you speak their language. Your decision will depend largely on your resources and the bandwidth of your team, but remember to focus on delivering ROI. For instance, if you have very few prospects in Sweden, it might not be worth setting up a separate Swedish-language blog. However, if your company has a large growth potential in Sweden, it might be worth testing out.

5. Set up social media accounts and improve existing profiles. As you decide which channels to use, you will also need to define your strategy for each network. Understand the essence of each channel.

  • LinkedIn prides itself in the power of networking. The platform recently experienced several key turning points, such as allowing users to import contacts, focusing on the professional San Francisco tech scene, and acquiring and integrating great services like Slideshare and Pulse. Companies can use this social media platform to create awareness, improve reputation, Brand their particular organization, highlight leaders, generate leads, answer questions, and demonstrate know-how. Also, it is a great tool for employer branding. Here your employees, current and future, can follow your progress and stay up-to-date.

  • Facebook is the biggest social media platform out there. It offers marketers the most data, and therefore the best targeted ads. You can be as specific as defining your customer down to the socks she’s wearing. With Facebook Ads, you can target management executives in Berlin between the ages of 45 and 54 who play golf on a regular basis and regularly spend money on equipment (thanks to credit card data). Brands can also leverage the Facebook Business Manager tool, which is a hub for managing your advertisements, pages, and the people on your team.

  • When it comes to Twitter, marketers need to adopt a different social media marketing approach from Facebook and LinkedIn because of its limited targeting capabilities. As a matter of fact, global targeting on Twitter is nonexistent unless you’re running paid ads, or tweeting at someone in particular with an @ reply. But regardless, it’s still a solid marketing platform; by leveraging Twitter chats, enterprises can better engage with their followers and customers on Twitter and hence build deep connections between participants and their brands. And as long as everything is done right, organizations can easily grow their social following, generate valuable discussions and feedback, and demonstrate thought leadership.

  • YouTube has changed the way we consume video as it has made it easy and free, and it gives us a way to express our opinions instantly, thanks to comments. Users watch about one billion hours of video on YouTube every single day. That’s 114,000 years of time! Marketers can use this platform as a way to share long-form content with their audience, especially if they’re not avid readers. For instance, you could turn your blog posts into video tutorials.

  • With Instagram, the concept is simple: beautiful photos that draw attention. Companies can use it to highlight products/events, contribute to awareness campaigns, offer behind the scenes looks, humanize their marketing, generate leads with hashtags, and encourage participation.

  • Pinterest is a content sharing service that allows members to “pin” images, videos, and other objects to their pinboard. When they click these pins, it directs them back to the original content on the source website. With a website plug-in installed, a user can pin, comment, and share with their audience without even going to Pinterest’s main page. Interesting to note is that Pinterest is considered the number one social media platform for marketers who want to target women, as 81% of their 150 million active users are female.

  • Other social sites to consider include Reddit, Snapchat, Tumblr, Medium, Quora, and Periscope.

Once you’ve decided which networks you as a company will focus on, it’s time to create your profiles or improve existing profiles so that they align with your strategic plan.

6. Create a social media content calendar. Sharing great content is essential, of course, but it’s equally important to have a plan in place for when you’ll share content to get the maximum impact. Your social media content calendar lists the dates and times at which you will publish types of content on each channel. It’s the perfect place to plan all of your social media activities, from images and link sharing to blog posts and videos. It includes both your day-to-day posting and content for social media campaigns. Weigh your content to your objectives. Decide on what you want to achieve with each objective, and by when, and what level of priority it is for your business. Map these objectives weekly and monthly as necessary. Then create weekly or monthly content plans around these objectives, based on each objective’s relative priority for your business per week.

For instance, if your marketing objectives are brand awareness, sales and app installs, you need to weigh them according to importance. If your main objective on social media is brand awareness, make this 50% of your content plan. This means that 50% of all content you post will be aimed at increasing brand awareness. If the other two objectives are equivalent, then content driving sales and content driving app installs should each make up 25% of your content plan. If this changes over time, so that in week three, you want app installs to be your most important objective, then content driving app installs becomes 50% of your content plan, with content promoting brand awareness dropping down to making up only 25% of your content plan. Once you have your calendar set, use scheduling tools or bulk scheduling to prepare your messaging in advance, rather than updating constantly throughout the day. This allows you to craft the language and format of your posts, instead of writing them on the fly whenever you have time. Here you can leverage social media scheduling platforms like Buffer, Hootsuite, Edgar, or you can use a CRM system like Hubspot, which already has an included Social Media Calendar.

