What I’ve Learned from Working in Social Media Marketing
Do you ever wonder what the “insiders” know about social media marketing that you might be missing?
There are thousands, probably even millions, of people working in social media. They range from virtual assistants charging hourly rates, to large social media agencies with bigger packages and boutique rates. In the middle of that range you’ll also find social marketing professionals and some senior VAs who offer more approachable packages and a varying range of expertise. So what are all of these people and agencies really offering, and where is it worth making an investment?
Is it possible to manage your social media yourself and get the results that the so-called experts are claiming to achieve?
Small Potatoes vs. Big Cheeses
What are the “big cheese” agencies doing differently than the “small potatoes” VAs, and is there a way to check if the big cheese prices are providing a real return on investment?
As someone who ran my own small business (two of them, in fact) before moving fully into marketing, I’d like to offer some insights into the business of social media marketing.
In my past life before entering into digital marketing, I spent several years in the corporate world. I also owned and operated my own dance studio for 15 years, as well as a small health food business. That experience gave me a unique position as I delved into the immersive realm of online marketing.
Since then, I’ve worked on several social media teams with dozens of clients before I established my own firm. I truly believe that the best social media marketers take the following points into careful consideration.
11 Lessons I’ve Learned about Marketing from Working in the Field
1. An effective campaign is a lot of work!
Social marketing is not the quick and easy job that some people think it is. It’s a lot of work, and it requires a serious plan and strategy. To be effective, it can’t be an afterthought, and it definitely can’t be a task that you throw at the bottom of someone’s job description.
The biggest pitfall in social marketing is confusing ad hoc social updates with a real online marketing campaign. Trying to post on the fly just doesn’t work. Without a strategy and a clear plan, you’ll either get distracted and neglect your online presence, or you’ll get distracted and waste tons of time surfing down the Facebook or Pinterest rabbit hole.
To do a good job, you have to be really well organized and have streamlined processes. There are tasks that need to be done daily, weekly, and monthly. You need project management software, checklists, and spreadsheets to keep track of all of the moving parts and make sure that nothing slips through the cracks. You also have to keep your finger on the pulse of the latest fast-moving changes to the online industry.
2. Never make assumptions: analyze and measure real metrics.
In marketing, you have to be 100% results-driven. Otherwise, it’s like throwing a dart at a board while blindfolded. If you’re not keeping a consistent eye on the response to what you’re doing—both the individual stats available on each platform, and more importantly how the networking platforms are syncing with your website analytics—you’re probably wasting your time and money. You have to be able to qualify what you’re doing so that you can see what’s working and what needs to be changed. I recommend daily and weekly stats check-ins paired with in-depth monthly reporting.
3. Identify realistic marketing goals.
Of course we all want to make more sales. That’s what business is all about. However, that is not what so cial media is directly about. If you enter into a social media campaign expecting immediate sales, you’re likely to be disappointed. Sure, there are some very special sales and online promotions that can generate immediate sales, but there are other ways to measure the success of your marketing.
Times have changed, and consumers have changed too. Your customers aren’t hanging around on Facebook and Twitter to shop. They are there to engage and build relationships. When you take the time to interact with them and build an environment where they can get to know your brand in a friendly, conversational, and fun way, then they’ll remember you when it comes time to make a purchasing decision. Learn to measure your success in terms relationships, not dollar signs.
4. Strategy is everything.
It’s essential to get all of your ducks in a row to create a targeted campaign, and constantly evolving strategic thinking is critical to the success of your brand’s online presence. A good social media marketer doesn’t just jump right into posting. They take the time to understand your brand, business goals, message, voice, and most importantly, your customers. It takes a dedicated “discovery” period to investigate your market, and this takes a time investment so that you can act strategically.
5. Constantly question your efficiency & process.
“The most dangerous sentence in the English language: We’ve always done it this way.”
That’s one of my favourite quotes. The worst thing you can do in social marketing is continue with the same process without ever making changes. You have to consistently question the way that you’re operating to ensure that it’s still the best way. That’s true of everything, but it’s especially true when it comes to technology and the online world. You need to keep learning and evolving to stay on the cutting edge.
When your process is inefficient, it’s less effective and it costs more. That’s true whether you’re doing it yourself or you’re outsourcing to an inefficient team. When outsourcing, it’s important to know that you’re paying social media marketers for necessary work, not for inefficient and unnecessary processes that eat up time.
6. Embrace evergreen content
The best social media marketers leverage evergreen content. What is evergreen content? It’s content that will be as relevant in three months or even a year as it is today; content that isn’t time sensitive and won’t expire because it’s not limited to a specific date. It’s absolutely reasonable to re-use evergreen material and a good social media marketer understands how to identify, track, schedule, and re-schedule evergreen content. It’s a highly efficient, cost-effective, and all-around smarter way to manage your brand.
