In our increasingly interconnected and competitive world, relationships between customers and businesses are as strong as ever. However, businesses need to do more than simply providing products that solve a certain need: they need to communicate with people with authenticity (one-to-one communication) and personality (the brand), and take care of everything even once the purchase is complete (customer care). A business’ success is founded on the genuine relationships it forges, and to do this it needs to be where people hang out and chat on a daily basis: social networks.
Why is having a social media marketing strategy so important?
According to a report published by We Are Social in early 2022, 4.62 billion people are now active on social networks, an increase of over 400 million even compared to 2021. Interestingly, the main reasons people give for using social media for over two hours every day are ‘finding inspiration for things to do or buy’ and ‘finding products to buy’. It is therefore clear that devising a social media marketing strategy is vital if you are to have a solid online presence.
What does social media marketing involve?
First, let’s take a step back and investigate what we mean by social media marketing (SMM). It is essentially a subcategory of digital marketing that involves the specialist use of social networks to generate qualified leads and profits. The ultimate aim of SMM is to create interactions with your target audience: points of contact where businesses can engage customers with valuable content and so create an exchange based on the value offered and received by the user.
It is clear just how important creating an SMM strategy is for SMEs when you look at the potential benefits it can bring:
- Improved brand awareness and reputation;
- A stronger market niche, as you can communicate directly with people and keep this relationship alive both before and after the sale;
- The chance to create targeted advertising campaigns with smaller budgets (particularly in terms of their effectiveness/price ratio) than traditional media;
- A better knowledge of your target audience.
Devising a social media marketing strategy
Social networks are also somewhere SMEs can compete with major brands, as people increasingly value a personalised and unique relationship with businesses. These channels can act as a sounding board for your brand’s personality and generate loyal customers. Let’s have a look at the steps you need to take to achieve this aim with a to-do list that will help you to devise your SMM strategy.
1.Set SMART targets
Targets give you a set of guidelines to follow, both when you are coming up with your strategy and once you have put it into practice. One option is to use the SMART framework, which provides five rules to help you set the right goals:
- Specific: It is normal to have an overall target when you are first looking to start your social media marketing, but at some point you need to get into the nitty-gritty of it and have a clear idea of what you are aiming for. Examples could include improving your brand awareness using Instagram or gathering qualified leads from Facebook.
- Measurable: The only way you will know if you have reached your target is by measuring your performance. This means making the goal you want to achieve quantifiable: you need to define the finish line to know whether you have crossed it not. An example of a measurable target could be doubling your number of followers.
- Attainable: The targets you set yourself have to be realistic. For effective planning, it is vital that you make forecasts that are as close as possible to reality.
- Relevant: Is the goal you have set relevant for your business? Your targets should be in line with the growth you are seeking, otherwise you risk losing direction and focus.
- Time-bound: A target is only valuable if it comes with a timescale. Each goal should therefore have a time limit, so you can analyse it specifically.
2.Make your brand stand out
Consider social media to be an extension of your brand: these channels should emphasise the personality and tone of voice that distinguish you from your competitors. While customers may seek you out for your products and services, they will only remain loyal and return for future purchases if they fall in love with your personality.
This may sound simple, but creating something that is genuinely attractive to your audience demands strategy and planning. You may find it helpful to ask yourself a series of questions to focus on your brand’s personality, if you have not yet ascertained what it is:
- Why does your business exist? Define your raison d’être and mission, and then concentrate on what you want to achieve (your vision) and how you want to achieve it (your values).
- If your brand were a person, what would they be like? Use Jean-Noel Kapferer’s brand identity prism to flesh out your personality.
- How do you communicate with people? Find your tone of voice based on the previous questions, and let the business’ character shine through in all your communications.
The answers to these three questions will provide you with a specific brand personality that will enable you to emphasise your character on social networks and gain a loyal following among your customers.
