The Social Media Best Practice Guide

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1 The Social Media Best Practice Guide A Xander Marketing Guide T: E: W:

2 Social Media Marketing Introduction With an ever increasing number of people across the world now online, the challenge for a modern business is how best to utilise online marketing channels to engage and involve both their existing and potential audiences. The internet is a fantastic resource, and it affords a level playing field for any business to create and maintain an effective on-going dialogue with its customers, from the local sole trader to the multinational corporation. In recent years, the rise of social media has seen a big change in how businesses operate on the web. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn allow businesses to engage with customers on a personal level that was not previously possible, enabling them to generate more leads and help to build their brand. This guide on social media best practice will explain: How to plan an effective social media strategy How that strategy can be implemented to grow your customer base and increase sales What the current major social media platforms are This guide is written by Xander Marketing, a full service marketing agency that has worked with a wide range of businesses, supporting them with their marketing and social media. What is social media? The term social media refers to any of a range of web-based and mobile technologies, sometimes known as Web 2.0, that support the creation and exchange of user-generated content. Where in the past marketing channels have traditionally been one-way, social media allows two-way interactive communication on an unprecedented scale. Social media can include blogs, podcasts, photo-sharing websites, forums, virtual social worlds and much more, but the term has come to particularly define social networks, which often combine several of these elements within a single platform. The social aspect of social media implies that it should refer to any content platform that facilitates and encourages online social interaction and the sharing of content. Why social media? With the rapid growth of the internet over the last decade, the behavioural habits of consumers have very quickly changed to take advantage of the social media platforms now available to them. They meet in different places, often blurring the lines between work and leisure They discuss subjects that they wouldn t necessarily discuss face-toface They consume an increasing amount of content, created either by themselves or by others, and freely share it with one another They influence each other

3 They participate in communities based on common interests, tastes, or even mutual acquaintances should consider what to share, where to share it and when to share it for an effective multi-faceted strategy. Word of mouth has always been a crucial aspect of marketing, and both the accessibility and immediacy of social media make it one of the most powerful word of mouth tools in history. It also has considerable practical applications outside of marketing and can be potentially utilised at nearly every level within a business, from HR to R&D. Developing a social media strategy What are the business goals? When starting you need to ask why you are utilising social media and what your business goals from it are. Goals could include: Improving brand presence Developing relationships with customers, clients, suppliers, prospects and partners Monitoring and acting upon customer feedback Increasing traffic to your website Increasing sales Encouraging positive PR Integrating with other aspects of the marketing strategy Creating a plan When creating a social media marketing plan, you must consider the variety of social networks available, and therefore which ones to prioritise and how to approach them. It is not always advantageous to simply duplicate the same content across all channels, so a business There are also many ways in which to engage social media; it does not necessarily have to be aimed only at customers. Staff, clients, suppliers and partners are just some of the parties to consider when formulating your social media plan. The success of the plan should be measurable, and social media lends itself well to performance metrics quantifying everything from page activity and number of connections to click-throughs and conversions. Developing a social media content strategy One of the biggest challenges for businesses is deciding what content to share, as well as how best to share it. This depends largely on what the main objectives of the strategy are, which can include any or all of the following: Providing information about new, existing and upcoming products Increasing audience and customer base through active engagement Generating leads Providing customer support and advice Educating customers, imparting your knowledge and demonstrating thought leadership, for example through instructional videos and guides Humanising the business, sharing banter, staff photos or simply what s going on in the office with your audience

