YouTube, Pinterest, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, StumbleUpon... the sheer number of today's social media channels can make a marketer swoon. Add the burden of creating unique content to engage with the right customers at the right time - while still managing all the other responsibilities of one's job - and you'll have to pick your poor marketing professional up off the floor. How can anyone manage in today's monstrous social media landscape?
In social media, just because you can doesn't mean you should. First, start by acknowledging that no one can do it all. Even for brands as large as Coca-Cola and Apple, there are simply too many social media channels for one company to create meaningful, engaging presences on all of them - and, more important, neither can (nor should) you.
If you strip away its shiny new exterior, at its core, social media is just like any other marketing strategy. This means that to get the ROI you need, some channels are going to work better for you than others. And, frankly, some channels, even if they're the hottest thing going, just aren't going to work for you at all.
So before you jump on the bandwagon of the latest social media channel, make sure that the cart is heading in a direction that will take you toward your marketing goals. You can do this by determining your unique mix of the "Three C's": customer, content, and channel.
The best marketing strategies start by understanding the customer. The same is true with social media - if possible, even more so.
For example, if you own a pool installation franchise, you already know your ideal customer lives within a 50-mile radius of your showroom, is married, and has children between the ages of 4 and 24. However, for your social media strategy, you don't want to stop there.
Let's say you learn that your pool customers are also very likely to be boosters of local high school sport teams. Now, instead of being a nameless company that sends out junk mail, you can become an active part of an online community that shares scores and highlights of recent games, promotes team fundraisers, celebrates collegiate drafts, etc.
The bottom line on social media is that it's more important than with any other marketing medium to be able to answer the customer's question, "What's in it for me?" To be able to answer that meaningfully, you have to know your customer better than you ever have before.
The best content for your social media strategy isn't dictated solely by your customers. It also has to be right for your brand. But what kind of content is that? To answer this question, start imagining your brand as an actual person. What kind of personality traits would that person have? What topics of conversation would they like talking about? What would endear them to others?
For example, let's say your company, ABC Tax, provides personal tax preparation services. If ABC Tax were an actual person, he would be a confident, competent, yet friendly sort of guy... the type you'd trust to go through all of your personal finances, then hang out with you at the neighborhood picnic.
Once you've personified your brand, it becomes much easier to create content with a consistent tone of voice and, in turn, build a successful social media presence. For ABC Tax, the social media content strategy would help the average person understand complicated tax rules and regulations, while throwing in the occasional plug for a community event or local hotspot.
Even with a great strategy, clearly identified customers, and quality content, it can still be very difficult to gain traction in social media. Don't make it even harder by posting your content where it doesn't belong. Instead, take the time to determine which social media channels are best suited to your content and your audience.
For example, if you have a lot of video content, make sure the channel (or channels) you choose makes it easy for your target audience to both find and view your movies. YouTube, Vimeo, and Viddler might be good places to start.
Finally, don't limit yourself to just the household names like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube. Depending on your content and your goals, a smaller niche site might be the perfect place to engage with your target audience. Sites such as social-networking.findthebest.com can help you find social media channels that might be a good fit for you.
Melinda Caughill is Partner, Strategic Marketing at Third Person, Inc., a marketing, advertising, and web design company based in Milwaukee. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 414-221-9810 x302.
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