Effective Social Media Marketing: Are we in denial?

 

Love it or hate it if you are promoting something you are waist-deep or at least dipping a toe into the social media marketing landscape.  For public relations professionals, we are always focused on effective social media marketing tactics that will build our clients’ audiences.  I’ve written about social media on this blog, often breaking down different platforms and their uses, listing the latest stats, and how to build a content strategy.  However, I am adding this to the conversation because I think many of us are in denial. Our expectations and feelings about how things should work are getting int the way of our own success.    Below are some statements related to social media conversations I’ve had.  If you relate to one or more of these, then you might want to read on.

  1. My follower count on Instagram only increases by 5 to 10 followers per week so my campaign isn’t working.
  2. Nobody wants to hear from me on Twitter because I don’t get likes or retweets.
  3. I post contests and polls on Facebook and I don’t get any audience participation.
  4. I post every day and I’m not growing.

Time for a reality check

 

It’s time to face reality.  There are 3.3 billion people on social media; there are bots and marketing agencies spewing generic content; advertising is cluttering news feeds; and if you aren’t a celebrity, you won’t gain followers by the hundreds.  So why does anyone even bother you ask?  Because there are 3.3 billion people using social media.  If your audience was just a fraction of that number you could be happy.

We are so fortunate to be able to reach out to all of these people directly.  But you have to be thoughtful, dare I say strategic about how you talk them.    If you do your homework and start talking to your “people” who want to hear what you have to say, then you will grow and you may even become an influencer someday.  If your social media platforms are not behaving the way you want them to, it is likely that you are not properly focused on who you are trying to reach and what you need to communicate.

Build Authentic Online Relationships

Relationship building online is about earning the trust and loyalty of your customers and audiences so you can maintain, and grow your numbers.   But how do you do that?  Is it by working with a company that will push out “snackable” content? (I was pitched that idea by a social marketer.  Let me ask you this: If you were at a cocktail party would you want to talk to a robot who can say a dozen sentences or a real person who can tell you about a trip to Belize)? Is it by talking about how great you are or how wonderful your product is?  Would having a roomful of cats posted on Instagram fit the bill?

Even though we can now hide behind our screens, it doesn’t mean that the skills and needs of human interaction are out the window.  If anything, you need to be even more thoughtful about your dialogue with others to practice effective social media marketing.  Your content needs to be authentic and you need to do your due diligence and research in advance to identify an audience that will be interested in receiving your messages.  After you determine your audience, you need to figure out how to reach it, what platforms to use, the content you will use, and when you are going to post and share.

It takes time and tenacity

To build an army takes an army and that’s what you are doing.  You are setting up a foundation of friends and followers who want to know about your ideas or buy your product.  If satisfied, they will help spread the word via retweets, shares, and referrals.  And as I’ve said, it doesn’t happen overnight.

When I was at a conference recently a woman asked me about an aggregation application that helped drive followers on Twitter, but she was losing followers as quickly as she was gaining them.  I told her that Twitter has been public about their attempt to rid the server of unattended accounts and spambots.  Aggregators are not a shortcut when it comes to quality, actionable followers.  The ones you end up with are often spam and other ineffective types.  You need to put a real engagement plan into action, stick to it, monitor the results, and take appropriate action when necessary.

We all need to accept that this process is going to take a lot of work.  I’ve got a business built around media with a heavy social focus, and I know about the time that goes into an effective social media marketing campaign.  But if you aren’t able to hire somebody to do it for you, then you can set up a schedule that works for you.  Block out time every day to work on internet engagement and research.  Find a tracking program or use the tools that the individual platforms provide so you can see how your content is doing.  Someone told me once regarding careers that you start with one brick and soon you will have built a wall.  So go ahead and start your construction and you will see how things progress.

The last thing I’ll add is for people who dislike social media or do not feel comfortable with it.  My advice is: Don’t establish any platforms you are not going to use.  If you feel super hesitant about social campaigning, then do not do it.   In a future post, I’ll present some ideas for alternatives that will still build your SEO presence online.

