It seems silly now, but just a few years ago, people were looking at social media as a passing fad. Now, Facebook has achieved the same status as Microsoft or Apple. Brand marketers don’t get fired for buying Facebook ads.
Because Facebook — like all social media — is growing as an advertising medium, the prices for ads are going up. While marketers can take advantage of seasonal fluctuations in price, maintaining performance on social year-round requires significant investment.
Luckily, there are a lot of cheap tricks that social media marketers can use to boost exposure and drive their brand messages without significant financial investment. Let’s take a look at six of them.
1. The best social benchmarks are your own
The rise in social media marketing has launched a thousand social media dashboards. Nonetheless, the industry still lacks the benchmarks, indexes, or norms that most other media channels have.
Brands often waste time waiting for a dashboard to package their social metrics, rather than doing an hour or two of hard work to learn what fuels performance for their brand, product, or service. Truth be told, most brands probably don’t need fancy social dashboards. If you want to monitor social performance, start by looking at your own page data and consumer interactions, and then compare what you’re doing week over week, month over month, season over season.
Try to identify trends and highlight the days when your posts garner the most interaction. Little things like this provide greater visibility into which content you should be creating or curating. You might find that posts aimed at moms, for example, perform really well on Wednesday mornings — and that you should forget about reaching them on Sundays and Mondays.
I see too many brands celebrating Facebook victories, whether that’s fan growth or interaction spikes, without understanding what sparked the victories. The constant testing of hypotheses will uncover which of your posting, pinning, and tweeting strategies work best, enabling you to repeat that success.
Brevity is the key to comedy, and it’s key to social performance as well. Short posts, tweets, videos, or something as simple as a picture tend to connect with your audience and amplify your brand best. By monitoring how these actions perform, you can learn the appropriate word count or video length for future posts.
2. Redefine ROI
All marketers focus on ROI, even though it’s a business metric, not a marketing metric — and certainly not a social media metric. That said, return on investment in social often comes as the result of two other Is — interaction and influence. Redefine ROI so that you’re creating posts that drive high interactions, and take a close look at who you’re influencing — the people who commented, shared, linked, or retweeted.
Looking closely at social performance helps brands understand what drives the most interactions per post so they can hone in on specific criteria. Among the questions to ask when monitoring performance are: What type of post is it? Is it asking a question or presented as a statement? Is it brand or fan focused?
3. Remember, all media impacts social
We’ve found that incorporating both visual and messaging assets from broadcast campaigns can increase a brand’s social performance by more than three times. Align your messaging across campaigns, and even post your TV spots to branded social media profiles.
Enable sharing via social objects on all your content as well. It sounds like a no-brainer, but some brands still forget this basic element of social strategy. Whenever you run a special offer online, include a “click to share” link for users after they claim the offer. This pushes it back to a Facebook or Twitter feed, thus amplifying your offer awareness while adding social context by advocating the offer.
Just as all media impacts social media, social can have a profound impact on other media channels, such as search. Understanding the topics and interests of your fans or followers (even those of your competitors) might help you uncover new potential audience targets. A restaurant brand on Facebook might discover that its fan base is overwhelmingly interested in rap and hip-hop. Try testing this audience target in other media channels like display and search.
4. Take advantage of the easy stuff
On Facebook, most brands are either not aware of or not leveraging the new function that lets them pin a post to the top of the page, enabling every consumer visiting the page to see that post. This is an easy way to increase visibility, especially when you’re promoting a special offer or a deal. Pin your most important message for maximum exposure.
It’s also really easy — and really important — to give your customers a reason to engage via social media. Simple things like questions, coupons, causes, and videos work well to spark interactions. And this ties back into our earlier points: When you experiment with different kinds of posts, you’ll see which ones drive the highest engagement. Learn from these, continue to experiment, and continue to monitor your progress.
5. Showcase your customers
If you’re looking for a cheap trick for boosting engagement, let your fans and customers star on your social media profiles. If you’re running a contest or posting a trivia question, make the winner’s photo your brand’s profile picture for a day or two. This helps consumers feel like they’re part of the brand, and they’ll reward you with word of mouth.
And don’t underestimate the benefit of that word of mouth. As consumers share their moment with friends, they’ll experience what I call “15 interactions of fame.” That one post will spread throughout the winning consumer’s social group and drive even more people back to your brand pages, creating even more interactions. Brands such as Dunkin Donuts, Buffalo Wild Wings, and “The Hunger Games” are just a few that have leveraged fan inclusion.
Showcasing a fan’s photo on your page shows fan support in a very outward fashion, and it’s important to acknowledge fans by giving them a glimpse within your organization as well. Brands can reward good social media feedback by keeping key influencers close. This is as easy as giving fans who interact the most a sneak preview of new products, or soliciting direct feedback on new designs. If you notice the same fans responding to your content, reward them!
And remember, in social media, everyone is a key influencer. Some just have more volume than others. A person with 300 friends is still influential to their group; they only lack the volume of someone with 50,000 friends or followers.
6. Play follow the leader
One of the best ways to raise awareness for your brand is to follow people and accounts that already have large audiences or are currently trending. This has been a proven technique for growing followers on Twitter, and the same can be said for emerging social platforms like Pinterest. In essence, be where the spotlight is.
It helps to publish posts that relate to popular topics as well. This doesn’t mean you should directly mimic brands with lots of followers — that’s an easy way to alienate an audience and look like a phony. Instead, pay close attention to top-performing hashtags on Twitter and relate your brand posts to these topics. If your brand messaging aligns with a hot conversation, this is an easy way to create or align branded awareness.
When you’re ready to invest
All of the above tips are easy to pull off with a few hours of hard work. Leveraging your own social data will boost your strategy and teach you a lot about how customers interact with your brand.
Social is about what people like, so throw old definitions of targeting out the door. When you’re actively monitoring what your fans are interested in, on either a shoestring or a major brand budget, you’re going to create a powerful social media presence.
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