7. Leverage tools for social media management. Organization and efficiency are critical parts of any social media marketing strategy. Technological advancements enable for automation of social media marketing with much ease. Social media management tools not only make your work easier, but they also eliminate the need for rounds of budgetary approvals because there are robust free social media management tools that will see you accomplish all of your marketing goals. Social tools help marketers manage multiple social media platforms from one place, schedule posts ahead of time, do necessary analytics across platforms, and run contests, among many other functions. HubSpot's blogging software, for instance, offers blogging tools, SEO strategies, and blog analytics. Other commendable social media marketing software tools include Hootsuite, Buffer, TweetDeck, SocialOomph, Friends+me, Social Pilot, Zoho social, and Facebook pages manager, among others.

Here is a look at some of the tools you can use to know what is being said about your brand out there, and by whom.

  • RSS Feed aggregators

With the constant flow of information in today’s information age, it is not easy to find the correct and relevant information you personally or your customers might be looking for. However, there is a solution: Really Simple Syndication (RSS). It pulls together all your news/content/information feeds from all the social media sites and other online platforms into one main feed so that it is easy for you to read what concerns you. This works both for the business as well as its clients. If a company has multiple blogs or social media platforms, RSS could help aggregate information that is pertinent to its clients in one main feed so that they don't have to deal with multiple sites. There are several excellent applications that you can use here: Google reader, NetNewsWire, RSS Mix, RSS Mixer, Feed Killer, chimpFeedr, Feed Informer, FeedDemon, and Rockmelt.

  • Tracking and listening sites

As discussed earlier, the key to making the most of your social marketing and social media interaction is ‘listening.' Listening to what your audience, your competitors, and your market are saying. Not only about your brand, but about their pains, their excitements, their dreams and more. Once you have tracked, listened and have the data in place, you can now undertake an analysis so that you reach social business intelligence. These insights are critical in knowing your customer better so that you can improve your marketing strategy. For this, you can leverage the following tools: SocialMention, Tweetgrid, WorkStreamer, HootSuite, TweetReach, Klout, Buzzsumo', and Twazzup.

  • Engagement and visualization

With the shift to social media marketing, the most significant outcome is the vast amounts of data produced from the target audiences and the market at large. Mining, analyzing and getting insights from this data to fuel your marketing strategy makes all the difference between winners and losers when it comes to social media marketing. Here you can use:

1. Cyfe – it provides an unlimited number of dashboards and widgets for sharing analytic reports.

2. Social Report – you can use this to send automatic reports via email to clients.

3. SumAll – can be used for establishing ROI.

4. Google Analytics – this helps explore social audience demographics.

8. Test, evaluate, and adjust your strategy. The best part about digital marketing is that you can track every single user interaction and use this information to learn from and improve your efforts continually. You should track the success of your social media campaigns on an ongoing basis, and set milestones for your team at less frequent intervals, when you will sit down and do an in-depth review. There are several tools that you can use for tracking social media:

  • Platform insights – These are a useful starting point for reporting on your social media efforts, from numbers of followers or fans, to interactions with the content you share. Here you can leverage Buffer, Hootsuite, Sprout Social, and Tweetstats, among others.

  • Web analytics – If you are using social media channels to send traffic to your own website, you should tag the links so that you can segment that traffic in your website reports. In Google analytics, for example, you would use campaign tracking parameters.

  • URL Shorteners – URL shortening services such as bit.ly, goo.gl and ow.ly offer usage data that will tell you how many users click on links you share, when they click on them, and where in the world they are from.

  • UTM parameters – These are short text codes that you add to a URL to track data about users and traffic sources. UTM parameters are also known as UTM codes or UTM tags. UTM parameters do not modify any content on the site, but are simply for tracking purposes. They help you to analyze how each of the marketing channels you have invested in, such as search, display, or social, have contributed to your campaign. You will be able to see which channel sent the most number of users to your site, what the conversion rate of the various channels are, and which channel offers the best return on investment.

  • Online monitoring software – Also known as sentiment analysis or opinion mining software, this is an important measurement investment that you will need to make. It helps you to keep track of all mentions of your brand, and to understand the sentiment and influence of those mentions. Companies should be tracking their reputation for trends and changes over time. Some popular choices include: SEM Rush, Hootsuite, etc.

  • Social Media Dashboards – there are a number of services that make it easier for you to centralize the management of your social media properties, as well as making collaborative management easier. They also integrate analytics data from a number of sources, making reporting easier.

