A beginner's guide to social media marketing

The use of social media in SEO and marketing in general is an enormous subject and there is a whole industry dedicated to social media's use. Frankly, if I never come across another 'Social Media Agency', it will be too soon.

Hipster with beard and top knot
He's a social media maven, whatever that is.

Putting aside my own prejudices and indeed, pogonophobia for a moment, it's apparent that a little old blog post like this cannot cover every aspect of social media use for businesses and organisations. However, here are some basics:

In SEO terms, social media can create inbound links to new or changing material on your site and it is important to cross-pollinate (cross link) between your site and the various social media presences that you have.

Like posting a blog, social media only works if you are active in it.

The buzzword you will find in social media marketing guides is "conversation". If someone retweets you, get in touch with them. If someone leaves a comment on a blog, do likewise. Use social media as a communication device rather than merely a klaxon that broadcasts your presence.

No-one likes a hard sell. Mostly.

For business I would recommend Twitter (everyone), LinkedIn (B2B), FaceBook (B2C) and for a visually based business, Pinterest and Instagram. There is a suspicion that using Google+ helps a site's rankings, but Google deny this. Personally, I've never heard of anyone using Google+ at all, so you can probably ignore it altogether!

So, how to build a social media campaign that will drive business to your organisation, rather than just be another (largely ignored) advertising conduit?

Eddie Cochrane
Little bit of Eddie for you.

Step one: identify your audience. Who are you selling to? (Sorry: to whom are you selling, grammar pedants.) If the answer is "everyone and anyone", you need to work out who are the most lucrative or profitable customers for you. Almost everything you do on social media should be directed at your audience.

Step two: create an attractive image that explains what you do. Your FaceBook page, Twitter home page and personal LinkedIn profile all need to sell your product and service. Use those pages to promote your organisation and what it does in a way that your potential customers (your audience) will understand. There's no point in describing yourself as "a dynamic and driven Change Management specialist, results-focussed and proven in a variety of market spaces" as this will mean very little to anyone who isn't also a change management consultant. Rather, write prose that your customers will understand: "I help organisations save money when their circumstances change."

Sausages galore!
Marketing type, he say: "Sell the sizzle, not the sausage!"

Step three: follow and interact with your target audience. Don't link to, follow or like your competitors or similar specialists - you're not selling to them! In fact, on Twitter and LinkedIn, you can block your competitors so they can't see what you're up to. Search Twitter, FaceBook and LinkedIn accounts for key phrases that 'give away' your potential customers. For instance, you can search Twitter biographies using tools like Twitter's advanced search and select paid-for services such as the excellent ManageFlitter. Or, search for Tweets that contain key phrases that give away an account holder's desire to purchase your product: "Hey, does anyone know a good IFA?". Follow and directly interact with those people!

Step four: follow and interact with popular entities who will be followed by your target audience. For instance, if you are targeting business owners, follow and interact with (retweet, like, repost) organisations like the local chamber of commerce, business organisations and popular movers and shakers who identify themselves as business gurus. The more you make yourself known to them, the more likely they'll be to interact with your material (retweet, like, repost) to their audiences - who are of course, your target market.

Step five: make sure you're 'out there'. You need to be publishing regularly. Twitter is particularly a temporary medium. Unless you post regularly, your message will be lost in the morass.

There are a host of programmes out there that will store up and schedule all your social media postings and release them as and when you like to all, some or specific social sites. HootSuite is possibly the most well known and as a free, online tool (apps also exist) I would recommend Buffer.

Step six: don't be a marketing bore. Limit your marketing posts, updates and Tweets to the occasional (one in four or five). No-one wants to read a constant stream of hard-sell messages. Instead, concentrate on setting yourself up as someone that people will want to read, and slip in the occasional marketing message.

Arthur Daley
Loveable rogue, or irritating salesman?

Like all marketing, SEO and PR, don't expect results overnight. It takes a while to build momentum and a concerted effort to maintain a campaign. But you will see results if you stick to it. Happy hunting!

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