Frustrated by a lack of social media engagement? Focus your efforts

social media strategy

Are you disappointed that your social media posts seem to just disappear into the vast ocean of the internet, leaving nary a ripple? If you’re like most marketers, there’s a very good reason why your updates are being ignored:

You’re spread too thin.

According to the B2B Content Marketing 2016: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America report, published by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, the average corporate marketing department is using an average of six channels to promote its content. Clearly, that’s too many to manage adequately.

What happens when you’re not focused

  • If your target audience isn’t gathered on one or more of your favorite social media channels, then you’re wasting your time shouting at people who have little to no interest in your company and its services.
  • You’re scrambling to keep up, so your updates aren’t as frequent as they ought to be.
  • You rely on “spray and pray” to get the job done. You post your updates and move on. You don’t take time to engage with your audience. Thanks to your hectic pace, you miss opportunities to build relationships with and be helpful to them.
  • You use a one-size-fits-all approach, instead of optimizing your messages for each social channel. This limits their impact and effectiveness.

In other words, you may be wasting a significant amount of time on social media activity that may never have a measurable impact for your firm.

A better approach: laser-like focus

A growing number of brands are finding social media success by focusing on one channel where its target audience is already congregated and “owning” it. Yes, it requires you to put all of your eggs into a single proverbial basket. But it concentrates your power at one focal point where it can do the greatest good, while at the same time minimizing wasted effort.

Here are some other benefits of focusing on one social network:

  • Instead of high production, you can focus on quality – which is essential if you want your content to stand out. As you begin to get traction on one social network, you can gradually expand to include others.
  • You’ll benefit from consistency. If your content is exceptional and is published on a scheduled basis, your followers will come to expect and anticipate it. If you’re trying to do this on five or six social networks, it’s almost impossible to maintain such consistency.
  • You’ll learn more about your target audience, because you’ll have the time to listen to them and engage with them.
  • You can also be more responsive to questions, because you will no longer be distracted with running from one channel to another to drop your updates. That can pay big dividends by helping you build deeper relationships with prospective customers.

Key questions to ask yourself

  • Where do your customers congregate online? If they don’t gather on a channel you’re using, you’re wasting your time. Immediately eliminate it from your content distribution plans.
  • Look broadly at what’s best for the business and your content initiative, not who “owns” which channel on your marketing staff. You’re bound to get some pushback from your team members as you make adjustments. But you must tweak your approach as your audience and channels evolve. Don’t get locked into a single approach because of people issues.

It’s time to assess your social media efforts. Remember, less is more!

Social media algorithms and content marketing: What you need to do now

social media algorithms and content marketing

Content marketing is becoming more important than ever, thanks to the major social media channels moving from chronological to algorithm-based feeds.

This major change leaves you with two choices: Pay a premium so your content will be visible to your followers, or create experiences that are so valuable that your followers will share them for you.

In the past, when you published content and promoted it on the major social media channels, you could expect a decent amount of organic engagement. Maintaining a social presence was fairly easy, because you had a free pass to promote your brand as much as you wanted.

But all that has changed – and so must your content marketing strategy.

The move to algorithm-based social feeds

Since the advent of social media, most feeds have been chronological, displaying the newest posts at the top. Other than a few promoted tweets and posts appearing at the top of your feeds, not much has changed during the last decade.

But in recent months, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have announced that they are replacing their chronological feeds with algorithm-based timelines. In each case, the developers have claimed these moves are in response to the glut of content that is exceeding users’ ability to interact with it.

Their motives are not entirely altruistic, however, Moving to algorithm-based feeds enables them to present a greater number of ads and paid placements, based on each user’s preferences, demographics and past viewing habits.

What’s driving this sudden change?

All of the major social media channels are under pressure to increase revenues. That means they are experimenting with and tweaking new monetization models on a more frequent basis. Here are several examples:

Facebook pages: Organic reach of Facebook pages has steadily declined to the point where it is currently at a meager 2%. Unless you pay to promote your updates, they will be all but invisible to your followers. More recently, Facebook has announced two new paid promotion products: Instant Articles (promoted articles) and Canvas (rich media ads). Both appear in the news feeds of users.

Instagram: This Facebook-owned photo sharing channel just announced that it is moving to an algorithm-based feed. It’s also likely that Facebook will roll out Instant Articles and Canvas on Instagram in the near future.

Twitter started experimenting with “while you were away,” a set of curated tweets from people you follow and have interacted with in February, and has rolled it out as the default for all users as of mid-March.

Even Google is getting into the act. The search engine giant has recently done away with sidebar pay-per-click ads, and has added a fourth one to the top of the search results page. This reduction in advertising real estate means that you will be paying more for your pay-per-click ads with Google.