Once you have this data, use it to re-evaluate your strategy regularly. You can also use this information to test different posts, campaigns, and strategies against one another. Constant testing allows you to understand what works and what doesn’t, so you can refine your strategy in real-time.

9. Conduct a social media audit. If you’re already using social media tools, you need to take a step back and look at what you’ve already accomplished. You should ask the following questions:

  • What’s working, and what’s not?
  • Who is connecting with you on social?
  • Which social media sites does your target market use?
  • How does your social media presence compare to that of your competitors?

Once you have all this information, you’ll have a good starting point for planning how to improve your results.   

Laying the foundation for social media marketing

According to Deloitte, written policies and procedures supported by technology are the administrative backbones of an effective social media program. But what aspects  are required? Well, to break it down, there are three main things you need to consider for a good social media marketing strategy:

1. A social media policy. This spells out what the employees can and cannot do on the social media channels, as well as the limits of the company's control over employees' non-work related online behavior.

2. A comments management policy and service level procedure document. This identifies a global team with clearly designated responsibilities: when particular individuals are ‘on call' to watch for any comments or queries that need a response, and guidelines on what and how to respond to the queries and comments.

3. Your key performance indicators (KPIs). These should align to cross-unit business goals. They are baseline metrics for measuring progress towards each of the goals. They are standardized approaches to the methodologies and languages that relate to each metric. Here is a look at some of the key performance indicators (KPIs) companies should be considering for their social strategy:

  • Internal Adoption – This is a foundational success metric because, without adoption, there is bound to be no other success.

  • Awareness – Measured in terms of the number of views, impressions and community size. If the company will achieve its goals, its community size and traffic have to reach a certain tipping point. While awareness shows an increase in viewership and following, it does not guarantee interaction with content. That is why awareness is considered as a base metric.

  • Engagement – This is measured in terms of “likes”, comments/replies, and audience retention rates. Engagement offers trackable indications of how a user has engaged and interacted with content; for instance, did they find it interesting, topical, or of value? “Likes” show that users liked the content. Comments indicate that the content was insightful enough to spark a discussion. Social Analytics will be critical in ascertaining audience engagement levels for the various social media platforms. During peak days, the brand should be able to dive deeper into content that was shared the most, find out which platform had the most activity and who were most active.

  • Drive website traffic – This is normally measured in terms of sessions, a percentage of new sessions, and bounce rates. It shows how many people have engaged with your website, how many were new users and the percentage of single-page sessions that users had no interaction with the site. More traffic and engagement means more opportunities to generate leads, while a high bounce rate is detrimental to the very existence of the website. Google Analytics, for example, is one of the most useful tools to measure the impact of social media traffic on a site. Google Analytics enables a business to pinpoint which sites brought in the most traffic.

  • Lead Generation Metrics – It is measured in terms of click-through rates, gated content downloads, and conversion rates. Increase in these metrics shows an increase in users who are likely to become your customers; this ensures a fuller sales funnel. Use of conversion tracking would identify sites that have a higher conversion rate, meaning the channel is reaching the most suitable audience. It can also track growth in revenues.

  • Advocacy – This KPI is measured in terms of re-tweets and shares. A tweet and share indicate that a client liked the content enough to approve of it and share it with their community. This increases the firm's outreach, and the readership; community members for example, are more likely to read shared content rather than if it was advertised or they simply stumbled on it.

  • Action – This is measured in terms of click-through rates (CTR). It could mean downloads, filling forms and going through with CTAs. This often leads to increased awareness like in the case of a user downloading a brochure or pdf.

  • Sales – This is measured in terms of purchase/conversion rates, revenue generation, business building, and click-through rates.

  • Retention – Whereas getting leads is important, lead nurturing and retention are much more critical in terms of lifetime customer value or total customer value, loyalty, efficiency in operations and cost saving, and customer service. To emphasize the importance of lead nurturing, data from Bizible’s report titled State of Pipeline Marketing Report demonstrates that instead of prioritizing demand and lead generation, today’s marketers are emphasizing lead nurture processes.

Social media marketing cuts across the entire organizational fabric. It is important that every department and individual is involved, in order to avoid any loose threads in the system that could be costly for the business.

Personalizing your social media marketing strategy

Why personalize your social media strategy?