Additional Informational Resources

Here are a couple of  articles from around the internet that talk about current content and social strategies:

10 Important 2020 Social Media Trends You Need to Know

12 Social Media Trends to Watch in 2020

 

San Francisco Writers Conference: Digital platform a major concern for emerging writers

The omnipresent questions at the  San Francisco Writers Conference (SFWC) were about digital marketing, social media for writers, and platform building.    Over the weekend I delivered a couple of presentations and met with at least twenty people individually to discuss various public relations questions and options.  Some people were already building their audiences; others were daunted at the prospect, but willing to try; then there were those who just felt exhausted by the whole thing.  This is some of the advice I gave:
Q: I am a professional with a website and a Facebook account.  Should I create a second account and another website for my book?

A: If you have an existing website and your book relates in some way to what you already do, don’t add another website to the mix.  Instead, put a new tab and page on the current site.  If your writing is a complete detour from your professional life then try adding a page to your Facebook account that is for your “author self”.  I don’t recommend separate pages for different books, because that could get confusing and it dilutes your brand.  Also, for most writers, you should maintain an Instagram account, since that is where the largest demographic resides.  Facebook is skewing to an older set.

Q: I loathe everything about social media and don’t see myself doing it, so how do I gain any kind of online presence? 

A: A website and a blog will give you some searchable real estate online, but without social media, it will be difficult to drive people to it from the comfort of your own home.  I recommend a landing page or a more developed website and you could try to pitch individual pieces to other sites and blogs that already have an established audience.  Try writing 700 – 1000 words that reflect something about you, your writing, and the topics you are writing about.  If you can’t get something picked up by a site, then you can post on your own blog.  Some sites will allow you to send them items that have already been online, but others won’t.  Check out the submission requirements so you know how best to manage the approach.

Q: When should I start working on my platform?

A: Write your book first.  If you are the kind of person who does well compartmentalizing tasks and can write a book and tackle marketing at the same time, then start building yourself asap.  What you don’t want to do is jeopardize your purpose–writing the book.  So unless the writing and the digital marketing via social media complement each other, I would turn your attention to the latter when you’ve sent the first draft off to an editor.

Q: Should I buy advertising online?

A: I’ve tested various advertising methods on Facebook, in particular, and have found that the best thing is to promote the page itself.  Advertising individual books hasn’t worked that well for my clients in the past few years, although it used to.  I think the algorithms have changed and it’s harder to get your sponsored posts seen.  To measure this on your own, see how many engagements, shares, and clicks you get from an ad.  It doesn’t matter if your ad reaches 2000 people if you don’t get any interaction.  When Facebook talks about “reaching” they mean “impressions”.  The post can appear on a person’s feed but that doesn’t mean it has actually been seen.

Q: My Twitter followers have been dwindling dramatically, what can I do about it?  

A: Twitter has been cleaning house, getting rid of inactive accounts and spam accounts.  If your numbers have been decreasing it is because the quality of followers isn’t up to Twitter’s current standards.  It’s actually a blessing because you don’t want junk followers or spambots on your account.  It really doesn’t look good.

Q: Do I need to be in my pajamas to manage my social media?

A: Haha.

Yes, that was a question–there’s a clown in every class.  Seriously though the main point here is about generating awareness of you and your work.  There are other things that publishers look for beyond how many followers or cyber friends you have.  Are you an expert who could be lecturing about your topic?  Are you a member of a writers group?  Can you pitch yourself to a panel at one of the smaller writers conferences or can you offer to speak at your local library about writing?  Have you looked at what other authors you admire or whose work is similar to yours are doing to promote themselves?  Can you go to your local independent store and get to know the owner?  Are you telling everyone you know that you have a book that will be coming out someday?

Remember that although digital platforms can be a more convenient way to reach many people at the same time, there is no

the digital world is about people and relationships

substitute for building relationships in person.  Think about the things you have to offer and start sharing.  It’s okay to take it one step at a time and to learn as you go.  It’s a process and I know you can do it.

Here’s a link to where you can download a free guide that will provide a wealth of information about social media for writers and the most current platforms and their uses.

 

Social Media 101: Content Strategizing the 2019 Way

If you read our recent blog post Social Media 101: Branding the 2019 Way, you’ll know just how critical it is to do social media marketing rather than banking only on traditional media to spread the word about your product/service/brand. You also might’ve been left wondering how to go about branding on social media. Well, we have you covered there, too—and the answer is content strategizing.

