There are no hard and fast rules for Internet marketing, but there are some tested strategies that can help you hit the bull’s-eye.
When twenty year olds are making a few million dollars a year just by posting videogame commentary to YouTube, and dozens of popup ads telling you that your fortune is just a few clicks away, social media marketing can be misleading. Everyone is an expert and everyone wants to give you advice as to how to “find your audience” and convert contacts into sales.
It’s true that social media presents a highly personalized experience for the users and a highly trackable process for entrepreneurs, but for small businesses with limited resources, there are definitely some pitfalls to avoid, and some fundamentals to keep in mind.
DO fully explore your product, purpose and brand. Often the great idea or inspiration is followed by impulsive marketing decisions that end up inhibiting the product. Companies or individuals that take the time to develop their voice, to assess the problem their product or service is trying to solve and get to know their target market have no problem putting together a successful social media presence.
DO be authentic. Unless you are selling gag gifts, consumers really resent being drawn in by the bait-and-switch. Humor is a great tool for getting viewer attention, but do it in way that reinforces the authenticity of your brand. What gets results is honest, people-centric impressions that stick, rather than the sales-oriented “act now” pitch.
DO seek out relevant communities. Rather than casting a wide net that will catch no one, tailor your message to your audience. Weave topical language into all your content so you are speaking your customer’s language and build a slow and steady following based on substance.
DO use evergreen content. Blasts are effective too; we’ll get to that in a minute, but consider using content that will draw users to your presence over the long-term.
DO tie into current events and trends. If something is happening in the world that resonates with your audience, contribute to the conversation. Applying that previous rule of staying authentic, avoiding shock value or tragedy, but if an event happens that highlights the problem your product or service is trying to solve, jump into the exchange and readers will appreciate you have something valid to say.
DON’T succumb to sound bytes. The notion that our attention spans are shrinking might be over-dramaticized; we can see many examples where long form, information-rich content is capturing big attention: radio programming, online education, even serial TV. If your solution is complex, don’t try to dumb it down. White papers, solution briefs and brochures that really articulate the offering will go way farther.
DON’T overshare. This can mean sending out too many emails that make people want to spam you. It can mean too many subjects in a single piece of content, or it can mean trying to cram too much material into one space. And most importantly, if you are an independent contractor, too much personal information makes readers uncomfortable and can also leave you vulnerable.
DON’T forget to proof. Nothing turns readers off faster than sloppy or inarticulate content– no matter what they are shopping for. It’s almost implicit in building trust that your information is simple, high-impact and grammatically correct.
DON’T blow your whole budget on ads. The strategically placed ad can do wonders, but the temptation is to put all your eggs in the advertising basket. The social media phenomenon is based on the principle that your best referrals are your customers themselves; this is why reviews, polls and testimonials are so effective. When considering placing an ad, make sure you are using platforms that supply you with metrics, like Google Ads or Outbrain, so you can see how many people you are actually reaching and how it is impacting your sales over time.
DON’T underestimate your first impression. You actually do get a second chance to make a first impression– potentially millions of them. With every new message you put out there, try to look at it as if you were learning about your company for the first time. Is it congruent with your voice, your values, your product? Many repeat customers stumble across something they suddenly cannot live without everyday. Make sure that accidental experience is just as resonant as the active search.
Shrewd social media marketing isn’t rocket science, but do your homework first. It can help to research the spaces where your target market likes to spend time. To use the teen example again, Vine has become a huge draw for Millennials, allowing them to post 20 second videos publically, so one way to reach that audience might be 20 second videos styled after some popular clips. Or if you are looking to introduce a new tech solution geared toward medical professionals, you will want to view some related sites, cruise some forums and model your content in that more long-form and academic style.
Social media is about building a lasting, trustworthy impression, and there are several ways to go about it so consulting marketing experts is not a bad idea. The more creativity and uniqueness you can add to your public image, the more you set your brand apart for the people who matter: your customers.