In addition, Google recently announced that it is going to start showing a Twitter-like selection of content at the top of search results pages. Presumably, these will include ads.

The bottom line is that the major social media channels are evolving into media companies, with all the attendant cost structures and pressure to generate revenue and profits. In a sense, they are turning into gatekeepers, controlling which messages get communicated via their platforms.

social media algorithms and content marketing

How should content marketers respond?

Many brands will choose to pay the premium so that their content will still appear in the news feeds of their followers. That’s the easy – albeit expensive – way.

But there is another way: By producing content that is so valued that your followers will feel compelled to share it. By doing so, they will help you bypass the social media gatekeepers, and will ensure that your messages get distributed to a wider audience.

It’s time to step up the quality of your content game – or toil away in obscurity. If you don’t have a documented strategy that includes audience personas, a detailed buyer’s journey for each audience segment and content mapped to each key step of those journeys, now is the time to do so. You’ll also need a “content tilt” – a unique point of view that differentiates your content so it gets the attention it deserves.

social media algorithms and content marketing

Finally, don’t overlook paid promotion. With a glut of content clogging up channels like Facebook and Twitter, it’s getting harder for your content to break through the noise. Some element of paid promotion is a must for your messages to achieve the reach they deserve.

It’s time to develop your plan

Growth Cycle MarketingDo you have a documented content strategy, customer personas defined and content mapped to it? If not, now’s the time to develop a comprehensive plan to take your content initiative to new levels of effectiveness.

To learn more, download our new content marketing eGuide, Making the Leap to Better Waters: Growth Cycle Marketing – a proven strategy for generating sales.

4 Steps to Creating a Big-Picture Customer Touch Plan

 
If you don’t have a customer touch plan, you’re not alone. We’ve run across quite a few small business owners who weren’t even familiar with the phrase—yet, a customer touch plan is one of the most effective marketing tools for small businesses.

Let’s start with a no-frills definition…

What Is a Customer Touch Plan?

“Touch points” are every contact you have with your customer, whether online, in person, on the phone, by direct mail, via email, on social media—or any other potential contact point. Every time your brand gets on prospect or customer radar, that’s a touch point.

A customer touch plan consists of the deliberate efforts you employ to create those touch points. To communicate with your customers, you create those moments—they’re opportunities to get your customer thinking about your brand, your products, or your company.

Your touch plan may include:

  • Distribution of digital, TV, or physical marketing materials and ads—this can include both content marketing and direct mail
  • Employee contact with customers (customer service, billing, sales, management, security, help desk, etc.)
  • Website visits, downloads or emails
  • Social media/promotion/shares

Opportunities for customer touch points come along frequently, but taking advantage of every possible opportunity can be both overkill and creepy. Your customer touch plan should be carefully crafted and designed to be personal, but not intrusive.
 
customer touch plan

Step 1: Gather Your Customer Data

You probably already have a wealth of customer data at your fingertips. Most people are connected by their email address to social media accounts that will yield location, birth date, age, gender, and other personal details. Other handy details include past purchases, reasons that customer has contacted your company, and what type of device they use to access your website.

Data-driven marketing is all the rage—and for good reason: it works. Therefore, your first step is to consolidate and organize your customer data. If you’re not using customer relationship management (CRM) or other project management software to manage your customer interactions, it’s time to adopt and adapt.

Step 2: Use Your Customer Data

With data in hand, you can decide when you want to contact your customer, plus the best channel to use to reach that customer with a personal message.

Data-Based Customer Touch Point Ideas:

  • Send a greeting or special offer on your customer’s birthday. If you really want to stand out, send them a present. What would get your attention more? A computer-generated birthday postcard or a product sample? If you don’t sell goods, how about something really unusual, like a small box of chocolates with a real card? Great customer service is about going the extra mile.
  • When a subscription is set to expire, treat it as a new sale. Send your potential repeat customer updated information, current offers, and whatever you would send to a new customer who is deciding to buy. Win their continued loyalty. Sadly, most companies take loyal customers for granted—but repeat customers are your hidden GOLDMINE.
  • Location-based touches might include references to local sport teams or local events.

Step 3: Interact on Social Media

These days social media IS customer service, so be hyper-responsive, don’t skimp on the details, and don’t leave social media management to your inexperienced intern.

Your social media plan should include interactive content such as polls, surveys, and answers to comments. Document your social media engagement (here’s where that CRM comes in handy again) and look for the types of engagement your customers best respond to.

