Social media is a marketing method that gets great results for affordable budgets. We regularly hear from businesses who tell us that they know they should be using social media – they’re just not sure how they should be using it.
In this article we’ll talk you through some free or low-cost tools and techniques you can use to boost your social media marketing efforts. We’re not just talking about casually posting on Facebook in the hopes that your target audience might see it, we’re talking about using social media as a very real and very effective part of your marketing strategy.
Plan your content in advance
Put some time aside to carefully plan and schedule your social media messages, just like you would with any other marketing campaign.
We find that using a content calendar gives us chance to really think about the messages we are sending out and helps us post the content at the best time for our audience. A good calendar helps you to plan your posts around seasonal hooks, industry related events or news, and any internal company events or announcements that you want to make.
Some of our favourite tools like Google Trends or Klout, help us listen to what our customers are talking about on social media. They’re called social listening tools and with them you can find popular topics to post about within your industry, or tie-in your content with current events. By sharing posts that your customers are already talking, you’re making it more likely that they will want to read your content!
Share interesting posts
This might sound obvious, but share content that people will actually want to read. Nobody likes to feel as though they are being marketed at, so if you use social media simply to push self-promotional posts and links to your own website then your audience are going to switch off super-fast. Instead aim for around 20-30% promotional posts about your business and the services it offers, with the rest being content that is collected (or ‘curated’) from other sources. Remember to check that the sources are reliable, and related to your business and customers.
Useful tools for curating content to post on social media include;
- Feedly- an RSS feed that lets you browse and organise blog articles from thousands of sites
- Storify– helps you to search, browse and create feeds of content from social media websites.
- Pocket– lets you collect and store content from around the web in one handy location.
Understand your audience
You know your customers better than anybody else so you should already have a pretty clear idea of who they are and what they like. Our approach to social media marketing is to think about the types of customer (or segment) and tailor content to each group.
Free tools like Followerwonk help you to find out who your followers are, where they’re located and when they are posting. Using the data from Facebook’s Insights tab and Twitter’s analytics option you can also build a picture of your audience and make decisions about the best times to post on each social network. You can also work out the types of content that attracts the most click-throughs or the gets the most shares and comments (engagement rates) from each audience group.
Schedule your posts
Without scheduling messages in advance you may feel under pressure to be on your social media accounts at every spare moment in case you miss something. Scheduling messages helps you use your time more effectively and get the best results from social media marketing without putting in loads of extra work – the adage ‘Work smarter, not harder’ springs to mind here!
We love being online to see what our customers are talking about and joining in with their conversations. Spending ‘live’ time on social media to interact with other users and build communities is an enjoyable part of social media marketing but scheduling messages as well makes the job easier. Scheduling posts in advance helps to keep your profiles updated and takes some of the pressure off managing them.
Once you have built up a good bank of content using your content calendar (its ideal to prepare content a month to three months in advance) you can then use a tool like Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule your outgoing messages.
Scheduling your messages in advance helps you to post at the right time to reach the right audience and ensures that your social profiles are always up to date. You can also cover ‘off-peak’ times by scheduling messages to go out on the weekends and after working hours.
Keep it up
As a marketing strategy, social media marketing is a slow burner and results are not always immediate- it can take around 3-6 months for some businesses to begin seeing results. However, stick with it and develop a regular schedule for planning, scheduling and working towards your social media goals – your efforts will pay off in the long run!