While the best online marketers continue to use integrated strategies involving inbound and outbound channels, social media is rapidly eclipsing email, site-fronts and PPC ads as the primary way that businesses build a presence on the web.
By focusing a large amount of spending on maintaining Facebook, Twitter and Instagram audiences, large companies like Domino’s and startups like Purple Mattress have raised their bottom line and brought thousands of new customers into the fold.
A robust social media strategy offers many benefits to a company willing to work at it. Studies consistently link large social media followings to:
- Increased brand loyalty
- Higher conversion rates
- Greater consumer awareness
- Lower overall marketing spend
Unfortunately for a larger number of businesses, social media is all about showing up and nothing else. Publishing tools like Sprout and Hootsuite enable automatic scheduled posting directly from a company’s blog and other content channels. Surprisingly, an endless cycle of looping links doesn’t draw in many new fans or convert new customers.
Worse, you have probably seen too many of these videos: short clips with no voice, overlaid by explanatory text:
Ever since this format became a popular way to condense information without the need of an expensive video team, more marketers produce it on the fly with the aid of automatic content tools like Lumen5. In fact, by the end of 2018, Gartner reports that 20% of business content will be generated by machines.
The tendency of marketers to fall back on automated solutions does not always serve them well, and if there is any area of your business that should be given a creative, personalized treatment, it’s social media. Social media is your company’s face: the direct link between you and the consumer.
On the upside, the complacency shown by many businesses on social media is good news for you: your competition is probably failing in many ways, and doing better isn’t very hard. In this article, we’ll look at seven high-converting strategies that experts have used to gain prospects and followers on social media with examples and simple how-tos.
1. Incentivizing Participation
One basic mistake of a rookie social marketer is to prioritize volume (the number of followers) over engagement (the number of likes, shares, comments, etc.) While both volume and engagement level are important, a page with 5,000 followers and 20% engagement is more valuable than a page with 10,000 followers and 5% engagement.
Raising engagement involves a number of factors, including posting frequency, audience segmentation and relevance. However, since marketers first began using social media, one simple idea has remained extremely effective: give followers a compelling reason to interact with your page, and they will. There’s more than one way to go about this.
Quizzes and Questionnaires
The meteoric rise of BuzzFeed in the early 2010s attracted a tremendous amount of attention from onlookers. BuzzFeed was one of the first companies to ever turn viral content into an artform that could be bottled and harnessed by businesses.
How did they do it? By tapping into one extremely simple principle: people love talking about themselves.
- What Disney princess are you?
- If you were a doorknob, what kind would you be?
- Are you an espresso, latte or decaff person?
Who knows? Who cares? Don’t kid yourself: you care.
The Internet went raving mad with these little quizzes that simultaneously engaged consumer’s media tastes, egos, and forged an opportunity to interact with brands and friends alike. All the while, BuzzFeed used them to build its social engagement and collect consumer information.
Now brands regularly create their own BuzzFeed style quizzes and make incredible returns. For a good example, look no further than the marketing campaign for Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them which included a quiz that sorted users into their “Ilvermorny House”.
Contests & Giveaways
One of the oldest and best known methods of social media marketing, giveaways are extremely straightforward: offer the chance to win a really cool prize to everyone who likes/shares/comments on a post.
On first glance, a contest might seem a bit forward: you are essentially asking for engagement outright and paying for it. But this is part of what makes the strategy work so well. Consumers value honesty, and surprisingly, research indicates that social followers gained during a contest are very active even when the contest ends.
Using graphic design like Travelocity does in their yearly vacation contest, a giveaway can be especially successful on increasingly popular visual platforms like Instagram and Snapchat. As frugal members of Gen-Z continue to rise, tapping into their favorite hangout spots is not a bad way to succeed.
2. Influencer Marketing
We’ve seen that incentivization can tap into a prospect’s inherent love of themselves. Influencer marketing taps into a prospect’s love of their heroes. Hero worship is as old as advertising itself, from the days that 1940s TV celebrities cheerfully held up bars of soap: “It’s the only brand I use!”