Techlightenment reports that, "compared to a generic display ad, a micro-targeted social media message (to a more specifically chosen audience) will attract 2-4 times the responses. The idea is to create many smaller placements and have each visible only to the people most likely to interact with it. Taking it a level deeper.”

Reaching your target audience with individualized messages can really improve your social media ROI. This is otherwise referred to as personalized social media marketing. Let’s look at an example taken from a Deloitte case study, the Franklin Templeton Investment, a global investment firm founded in New York.  

At first, after adopting a social media marketing strategy, Franklin Templeton Investments marketing team relied on purely organic growth, and its new social channels enjoyed a warm reception. However, it soon became apparent that in a space where individual or business-to-consumer interactions were natural, the social media relationship between individuals–an uncontrollable mix of advisory clients, end investors, investing enthusiasts, and others – was more challenging to nurture. These ranks of fans grew steadily, as they not only consumed, but also shared the corporate-branded content that they especially enjoyed.

There was a need to empower the salesforce so that they could easily, compliantly and effectively tap into the communications and networking power of social media in order to be where the clients were, engage with them, and make doing business with the company as easy as possible. This meant that the salespeople would have to meet, call, and email their prospective clients on a daily basis if they would get personalization right. Social media is merely another communication tool, so while the practical and compliance concerns were certainly complicated, the marketing team found out that they were also manageable.

The company was able to resolve the technological, process, and content questions around how to support sales-level social media activity. The company leveraged a web-based software solution that would automatically support the various aspects of social media program: compliance, measurement, and ease of use. These aspects enabled the company to supply a diverse global pilot group with separate libraries of social media content that were relevant and compliant in their particular local markets. Each new program participant was suddenly able to maintain an active, visible LinkedIn presence designed to meet the varied needs of his client community in just two clicks.

Here is what Franklin Templeton's Marketing Director for Southern Europe/Benelux noted:

"Of course we were interested in leveraging social to maximize the reach of our priority marketing messages, but we knew that if we wanted our clients to engage with us, we had to be responsive to what they wanted to talk about and not just push our agenda."

To further weigh in on the content's impact and personalization efforts, the company worked with each salesperson to import his or her existing client list to LinkedIn, a move that resulted in a simple, easy and successful process. The result of this automation was that there was an immediate increase in the number of clients within their respective communities.

But before automation, one-to-one training and follow up meetings with sales users of social media was necessary. It was from those sessions that the company was able to gain insight into the realities of practical application, allowing the investment company to establish best practices and to improve upon every aspect of the program in ways with the potential to make a positive impact on the bottom line. Early results indicating ease of use and effectiveness encouraged adoption and sales user social media activity generated considerable incremental digital reach, as well as creating opportunities to support financial advisers.

The above shows the effectiveness of a personalized social media marketing strategy where businesses use audience analysis and data to deliver more relevant messages to their target audience that provides more value. An audience analysis on each of your social channels will enable you to map out your buyer personas in terms of:

  • Demographics
  • Social media likes and interests
  • Customer journey stage
  • Social media activities
  • Followed influencers
  • Page affinities

Today’s customers want brands to view them as distinct individuals with unique characteristics and preferences, as opposed to a faceless consumer. In fact, data from an Infosys report shows that 74% of customers feel frustrated when brands don’t provide them with individualized content. At the same time, 63% of worldwide consumers are annoyed by seeing generic advertising messages repeatedly.

The point here is that a personalized social media marketing strategy will help you:

  • boost your social media engagement,
  • improve your facebook relevance score and ad costs,
  • generate more leads and conversions for your business,
  • strengthen customer loyalty and conversions
  • and increase your brand awareness.   

Limitations to social media marketing

At this point, you are most likely convinced that social media marketing is the solution to all of your marketing and sales problems. However, while it is a sound strategy, it also has its limitations. These include the following:

  1. One of the critical limitations of social media is web security. Social media sites are intrinsically open-ended when compared to traditional sites. More evolution of social media is expected with the continued evolution of web applications and web 2.0. Such growth is sure to attract a corresponding growth in virus outbreaks and other forms of web-borne threats like malware. Users need to protect themselves against web 2.0 threats using multi-layered solutions that contain an array of analysis techniques like behavioral analysis, heuristics, antivirus signatures, real-time scanning, and network intelligence with the capability of real-time analysis of URLs.
  2. It takes time to build relationships on social media before tangible results are seen. The flip side of this is that the investment is worth the wait as businesses can continue to reap the benefits from social media efforts long after the campaign is over.
  3. While most marketers have attempted at building social media marketing strategies, they have not given it the same level of seriousness as they would to traditional marketing. Additionally, the entire organization does not buy into social media marketing. This leaves gaps in the strategy, and accounts for failure in the ability to harness the great potential in social media marketing.

