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Let’s Get Social: How to Effectively Utilize Social Media in Your Marketing Objectives

March 5, 2020

Now more than ever, it is critical for brands to understand how to effectively use social media. As we make our way into this new decade, everyone expects to find their favorite brands, or perhaps their new favorite brands on social media. In fact, 39% of time spent online is on social media and messaging sites, so why shouldn’t a brand utilize this new form of marketing to its fullest potential?

Because the truth is that while the concept of social media marketing is still in its relative infancy, at least compared to more traditional routes like public relations, media buy, and even email marketing, its potential cannot be understated. In the marketing industry, much has been made about the “Next Billion” – those fast-growing emerging markets coming online for the first time. And now, thanks to social media, the “Next Billion” are found online in every country in the world. And with approximately one million new people coming online for the first time every day (according to Hootsuite), the time is now for marketers to start thinking of how to best implement a social media strategy to reach these new users.

The biggest question that brands have when considering a social media strategy is how social can help them achieve their goals. It’s a fair question for a brand to ask, and since social media is still a relatively new branch of marketing, its ROI (return on investment) is still not fully understood in the same way as public relations or digital advertising.

The secret to understanding the potential for social media to help you meet your goals is to consider the goals that customers have when using social media, and figuring out how to marry the goals of the consumer with the goals of your business.

According to their ebook, Unlocking the Value of Social, Hootsuite has identified that most businesses have three major goals:

  • Drive Revenue
  • Decrease Cost
  • Mitigate Risk

By contrast, Hootsuite has identified that most consumers have the following three major goals:

  • Inspire me
  • Help me decide
  • Show me you care

As you can see, these goals are very different, and require different metrics of success. For example, you can quantify revenue, but how do you quantify something like how inspired a customer is by your brand? If the sales team is asking how to sell more products on Instagram, while the customer is asking where they can find people who like the same things they like, how can you meet the same goal with different measurements of success?

This is where social media marketing comes in handy. The opportunity isn’t to just use social media to achieve a few business objectives, it’s to use social media to transform how we do business. Today, customer success is often an organizational island (see below) and social is the golden thread that unites your company with your customers. It is the goal of the social media marketing team to guide the customer every step along the conversion process, fulfilling the needs of the customer while meeting the goals of the business.

Infographic courtesy of Hootsuite

Let’s take a deeper look into this customer journey, and how social media can meet the needs of the customer, as well as the brand.

Building Awareness

Let’s start at the very beginning; that is, let’s start at the very top of the conversion funnel. Before a purchase is made, before a reservation is booked, or before a service is enlisted, you need people to become aware that your product or service exists. And this stage is where the power of social media thrives; according to the Sprout Social Index for 2019, 70% of social marketers have identified increasing brand awareness at their top goals for social.

Social media is one of the very first introductions that a customer has with your brand, acting as the sort of “public face”. Before a customer decides to commit to a purchase, they’ll check out your social media pages to see if (1) your business is legitimate, and (2) your product or service is something that they might be interested in. If your social media presence is not well maintained, or doesn’t exist at all, that sends the message to the consumer to move along to another brand that is more committed to capturing their attention. 

First impressions are important, and that is true even on social media. By using your social media effectively to build awareness about your product, by engaging audiences with content that sets you apart or by providing information to them when they need it, you begin the first steps in building a devoted audience at a time when everyone is vying for their attention.

Establishing Sentiment

Social audiences have identified that not only do they look towards social media to find posts that entertain and inform them, but also as a form of customer service. At a time when traditional forms of customer service only end up disappointing and alienating the customer (such as long hold times or delayed email responses), social media has become a way for customers to find help almost immediately.

Whether this is responding to complaints, offering suggestions, or directing the customer to what they need immediately, good customer service results in positive brand sentiment. If your audience knows that not only can they look to your social channels for some much needed inspiration and entertainment, but also knows that they can reach out to you and receive support in a timely manner, that means the world at a time when communication has become highly individualized.

Driving Sales

According to PwC’s study of over 22,000 consumers, content shared by peers on social media is the most influential channel for inspiring purchases. 37% of consumers were inspired to make a purchase from social media or through messaging platforms, higher than both email and search. 

This can be attributed to content seen on social media, whether that is on your own social channel or content posted from your brand advocates (more on that later), comes off as more authentic to the consumer. Your social channels are curated to show the very best of your product or service, of course, but if your social audience sees content of people enjoying your product or service in a way that feels personalized to them, they are more likely to purchase than when advertised through other means.

Creating Brand Advocates

Congratulations! Not only have you attracted an audience and successfully convinced them to use your product or service, but you have convinced them to use it on repeated occasions. It is at this stage in the journey that the customer now becomes an advocate on your behalf.   

This is a key step in marketing but one that often goes neglected by brands when implementing their social strategy. According to a survey of 400 social media leaders conducted by Altimeter and Hootsuite, only 18% use social media to better understand the advocacy stage of the customer journey. But the power of customer advocacy on behalf of your brand cannot be underestimated.

By building and maintaining a loyal social media following, built off of dependable customer support and a positive experience with your service or product, your brand advocates will begin referring their friends and family to you. This can directly impact not only audience growth, but can continue to push sales as well.

So what are you waiting for? Now that you know that social media is more than just pretty photos and quippy hashtags, it’s time to take the first step in implementing your social media strategy.

Integrated Marketing Communications

The Internet is a Big Place

— by Bryan Allison