5 Essential Questions To Ask If You Want To Succeed At Social Marketing

5 Essential Questions To Ask If You Want To Succeed At Social Marketing
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This is probably a bit of “horse after the cart” for most of us. By now, many businesses have long since jumped into social marketing and are tweeting/posting/blogging/pinning away. So whether you haven’t started social marketing yet and aren’t quite sure how to do it, or are already in the fray and are wondering if your efforts will pay off, here are some important questions that you can stop and ask yourself right now.

1. Why Am I Doing This?

This is not a question to shrug off or answer lightly. “Why” is the most important question you can ask because it will drive the when, who and how. Here is a post about how important it is to ask “why” no matter what you’re doing. When you’re done here, I recommend giving it a glance.

Here are two bad answers to the “why” question:

“Because everyone else is doing it.”

“Because my coach/boss/mentor/developer/marketing professional told me to.”

Your “why” has to go deeper than that and it must speak to your business goals. There are a few common and perfectly acceptable reasons to “do” social. You may have one or more of these goals but it’s vital to the success of your marketing to figure out which ones are important to you and your business.

To increase brand awareness. Who are you, anyway? For small businesses, it can be a challenge to be recognized beyond our group of existing customers. If you want to branch out, brand yourself and reach new communities then this is your social marketing “why”.

To build credibility. Why should I trust you? People do business with people they like and trust. You can build that trust by demonstrating your expertise through blogging or other means and by becoming a face and a personality that people can relate to.

To enhance customer service. This is a goal within a goal because it can help you build trust and also improve profits by lowering costs. It may be easier and more cost effective for you to deal with customer questions, requests, complaints or compliments in an online forum than via phone or email.

To keep tabs on the competition. What better way to stay on top of what your competition is doing than by following what they do online? You may be inspired to try something new or to improve your products or services, or you may find a way to capitalize on areas where the competition falls short. Our competitors will never knock on our doors and tell us their secrets, but watching what they do with their social marketing is almost as good.

To learn. You can learn quite a lot from your customers, your competitors, others in your industry and even perfect strangers about what people think, want and how they behave simply by paying attention to what they say and do online.

To drive revenue. At the end of the day, all goals funnel into this one because if all we’re doing is building a brand or learning about our customers without any money attached, our business is going to fail. Ultimately your social marketing “why” is to make money for your business, which you can do either directly through selling or indirectly through branding and trust building.

Before you start social marketing – or even if you’re already doing it – make sure you can clearly define why. It may be one or more of the reasons I listed or something completely unique, but know it, document it and refer back to it frequently. It will guide everything you do and keep you on track if you stray.

2. Who Is My Audience?

Now that you know why you’re doing what you’re doing, you need to know who you’re doing it for. You may want to sell your awesome chartreuse widgets but who’s buying?

There’s been a lot of chatter about whether it’s a good idea to buy email lists, Twitter followers or Facebook fans. I think that buying anything of the sort is… let me be very clear… stupid.

You can’t buy branding. You can’t buy loyalty. You can’t buy trust. You may be able to buy a few extra sets of eyeballs glancing over your content but what is that worth to your bottom line?

I mention this because people who buy people just for the sake of collecting their numbers clearly have no idea who they’re trying to reach. It’s a spaghetti-meets-wall approach that smart marketers avoid.

If you know who your audience is you can find them – for free – all on your own.

We’ve talked a bit before about how to define your audience and I recommend brushing up on the basics. I won’t get into the details here, but briefly, you should know your customers and prospective customers inside and out. What age and gender? What lifestyles and careers do they have? What interests and fears?

Write this down, too. Create a dossier on each of your customer types so you know who you’ll be gearing your social marketing toward. With the why and the who, you can develop the what and the how.

For example, you’ll take a different approach and tone and probably create very different content for your twenty-something college audience than for your fifty-something executive audience.

I hope you’re seeing so far how defining each of these builds toward a robust and successful social marketing program. And so…

3. What’s My Content Strategy?

That question sounds big and scary, doesn’t it? But if you know why and who, it’s not. All it means is that you need to choose the type of content that you’re going to share.

