This is the question that I have been researching lately for graduate school social media project. P.T. Barnum once spoke about “how to make misrepresentation tolerable to the consumer” (Staiger, 1990). He was talking about advertising at a time when peddling one’s goods changed from pitching products that consumers already needed to convincing them they needed things they never knew they wanted (or existed). Since that time, advertising has taken on a lot of forms. Today, the Internet has opened up many new avenues for advertisers and has the potential to open up many more. Social media is one of the newest developments in how advertisers market their goods. Most of us already know this, of course, as we see it every day. But what are the best practices for using social media to market your products and services? Upon doing some research, I have found some useful sites that talk about just that.
This website lists five different social media campaigns that have proven successful. I won’t get into too many specifics for any of my examples in this post; but I have taken away few things. For example, one of the best social media sites to team up with if you want to offer deals to your customers is Groupon. Coupons have been around for ages; but with Groupon’s social media twist and its capability to offer local coupons, this really takes product discounts to the 21st century. Another success on this site was for Mountain Dew, which allowed customers to create a new flavor and come up with a marketing campaign for it. The winning group would have its flavor created. What really worked in this campaign is that it was not only a fun project for participants; it also allowed them to participate with the company. The lesson to take here is that consumers feel good when they can be a part of your success. The last example I want to talk about is Starbucks, which has been very social-media friendly. In addition to giving special deals on the obvious sites like Facebook and Twitter, Starbucks teamed up with Foursquare to offer deals for those reaching “mayorship status.” If you aren’t familiar with Foursquare, this is a status achieved when a participant “checks in” at a location the most times out of all participants over the preceding 60 days.
This article makes one very good point: your social media advertising does not do any good unless there is a clear call to action. To summarize, it asks if your social media items get your users to:
- Engage with your business or organization
- Learn more about your business, organization, area of focus, offerings, or services
- Tell friends about you
- Share your content
- Advocate for your cause
- Learn more about what you offer
- Read an article you wrote or published
- Write a review
- Marvel over your industry expertise
Any moral way you can get your users to do this is great. And the site offers a few examples of “call to action posts”: “What do you think of this topic? Share your thoughts on our Facebook Page.” “Have you ever experienced this situation? Tweet about it and mention our Twitter handle.” “Want to learn more? Visit my profile on LinkedIn.”
The last site I want to talk about gives a more complete view of what your social media campaign should be as a whole, listing seven steps to help.
1. Make sure your main web presence, whether it be a blog or a website, does all that it needs to do. If the rest of your social media campaign is awesome and gets people to visit your site, it doesn’t matter if your site doesn’t do what it needs to do to get the word out.
2. Put a human face to your company. Add a little bit of your personality to your social media campaign, without getting too personal. If you can put a good face and personality to your company, people will have a positive view of your company.
3. Figure out who your audience is and look at what other websites are doing to bring those customers in. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. There is nothing wrong with emulating the social media strategies of a successful company that has customers that you want as well.
4. Pick the best social media platform(s) for your customers. If you did step three and find that they are all on Facebook, for example, then that should be your primary platform.
5. Manage your time. Decide on a certain amount of time per day you will spend checking social media sites, and don’t go over or under it. Stay productive.
6. Content is key. Make your posts educational and useful for your customers. Rather than spending a bunch of time on social media making a lot of posts, make sure that you write one or a few posts that are top-notch.
7. This is not so much a social media thing; but the last thing the site advises is that you do not forget about SEO just because you are on social media. SEO is still a very important way for new customers to find you.
The thing that I take away from all of this is that a lot of social media campaigns are probably trial and error. One can try all the things talked about in this post and not get that many results. But this doesn’t mean that these are bad strategies or that they only work for certain people. It’s just that every social media campaign has different needs. So while it is a great thing to come up with a solid social media plan, make it flexible. Keeps tabs on what seems to be working and what is not. Change your plan accordingly. Like the Internet itself, the best ways to reach customers are changing all the time.
Staiger, J. (1990). Announcing wares, winning patrons, voicing ideals: Thinking about the history and theory of film advertising. Cinema Journal, 29(3), 3-31. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/1225178 .