4 Sharing content from other channels, such as blogs, links and other social media platforms Repurposing existing content, for instance by using elements of your blog in a customer newsletter, or transcribing a podcast so as to allow your audience to consume content in the way most convenient to them Choosing social media channels to participate in Now that your goals are defined and you have a content strategy in place you need to pick your social media channels. Below is an overview of the key channels. Before deciding which channels to be on ask yourself what the purpose of each channel is for your business, and what outcomes you want from it. Key social media channels Twitter What is it? Twitter is a micro-blogging tool that allows anyone to broadcast 140-character messages, commonly known as tweets, for anyone to potentially read. It can be used to share information, hold conversations, build relationships and promote businesses and products to an ever expanding audience. Why is it important? As one of the fastest growing and simplest social networks to get to grips with, Twitter now has upwards of 300 million users. Its simplicity, immediacy and ease of use makes it an effective method of conveying information to your audience through tweeting relevant links, photos, new products and special offers, or drawing attention to content you ve created. Its two-way nature makes it a useful informal mailing list through which you can communicate with customers either individually or as a group. Customers also appreciate having a point of contact with your business which is likely to have a real human being at the end of it, making Twitter particularly ideal for providing customer support. Who is it for? If you have an audience on Twitter it is for you. It can be used to share content, interact with customers and prospects, discover new business partners and find out what your competitors are up to. It can be especially useful for businesses and organisations that need to convey information to customers in real-time, such as in the transport sector, or for informing customers about new products and offers. How can you do it? Setting up a Twitter account is exceptionally easy, and as well as using the website, applications for Twitter are available for computers, tablets and mobiles, allowing you, or whomever else in your business has access, to check and respond to tweets from anywhere at any time. Tools like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite allow you to manage multiple accounts, schedule tweets and integrate your Twitter account with other social media networks for increased convenience. You can also analyse Twitter activity and set up searches for certain keywords, allowing you to monitor your brand and engage effectively with both existing and potential customers.

5 Facebook What is it? Facebook is by a distance the largest social network with over 800 million active users, making it one of the most powerful tools in the history of marketing. It allows any individual or organisation to establish an online presence, create connections and stay in touch with friends and acquaintances, create and share content and much more. Why is it important? Facebook s significance stems from its sheer number of users and the personal data it has on these users. No other social network has anything approaching its user base, or the amount of content that is shared across it. Businesses are able to set up Facebook Pages that allow them to reach more people than ever before, as well as encouraging those people to align themselves with your brand. This can allow your business to build and maintain customer relationships, and communicate more effectively. Facebook encourages its users to share a wealth of information about themselves, and this goldmine of likes, interests and personal details enables businesses to target very specific demographics using Facebook pay per click adverts. Who is it for? Anyone can set up an account or page on Facebook, and whilst there are plenty of tools for businesses to use it is geared more to consumer facing businesses at the moment. Whilst traditionally its most active users have been from younger age ranges, in recent years Facebook has begun to see an increase in popularity amongst older demographics, particularly in the range. This makes it ideal for businesses across a range of different industries and sectors to grow their customer base and brand. Facebook Pages Facebook Pages can be set up by any organisation to create an online presence and engage with existing and potential customers, share content and interact with other organisations. There are pages for sports teams, artists, celebrities, films, brands, businesses and more, and they provide an invaluable way in which to connect with your audience. By clicking the Like button, Facebook users can align themselves with your brand, giving you what is effectively a quantifiable online fan base with which you can interact. You can broadcast updates and share content like photos, links and videos on Facebook as well as interacting with customers. Advertising on Facebook As well as Pages, Facebook also allows direct advertising in the form of pay per click ads. These work in a similar way to Sponsored Links on Google, and are small advertisements that appear at the side of the page for users. They allow you to target your audience by location, gender, age, likes and interests, workplace, education and more, making them an incredibly powerful direct marketing tool. The wealth of information shared across Facebook by its users makes targeting in this manner particularly effective.

