Guide to Social Media Marketing
Just about everyone could benefit from having a guide to promoting their store on social media, whether they are just starting out, have hit a plateau, or are looking to hone well-established skills. In this guide to Social Media Marketing (SMM), we will introduce to you the major social media streams and discuss how you can best leverage them to grow your business.
Table of Contents
SEO and Content
Though this is a guide on how to conduct your social media marketing, your foundation should actually go a bit deeper. Your presence in social media predicates a presence on the web at large, such as an eCommerce website created by one of our top-rated Shopping Carts or Web Builders. In order to get the most from your SMM, the web content you are already maintaining needs to be well crafted, since everything else will build upon it. So, we’ll start with your website.
On Your Website
For the purposes of this guide, and for the sake of brevity, we’ll focus on only two aspects of your website: its design, and its content.
- Setting up. Your web presence should reflect your business and only your business. I strongly recommend against going with any free web hosting service which keeps its own advertisements on your site. Do not distract your customers while they are making purchasing decisions! Your website also needs to have a custom URL – none of this “mystore.webhost.net/store” silliness. Keep your URL memorable, easily spellable, and relatively short. A basic “remove the ads” subscription to a web host can cost you around $10/month, and a URL can cost you about the same. Yearly plans often offer discounts. So for around $150, you can have a basic, ad-free website for an entire year, complete with a good http://www.widgets-by-bob.com address. See our reviews of website builders for more information.
- Choosing a layout. These days, there is no shortage of good, yet completely free, design templates. Many of them are scalable and eCommerce ready as well. They are a great starting place, particularly if design is not your thing. Choosing a layout is almost never a permanent decision; you can tweak, optimize, upgrade, or completely scrap it and restart at any time. You may find, however, that a free template does not impress quite like some of the paid ones do. I typically advise a business to start with a free template of their choosing, and then as their budget allows, upgrade the killer website of their dreams. If your product and your marketing are equally impressive, the investment of a pricier web design is likely to pay for itself in the long run.
One thing to keep in mind. I can’t stress this enough, but do NOT get a template that:
- Has a “Mobile version”
- Is “Mobile ready”
- Is “Mobile friendly”
…or any other permutation. The only thing you should get is a template that is Mobile Responsive, or utilizes Responsive Design. An increasing majority of today’s online shoppers are browsing and making purchases from mobile devices like their cell phones. Nothing short of true Responsive Design will be “good enough” if you plan on being competitive in the market. While the reasons for this are somewhat complex, I’m sure you have already seen examples of what I’m talking about; a website that looks great on your desktop computer is all but unreadable when you try to view it from your phone. Check out this article for more information on Responsive Design.
Search engines tend to favor websites that 1) have well-established pages which don’t often change, 2) have fresh content added regularly, 3) are rich in popular search terms, 4) link to other websites and have other websites linking to them, and 5) have consistent traffic. The topic of SEO (search engine optimization) is a collegiate course by itself, but these key points are your bread and butter:
- Keywords. Your website should contain whatever search terms a customer might use to find you. These terms should be written organically in well-crafted and engaging content; egregious overuse of your keywords will likely harm, rather than help, your search ranking. Keep it spam-free.
- When determining what your focus keywords should be, try thinking like your customer. If you were looking for what you make, what would you type into a Bing or Google search? Think of the top three things a customer might search for if they were trying to find your product, and plug those into www.google.com/trends to see how they compare. You might narrow your result to “within the last 90 days” for a clearer, more updated picture. For example, if you make pottery, your keyword cloud could be “pottery, ceramic, cups, bowls, vases, handmade, unique.”
- Keep a blog, and keep it updated with fresh content. This does several wonderful things for you. First, as mentioned above, it will keep your website active with your SEO rankings. Second, it will be a source of traffic for your store, some of which may lead to conversions or referrals. Third, it will give you prime material for your SMM (we’re finally getting somewhere!) and fourth, it will keep you on the cutting edge of your industry (since in the process of blog writing, you’ll be doing a bit of research yourself).
On Social Media
- Determine a posting schedule, and stick to it. A good starting place is twice a day, 9am and 6pm. Posts can include new blog notifications, which (again) ought to be regular. If your blog is well crafted and useful, your customers will stay engaged, and an active participant is much better than a lead growing cold. Posts can also include other relevant but non-competing articles from outside sources, notifications of sales, product highlights, all manner of “calls to action” (such as contests), and even non-business-related messages which reflect your business persona (see below).