Here’s a bad way to go about content strategy: post stuff randomly, arbitrarily, whenever you feel like it and whatever seems good at the time.

A better way is to decide what type of content will be most valuable, interesting and engaging for your audience and will meet your goals (your “why”). Here’s a no-bs guide to finding and creating good content.

It might be educational content in the form of resources and how-tos. It might be fun or diversionary content. It might be inspirational. It might be a combination of any or all and more. Start outlining what type of content you’ll need to curate or create and use your outline as a guide.

Part of a good strategy is also choosing when to post on your social networks. First, know that there is no perfect time. Second, know that you’re going to have to experiment.

Start with some reasonable assumptions – if you’re a local business trying to reach people during business hours, posting at midnight may not be your best first choice.

And start with some best practices – post often, not too much, and consistently. Sounds vague, right? It is. Start with a plan then test, measure and adjust. It’s important to set a schedule so you know exactly what you’re doing without guesswork. If you choose to post to Facebook every day at 10AM then commit to that and stick to it until there’s a reason to change.

Here’s a little tidbit: many businesses post during regular weekday business hours but people engage the most on weekends. Social marketing doesn’t stop just because you left your desk! Schedule and share content on weekends when more people are paying attention and fewer businesses are adding to the noise.

4. Where Should I Focus My Efforts?

Different social networks have different audiences so if you know yours, you’ll be better able to find them. Here’s an interesting infographic about social demographics.

As you will see, Facebook is split pretty evenly between male and female but weighted toward the over 40 crowd, but the majority of Twitter users are under 40. Pinterest is vastly female while Google+ is vastly male. And LinkedIn folks tend to have higher education levels.

Do you see how knowing your why and who will help guide you toward social channels that will help you get the most bang for your marketing buck? If you want to reach college educated men, you’re probably wasting your time on Pinterest but if women are your crowd, then start pinning for heaven’s sake.

True story: a client of mine recently asked me to initiate and manage their Twitter marketing. Before doing anything, I asked them all the relevant questions and we conducted a survey of their customer base to learn more. Do you know what we found out? Exactly zero of their customers used Twitter. That’s right, zero. Given my client’s demographic and product line, it made sense. What wouldn’t have made sense was spending time and money on Twitter marketing! Talked myself right out of that job… drat.

There are many social networks and you can spend a great deal of time trying to manage and respond to them all. The good news is that you don’t have to. You only need to decide which one – or few – will work for you.

5. Do I Have Enough Time To Do This?

This question often gets nary a thought, yet all the great planning in the world won’t help your social marketing succeed if you simply don’t have time to implement it.

We are under the illusion that social marketing is free. Technically, it requires little to no monetary investment. What it does require is time, and that comes at a cost. You have to decide how much time you can and will invest in social marketing before you start. There’s the real time cost: the literal number of hours it takes you to manage your social networks. And there’s the opportunity cost: what aren’t you doing that could be paying off in bigger or better ways because you’re spending time on social networks?

Social marketing may be worth every second you spend doing it, but you won’t know that unless you devote time to it. Be honest and ask yourself whether you can afford the amount of time it requires to find and create content, share it, engage with people and continue doing so on a regular basis.

What’s worse than not doing any social marketing? Having a social presence that languishes. An unused Twitter account, empty Pinterest board or Facebook page that hasn’t been updated for 6 weeks is more damaging to your brand, credibility and business than having no social presence at all.

Think about this one – and if you’re ready to jump in then do it with both feet. Commit to the time and the place and commit to making it a great experience for you and for the people who fan, friend and follow you.

Got any other suggestions for must-answer questions? Let me know!

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Carol Lynn Rivera

Carol Lynn Rivera

Carol Lynn is a content creator and marketer who has been in the business of digital marketing since 1999. Along with her husband and business partner Ralph, she owns and operates both {Web.Search.Social}, a consulting and marketing services business, and Rahvalor Interactive, a web and creative services production studio. On any given day Carol Lynn will wear the hat of project manager, consultant, social media manager and content marketer. Her true passion is writing, whether it’s web content, a blog post, email campaign or social status update. When she's not writing for customers, {Web.Search.Social}, or her own blog, she's planning her early retirement to Barcelona as a famous and wealthy novelist.
Carol Lynn Rivera
Carol Lynn Rivera
  • http://cirquedumot.com/new-readers/ Susan Silver

    I think you hit this one out of the park. People forget that there is a goal we are trying to achieve. If you don’t know why you are blogging then you are going to get lost among the million of other writers out there. 