How industries are leveraging Social Media Marketing

Social Media Marketing is being leveraged by many different companies in various industries. It is interesting to see how some of the big industries are being changed by the networks. If you don’t believe us, well here’s a look at how some industries are integrating social media strategies into their overall marketing activities, and why you should join the bandwagon.

Healthcare industry

While industries such as retail and hospitality quickly saw the potential of social media marketing, the health sector was slower to move. But this is no longer the case. In fact, according to a survey by PwC’s Health Research Institute (HRI), hospitals, insurers, and pharmaceutical manufacturers can benefit from this new form of interactive communication – i.e., social media. Other studies indicate that of the more than 74% of Internet users that engage on social media, 80% are looking for health information, with 90% of the younger media-savvy 18-to-24 year-olds claiming that they relied upon this source, using it twice as often as the more senior population.

With a single key stroke, individuals can broadcast their attitudes on physicians, drugs, devices, treatments, hospitals, views on diet and exercise and health plans. HRI found that one-third of consumers are using social media for health-related matters. Most tellingly, they are choosing “community” sites over industry-sponsored sites. In a week’s snapshot of several health-related companies and consumer sites, HRI found that daily activity numbered in the thousands for community sites versus in the hundreds on company sites.

Not long ago, terms such as liking, following, tagging, and stumbling all had different meanings. But in the era of social media, they provide the clues that could lead to higher quality care, more loyal customers, efficiency, and even more revenue growth. The Mayo Clinic conducted a pilot study to demonstrate that social media can be effectively used to recruit large, demographically diverse patient groups in a cost-efficient manner, which served as a key message to HCPs. A study of 1,516 randomly chosen tweets out of 15, 346 that contained the phrase “lung cancer” demonstrated that about 18% of the tweets were about clinical trials. Interestingly, only one of the tweets provided a link to a patient recruitment website. With over 320 million monthly active users, twitter could offer significant potential in driving patient recruitment.

Social media brings in pragmatic component to clinical trials, supporting the world of evidence-based medicine (EBM). Patients themselves want to draw more informed decisions, and want to be participants in the decision-making process on how their health is going to be managed. This has led to the development of numerous online patient communities:

  • PatientsKnowBest – A British social enterprise which integrates with the National Health Service (NHS) network and allows patients control of their own medical records.

  • PatientsLikeMe – The largest online patient community, with 500,000 members and covering over 2,500 conditions. Through its partnership with the National Quality Foundation, it leverages social media to assess the quality of life in communities with multiple sclerosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Smart Patients – This is a closed online community which provides a platform for patients and caregivers to connect amongst themselves and find disease-related guidance and answers.

  • 23andMe – This is an online patient community to which the FDA granted authorization to market a direct-to-consumer genetic test, the Bloom syndrome carrier test; customers who purchase their personal genome service (PGS) would receive their ancestry information and uninterpreted raw genetic data.

  • Iodine – This is a site which combines pharmacist expertise, FDA data, and real-life experience from patients.

SaaS Industry

The market for SaaS products is growing every year. It is projected to reach $164.29 billion by 2022. This means that the competition for SaaS businesses will increase, and you need to set yourself apart in order to experience continued growth. You will need to upgrade your social media strategy significantly if you have one in place. Here you can do the following:

  • Leverage Facebook and LinkedIn social platforms to market your SaaS product. With Facebook in particular, companies can use the platform to re-engage the prospects who have shown interest in their services before. A company can approach them again with a better offer that compels them to convert. For example, it’s possible to retarget those who abandoned your site at the pricing page with ads offering free trials.

  • SaaS companies should provide better Social customer support. Studies indicate that social media is consumers’ top choice for customer care, surpassing email, phone, and other channels. You should monitor your direct messages regularly and try to answer customer queries instantly. The desired goal is to reduce the trouble they have to go through to get information so as to improve their experience interacting with your brand; this can improve your customer retention rates. Salesforce does a great job of responding to customer questions and complaints on Twitter by listening and letting customers know exactly what to do in order to get issues resolved.

  • Create more visual content. Visual content is crucial if you want to engage a social media audience. The number of marketers using visuals on social media is growing every year. According to HubSpot, social images tend to be a preference among consumers, especially younger ones. You can start by creating graphics such as infographics, which are both engaging and informative.