Step 4: Follow-up

When should you follow up? Almost every single time: whether it’s new sales, customer service issues, mailings, surveys, or social media. The goal is to ensure your customers are satisfied with your response. Put an internal process in place to ensure every interaction receives a prompt and thoughtful follow-up. Be sure to take notes so everyone in your organization knows each customer’s current status.

………

Your main objective: Build a customer touch plan strategy.

After you’ve explored all these steps in-depth, go back to square one and create a customer touch plan strategy that incorporates all of these elements, but be sure it’s tailored to your business and to your customers. Keep your strategy flexible—you’re going to be adjusting it over time based on what works…and what doesn’t work.

Over time, as you craft a more refined customer touch plan strategy, you’ll be loading your CRM with great information you can use to better understand your customers, which will also help you craft a more targeted marketing plan. As your customer data becomes more refined and personal, you’ll be able to confidently reduce your random marketing efforts and send only highly targeted campaigns. The goal of an effective customer touch plan is to make your customers feel appreciated, not hammered with spam.

Questions? Let us know in the comments!
 

4 Specific Steps to Get Noticed on Social Media NOW

Social media may seem overwhelming. You can’t be everywhere at once, so how can you choose the social media channels where your web presence will have the most impact? It’s a question a lot of businesses struggle with, and it’s especially daunting for B2B.

Below are four steps to get noticed on social media now:

1. Find Your Audience


Who is your customer? Your first step is to flesh out an accurate customer persona. Is your buyer male? Female? How old? Do they have a college degree? What are their likes and dislikes? What do they read? What do they want or need?

  • Your Assignment: Once you fill in the basic demographics, take a look at this Pew Research Center report. Match your buyer demographics to the social media market where they have the most presence.

2. Pick Your Social Media Channels

 4 Specific Steps for B2B Businesses to Get Noticed NOW on Social MediaNext, check out your biggest competitors. They’ll have the same potential customer base, so it makes sense to find out who is engaging with your competition and on what channels.

  • Your Assignment: Running a competitor analysis can give you a clear picture of where your competitors are seeing success and what content their audience (and yours) most responds to.

Yes, there are a lot of social media options these days. Here’s the basics about the biggest social media platforms and what to expect.

Google+: Social media studies often overlook Google+, even though it’s a channel growing in both functionality and popularity. Google’s search algorithm favors Google products (surprise, surprise), so that means Google+ is a great social media option for many businesses. Google+ also offers additional SEO value. You can optimize your posts with keywords and hashtags, and each email you send to a Gmail user will include a button to follow your page.

LinkedIn: LinkedIn is populated with business folk, so it’s typically a great platform for B2B communications. Keep your posts professional and to the point. Add links that drive traffic back to your website. Keep your private messaging personal and never spammy. More than 80% of B2B social media leads originate on LinkedIn, so make your content count.

Twitter: Engage your audience and make new contacts on Twitter. Twitter is a great place to connect with industry leaders, influential bloggers, brand advocates, and publishing platforms who will help you spread your message. Regular, active participation in industry hashtag chats is a valuable way to develop relationships with the right people.

Facebook: The big daddy of the social media sphere, Facebook offers an ability to hold lengthy conversations with customers and ask for input. However, sometimes it’s not the best place for B2B, so do your homework before committing.

Pinterest and Instagram: If you can create great visual content, consider Pinterest or Instagram. Users are engaged and love to share—just be sure you’re connecting with the right people by narrowing down your target audience.

For a more in-depth explanation of each of these social media platforms and more, check out our post: Which Social Media Platform Is Right for YOUR Business?

3. Determine Your Content Types

Content comes in all forms: video, graphics and photos, tweets, longer blog posts, surveys, and links. No matter what social medium you choose, longer posts and rich content that includes graphics and videos is most widely shared and will help you sell your brand. Share photos of your products, your business in action, your staff, and your customers, if possible. Involve your customers by asking them to share photos of how they use your products. Ask them for input directly or post fun quizzes.

  • Your Assignment: Study the results of your buyer persona exercises, social media platform matches, and competitor analysis. What types of content are most popular on that particular outlet? Use content from others as a template and starting point. (…but don’t copy!)

4. Craft Your Social Media Strategy

The information you’ve gathered thus far gives you the basis for your social media plan. When you know who your customers are, where they hang out, what kind of content they engage with, and what social media channels are most advantageous—then you’re ready to get rollin’.

A word to the wise: One way to manage several social media channels is with automated posts, but be wary of automating too much. While some programs seem chatty and human, recipients almost always know they’re being addressed by a bot and not a person. You’ll also want to be careful about cross-posting. Longer posts crafted for Facebook will be truncated when posted to Twitter.

If you need help crafting a complete social media strategy, contact Cultivate Communications or download the free resource below.