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      So right, Susan. WHY is the biggest little question you can ask. I ask myself this all the time and if there is no good answer, I stop!

  • http://diamondmlmtraining.com/ Nicky_price

    Oh this made me smile – this will have people running to their Pinterest and Stumbled Upon accounts to revive them so that it is not damaging their brand!  You are so right that we need to ensure we have the time to run an effective social media campaign – the same with any form of marketing it just has to be consistent to be effective.

    I LOVE the fact that you dug deep and found your potential client had absolutely no need for his Twitter campaign.  I hope he hired you for a facebook or other campaign instead!!

    Great reminder Carol!
    Nicky

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      Thanks Nicky, I hate to waste other people’s time and money as much as I hate to waste my own :)

      I hope people do reconsider – there are so many Facebook pages, they have like 62 fans and their last post was sometime in October. That says NOTHING good – are you clueless? unpopular? bad at this? Just step away from the social profiles if they aren’t working!

  • http://twitter.com/AdrienneSmith40 Adrienne Smith

    I had to chuckle when I started reading this Carol because I was one of those doing it because everyone else was and everyone said we needed to.  Okay, so it was a lesson for me which is why I’ll pay attention to the different social networks but I don’t jump in immediately until I see if it’s the right avenue for me.

    I have a copywriting buddy who shares a lot of the same information you did.  She writes for her clients and they all want to get on social sites but she’s always asking them, where is your target audience.  So many people are wasting their time on sites where they won’t find their audience.  Just your client who wanted to get on Twitter.

    I have a feeling that after reading this post, a lot of your readers will be reevaluating their social media strategy as well.  

    Thanks for always giving us ALL the goods Carol.  Sure hope that client hired you for some other area.  :-)

    ~Adrienne

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      I think we all probably go through this at some point, Adrienne. Everything moves so fast online that we easily get swept up in the current, trying to stay on top of everything and make sure we don’t miss out on whatever the next, newest, greatest thing is. Sometimes you just gotta put the brakes on and ask why!

  • http://mayura4ever.blogspot.com/ Mayura De Silva

    Nice and straightforward article :) I was one who start doing it all ’cause everyone else doing it. Honestly, I have no idea how it works when I create a brand page for my blog. I presume it’s true scenario for newbies. Now I’m much confident on this.

    Personally, I don’t have faith in buying followers. I don’t think it always work out for brands too. I’ve seen many business pages with over 1K likes but no likes in recent posts shared on brand pages. Could it be? It’s true (Even statistically) that social engagement is quite lower compared to pageviews or conversions, but if we come out clean it would create good impression for new followers and helps to build trust. Isn’t it? :) I remember once I lost all my followers due to a technical error and even had no Twitter follower until 4 – 5 months. But after all circumstances, I’m getting even more. I believe it’s because I’m taking it seriously.

    However still I’m experimenting with my content strategy and lately I’m having good results compared to historic data. And I stick with few social platforms as others doesn’t helps me. But I’m still trying to figure out a way to increase impressions through them too.

    Thanks for sharing this one Carol :) Earlier you helped me to customize my about page. Now I’m gonna make use of these tips for Social Marketing…

    Have a fantastic week :)

    Cheers…

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      You’re right, Mayura, lots of people (me too!) do things because someone told them to. There is so much happening, especially online, and so much to think about so sometimes we just jump in and see where the river takes us.

      But if we want to be truly successful we need to step back and think about what we’re doing and why.

      I always say it’s better to have 100 devoted fans than 100,000 people who don’t care. It may “look good” in the numbers but it means nothing for your business.

      I’m glad I could help and hopefully your social marketing will take off!

  • Aaron Valdez

    This article is one of the best pieces of social media writing I have read to date. I read 3 to 5 pieces of social media articles a day and this piece stands out as clear cut, honest advice. Thank you for writing this how to piece.