Some marketing teams are guilty of taking a one-dimensional view of social media channels, judging their success almost wholly on the engagement garnered by the sort of contrived, self-consciously cutesy “Hello sky! Hello trees!” social babble made zeitgeisty by the likes of Innocent Smoothies. This approach is part of the reason why those in the boardroom have traditionally found it hard to buy in to social media as an appropriate and suitable marketing channel.
Of course, on the flipside, social accounts shouldn’t be all about selling products and services 24/7. There’s nothing wrong with businesses occasionally commenting on matters outside their four walls or offering customers an insight into the more human side of how their office works – and there can surely be no objections to social media accounts that engage with their target audience and serve a CRM purpose – but when that is all there is on offer, an opportunity is being missed.
Beyond the client/customer engagement and relationship management uses offered by social media accounts, a more fruitful application – and a better way of looking at them – is as distribution channels for content. This is where shrewd marketers have found the most success in recent times. With recent studies showing the increasing tendency for people to use social media as their primary content-discovery resource – and for users to now be more likely to re-share content through social than other media such as email – it makes sense for businesses to see social as a method not just of managing existing client and customer relationships, but building new ones too.
Take Twitter, for example, whose popularity as a word-of-mouth sharing channel has boomed in recent years. If distribution there isn’t part of your communications plan for new content, you’re missing a trick. A well-timed piece of content, with the right message targeted at the right audiences, can be instrumental in your ability to be found and engaged with by new people. Even better if your content is picked up and shared by sector influencers. One content marketing campaign (centred on an infographic) theEword produced for a client was shared on Twitter by a journalist from a national newspaper, resulting in more than 7,000 additional hits to the client’s website and the subsequent uplift in conversions brought with the extra exposure. When the use of social media can be so explicitly linked to a positive impact on the bottom line, it makes the channel far easier to sell in to decision-makers.
Now, paid social media campaigns, with the advanced targeting options they offer, make the act of promoting content to the right audiences even easier and more effective. Distribution can be set according to audience location, age, gender, interests and other metrics, allowing marketers to cut out some of the guesswork and pinpoint specific groups of people for who the content will (hopefully) be of interest. Indeed, many believe paid distribution on Facebook to be the future for that particular channel, with it seemingly unable these days to offer the organic engagement potential of Twitter. Facebook’s advertise-to-people-with-relevant-interests mechanic is given a Twitter-centric spin by the latter channel providing the ability to direct content towards followers of other accounts. This allows marketers to cherry pick the most successful and relevant accounts and target sponsored content towards their followers, ensuring they appear in the same feeds on users’ screens as industry-leading businesses and influencers.
All of this audience-specific promotion of content relies on marketers having a solid understanding of who they ought to target in the first place. This is why insight-gathering and audience-profiling are vital bits of groundwork that should never be neglected: a comms plan built on the principles of saying the right things at the right times to the right people will always be more successful than an aimless one conceived and implemented in haste. Moreover, taking the time initially to understand your audience and their interests makes it easier to plan the content you will eventually distribute to them through social media.