Never forget that social media is social…the whole point is to build relationships and keep your customers interested and in the loop. When you build audience, you keep your sales pipeline full. Want to know more? Download this free guide to content marketing, Side Door Thinking.

related-resources_01

Side Door Thinking: Learn the smart marketing tactics you need to truly engage with more customers.Stop banging on the front door of your customer’s mind …when the side door is wide open. Download this FREE guide, Side Door Thinking, to discover how you can use storytelling as part of an effective marketing strategy.

You’ll learn how to:
  • Increase Your Referral Rate
  • Increase Your Social Media Reach
  • Leverage New Product Lines & Revenue Streams
  • Earn Your Customer’s Loyalty & Business
  • Position Yourself As An Industry Leader & Trusted Resource

5 Epic Social Media Automation Fails: Bots Just Aren’t People

5 Epic Social Media Automation Fails: Bots Just Aren’t PeopleSo you’ve set up your social media automation bot and it’s plugging along automatically updating your favorite social media outlets and even responding to tweets and posts—now you can just sit back and let your social bot do its thing, right? Not quite. While social media automation can be a godsend for any busy marketer, it can also hurt your brand if you aren’t paying attention.

Here are 5 examples illustrating why relying too heavily on social media automation can be disastrous.

1. Life doesn’t always allow for scheduled posts; there’s simply no way to foresee everything and anything…and frankly, life just gets weird sometimes. Let’s say you’re a B2B company located in a city with an MLB team and you regularly send out enthusiastic GO TEAM posts. It works out great because sometimes the team and players respond or retweet and it’s really helped you build your social reach.

But let’s say you schedule all your GO TEAM posts in advance, and one of your messages on game day is, “John Jones is gonna hit one out of the park today!” with a photo of the player in mid-swing. However, a few hours before your post goes live, something bad happens. Maybe John Jones is in a horrific car accident or arrested for beating his child. You forgot to take down your scheduled post and it goes live. Now your innocuous message is suddenly stunningly insensitive.

2. Trolls are everywhere and bots are fodder, as Coca-Cola recently learned when they had to suspend their Super Bowl automated #makeithappy campaign after Gawker pulled a scandalous prank. The intent of the campaign was to turn negative messages to positive by turning tweets into ASCII art. Unfortunately, the bot was unable to filter intent, so Gawker made its own bot called @MeinCoke which tweeted lines from Mein Kampf with the #makeithappy hashtag…and the Cokebot responded in the only way it knew how, by turning Hitler’s words into happy cartoons.
5 Epic Social Media Automation Fails: Bots Just Aren’t People3. Bots don’t get sarcasm…or any other human emotion. Some social auto-responder programs are pretty great; they can run out a whole string of automated responses based on simple keywords and commands. Welcome to the future of social. BUT, be aware those bots can’t interpret emotions or create an emotional connection with your target audience. In fact, their attempts to do so can get pretty ugly, and fast.

For example, a bot response to something like, “Oceanic is such a great airline. You never know where you’ll end up.” might be, “Hey, thanks! We’re glad you enjoyed your flight.” …and it could go on from there. It’s not hard to imagine your Twitter feed flooded with sarcastic trolls baiting the bot, followed immediately by industry blog posts pointing out your gaffe. Ouch. Credibility blown.

4. Bots can go completely nuts. AT&T hired an agency to publicize a Ticket Chasers’ campaign. The intent was to identify and tweet to people who met the following criteria:

  • Bloggers (who would help spread the news about Ticket Chasers)
  • People who live in the cities where the promotion is running
  • People who mention basketball or March Madness

The ideal recipient might be a popular Boston blogger who writes about March Madness. The bot, unfortunately, was set up improperly, and the result was spamtastic. It sent a flood of tweets to anyone who met any one of the conditions. AT&T wound up apologizing for social media gone wild. Repeating the same mistake can get your business banned from Twitter search results.

5 Epic Social Media Automation Fails: Bots Just Aren’t People5. Autoreplies can get you in trouble and draw unwanted attention. Without a human to screen posts, your bot may misinterpret, reply to, or repost an inappropriate or brand-damaging (or worse, obscene) message. Take, for example, when Bank of America’s help bot (@BofA_Help) tried too hard to “help” members of the Occupy movement by responding to their tweets. Yikes.

The lesson here is that automation can save you time and money, but careful monitoring is a must. Schedule posts that simply can’t backfire, watch ALL responses to ensure your replies are in line with their purpose, and check in often to respond to anything unexpected. You might also want to set aside time to go over replies in person. A bot might miss a warm lead by misinterpreting a reply—and that’s just plain bad for business.