- You should already have a brand identity. I don’t just mean a logo and company colors; I mean a brand persona. Is your brand edgy and hipster? Is it ‘black tie?’ Or maybe fast-paced and stock exchange-esque? Outdoorsy and rough? Whatever flair you’re going for, tailor your messages on social media appropriately. Your voice should be consistent, no matter what you’re posting.
Facebook Business Page
This one is virtually non-negotiable these days. An ever-increasing majority of shoppers are connected to Facebook nearly 100% of the time, whether at home, in their cubicle at work, or from their phones anywhere else. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you the opportunity this presents. Creating a Facebook Business Page should be your first step in your SMM, no matter what other media streams you think you’ll benefit from. Each social media presence should link back to your Facebook page as well as your website.
Thankfully, creating one and getting it customer-ready is relatively easy.
First, create a new Facebook Business Page by following this link. It is absolutely not acceptable to make your personal Facebook page fill a dual role as your business page.
Second, fill in all pertinent information. Don’t leave anything blank, unless A) it is not relevant to you, or B) you do not wish the information to be available to the public (some businesses will want their physical address available, while others, such as home-based businesses, will likely want to use a P.O. Box or no address at all).
Next, upload at least the following items:
- Cover photo
- “About Us” copy
Finally, determine if you should make your products available for purchase directly from your Facebook page. This is strongly recommended, but not always necessary. It is also much easier than you may think; many eCommerce shopping cart vendors (which you will use on your website) have features to enable eCommerce on your Facebook page as well. They will commonly sync up with your shopping cart and inventory systems. As you are receiving orders, your web purchases and your Facebook purchases will show up in the same place, ready for fulfillment.
Here are setup instructions on several popular Shopping Carts:
…and other paid advertising methods.
This is not the cheapest method of advertising, but it can be one of the most effective. While SEO is all about getting found by your customers, Pay-Per-Click (PPC) is all about getting placed in front of your customers. If your SEO is top-notch, you might get found by customers who are specifically looking for you. But with PPC, you’re placing your products directly in front of thousands — or millions — of eyeballs.
To set up PPC on your Facebook page, start here. You will need to have an idea of how many people you expect to respond to your ad, which of course you won’t know until you have already tracked your ad’s effectiveness. But don’t worry, this budget can be adjusted later. For now, go with a figure you can easily afford. Don’t count your clicks before they hatch; meaning, don’t assume the ads will pay for themselves as they convert to sales. You might start out with far more traffic than sales, so your daily budget should represent what you can afford without any sales.
Though PPC is the most common, there are several variations of this type of paid advertising, each with their own budget, viewing rate, and effectiveness. Get to know online advertising terms such as:
Each type of business (and perhaps more importantly, each type of customer demographic) will have its own optimal balance of advertising methods and metrics to track its effectiveness.
The focus of this strategy is not about sales, and it’s not about increasing popularity. Those are hopeful byproducts of your real focus: creating an actively engaged community in your industry, with you in the center of that wheel.
The first, and most relevant, question is this: What would make you interested in a new business group? If it wouldn’t make you an active group member, it probably won’t work for anyone in your network, either.
If you want to stand out from the crowd of Social Media Marketers, obviously you’ll need to know what they’re doing so you can avoid it. The most prevalent strategy I see employed by SMMs is the Hook, Pitch, Catch strategy. I’m sure you’ve seen it too: they start with a hook, like “How I turned $50 into $5 million!” When people click, they read the pitch, which simply elaborates on the hook: “I struck it rich in 3 easy steps! It’s so simple, anyone can do it. I’ll tell you how.” Then the catch. There’s always a catch. “Just buy my book,” or subscribe to their mailing list, or download something.
This method actually works on some people, depressingly. The word for those people is suckers. Treat the members of your own network with more respect. I repeat: The Hook, Pitch, Catch strategy is not for you.
There are tons of How-To guides out there on Social Media Marketing. *Some* of them offer good advice. Here’s the summarized version, from my own research and experience:
1. Don’t try to sell. For a group of this type, your entire goal is to create an actively engaged community, and NOT to generate financial transactions. The second that people feel like they’ve been suckered into a sales pitch, they’ll leave.
2. Listen. And by listen, I mean ask questions and listen to the answers. Take an active role in understanding the needs and interests of your network. Do this early, thoroughly, and relationally. Early, so that you start off on the right track. Taper off with the questions once you’ve got a solid understanding. Thoroughly, to make sure that you know your business network inside and out. Relationally, because people respond well to being treated like a human being.
3. Provide quality content. About 2/3 of this content should be curated from the best-of-the-best on the web, preferably from reputable sources. About 1/3 should be your own non-plagiarized content. This content, if it is high quality, will gradually make *you* a reputable source. Without your own contributions, you’re only a moderator.