  • Partner with relevant Influencers. Influencer marketing is on the rise; it involves working with individuals who have a voice and significant following in their respective fields and niches. It is a highly effective strategy at winning the trust of consumers and compelling them to make purchase decisions. SaaS companies like ClickMeeting already make use of influencer marketing in their social strategies. Since the product is a webinar-creation tool, the team looks for influencers in the webinar landscape.

  • Gain trust through user-generated content (UGC). Social media is normally an excellent avenue for consumers to showcase their recommendations in the form of user-generated content. Whether it’s in the B2C industry or the B2B landscape, consumers trust other consumers. In fact, data from Bazaarvoice indicate that 51% of millennials and 34% of baby boomers would even trust recommendations coming from strangers. This means that you should take into consideration the recommendations from other customers, since this can be a very effective form of social proof. As a result, you can gain the trust of potential customers. You can share brand mentions, customer stories, reviews and testimonials through social media.

Financial and Insurance Industry

Hootsuite’s social media trends report for financial services stated, “in 2017, banks, financial brands, and insurance brands will accelerate their adoption of social channels…. to deliver a human touch to the customer experience at scale.”

Friendsurance, for instance, combines social technology with traditional insurance products to create networking effects that lower costs and deliver value. It uses social media to link friends together to buy collective non-life policies from established insurers. The bottom line is that by creating “fun” social media campaigns, insurance companies can gain followers who would otherwise never bother to engage with an insurance company on social media.

The areas that hold most promise for the Finance and Insurance industries when it comes to social media marketing include:

  • Modeling, Segmentation and profiling: This involves utilizing social media to identify marketplace opportunity.
  • Campaign management: This involves executing plans to capitalize on social media opportunity.
  • Managing the brand in cyberspace: This involves understanding positive and negative sentiments.

Logistics Industry

As the logistics sector advances in the digital age, it is very important for the players in this industry to work with technology and social media to be more efficient in creating connections with customers. The social media landscape has turned into an effective form of marketing tool. As logistics has always been on the frontline of cutting-edge technology, lots of new doors can be opened for utilizing social media marketing for highly effective communication. Marketers in this industry can leverage platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram by creating content that provides solutions and connects their target customers to their businesses, and helps with regular engagement with clients. Besides, social media is not only a venue where you can showcase your brand and make the market aware of your company’s expertise in logistics and shipping, but also serves as an outlet to connect and engage with the logistics community, thus sealing your good reputation.

Maersk Line, for instance, has managed to do the seemingly impossible and created a brilliant B2B social media strategy. As a B2B brand, the company uses LinkedIn to reach key decision makers. It uses Facebook to reinforce their message in a more subtle way. Additionally, they also use Twitter in their social media strategy since its audience has several specific demographics and therefore plays an important role.

To ensure that its local markets are communicating a consistent message, the Maersk Line has devised a number of guidelines, training sessions and support functions. Provided the local marketing managers adhere to a few guidelines, the company respect that local audiences may have different needs, and it likes to give its marketing managers a bit of creative freedom.

How do Maersk Line track the success of social activity? What tools do they use?

The company believes that social media work towards the strategic goals of the organization. As a matter of fact, it sits within the company’s Commercial Division, so that the focus is generating leads. The marketing team continually optimizes and tests the various social media strategies to increase volume and quality of leads.

The company even conducted research to explore the value of social media’s influence on a purchasing decision. Data from this research found out that the average customer consumes 10.4 pieces of online content before even picking up the phone and calling a shipping company. During this time, 67% of the decision making process is made. This means that marketers have to ensure that Maersk Line content is as much of that 10.4 as possible.           

Chemical Industry

According to a study by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and Accenture, digitalization could unlock up to US$550 billion in value for the industry and society by 2025. This means that the extent to which chemical companies succeed in unlocking that value will depend on how those technologies are applied, and would do well to use them to transform sales and marketing and get closer to the customer. Getting closer to the customer can be enhanced by leveraging social media channels and its related tools/technologies.

Various companies are now leveraging social media. For example, LANXESS uses Twitter to post details of major speeches, and has a Facebook page that it updates regularly. BASF also has a solid strategy that links its marketing efforts to clear sales growth. The company decided to take this route after noticing that it was being outspent by huge global competitors like Bayer and Monsanto and losing share. Farmers were dealing with tumbling commodity markets, and hence the company needed to launch a solid strategy that would reinvent the brand and the people it serves. The strategy, termed Grow Smart with BASF, has helped in this venture. It emphasises the impact of working hard, showing ingenuity, and delivering real results. The strategy integrates outbound channels (think print, radio, TV), inbound channels (think website, digital, email), and builds relationships by leveraging social media (think Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.), events, and direct mail, among others. This has enabled the company to break through the clutter, resulting in favorable awareness levels, customer satisfaction, a shift in perception and, ultimately, growth in sales.

