Five things you should know about social media marketing

By Peter Roesler

The landscape of marketing has changed for 2014. After two years of large social media IPOs, extensive media coverage of the topic, and the general buzz of the public, no marketer should be unaware that social media marketing exists.

However, just knowing that something exists isn’t enough information for a savvy marketer to work with, especially when there is a lot of misinformation and opinion masquerading as fact on the topic. To help clarify things, here are five things that marketers should understand about social media marketing.

1. Social media marketing works.
A quick look around the blogosphere reveals that many people who have heard of social media marketing swear that it doesn’t work. The facts suggests otherwise. Among marketers, researchers, and the public in general, there is broad consensus that social media marketing works. Here are a few statistics to bolster the case:

According to E-Strategy Trends, 80 percent of business executives said social is “important” or “somewhat important” in marketing and branding; 74 percent said the same for customer service; 70 percent for innovation and new product/service development; and 63 percent for employee recruiting.

A study from Media Post stated that 72 percent of adult internet users in the U.S. are now active on at least one social network, up from 67 percent in 2012 and just 8 percent in 2005.

Brandport released a study that showed 93 percent of online research starts with a search engine, and 68 percent of consumers check out companies on social networking sites before buying.

– Social media generates almost double the number of marketing leads as other marketing channels and 74 percent of marketers say that Facebook is an important part of the lead generation strategy.
The evidence strongly suggests that social media marketing works for businesses. Regardless of potential difficulties involved in social media marketing, the fact remains that hundreds of millions of people use social media networks and it’s simply unwise for business owners to ignore such a large audience.

2. You get what you pay for.
One thing that draws many business owners to social media marketing is that it’s free to use. While this is true, the old maxim applies, “You get what you pay for.” While it’s possible to run a successful social media campaign without using paid content, marketers will always see better results with paid content.

For example, if a particular post on Facebook reaches 500 people and has a 2 percent response rate, the marketer can expect 10 people to respond. However, if paid promotion is used to get the content to reach 50,000 people at the same response rate, the marketer can expect 1,000 responses.

The same is true for advertising on a social media channel. Rather than depending on people to randomly find a social media profile, targeted cost-per-click ads can ensure that the right people see the ad and that the business only pays when the content get the desired response (i.e. someone clicks the ad).

This doesn’t mean that businesses need to pour hundreds and thousands of dollars into their social media marketing campaign. Promoted content on social networks is normally inexpensive and businesses can just use it on the content they feel is most important. Because if the content is important and engaging, it’s worth it to extend the reach.

3. Have realistic expectations
It’s important to have realistic expectations for what social media can do for an organization. Remember, it’s a website, not a mind-control device.

Social media marketing has many of the same challenges that traditional marketing forms encounter. When a business sends out 5,000 mailers, it doesn’t expect 5,000 people to call the next day (though they would certainly love it).

Rather, a realistic response rate would be around 2 percent. The same is true for television, radio, or newspaper advertising.

Marketers shouldn’t expect social media to magically outperform other marketing channels. Similarly, if a marketing campaign isn’t working for a particular product on traditional channels, there’s no reason to think that using the same campaign on social media would produce different results.

4. Set goals and measure progress
As with other forms of marketing, business owners need to set goals and establish metrics for measuring their progress. An incoherent marketing campaign is no more effective on social media than it would be on any other marketing channel.

Establishing goals makes it easier to maintain proper focus when preparing content for social media marketing. Keep in mind to set goals that are attainable and that social media can realistically help. Depending on the industry, social media may not be the best way to sell products (e.g. house painting), but it can be used to spread awareness about the company.

Establishing metrics for measuring the progress of a campaign is as important as setting goals. There are a lot of ways to measure the effectiveness of social media, whether that is measuring reach, engagement, click-through rates, or web traffic increases. No measure is particularly more useful than another, it’s up to each individual organization to decide which metric is most important. What matters is that there is a benchmark that the organization can use to track its progress.

5. Keep trying
Social media marketing can be learned in minutes but takes a lifetime to master. Twitter boasts that users can start using their profiles almost immediately, but much to the chagrin of teenagers and marketers everywhere, hopping on and posting the first things that come to mind rarely makes someone an internet celebrity or attracts new customers.

In fact, even well-planned campaigns can perform below expectations. A common mistake for beginning social media marketers is that they give up too quickly when a particular strategy or tactic doesn’t work. Rather than give up, marketers should use the old maxim and “try, try again.”

Remember that advertising, marketing, and communications in general can be viewed as scientific endeavors. It’s important to view all results, positive and negative, as valuable data for understanding the target audience. Form a hypothesis as to why a certain campaign worked or didn’t work and then test the hypothesis in a future campaign.

To illustrate, say a restaurant advertised their lunch specials every day at noon, but didn’t see a good response given the size of the target audience. One possibility is that the announcements are coming out too late for people to adjust their lunch plans.

So, the restaurant can try posting lunch specials at 10:30 a.m. and see if the earlier time affects the reach and response rate. If it doesn’t, it could continue to hypothesize about potential factors, test the hypothesis, measure the results, and then refine the tactics.

Hopefully, this article has removed some of the mystique surrounding social media marketing for businesses. Social media marketing can work for any company, but it takes trial and effort to understand what motivates and moves a particular audience.

And as social media continues to grow in importance, the more vital it will be for businesses to know and understand these important things about social media marketing.

By Peter Roesler

Peter_Roesler (1) (2)Peter Roesler, president of Web Marketing Pros, has an extensive background in all things marketing, social media, and search engine optimization. His impressive work history includes VP of Development at AppSoft Development, Director of Multimedia at Advantage Services, and Creative Director at Mammoth Technology. He is continually drawing upon his own talent and skill to help small-to-large corporations all over the nation improve their overall Internet standing and appearance. Among his experience, Peter thoroughly enjoys the continual challenge that SEO work brings. To keep up with the ever-changing dynamic of optimization, Peter studies and researches current methods and standards of the process. When he is ahead of the game your company is, too.

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