With Facebook passing 1.19 billion monthly active users in the third quarter of 2013 and Twitter reporting 232 million, social media has become one of the most cost-effective marketing tools for reaching a large, targeted audience. But reaching this audience effectively can be challenging, and many companies and entrepreneurs use inefficient strategies that end up wasting them time and money on social media, leading them to falsely conclude that it’s an ineffective marketing method. Like any tool, the method works, but only when used correctly. In a recent interview I asked Internet marketing expert Rick Cooper which strategies he’s found most crucial to helping small businesses improve their social media outreach. Rick identified a number of keys to his success.
Rick emphasized to remember that social media is supposed to be social. A product-pitching copywriting style that might work well on a sales page may be counterproductive on Facebook or Twitter, where people are expecting more personal engagement. Instead of focusing on sales, Rick recommended, concentrate on building relationships to build your following. Provide value in the form of information or entertainment that makes people want to read your posts, like them, share them with their friends, and interact with you. Asking questions can be another way to engage your audience, Rick suggests. “Ask questions on social media to create engagement.” Rick also recommends responding quickly to comments you generate. “Be a rapid responder. When people post comments, respond back quickly. Facebook rewards engagement.” In the process of engaging your audience, you can showcase your expertise and position yourself in your market.
Balance Value with Promotion
As part of being social, Rick stressed the importance of balancing the value you provide with the amount of promotion you do. If everything you post is about you and your products, you will sound like a salesman and lose your audience. “The 80/20 rule is applicable to social media. 80 percent of your posts should be informational and no more than 20 percent should be promotional.” You will attract followers if you gear the bulk of your content towards informing them about what they’re interested in, helping them solve their problems, and entertaining them. Here is Rick’s five-point formula for communicating more effectively on social media:
1. Educate your audience by demonstrating your expertise
2. Inspire people with positive messages
3. Reveal something personal about yourself
4. Share blog posts, articles, and photos
5. Promote your business
The five methods correspond to the 80/20 rule: the first four are informational, and the last one is promotional. When you use this formula to establish yourself as a helpful resource, your promotional posts will then attract more interest because you’ll have a reputation as someone worth listening to.
Rick says one of the most frequent mistakes he sees in social media marketing is posting in spurts for a few days in a row and then disappearing for weeks or even months between posts. This nullifies any advantage you may have gained towards building an audience by killing your momentum. “Out of sight is out of mind,” Rick says. “Instead, you want to create Top of Mind Awareness (TOMA).” Rick recommends setting up a consistent posting schedule and sticking to it. “My recommendation is to post every day,” Rick advises. Automated posting tools such as HootSuite can help make this task easier. Hiring a social media manager is another way to save time posting. Rick suggests using software or a manager to distribute your initial posts and then following up personally to respond to comments and engage your audience.
Track and Adjust
Finally, Rick underscores the importance of tracking your results and making adjustments. Results should be defined in relation to your marketing goals. “Set goals or outcomes for social media,” Rick says. “For example, you might set a goal to have 5,000 likes or 10,000 likes on your Facebook page.” Notice what results your social media campaigns are getting so you can see what’s working and what isn’t. Identify which of your posts generate the most discussion, likes, and shares, and analyze them so you can duplicate their results. “Identify strategies to get more likes for your page,” Rick says. Pay attention to your least popular posts as well so you know what to avoid repeating. Spreadsheets and analytics tools can help you track your results more systematically so you can make more effective adjustments.