6 LinkedIn What is it? LinkedIn is a social network aimed primarily at professionals with an emphasis on professional interaction with colleagues, employees, clients and potential business partners. Users can provide recommendations and testimonials for other users and businesses, making it a particularly effective word of mouth tool. Why is it important? Whilst LinkedIn has a lower user base than Twitter or Facebook, those users tend to interact in a far more focussed and meaningful manner. LinkedIn allows users to upload profiles, CVs and portfolios, and connect with people with whom they have professional relationships. Company Pages can also be set up to allow employees, clients and customers to interact professionally and socially with your business as well as with each other. Who is it for? LinkedIn is fast becoming a powerful usergenerated online directory for businesses and professionals alike, enabling you to keep up to date with industry developments and consumer trends through sharing knowledge and interacting with other users. It is also useful for building and maintaining relationships and business links with customers and clients, and represents a means of growing and controlling your brand. LinkedIn Company Pages Company Pages are a way for businesses to establish a presence on LinkedIn for millions of professionals to potentially see and engage with. Similar to Facebook Pages, they allow a business to set up a page with a corporate biography, news, staff profiles and more, as well as facilitating different types of content sharing. Customers and prospects can find out more about your company, read testimonials and recommendations, and align themselves with your brand. LinkedIn Groups Groups on LinkedIn can be set up by anyone, and can be used for discussion, sharing and participation with anyone you choose to invite into the group. Groups can be moderated so as to avoid unsuitable discussion, and can be designed with customers, clients and partners all in mind. An effective group on LinkedIn can help act as a forum through which your business s interest groups can share information and discuss the issues affecting your company, allowing them to learn more about you, and you to learn more about them. You should also join relevant groups for your industry and target market and contribute in these. LinkedIn Answers LinkedIn Answers provides a further way to interact and engage with your customers and professional connections. They serve as a forum for knowledge exchange, whereby a LinkedIn user can ask a question, and other users can step in to provide answers, usually with some discussion involved. This is a terrific opportunity to share knowledge, as well as to gather it from others, and demonstrate thought leadership and expertise within your industry.

7 Other social networks to be aware of Google+ One of the newest social networks, Google+ is expected to achieve rapid growth in the future, and has a number of interesting features designed to make the most of the existing integration between other Google services such as Google Search, Gmail and YouTube. Google+ Pages, Google s tool for establishing a business presence on the network, is set to provide organisations and businesses with a further channel through which to express their brand sand engage with customers. YouTube As the world s most popular video streaming website, YouTube has recently undergone changes intended to encourage more interaction between its users. YouTube Channels can be set up to allow a business to upload content which can then be commented upon by subscribers, and shared across other platforms. If you have videos you should share them on YouTube. Tumblr Tumblr is a micro-blogging platform where users can upload blog posts and different forms of media content, and share them with others by re-blogging and linking across other platforms. Users can subscribe to other users feeds by following them, and commenting on individual blog entries. Facebook, instead focussing on social entertainment and integration with other social networks, particularly the sharing of music, films and television. Summary: Putting your social media strategy into action Create your strategy Decide what your business objectives are and how you intend to achieve them. Which networks should you prioritise? What personality do you wish your business to convey? What sort of content will you create and how? It is always preferable to plan this in advance. Start interacting Social media is a two-way channel, and one of its most rewarding aspects for both businesses and customers is its interactivity. Make connections, create a dialogue, listen to your customers and make your business one that people want to interact with. Analyse, measure and improve There are many ways of measuring the impact that your social media strategy is having, including a wide range of analytic and metrics tools. However one of the easiest ways is to simply look at the number of connections, followers and friends your business has made, and what sort of feedback they are giving you. There is always room to improve. MySpace Once the largest social network of all; MySpace still retains a high volume of users despite it falling behind the likes of Twitter and Facebook in recent years. It is by its own admission no longer a competitor to

8 Next steps with your social media Xander Marketing has worked with, looked after and implemented social media strategies for a number of businesses. It s this experience, and experience with social media marketing that makes Xander Marketing a great choice for businesses that value marketing but don t have the time, resource or know-how to do it themselves. Visit our website for more information: Get in touch To get in touch to discuss Social Media marketing or any other marketing contact us: t: e: w:

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