7. Diversify your content.
It’s critical to have both written and visual content to build a strong brand across your social media profiles. If you can extend your visual content to include video too, even better! A good social media marketing team includes copywriting talent to write hooks that will draw your audience while conveying your core message. The team should also include someone skilled with graphics to generate proprietary visual content. A copy editor should always check everything over an extra time (or ten) before it goes live.
Here’s the thing about visual content: the internet moves quickly and it’s not necessary to have a top expert creating visuals. You need someone who is skilled enough at creating branded visual graphics that are attractive and that they can churn out efficiently. Sometimes you’ll find a copywriter who is equally skilled at creating visuals, but I think that’s pretty rare. A good social media team can be small, but should definitely include both strong writing and visual skills.
8. Blogging & SEO are really important.
SEO = Search Engine Optimization, and the most important search engine is Google. Google loves fresh new content, and your followers do, too. That’s one of the reasons why an active blog is really important. Your blog is the perfect opportunity to share informative content with your followers that will drive them to your website without directly trying to sell to them. People don’t like to be sold to! But they do like to browse, read, learn, and engage. Your active blog is the vehicle for non-salesy engagement.
A good social media team should include a ghost blogger. They should be able to generate great on-brand, informative content efficiently and populate the content with keywords that are important for your SEO. This is great for your overall brand presence. A social team that manages your blog content can streamline your social library to ensure that your brand message is consistent.
Blog posts are worth the energy because they’re usually evergreen—the content won’t expire. This makes your overall social campaign more efficient and cost-effective. Social media marketers know that they can share a good blog post again and again with different “hooks” to reach a new audience, and to remind your original readers of that blog post’s particular value-add, which they’ve likely forgotten.
9. Tech is king.
You need to stay on top of the techie side of things. It’s the key to efficiency and staying ahead of the game. A good social media team has technical skills that go beyond sharing your content. The best social media marketing teams include at least one person who is into the daily, nerdy, and—for the right person—fun technical aspects of the ever-evolving social media world. That person needs to understand and enjoy analyzing data, and they need to be able to understand the technical aspects of your website just as much as all the social platforms. A true tech guru is passionate about staying on top of all the latest social network updates… because those updates are constant!
10. Know your networks.
Because a good social media marketer is always staying up to date on the latest tech and trends, they should be able to make recommendations concerning how your campaign will fit in differently on each network because each platform is completely different. LinkedIn is nothing like Facebook, and Twitter is a whole other animal. You need to keep some of the spontaneous feeling behind your Instagram feed, while Pinterest is carefully curated. Volumes vary; just a few daily posts might be enough on Facebook, but Twitter requires a very high volume to stay visible.
Most social media marketers create packages based on the volume of monthly posts as well as the platforms you’ll be using. While I would always be cautious about firms that are charging a lot of money, I’d be equally suspicious about anyone who is charging too little because getting the right brand traction on social media requires a lot of content, monitoring, and overall work.
11. Pay-Per-Click & Boosted Advertising works.
Most people know that you can pay for ads on the various social networks but few people delve into full ad management. In fact, many people, including social marketers, are very intimidated by paid advertising. Not every social media marketer is in the practice of running PPC (pay-per-click) and boosted advertising, so this is a good way to separate the real social media experts from the novices. On the other hand, there are a lot of nuances to creating successful ads. Every ad should be monitored, tweaked, adjusted, tracked, and analyzed.
A good social media marketer should be A/B testing ads with smaller budgets first, then making recommendations on which ads to use for larger investments based on the results of the testing. Always compare advertisements with your website analytics to ensure that you’re generating traffic to your site and getting the right return on your investment.
On Facebook, don’t just boost your regular posts! You get a lot more valuable insight by planning your ads through the Ad Manager. That goes for Instagram ads, which are managed via the Facebook Ad Manager.
The proof is in the pudding
Not everyone who says that they’re an expert actually is. And some people really do know what they’re doing, but their process is more expensive because of inefficient processes. The best social media expert understands that there’s a lot of work and constant vigilance that goes into a social media marketing campaign, and that the field is always growing and changing. They should be able to backup their marketing efforts with real analytics to help you discern the return on your investment.
Social media marketing can generate fantastic results. 80%* of social network users connect with brands on social media and more than 60%* of those people are more likely to seek out a product or service after seeing it on social media! Brands that share fun, engaging, customized content on social networks generate 3X* more customers than traditional marketing… and it costs 62%* less!
If you’re trying to manage your own social media in-house, make sure that you have someone extremely savvy and efficient dedicated to the task. You might just be able to pull it off. But generally speaking, social media is one case where it pays to outsource.