Top 5 Social Media Questions Marketers Want Answered

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If you’re like most people I’m sure there are new social media questions popping up in your head all the time. Luckily a couple of weeks ago SocialMediaExaminer.com released their annual Social Media Marketing Industry Report (definitely worth checking out!) where they collected information from over 3,000 marketers. The core of the report focused on how and how often marketers are using their time and energy when it comes to social media.

In the report they have “The Top 5 Social Media Questions Marketers Want Answered” section and some of our SteamFeed authors (Sarah Arrow, Keri Jaehnig, Brooke Ballard, Anne Reuss, and Debbie Laskey), who are industry professionals, decided to collaborate in this article and answer these questions for our community.

So sit back and relax because this behemoth of an article is going to be one you’ll want to share and bookmark for later reference.

Top 5 Social Media Questions Marketers Want Answered

1.TACTICS: What social tactics are most effective?
2.ENGAGEMENT: What are the best ways to engage my audience with social media?
3.MEASUREMENT: How do I measure the return on my social media investment?
4.TOOLS: What are the best social management tools?
5.STRATEGIES: How do I create a social strategy?

sarah-arrowTACTICS: What social tactics are most effective?

by Sarah Arrow

Social Media Tactics.

Let’s start at the beginning – tactics are the actual means used to obtain or reach a goal, while strategy is the overall campaign or plan. A tactic would be developing a blog post to meet your customer’s needs. A strategy leads to tactical execution, in other words you cannot have one without the other unless you wish to make a social media marketing mess.

So let’s look at social media tactics and how they’re used in business by marketing professionals.

 tactics

eMarketer  recently highlighted research from Ascend2 relating to this back in February 2013. The survey discovered that creating articles and blog post content was the most popular social media tactic. Why? Blog content can be shared on multiple social platforms; it can be a repository for video content and training content, as well as being the flexible central hub of a company’s social media activity. It’s also one of the biggest drivers of engagement.

Creating content is no easy task, whether it’s B2B or B2C, its faces its own particular challenges:

  • Quality content is time consuming to create
  • It’s not a standalone tactic – it needs other tactics to make the most of it
  • It takes planning to fit into the overall marketing strategy

You might hear that blogging is dead, and that there are too many blogs but only 40% of marketers utilise this tactic fully which means that there is room for manoeuvre if your business is looking to create a blog.

Social sharing is a tactic.

Gone are the days (if they ever existed) where you could post content and it would promote itself. Social sharing is a tactic that enhances the overall social media strategy. With active listening on social channels, social sharing is hyper-targeted.

Social sharing tactics should also include encouraging customers and visitors to share content on sites where your ideal prospects are active. That may mean removing the Like button and replacing it with the LinkedIn button, if that’s where your prospect hangs out. People will always share on their platform of choice regardless of the buttons you have on your site, but it doesn’t hurt to point them towards the sites that are in alignment with your strategy.

Despite the rise of visual sharing sites like Pinterest, few marketers are creating visual content that isn’t video. Whilst Pinterest is a huge traffic driver and the home of millions of influencers, utilizing it isn’t a popular tactic. Sure you can pin video content, but nothing beats blogging when it comes to driving engagement.

kerriEngagement: What are the best ways to engage my audience with social media?

by Keri Jaehnig

As there is no one-size-fits-all approach to social media, every business or organization should work from an approach that fits their situation. They should use social media platforms that align with their goals and purposes.

That said, it’s all about sharing quality content – Regardless of where you are sharing it with your audience.  Here is a list to consider as a place to begin…

9 Ways To Engage Your Audience With Social Media

1. Questions

carrot-cake

photo credit: Muy Yum

Lead with a question, a prompt.  Get your fans and followers excited to tell you what is on their mind. This works on any platform.  Make them easy to answer, and strive to provoke emotion.

Your goal is to generate likes, comments and shares.  The message travels further with shares.  The more enticing the topic, the more it will be shared.  Be delicious!

Example: If your brand is a party supply store, ask your fans what color plates and napkins they would use to serve a fresh, frosted carrot cake to Paula Deen.

2. Focus On The Fan

People like to talk about themselves and what they think or want.  Give them the lead – Let them tell you how they fit in the picture!  Start with:

  • Your choice
  • You decide
  • Yes or no
  • Caption This!
  • Fill in the blank

You might also share that you are working on a project and inquire what type of resource would help them.

This is a great way to learn about your audience, discover how you can solve their pain-points, and even plan for future posts or campaigns.

3. Infographics

Not all graphics are infographics, and not all infographics trigger engagement.  Your key here is providing value.

Questions to ask before offering to your followers: Will it help them solve a problem?  Will it help them look good if they share it with their friends?

If you can answer, “yes” to those questions, then share it with your audience.  You might ask them how they fit in with the graphic presentation.

4. Photos And Photo Albums

People like to peek.  Offering photos lets your audience feel like they are receiving exclusive content and a special – and even more intimate – view of something.  Especially with albums – Feature premium items and events related with your brand.  Be colorful!

