Synopsis — There’s no denying that social media is hot! It’s not only become extremely popular as a way for people to keep up with their friends and family, but is also making strong inroads into business use. As such, it’s rapidly reaching the point of necessity for almost any size of business to explore social media options as a means of spreading the news about a business as well as marketing and selling products and services via social media. However, it’s equally imperative that when a business starts to delve into social media as a marketing device they realize that there is more to it than making a few posts and tweets — like any marketing campaign, there is a lot of work needed to make it effective and create real value.
In her article, “Strategizing Social Media: Tools We Like And Follow,” Melissa Fach looks into the process of strategizing social media. She begins with ideas around creating a social media campaign, delving into marketing strategies and social media. Following this, Melissa analyzes free tools — four tools for marketing strategies on social media, five tools to make your life easier when marketing on social media, and finishes up with four tools to help you evaluate influence. In addition, she lists a number of paid social media tools under $1,000 per month for those looking for more complex solutions.
The complete article follows …
Strategizing Social Media: Tools We Like And Follow
Social media is talked about constantly in marketing and advertising discussions. It can be a powerful marketing option for many businesses. At the same time, it can be completely ineffective due to a lack of understanding of what is required for a successful social media campaign. Social media is not just posting random items on Facebook and Twitter. Real social media campaigns are researched, planned, tested, measured, and revised.
It is crucial for businesses to understand that social media takes a lot of time, much of it spent building relationships, engaging with people, and supporting others so they will support you as well. To be successful, those building a social media presence must keep the following key points in mind:
- The business must thank those that support them.
- The business must offer something that people want to pay attention to.
- Interaction is vital if the business hopes to engage and influence an audience.
- Humor, kindness, and decency are required for anyone running social media campaigns.
- The business needs to avoid controversial issues that can hurt their brand.
The time needed to build, maintain, and measure the effectiveness of a social media campaign to help your business can be reduced by the judicious use of some of the available variety of tools. Let’s talk first about creating the campaign and the strategy behind it.
Creation Of A Social Media Campaign
The first step in any kind of marketing campaign is establishing goals and determining how to judge if your goals have been met. Goals are different for every business, but some basic social media goals commonly seen include:
- Building credibility
- Connecting with customers
- Creating interest
- Promoting products, services, and/or events
Once basic goals are established, create more complex, measurement-oriented goals to determine if your campaign is successful or not. If your basic goal is to promote a product, some more complex goals may be:
- Driving 200 visitors a month to the product page
- Selling 50 units a month that can be tracked to social media
- Finding 20 new sources a month discussing the product (e.g., mentions, people, articles)
With goals set, start researching the actions of your competitors and try to determine what is working for them and what is not. Also work on discovering if the area you hope to target is already saturated. Examine what your competitors have missed and think of ways to take advantage of those missed opportunities. Carefully evaluate successful social media campaigns in your industry and stay focused on finding the right audience. The more data you have, the more productive you can be.
Marketing Strategies And Social Media
With goals established, research complete, and your ideal audience determined, the next step is to create a marketing strategy. Focus on a strategy that will help you meet your goals and also engage an audience. Be certain there is a way to measure success and failure. Remember that failure is not a bad thing — one learns from failures, using them to create stronger campaigns in the future.
“I am a die-hard believer in the power of blogging. Create great posts focused on your goals and aimed at your target audience. Make sure these posts drive the reader to the product, services, or event your goals are focused on. Use these links in your social media campaigns.”
Keep in mind that different social media properties need different strategies. For example, I have no reason to follow someone on Facebook if they do the exact same thing on Twitter. However, if I get different benefits from each, I will follow both. Tracking also requires different strategies. By using different coupon codes on Twitter and Facebook, you can determine which social media option is more effective and/or which strategies work better on Facebook than Twitter (and vice versa). You must have a way of tracking what is working, what isn’t, and which social media options are bringing you the best return.
To sum up:
- Track and record data.
- Compare campaign strategies.
- Test new strategies and determine which works best on each social media platform.
- Test, measure, and revise.
Free Social Media Tools For Marketing Strategies
Many free tools exist to help you with marketing strategies. Keep in mind that people using social media for research or for fun are very tech-savvy; therefore, businesses must appear tech-savvy as well. Consider the use of some of the following free tools in your social media strategies.