Bayer, on the other hand, has a long established social media marketing approach in place. The brand’s early move to a social approach started with them wishing their Facebook followers a ‘Happy Star Day’ on May 4, 2016, and exhorting them to ‘Keep calm and do science’, and has evolved into company-themed coffee posts on Instagram (#coffeebreak, #goodmorning).

Chemical companies clearly have an opportunity to broaden their social media marketing initiatives. To do so, they need to look at technology, marketing, sales and service more holistically, and bring them together. This will enable them to use technology and data to deeply understand, anticipate and adapt to customer needs.

Manufacturing Industry

Here are some ways companies in the manufacturing industry can leverage social media marketing.

  • Create a YouTube channel and offer product training. YouTube enables manufacturing companies tell the story behind their brand and provide educational industry content in video format. The videos posted should include anything from how-to videos or introductory “Who We Are” videos, to product feature videos.

  • Leverage the power of Facebook and LinkedIn for brand promotion. Marketers in the manufacturing sector should create a business profile and a LinkedIn company page, and also create and join LinkedIn groups. They should be active in online discussions as a means of increasing their brand visibility. Manufacturers can also reach out to their clients on LinkedIn, define their area of expertise, develop a leadership position in their industry, and create a bridge between all their social networks and the company website.

Additionally, manufacturers can leverage Facebook by creating a company profile with an aim of gaining “likes” and growing their fan base. They should focus especially on more positive brand-solidifying messages, and follow up on this with plenty of product photos, posts, graphs, and videos. Set up sharing competitions, etc. and watch as your fans act as your ambassadors. Mercedes-Benz, for instance, has the greatest following on Facebook, where the brand’s principal global account has gathered more than 20 million followers. Instead of geo-targeting for this Fan Page, however, they run separate regional accounts dedicated to particular countries, car classes as well as business units like  Mercedes-Benz Museum and sponsored events including Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia, to name one.

  • Gain customer feedback during product development. Social media platforms work best as a two-way conversation, because they will not only allow you to share your company’s content, but to also gain from your customers’ feedback. Manufacturers can use social media listening tools, as discussed above, as a way of monitoring the general sentiments that customers have about their respective companies. Product forums also offer invaluable insight from customers on their biggest concerns. Another pointer from Mercedes-Benz is that they really know how to get the most out of social media. The brand’s social media success is rooted in social listening. They make an effort to listen to their customers to know their “likes” and “dislike” first before they craft a marketing message that perfectly fits that particular target group.

So what can companies expect from the social media marketing landscape? What are some of the trends?  

Trends in Social Media Marketing

Here are some of the top social media trends to look out for:

1. Rise of Live Video, Virtual Reality, and Augmented Reality – Businesses are leveraging live video to build a stronger brand personality and engage with their customers in real-time. In fact, a study from Livestream found some very compelling reasons why brands should find ways to engage with their audiences through live video:

  • 80% of people would rather watch a live stream video from a brand they follow than read that brand’s blog.
  • 82% of people would rather watch a live stream video from a brand they follow than read a social media post.
  • People spend an average of 2.8 minutes watching standard videos, yet they spend 5 minutes on live streams.

Virtual reality also has the potential to become an exciting marketing tool and reinvent the way marketers share information, demo products, and engage audiences. According to data from a Greenlight VR survey, 71% of consumers feel that VR makes brands seem “forward-thinking and modern.” In terms of brands’ bottom lines, 53% of respondents said they are more likely to purchase from a brand that uses VR over a brand that doesn’t. Facebook, for instance, has been working on a project called Spaces that is designed to allow friends to connect in VR. And given that Facebook owns Oculus, a virtual reality hardware and software company, it is no surprise that the social media giant is developing a platform to make use of this new technology.   

The Pokemon Go app was the first introduction of AR into mainstream society, transforming users’ real-life environments into a Pokemon playground. The app attracted 20 million daily active users and generated over $1 Billion in revenue. Augmented reality now enables marketers to alter their customer’s real-life experiences.