Talking Facebook - Photos receive high priority and generate more interaction than other types of posts.  Albums see increased engagement.

Use your own images whenever possible.  If using others’, always check to see if permission is granted to use it first, and give attribution.

5. Audio & Video

Your goal here is to be customized and exclusive.  Let your audience see something they have not seen before.  Offering a peek into a private or rare setting is always attractive.  Or, let them listen to your voice, sharing a message only for them.

audi-video

photo credit: mkhmarketing

This type of media offers the ability to share infinitely via public link or intimately via private link.  Some mobile apps to help you:

Of course preparing video of a more public nature that can be stored in YouTube or Vimeo gives content a longer shelf-life and can be shared multiple times.  Keep in mind that YouTube is owned by Google, and is the second largest search engine.

mainstream-public-figures6. Mainstream Public Figures

It’s been said that all one has to do is post a photo or talk about Kim Kardashian, and people flock.  The same for Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and others.

If you can find a way to relate very popular public figures with your brand – do it!  Not every day. Once in awhile.

Examples: If you sell hats, see which celebrity your fans think looks best in your new design.  If you are promoting a beauty salon, feature a mainstream-er that really likes a product you use or service you offer.

7. Quotes

Who doesn’t like a little inspiration from time to time?

Find out what authors and public figures are meaningful to your audience, and what trends seem to move them.  Then, offer quotes that support those ideals.

Quotes get a surprisingly high level of engagement when you consider all post types possible.  Text is fine.  Graphic quotes are more and more popular.  If you can relate the visual image with your brand  - even better!

8. Contents & Sweepstakes

Big reasons why fans choose to fan or follow a brand online is for exclusive discounts or specials, and for cool prizes.  Popular ways to go:

  • Enter to win (photo or video contests)
  • Pin it to win it (Pinterest)
  • Like to enter (Facebook)

Should you choose to engage fans with a contest or sweepstakes promotion, you should have a complete strategy, or you will just encourage a “hop in and hop out” for the prize.  Having a plan for how you will engage fans and followers once the promotion is over is essential.

Popular Contest and Sweepstakes Tools:

Each will have different features and fee structures, as well as style of connecting to your social platforms.

9. Cross-pollinate

This is for the experienced social media marketer. As noted above, multiple steps can be confusing. You want to present steps that connect easily, in bite-size pieces.

Here, you may be inviting your email contacts to your social networks.  Or, tweeting to your followers to join you on Facebook.

Even more interesting: Taking your Facebook fan to an exact YouTube video that requires them to make yet another step.  Some also call this trans-media.

The more opportunities you have to touch clients, the more they will engage with you, and the more effective the results from the relationship.

Actionable Advice:

It’s not about you, it’s about them.  At every opportunity, put the spotlight on your fans. Use language that requires an answer or action. Prompt with a call-to-action that is clear and concise.

Multiple steps tend to confuse. Confused minds do not make decisions, do not engage. Again, your goal is to get your audience to share your content so your message travels through social channels.

Brooke BallardMEASUREMENT: How do I measure the return on my social media investment?

by Brooke Ballard

According to the most recent data from Social Media Examiner, only about one in four (26%) of social media marketers said they were able to measure their social activities.

I’m not surprised due to the fact that there are numerous data points a marketer can measure when it comes to social initiatives. As I mentioned in my last SteamFeed article, setting clear and quantifiable goals and KPIs are the first steps needed for successfully tracking the data most important to your specific social strategies.

Once you have your core objectives figured out, then you’ll want to look at tools and tactics. Your planning meeting might go something like this:

  1. Set business and marketing goals as they are tied to social media
    • What are you hoping to accomplish? More traffic? More brand buzz? A loyal community of ready-to-buy consumers? All of the above?
  2. Create specific Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that will help you understand if your goals are being met
    • Use the SMART method for setting KPIs: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound.
    • Example: Perform monthly click audits to see which topics on your social sites drive the most click-through-rates (CTRs). Based on the results, you’ll know what content performs better (specific to each platform you use) for your audiences.
  3. Select the appropriate tools to help you measure data and to meet your KPIs
    • Will free sites, like Hootsuite and Google Analytics, cut it? Or do you need more in-depth measurement sites that track brand mentions, like Radian6?
  4. Brainstorm your tactics mix. In other words, what type of posts — whether evergreen content or original content — will help you meet the goals you’ve set?
  5. Set up metrics that help you understand how your tactics perform
    • Try not to focus on soft metrics, like fans and followers. Instead, use data that not only helps you meet your KPIs, but helps prove some sort of return on your social investment (and goals).

Anne ReussTOOLS: What are the best social management tools?

by Anne Reuss

Tools galore. These are not the only ones available but they do make our job fun, easier and help us deliver top notch content and engagement. I split them up in three parts.

Listening
If you’re tuned into the latest trends, events, social media sentiment (monitoring your brand’s perception or those of competitors) it will help you strategize your content and identify opportunities to ignite conversation.