In the age of social media, influence is a sliding scale that ranges from micro-influencer (an individual popular with a small audience in a particular niche) to macro-influencer (a famous actress with a large and diverse audience).
The power of utilizing influencers can be illustrated by the success of the ill-fated Fyre festival in Summer of 2017, when more than 400 attendants found themselves stranded on an island in the Bahamas without water, food or proper sanitation. After organizer Billy McFarland found himself faced with jail time and a million dollar lawsuit, spectators wondered how anyone had been lured to a non-existent music festival.
The answer is that McFarland offered money to big social media influencers like Kendall Jenner, who shared the event on social media attracting the interest of an extremely large fanbase. Essentially, influencer marketing was able to turn nothing into something. Imagine what it can do for a real, respectable business.
Why does it work?
The effectiveness of influencer marketing doesn’t boil down to numbskulls who always copy famous people. Research tells us that it works because,
- Consumers value the opinions of people they know about more than advertisements
- Repeated exposure to the same product from multiple influencers raises brand credibility
- Influencers – especially micro-influencers – have access to a focused group of people that advertisers may not be able to reach otherwise
60% of shoppers report that they have made purchases influenced by a Facebook comment or post. Moreover, 70% of millennials report that peer recommendations factor into their buying decisions. This aligns with conventional wisdom about the superiority of word-of-mouth.
Types of Influencers
Although Kendall Jenner was mentioned in an earlier example, celebrities are not nearly as effective as other kinds of influencers. Consumers are less likely to trust an actor or fashion model than they are to trust small creators or authorities they are familiar with.
The best kind of influencers might include,
- Product reviewers & YouTube unboxers
- Stylists and beauticians with a social media following
- Foodies with a popular Instagram account
- Tutors, and other minor public intellectuals
The list above has an indefinite number of permutations: in all of them, a small figure has already done the work of connecting to consumers with a need. By paying a stylist to try your mascara, your product gains instant credibility and exposure in front of an audience that is already eager to buy.
3. Creative Transformation
There are a limited number of products that sell themselves: bread and milk before a snowstorm, popcorn at a movie theater just might. But your own product or service almost certainly doesn’t belong in this category.
This advice might seem obvious, but it isn’t so obvious to many brands on social media. Sharing product images, demos and customer testimonials may seem like a very straight-forward way to advertise, but it’s also highly bland and too obviously promotional.
Brands who succeed profoundly well on social media have mastered the art of creative transformation, which means taking something ordinary and making it extraordinary in the eyes of prospects. The point of transformation is to connect with your audience on a deeper level by getting them to see you in a different light.
Let’s look at an example
One of the largest sandwich chains in the U.S is killing it on social media right now, not because their food looks delicious or due to ingenious commercials. The company’s engagement has exploded due to a small team of talented and savvy artists who creatively transform its products.
Arby’s new social admins are creatives and geeks, hired in 2016 to raise the company’s publicity. It worked very well as the team set about appealing to consumer nostalgia with references to video games, film, pop culture, and media throwbacks.
It’s not clear what the Magic School Bus has to do with a roast beef sandwich, or how Legend of Zelda relates to curly fries – but therein lies the genius. By transforming a product into something new, Arby’s has raised its online popularity considerably, becoming the subject of many case studies on effective social media management.
Creativity isn’t necessarily easy to learn, but that’s why marketers should never go it alone. The world is filled with bright talents just waiting for a hand to apply them in lucrative ventures.
Social media admins who keep their jobs are usually the ones who stay on top of news and stories. What’s going on in the world tends to affect what they will post, and when – this helps to avoid dodgy or insensitive marketing, like Pepsi failed to do when it released an infamous commercial in the wake of political tensions in early 2016.