3.Understand your target audience
The best way to build your community on social networks is to provide valuable content. This does not necessarily mean sharing life-changing ideas; sometimes just a witty post can be extremely effective and ‘valuable’, as it provides people with a laugh. However, to create value, you need to know your target audience extremely well. Do some research: have a look at the posts your customers are publishing, the profiles they follow and the things they share. To take part in their conversations, meet their needs and improve your relationship with them, you need to get into their daily flow of information. Having an engaged audience will also be an extremely useful resource for your business, improving how your brand is perceived and creating more conversions, both in terms of transactions and lead generation.
4.Don’t stop planning
Constant planning is crucial for managing an SMM strategy without being overwhelmed by stress and posting anxiety. This is the secret to combining work on your business with creating social media content.
It is not enough to only manage your online channels when you have a bit of extra time: you need continuity to strengthen your online brand. Planning posts in advance helps you to know what you will publish, when and on which platform. The key tool here is a content calendar, which allows you to work out which days you will share content from one month to the next. Whether you use a paper document or a digital file, it should help you to be consistent in the amount of content you publish, without the worry of having to think about creating a post every day. However, this isn’t a magic bullet; it still requires a great deal of commitment and dedication. After all, you need to do things ‘in time’ if you want to be ‘on time’.
Examples of effective social media marketing strategies
The advice we have given you above only really make sense when seen in context. As well as the examples listed below, you should always remain curious, looking at the opportunities social networks provide and taking an interest in other SMEs that use social media effectively, since every resource or piece of advice you get may help you improve your SMM strategy. With this in mind, here are some examples that should help you better understand your options:
- Burger Revolution: there’s a burger revolution taking place on social media in Ontario, Canada. Employing a local strategy, the company keeps its customers up-to-date on its latest creations, tells them about limited-edition options and highlights how many are left, and, most importantly, shares its ‘comment of the day’. This final strategy is both simple and genius: customers can make a drawing, leave a comment or write a witty phrase on post-its in the restaurant, and the best ones are photographed and shared on social media, where they reach a wide audience. This is a prime example of user-generated content, where the brand’s audience creates organic content that the business can then publish on its various channels to increase word-of-mouth sharing.
- Manifesti Abbastanza Ostili: roughly a year after publishing its first post, this poster design company’s page has almost 100,000 followers. Its exponential rise, which has led to Manifesti Abbastanza Ostili’s posters appearing in many people’s homes, stems from an irreverent marketing style and ‘fairly hostile’ social media management. It is the brand’s personality that makes you fall in love with it: its character echoes the products it sells, using sarcastic and sometimes cynical language, but always managing to raise a smile. The tone of voice is carefully structured and covers all parts of the business, from the FAQs on the website and replies to direct messages on Instagram to the initiatives it has launched with its followers (for example adopting a cow called Vendetta). Basically, Manifesti Abbastanza Ostili’s brand personality stands out in every area and is the key to its success: the more people see your brand as human, familiar and distinctive, the stronger the relationships you will forge.
- Tails.com: this London-based firm specialises in creating bespoke foods and diets for dogs. As well as its high-quality products, its main strong point is its effective social media strategy, or, to be more precise, strategies: it has four. Firstly, it has shaped its online presence in radically different ways based on the characteristics of each social network. For example, the business uses Twitter as a customer care tool, where it responds promptly to questions and communicates with people more directly. The Facebook and Instagram pages, meanwhile, are mostly used to promote the brand’s products, special offers and photos of their work. The second strategy is simple but extremely effective: Tails regularly shares articles from its blog on social media, not describing its services directly, but instead aiming to provide customers with added value through guides, advice and answers to questions they may have. The third avenue the company has chosen is to humanise the brand. It uses its social network channels to share behind-the-scenes videos of everyday life at the business, fun facts about the team and nuggets of information about upcoming projects. This all helps to strengthen the brand’s relationship with customers, as they feel part of the its operations. The final strategy involves expert use of hashtags. Tails often organises competitions and prize draws that incentivise users to share photos or videos (user-generated content) using certain hashtags. The result is hundreds of participants in each contest, and a similar number of conversations arising spontaneously about the brand.