1. Feedly: Google Reader is dead on July 1st. Totally over it, because Feedly is dynamite. It’s design and functionality is absolutely stunning across all devices. I read much more because of Feedly. All of your google alerts also transfer to Feedly seamlessly. Speaking of alerts…

2. TalkWalker Alerts: You can set talkwalker alerts for relevant information to your business and customize delivery to your email (how often, blogs/news/discussions, and all or best results only). They’re more timely and curate better results than google alerts.

3. Hootsuite: Organize lists for streamlined listening. Refer to Steamfeeder Daniel’s post: How to set up your dashboard so you’re always listening

4. Cyfe: An exceptional, all-in-one intutitive dashboard. You can customize your widgets for your Twitter/Facebook/other social pages, Google Analytics (by checking into this, you can get an idea of what content is attractive and peaked traffic), Alexa ranking, Google + Search and many more. I’d be reamiss if I didn’t urge you to explore this one soon.

Managing and creating content

1. Hootsuite: Great for scheduling posts to your different networks and engaging (I mostly use it for scheudling and writing tweets, RTs and responding). I also hear SproutSocial is stupid good.

2. PostRocket for Facebook: Facebook favors posts that are written in Facebook. You can schedule content from pages using Facebook but PostRocket is dandy at optimizing scheduled posts and allowing you to add a filter or text to images.

3. PicMonkey:  An absolutely vibrant and juicy free image editing tool, this PicMonkey (and it has a Chrome extension!). Visual content is in demand but there’s plently more that help you deliver with quality! See my post: Visual Content Toolbox (for Dummies Style).

4. BundlePost: You don’t want to spend too much time scheduling…so you can engage! BundlePost will let you do that by finding, scheduling and hashtag-ing your content in one place.

5. Listly: If you can find a way to leverage a crowdsourced, interactive and social list using List.ly, wicked great! People love lists, just ask Nick Kellet and he will convert you. It’s “social curation mojo.”

Engagement

1. Hootsuite (or TweetDeck – very similar): I think you get the point HootSuite is pretty instrumental. ;-)

2. OneQube: It’s currently in beta but keep your eyes out for oneQube - they’re focused on Twitter lists, listening and ulitmately, relationship building. Powerful.

3. YOU!

You mustn’t neglect the best tool – yourself! All these tools above don’t match the engagement goodness you have to offer. Be present. Tools are just a medium (and darn good at it). So, experiment with several tools until you find the ones that makes up your ideal toolbox and allows you to represent you/your business best.

Also, please check out fellow SteamFeeder Kim Reynold’s article: 9 Social Media Tools To Make Your Life Easier

Debbie LaskeySTRATEGIES: How do I create a social strategy?

by Debbie Laskey

How often have you heard business leaders describe social media as cheap and easy? All of us who spend a great deal of our days in the social space hear this fallacy too often. The truth is, there can be no amazing success stories if businesses haphazardly create a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, Foursquare, Flickr, or countless other sites without a strategy. And therein is the secret: for a business to reap the rewards of any social media outreach, it must have a strategy.

First and foremost, a social media strategy must be in alignment with a business’ overall marketing strategy or annual marketing plan. This is the only way to ensure brand consistency as well as messaging.

Then, key questions must be answered:

What are the short-term goals for social media outreach versus long-term goals?

What social platforms best fit the outreach efforts?

What will success look like, and how will the social media efforts be measured?

What will the official voice of the business be?

Who will post and respond on behalf of the business?

What will the acceptable response time be?

What is the crisis communication plan if something negative is posted online about the business?

Based on your specific industry, there are many more questions to answer.

There is no question that social media can be an effective marketing tool because it provides a forum for two-way conversations in real time. It creates awareness and generates exposure. It develops relationships with existing customers and attracts potential customers. And it drives traffic to a company’s main website.

In the words of Matt Dickman (a digital strategy expert – on Twitter @MattDickman), “Social media isn’t the end-all-be-all, but it offers marketers unparalleled opportunities to participate in relevant ways. It also provides a launch pad for other marketing tactics. Social media is not an island – it’s a high-power engine on a larger marketing ship.”

Conclusion

There are all kinds of ways to improve your social media experience as a marketer. If you’re willing to put in some time to do it right you’re going to see greater rewards in the long run.

Remember: All of our SteamFeed authors are always available to help you. Please feel free to reach out to them. :)

And lastly a special thanks to Sarah Arrow, Keri Jaehnig, Brooke Ballard, Anne Reuss, and Debbie Laskey for taking the time to write such valuable content for our SteamFeed community.

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DJ Thistle
D.J. Thistle is a co-founder of SteamFeed, a blog that focuses on the latest trends in social media, technology, and marketing. His passion in technology is only rivaled by his desire to connect with others through social media. He has been a featured speaker multiple times on how to get started in social media at various wine industry events. He has spent the last 9 years teaching in public and private schools in Massachusetts and California. He is happily married and enjoys every moment of raising his beautiful daughter.
DJ Thistle

@djthistle

I'm a husband, father, educator, geek, bookworm, stock market enthusiast, and some would call me an Apple fanboy. Co-Founder of @SteamFeedCom
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