4. Encourage responses. Responses to your posts could be in the form of comments on your posts, open-ended questions, and user-submitted content.
1. Comments. If you post an article titled “How to develop the perfect elevator pitch,” you could prompt your readers to add their own advice or to share funny stories of pitches gone wrong.
2. Open-ended questions. Rather than posting another article, try asking questions like “Has anyone out there found a kick-butt tool for lead gen?” People like to share their success stories (unless it’s with their competition!)
3. When people post content which they found particularly useful, reply positively. Make sure your readers know that their voice is heard and wanted.
To be clear, LinkedIn is not about your business, but about you in your professional setting. Having said that, many inaugural businesses, bootstrap startups, and one-man operations can still leverage LinkedIn very well as a part of their SMM strategy. Sometimes the line between business and owner is very thin.
Additionally, recruiters, PR professionals, and lead generators can make use of LinkedIn. But since this guide is directed towards the more nascent marketers, I won’t go too deep with this media stream here.
LinkedIn can be used to grow your network of potential clients and B2B connections. As such, it is a good idea to keep it active with your blog posts, PR events, accomplishments, and meta announcements. In fact, whenever you post a link to your latest blog on Facebook, take a few extra moments and post it to LinkedIn as well. Your activity on LinkedIn as a new SMMer should be regular (though not as frequent as Facebook) and brief. Stay active and updated, respond to any legitimate messages or connection requests you may have, and then move on.
Depending on what you sell, Pinterest may either be your Midas touch or be completely useless.
Pinterest may have started as a neat way to collect DIY projects and crafty ideas, but of course, its makers wanted a better way to monetize it. Hence, there are now “Buyable Pins,” with which a person may simply buy what they find, rather than pin it to their “try making this myself” board.
I would not recommend this as a good marketing stream to the vast majority of businesses. But for those few business owners who produce particularly Pinteresty products, it can potentially be your primary purchasing place.
So here’s a good litmus test: if you got your business or product idea while surfing Pinterest, then the chances are good that your best customer base also congregates there.
The concept of Buyable Pins simply turns your Pinterest boards into a window shopper’s dream. Instead of pinning your great product for later reference, that pin just prompts them for their credit card and shipping address. You collect orders much like you would from your Facebook store or web-based shopping cart provider.
More information on Buyable Pins can be found in this great article.
I’ll be honest. I have misgivings about Twitter. There are a lot of reasons why I advise people not to bother with it, but occasionally, certain types of businesses can leverage it to impressive effect (though even less often than Pinterest, which is a rare enough occurrence.) So I’ll start with a list of its Pros and Cons, and you can decide for yourself if it is your magic bullet or your dead weight.
- It’s the easiest and cheapest marketing method to maintain. It’s free, and your messages are necessarily short (160 characters or less).
- The Twitter community is relatively active.
- Twitter feeds are far less invasive than Facebook feeds, which makes some people more inclined to sign up. The “cluttered news feed” blindness is less of a problem on Twitter.
- Making Twitter worthwhile necessitates very frequent activity. All of your short, pithy tweets, as well as those of your followers, are in your face All. Day. Long.
- Your followers will often seek individual customer support from you straight from Twitter. Unless you have a Tech Support team which is super-savvy enough to include keeping a vigilant eye on your Twitter feed, this will become very demanding, and detrimental if you fall behind.
- Major Twitter developers and shareholders are jumping ship. There’s blood in the water, and the sharks are circling- a lot of big businesses out there are considering appropriating it for themselves, which will invariably change its ubiquity.
In my opinion, there are only two groups of people who benefit from Twitter: famous people, and kids.
This one is real, real simple: absolutely do not ever spend money on banner ads. Marketing firms which conduct focus groups on their advertising methods commonly report that a web surfer’s eyes virtually never see banner ads. It’s not that they aren’t effective. It’s worse than that. They aren’t even seen. Even commonly available Cursor Trackers provide heat maps for where a customer moved their cursor on a web page, how long it stayed there, and where they clicked while surfing, all indicating what interested the visitor the most. Banner ads are simply of no interest to today’s web traffic. Banner ads are a dying (or dead) relic from the 1990s when eCommerce marketing was primitive. We’ve practiced ignoring banner ads for almost 30 years. Let that sink in.
This guide is related to SMM almost exclusively, and can certainly help you gain some new traction. Yet, it shouldn’t be the totality of your marketing strategy. There are plenty more things that even a brand-new business should do beyond social media marketing, such as utilizing a good CRM, connecting with web affiliates, and joining listing sites. Keep an eye out on our blog, as we cover a wide range of business development topics!