2. Organic reach is down – Take Facebook, for instance. Normally, social media users could post compelling content and easily grow their social media following. Thereafter they’d receive loads of friend requests, comments, shares, and “likes” all because of their amazing content. This is not the case today. In fact, most social media platforms are making it increasingly difficult to build an organic following. They make it more difficult for users to grow their own organic platform so that businesses spend more money on advertisements. The point here is that social media platforms are businesses, and they are there to make money. They do that by connecting you with paying customers. So you must be prudent and measure your own efforts to see what actually works and what doesn’t.

3. Gen Z: A New Generation of consumers –  When you factor in Generation Z (those born after 1995)–a new generation of buyers–a social media strategy makes more sense. According to Fast Company, by 2020, Generation Z will account for an astounding 40% of all consumers. Additionally, another recent study by Goldman Sachs found out that Generation Z was more valuable to most business organizations than millennials. Today the oldest Gen Zers are 22 years old. They are just beginning to enter the labor force, and will have increased buying power for some time.

As a result, brands are quickly trying to figure out how to appropriately communicate to that demographic. Of course, the needs of this generation are different to previous generations, largely due to the fact that Gen Z entered into a world with an already thriving technology, social media and mobile device landscape. This is highlighted by IBM’s research on Gen Z, which revealed some interesting facts:

  • 74% of respondents spend most of their free time online.
  • 75% cite their smartphone as a “most frequently used device”.
  • 66% frequently use more than one digital device at the same time.

This means that marketers should integrate social media strategies in all of their digital marketing efforts in order to reach the upcoming generation, who may be actively engaging in multiple profiles simultaneously, through multiple devices.

4. A rise in Influencer Marketing – Research shows that over 90 percent of marketers who employ an influencer marketing strategy believe it is successful. Companies like North Face, HubSpot and Rolex use social media based on influencer marketing strategies to connect with new audiences and improve engagement with existing audiences. 2017 was a real struggle for brands that opted for traditional advertising strategies to connect to social media users. But as time goes by, it is likely that more brands will embrace influencer marketing as a way to connect with audiences who tend to ignore traditional strategies.

5. Channels and Tools are merging – As entrepreneurs create social media websites, the possibilities become increasingly endless. And that trend isn’t slowing down. As new ways of communicating, reaching customers, and pulling leads develop, so do strategies that are equally innovative. The point here is that channels are changing, and the way marketers use them is changing even more. As more and more social media sites find their footing, expect the merging of different marketing channels to happen even more than it already has.

But it’s not just the channels that are merging. The tools we use are also merging. How many times have you logged in to a SaaS product with Google or Facebook instead of creating new login details? As more tools flood the internet, all of it becomes cluttered for the users of those tools; as a result, marketing tools all around the Internet are working to integrate seamlessly, with the giants of advertising. Take MailChimp, for example, an email marketing software. Users can now create Facebook Ads natively from their MailChimp accounts. They can do so to target their email subscribers, or create a lookalike audience from their current subscribers.

6. Increasing brand participation in messaging platforms – Stats indicate that over 2.5 billion people use messaging platforms globally, and this means companies will not primarily focus on connecting with consumers on pure social networks. They will instead expect brands to invest more time and money in connecting with consumers on messaging platforms. Artificial intelligence, voice assistants, and chatbots will enable brands to offer personalized shopping experiences on messaging platforms like Messenger, WhatsApp and Kik.

7. Social media platforms will embrace stronger governance policies – Given the wide criticism that Facebook (think Cambridge Analytica) and Twitter faced recently in terms of collection and handling of personal data and the EU’s general data protection regulation (GDPR) in place, it is likely that these platforms will embrace codes of conduct and governance policies that protect the platforms from future criticism. This means that strategies like retargeting and remarketing techniques, behavioral targeting, and email lists for Facebook, LinkedIn and Google advertising among others will be affected.  

Social Media – A New Imperative for Marketing

Consumers are adopting new social technologies with alarming speed, and their buying behavior is changing just as quickly. The result is a revolution in the way consumers interact with companies and brands, and marketers in all industries need to get ahead of the curve by building up foundational capabilities by themselves. Social media marketing is a robust tool that can completely change your marketing perspective and productivity. This strategy requires a deep degree of involvement from marketers and companies as a whole, as social media channels demand much more individualized and product-specific approaches than traditional mass-media investments do. And as long as you ensure that you manage this social relationship with consumers well, you will be able to increase customer intimacy and insight and as a result, achieve faster marketing cycle times.