Foursquare offers a variety of paid options for businesses, but the service itself is basically free advertising, making it an opportunity that no business should ignore. Foursquare lets people “check in” to locations and earn badges and mayorships (a person becomes mayor after visiting a location a set number of times). People love Foursquare for the many businesses offering free items or discounts to visitors checking in. For example, Chili’s restaurants offer free chips and salsa with a check-in and Sports Authority offers significant discounts and sometimes gift cards if a person spends a certain amount of money while checked in.
The beauty of Foursquare is that when someone checks into a location, it may automatically post an update to their Twitter feed and Facebook account. So if someone with 2,500 Twitter followers checks into a local restaurant, you can be sure that a large number of people will see the name and location of the restaurant. Bingo! Free advertising. Businesses should definitely be looking at how Foursquare can benefit them by claiming their listing and exploring the free and paid options available.
YouTube is a fantastic and amazing resource for people to research, learn, and also have fun with. Video can be incredibly effective, and is a great way to reach demographics that prefer video over reading. YouTube is a free tool, with many benefits for businesses, including:
- No additional hosting cost, since videos are hosted at YouTube itself
- Minimal, easy set up
- Basic analytics offered in the YouTube dashboard
- Embedding of videos on Facebook pages or websites (others can embed your videos)
- Public or private designation
- A defined link for sharing in social media campaigns
One way to use the private video feature of YouTube is as a means of measuring the impact of a social media campaign. Let’s say your business creates a video focused on their great new product. Send the link to the video out to people in your social media campaigns, and you will be able to measure how many hits that video received. Using something like Twitter, you can also ask people what they think of your video and get great feedback.
Also, for nonprofits, YouTube allows donation buttons placed right below the video, which can help in fundraising efforts.
3. Facebook Notes
The Notes feature on Facebook can be used for writing articles or creating interactions with friends/followers. Notes allow businesses to create longer and more in-depth information for people to interact with. People can comment, ask questions, and even subscribe to a note’s RSS feed. Businesses can recommend these links in all of their social media platforms and have one more way to interact, engage, and promote.
With DailyBooth, people and businesses take daily snapshots of aspects of their lives and share them on social media platforms. Users may not post inappropriate pictures and, as with all social media options, one should consider safety concerns when showing your face on the Internet. DailyBooth is free.
DailyBooth can be used by businesses to show prospects what their business or sales team is all about. Ideas include showing different people or items in your company each day or showcasing the daily life of the main person running your social media campaigns or specific salespeople.
DailyBooth allows businesses to become more personal with their followers, which is important to appearing real and accessible. No business wants to be merely a logo in social media.
Free Social Media Tools To Make Your Life Easier
Bit.ly is a URL shortener that also lets users share and track clicks with a specific URL.
For example, if your blog post has an original URL of “http://widgets.com/how-to-use-blue-widgets-for-fun-and-profit,” you could shorten it with Bit.ly to “http://bit.ly/dIfnzi.”
Short URLs can be a must for social media properties like Twitter where you are limited to a certain number of characters, but they can also be used in social media campaigns for tracking the number of clicks on a link. By using a shortened URL, you can differentiate clicks from your social media campaign and those from organic searches or other referring sites. Bit.ly is free for anyone to use, but to keep a history of the number of clicks per link, users need to sign up for a free account.
For maximum effectiveness, you should recommend links in your tweets, and retweet links that are relevant and/or important to your followers. Consequently, active Twitter users may have recommended thousands of links in a year, making it difficult to track and find them all. Trunk.ly is a tool that keeps a record of each link a user has recommended. Some benefits of Trunk.ly include:
- Anyone can view the record, including supervisors needing to track links the social media person is recommending on Twitter.
- A record of all links can be exported and downloaded.
- Trunk.ly page links can be shared with Facebook and Twitter.
- People can sign up to follow a Trunk.ly account.
- Follow a competitor’s link recommendations and perhaps see some marketing avenues you are missing.
- See the other Trunk.ly members sharing your links. (Remember to thank them.)
TweetDeck calls itself a personal browser that lets you keep up-to-date on what is happening in your social media world. It allows you to interact with Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Foursquare, and Google Buzz — all in one place. TweetDeck is available as a download on your computer, on the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android, and through Chrome. It integrates Deck.ly, which makes it possible to send tweets longer than 140 characters. Extremely user-friendly, its interface makes it easy to post to many accounts at the same time.
With TweetDeck you can set up separate columns to:
- Track what is happening in real time
- See who mentions you (i.e., essentially “talking” about/to you)
- Send and receive direct or private messages
- Follow conversations, people, hashtags, or search terms
Businesses can install Seesmic on their computer and start adding social media accounts easily. Columns can be customized and easily moved with drag and drop. A large collection of plugins gives users additional and personalized features. Seesmic is very easy to use and the differentiation of colors for each column helps you quickly scan items.