Aside from avoiding danger, staying on top of the news enables a company to share timely/relevant commentary on social media. With the use of hashtags, this allows them to ride a trending topic. When done poorly, this looks opportunistic and heavy-handed. When done well, it looks like a sign of wit and currency.
Take what happened when the lights went out during a blackout during Super Bowl XLVII. When attendants took to Twitter, following the hashtag #blackout, they were greeted with the following image by an extremely prompt Tide administrator –
The tweet proved to be extremely popular, both for its sense of occasion and brazenly entrepreneurial comedic timing. Similarly this year in the wake of another royal wedding, numerous advertisers turned out tweets, social media campaigns and limited product releases celebrating the union of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
Staying connected with recent events and integrating them into your messaging where appropriate can raise engagement, and transform your brand image. The little boost of publicity from a trending topic doesn’t hurt either.
5. Paid Advertising
Most average netizens have mixed feelings about targeted advertising, especially on social media networks. In the wake of scandals about the use of consumer data for questionable/malicious purposes, a public conversation is currently raging about the role that advertising ought to play in culture.
At the end of the day, this conversation is happening for a simple reason: targeted advertising on social media is extremely effective.
Is your ideal customer…
- A middle aged golfer who plays Dungeons and Dragons and likes cheap vodka?
- A female high school student who loves J.R.R Tolkien and Kraftwerk but definitely not The Beatles?
- A stay-at-home mom with less than two kids who’s ravenously fond of Kit-Kat Bars and bacon?
It doesn’t matter how random or absurd: you have a selection of more than a billion people, and Facebook knows just about every mundane detail which could be remotely interesting to marketers. With Facebook’s business platform, turning $5.00 into $100.00 is easy as long as your product is perfectly matched with your audience.
Advertising should be an opportunity for learning, not just promotion. Too often, marketers assume they know everything about their audience. This keeps them stuck on a pretty consistent plateau which they can never rise above.
A/B testing is the process of comparing two or more similar ads, determining which is most effective, and repeating the process. Over time, a company dedicated to this process can “evolve” a weak ad into a super-ad.
There are many third party platforms for A/B testing your social advertisements, like AdEspresso. But if you’re willing to learn the ropes, you don’t need to leave your social platform of choice. Facebook has a built-in tool for business customers to run competing ads simultaneously and keep the best performing ones.
The Internet began as a text-centric world, but that has been changing rapidly in the past decade. Hearkening back to the age of television, video is fast becoming the most popular option for sharing content and reaching prospects.
In the meanwhile traditional social media platforms are declining in popularity while they are supplanted by image-oriented platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram. To stay ahead of the game, both Twitter and Facebook have improved their video-making capabilities.
One of the best and most underutilized is live-streaming: with live streaming, a company can give prospects a unique and human insight into everyday operations, exciting announcements, and informational material to promote new products or features.
Live-streaming offers many opportunities that traditional content doesn’t allow for:
- One-on-one interaction in real time
- The ability to answer questions, clarify statements and clear up mistakes on the fly
- Immersion in a company’s internal environment
As a supplement to content marketing strategies, many social marketers are now organizing CEO Q&As, informational webinars and interviews with experts. Even prospects who have never encountered your brand before may join in when they see your live video in a recommended tab.
7. Robust Customer Support
If one thing has changed business forever, it’s that prospects now view social media as a primary communication channel with businesses. That means you will receive…
- Return requests
…not through email or even by phone, but in your Facebook inbox. In recent years, companies who trained personnel to reply quickly and competently to social queries have achieved remarkable success without any other marketing strategy.
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines managed to make headlines through social correspondence, which became a way of differentiating itself from competitors in 2017. It can be extremely tricky to provide personal attention to thousands of customers from a corporate office; CRM software and social management platforms like Sprout have made that process easier, as multiple admins can collaborate to handle customers separately and track conversations.
However large or small your business is, you can’t go wrong answering customers quickly and staying engaged. Today, more than 2 in 3 prospects will use social media as a first resort for problem resolution.