Social Media Marketing Strategy: Picking the Right Tools for the Job

Social media tools have been around longer than most people realize. In the early 20th century amateur “ham” radio operators formed radio-based social clubs. In the 1970s CB radios became a popular way for people to engage in real-time conversation over the air. The 1970s also saw the emergence of the first electronic Bulletin Board Systems, the direct ancestor of the Internet and today’s social media.

CB

CB radio: The social media of the 1970s

Social media tools are old, but one thing that is new about today’s tools is the way they have been adapted to marketing purposes. When using social media for marketing, no matter what tool is being used, one constant is the need for a strategy. A marketing strategy is what enables you to select the right tools for the job. Whether you’re using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or even an old-fashioned BBS-style forum, here are eight ways to help your social media efforts yield the right results.

How Does Your Social Media Campaign Support Your Sales Strategy?

The foundation for an effective social media campaign is a clear vision of how your campaign will support your sales strategy. The marketing and sales process is a series of steps which begins by connecting with targeted prospects and unfolds gradually into sales, satisfied customers, and repeat business. If you define the steps in your marketing sequence first, you will have a clearer vision of where your social media outreach fits into the sequence and how it serves as a step towards making a sale.

What marketing or sales function is your social media campaign meant to serve? Areas where social media can help include:

  • Market research
  • Branding
  • Lead generation
  • Sales appointment booking
  • Sales presentations
  • Customer service
  • Requesting referrals

Social Media Marketing Diagram

Let’s look a bit more at each of these with an eye towards identifying the components of a social media strategy that will serve your business needs.

What Can You Learn about Your Market from Social Media?

One increasingly popular business application of social media is the use of analytics to collect market research data. Social media analytics tools enable companies to automatically monitor their online reputations, find out what topics are trending, and find out what their target market likes and buys.

But you don’t necessarily need to delve deeply into analytics technology to use social media as an effective market research tool. Simple actions like reading what your target audience is saying and asking prospects questions can yield much valuable information. Even investing a little time in such exercises can give you an advantage over competition that isn’t doing the same.

How Does Your Social Media Presence Build Your Brand?

Being conscious of how your online presence builds your brand is another way your social media usage can serve your marketing ends. A preliminary here is to define your brand in the first place, which is a step skipped by many small businesses and another place you can get a jumpstart on your competition. What is your company’s Unique Selling Proposition, and how does it tie into the brand you project? Who is the face of your company? What images, logos, and slogans do you want your customers to associate with your company?

When you have some answers to these types of questions, you can start building your brand into your social media outreach. Customizing your profiles and pages to express your brand is an essential part of this process. How you and your representatives project your brand in your content and comments is another element.

How Can You Use Social Media to Generate Leads?

Lead generation is probably one of the most valuable marketing applications of social media. Social media enables you to personally connect with more targeted prospects on a larger scale and at a lower cost than most other forms of marketing.

There are a variety of ways to do this. Some of the most effective revolve around having some content which positions you as an authority in your field, which is one reason blogging and video have become key components of most social media marketing campaigns. Once you have some lead-generation content, you can distribute it through your own social media platforms as well as that of others. You can also make connections by commenting on others’ content and syndicating it.

The goal here is to make connections you can add to your marketing database. Some of these connections can be one-one virtual networking relationships. Others might be one-to-many relationships with groups of friends and followers. A powerful way to combine these approaches is to network with others who already have your target market among their friends and followers or in their email database.

How Can You Use Social Media to Book Sales Appointments?

After establishing social media relationships, a logical next step towards converting them into sales is using these relationships to extend invitations to sales appointments. Such appointments can take the form of one-on-one or group presentations. They can be delivered through social media, but they can also be delivered live, over the phone, by email, over the Internet, over Skype, and through other means. In this way social media relationships can become a gateway to real-time sales relationships.

There are several effective ways to extend sales appointment invitations through social media. One of the easiest is simply sending a private message inviting someone to a phone conversation. Virtual public speaking events can also be used to extend invitations to groups. This tactic works best when combined with an incentive such as a free consultation or infoproduct.

How Can You Use Social Media to Support Sales Presentations?

While social media tools are usually not a preferred platform for delivering actual sales presentations, they can be useful for laying the groundwork for such presentations. For instance, they can serve as a vehicle to discuss prospect needs, convey the benefits of a product or service, or build credibility.

In some cases, social media may also serve to deliver sales pitches. For instance, some video sites allow posting of commercial sales videos, sometimes requiring a premium fee. Affiliate links, webinar sales presentations, and membership sites are some other examples of ways sales presentations can be delivered through social media.

There are also applications that integrate social media with payment processing gateways. When using such services, be sure to take security into account, having your technical support do due diligence in researching the risks involved and taking necessary precautions. When in doubt, the best practice is to direct your payment processing to a secure site rather than taking undue risks.

How Can You Use Social Media to Follow up with Customer Service?

Another way social media can support your marketing and sales strategy is by providing a vehicle for delivering customer service. Social media can be used to help deliver digital downloads, demonstrate step-by-step instructions, answer frequently-asked questions, provide virtual support, and collect customer feedback.

How Can You Use Social Media to Request Referrals?

Finally, good customer service provides a basis for asking your satisfied customers to give you referrals. One reason for the success of social media games like FarmVille is their built-in referral systems that leverage the power of Facebook’s friending system. Small business can also employ social networking referral strategies by inviting customers and prospects to share content and refer you to their friends and followers.

Farmville Friends

There are other ways social media can support your marketing and sales campaigns, but these are a few of the major strategies. Select the strategies that fit your general marketing strategy and pick the right social media tools to do the job.

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