Another social media dashboard, HootSuite manages many accounts at once, even allowing multiple Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, WordPress, Foursquare, and LinkedIn accounts. Safeguards help users avoid posting information to the wrong account. Among HootSuite’s benefits for business owners and social media agencies are:
- Analytics and a reports builder
- Tweet scheduling
- Monitoring of multiple accounts at once
- Sharing of the same account by multiple team members with assigned tasks based on roles (in paid Pro version)
- Uploading of photos and files
- Automated updates to social profiles when creating a blog post
- “Insight” data about Twitter users
- Custom columns
- Secure profiles for big brands and enterprise-level users
The “Insight” data feature lets you track and collect data about those who engage with you on Twitter. You can see a user’s age, gender, a list of social profiles, profile images and number of followers. Hootsuite has free and paid versions that offer different options.
Social Media Tools To Evaluate Influence
Online businesses need to learn about social media influence, engagement, and sentiment. Influence and engagement can be judged by measures such as how may followers you have, how many retweets you are receiving, and unique mentions. Sentiment is about positive, neutral, and/or negative comments and interactions. Businesses need to monitor their public brand sentiment and work to keep it positive.
Several tools can help you evaluate how successful you are in regards to engagement, reach, influence, and impact. Consider employing one or more of the following tools as indicators of current status and use the data collected to determine where you need to work harder to improve your position as an influencer in your industry.
Klout looks at Twitter influence. Each user receives a score based on true reach, amplification, and network, using areas of achievement Klout has defined as determining factors. The score analysis data is great to review when trying to determine what kind of reach and influence you have. This score is used by many other tools as well. It’s a good idea to monitor your Klout score and evaluation each week.
PeerIndex looks at a user’s activity, their audience, and their authority on several different social media platforms. It gives users a “topic fingerprint,” which tracks the topics you, or your competitors, discuss the most. The scores and data in PeerIndex are used by other social media measurement tools in their rankings, making it important for businesses to keep an eye on them.
Twitalyzer offers benchmark data in 10 categories —influence, impact, engagement, velocity, generosity, signal, clout, followers, following, and lists — to help you understand how Twitter is being used and if your social media campaigns are working. This tool categorizes people into five influencer types, which can be useful for analyzing followers or deciding who to follow. The free version offers profile information, metrics and measures, and reach data. The paid version offers a lot more data and analytics for as little as $4.99 a month.
4. Facebook Insights
The Insights feature of Facebook lets businesses view data on follower counts, likes, unsubscribes, impressions by date and post, post views, and active users. More importantly, demographic information is broken down by gender age, country, city, and language. There is also media consumption data for video, audio, and photo views. Combined together, this offers a strong indication of what is working, what people respond to positively, and if you are reaching your target demographics on Facebook.
Paid Social Media Monitoring Tools Under $1,000 Per Month
Lithium — Starts at $249 a month. Best Buy, Netflix, and Coca Cola are clients. Their Real-Time Social Media Monitoring product offers a free trial.
Radian6 — Starts at $600 a month for this monitoring and engagement solution. Nonprofits can apply for two free uses per year.
Alterian SM2 — Starts at $500 a month. Offers a trial plan and tracks mentions.
Attensity360 — Cost $399 a month per license as part of a larger full-service solution. Clients include Whirlpool and Oracle.
Collective Intellect — Starts at $300 a month, using a proprietary semantic search and latent semantic analytics. MTV, CBS, Paramount, and Verizon Wireless are clients.
Sysomos — Starts at $500 a month, and includes key influencer tracking. IBM, Sony Ericsson, and Shell Oil are clients.
Is It Time To Get Started?
Social media is important, but it is more important to do it right from the beginning. Reputations can be ruined quickly, and businesses don’t always get a second chance. Before a business takes the actual leap into social media, it is a good idea for the responsible team member(s) to start engaging in different platforms personally to learn how things really work.
Hiring a real social media consultant may also be a good idea. Take the information from this article and use it as a guide for questions to ask consultants. Any knowledgeable consultant should be able to expand on each item discussed.
If your business plans to try social media via an in-house team, remember the basics — your marketing team needs to research, plan, create goals, have a plan for measurement, and create a strategy using the tools discussed in this article. It’s also a good idea to start following social media industry experts on Twitter, as the information and tips they offer can be time and money savers.