Social media is an excellent tool for generating results online, but businesses have to find the right network and strategy to be successful.

Social media marketing sounds like a great idea – free channels where you can share your marketing content, answer customer questions and interact directly with clients.

Except real social marketing is hard work and most companies need to do some legwork to get on the right channels and start driving results.

Pardon the anecdote here: My brother is in the process of starting a brewery in Colorado. He and his partner are still working out deals with the space, finances, etc. When I offered my help, he told me they’ve got the web marketing handled. Just out of curiosity, I took a peek.

Did they have a cool logo? Totally. Value propositions? Down pat. Social presence? Not so much.

The brewery’s Facebook Page (which was the primary channel for outreach) hadn’t been updated for months, there wasn’t a Twitter handle to speak of and they hadn’t broken into Instagram – even though pictures were a golden opportunity for them to connect with their target audience.

You’re on social … sort of

Turns out they didn’t really have web marketing down like they thought. But what’s scarier is that a lot of businesses we work with are in similar situations. They say they’re doing social marketing, but when we take a look at their pages we see that:

  • Their profiles are the bare minimum (i.e. they entered the business name and maybe uploaded a picture
  • Their accounts are infrequently (if ever) updated with content
  • Customer comments go unanswered

If this is the baseline for ‘social media marketing,’ it’s easy to understand why only 38 percent of businesses say they’re effective. It also explains why some businesses get very little reach and engagement on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – whichever networks they (don’t really) use.

What if the network you’re using isn’t ‘the one’ ?

Marketing Land recently covered the findings from a Forrester study that concluded marketers are investing in networks that yield little return on their efforts. Specifically, it pointed out that Facebook Post engagement is pretty abysmal – about 0.73 percent on average – while Twitter’s average is about 0.35 percent.

Facebook and Twitter reach

Forrester posits these two networks are dried up for marketing purposes. Saturated with users who are all competing for the same newsfeed space, brands have a hard time getting in front of their target audiences. It’s certainly true in some regard. Facebook has updated its algorithm to remove promotional posts from News Feeds, but that doesn’t validate Forrester’s alternative: Join Instagram and Pinterest instead.

The study found Instagram’s engagement rate is 58 times higher than Facebook and 120 times higher than Twitter per Post per follower. As impressive as these figures are, marketers shouldn’t flock to these visual social networks if it doesn’t make sense for their businesses:

  • A clothing company on Pinterest? Yes
  • A law firm on Instagram? Maybe not

It’s not that certain industries are barred from joining these networks, but rather that they need the right strategies to do well on them. If you don’t have a lot of pictures, graphics or illustrations to share on these sites, you might not get any better engagement than Facebook or Twitter Posts.

There’s no silver bullet for social marketing success. To build a following and garner engagement on any network, you need to make sure your content and goals are in line with the tone and activity on the network you’re using to reach your audience.

Want to learn more about how to be successful with social media marketing? Sign up for our upcoming webinar on December 10: 4 Social Trends for 2015: Big Value From Bite-sized Content

Picking the right social network for your business

There are a few main factors to consider when building – or revamping – a social media strategy:

1. What kind of a gathering you want to attend
  • Do you want to attend an intimate party where there’s a smaller, but more qualified audience?

A network like Google+, Instagram or Pinterest might be the best option. In a smaller setting, you’ll get more quality time with your target audience.

  • Do you want to connect with lots of prospects to expand your network?

In a larger setting like Facebook or Twitter, you have the opportunity to reach more users and generate a larger following.

2. What results you want to get out of it
  • Are you looking for good conversation and engagement to increase your brand awareness?

Google+ Communities and LinkedIn Groups might be the best fit because they’re hotbeds for industry-specific conversations.

  • Do you expect social media to drive referral traffic to your site by sharing links for people to click?

Twitter and Pinterest would make sense, because users generally go to these sites to consume content.

  • Or is your goal to improve loyalty by offering customer service directly on the network?

Facebook or Twitter would probably be the best here because it’s easy for customers to get in touch with you, and you can show other patrons you’re responsive.

3. What content you plan to share
  • Do you have visual content to share?

Pinterest or Instagram could be a good fit. Keep in mind that pictures do well on almost any other network, so this shouldn’t limit your choice.

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  • Videos that appeal to your target demographic?

Create YouTube Channels with video content that demonstrates how to use products, answers to frequently asked questions or interviews that show off your in-house experts.

  • Stats, data and opinions to share?

LinkedIn and Twitter are two places where users respond to and share text-based insights. Additionally, these are two networks where the right piece of information might catch the eye of an influencer who can propel your content in front of the audience you need to reach.

Social media isn’t a snap, but it CAN make your marketing more successful

Plain and simple: Social media isn’t as easy as it looks. There’s this perception that anyone can do social media because it’s just a matter of blasting content online, but any serious marketer knows that’s not the case.

It’s not just about showing up at the party. It’s about being the life of whatever party you attend.blue underline

To drive results with social marketing, you need to master the voice and tone of every network so you can tailor the content you share for that audience. When you aren’t chasing what’s popular and slow down long enough to evaluate which channels are worth the investment of time and energy, you’ll stop wasting resources and start driving results.

 

Lauren Kaye is a Marketing Editor at Brafton Inc. She studied creative and technical writing at Virginia Tech before pursuing the digital frontier and finding content marketing was the best place to put her passions to work. Lauren also writes creative short fiction, hikes in New England and appreciates a good book recommendation.