The most important aspect of social media branding is implementing a strategy behind the content you are going to put out in the world. Perhaps you are already plugged in to the major platforms but haven’t seen results in your engagement levels or follower count. Perhaps you’re starting from square one. Either way, it’s crucial to formulate a strategy before you post. Ask yourself:

  • Who is my target audience?
  • What is that audience’s age demographic?
  • What social channels are they on?
  • Why should they care about me and my brand?
  • How can I showcase my brand in a way that will attract them?
  • What content do I already have available?
  • What content do I need to create for effective brand display?
  • What do I bring to the table that my competitors don’t, and how can I present that through my social channels?

It’s important to know your target audience inside and out. Having inside knowledge about key groups will tell you exactly what channels they populate. Here’s a breakdown, according to a 2019 study done by Sprout Social:

Users on Facebook: 74% female, 62% male

  • 51% of 13-17 year olds
  • 81% of 18-29 year olds
  • 78% of 30-49 year olds
  • 65% of 50-64 year olds
  • 41% of 65+ year olds

Users on Instagram: 39% female, 30% male

  • 72% of 13-17 year olds
  • 64% of 18-29 year olds
  • 40% of 30-49 year olds
  • 21% of 50-64 year olds
  • 10% of 65+ year olds

Users on Twitter: 24% female, 23% male

  • 32% of 13-17 year olds
  • 40% of 18-29 year olds
  • 27% of 30-49 year olds
  • 19% of 50-64 year olds
  • 8% of 65+ year olds

Users on LinkedIn: 25% female, 25% male

  • 29% of 18-29 year olds
  • 33% of 30-49 year olds
  • 24% of 50-64 year olds
  • 9% of 65+ year olds

Users on Snapchat: 31% female, 23% male

  • 69% of 13-17 year olds
  • 68% of 18-29 year olds
  • 26% of 30-49 year olds
  • 10% of 50-64 year olds
  • 3% of 65+ year olds

TikTok is also becoming a popular outlet for the younger demographic. Nonetheless, identifying and creating on-brand content that caters to a specific audience is the key to success in any niche. You want to highlight what makes your brand unique while keeping your audience’s expectations in mind.

From there, develop a content calendar to keep yourself organized and pay attention to your social media analytics. It may be beneficial to look into different scheduling services like Hootsuite and Loomly (we have used both) that can also track engagement levels, relevant hashtags, and other important metrics. Knowledge is power.

Bottom line: You want your content to be true to who you are as a brand while capturing the essence of what you do and why you’re important.

To learn more about the importance of social media in business, check out our recent blog.

Social Media 101: Branding the 2019 Way

You might notice that, in your regular grocery-shopping routine, there are always those go-to items that undeniably end up in your cart at checkout. I’m not just talking about the core food groups. Think about bananas. Sure, they might all taste the same, or even ring in at similar prices, but you’re still always reaching for Chiquita or Dole brand.

Let’s leave the supermarket behind and head to your favorite gadget store. Why do loyal Apple consumers go back to iPhone time and again, even when the newest model retails for over $1000? There are certainly other options that offer competitive hardware. The reason is because, from bananas to mobile devices, the most successful businesses strategically brand. Chiquita and Apple established their distinctive brands at a time when most media was only disseminated through a few channels; print, radio, and television.

Business owners at present-day are overwhelmed with options. Yet, many up-and-comers make the mistake of focusing efforts on penetrating the already over-saturated legacy media. Not only are these channels over-crowded, they are incredibly expensive due to the high demand. Last year’s Superbowl host network charged $5.25 million for one 30-second commercial. But even the well-established companies with bigger budgets are turning to the new wave of branding in 2019: social media. Here are three reasons why your business needs social media branding:

The audience. So much of the world is on social media. It is even predicted that the U.S. population will spend more time on social media/mobile devices than on TV by the end of this year. Social media host a wealth of loyal niche communities. With clear messaging and focused branding, these communities can quickly become your repeat-consumers.

The price point. Like any promotional content on a popular medium, ads on social media can be pricey. Luckily, there is more to this strategy than paid advertisements. Channels like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat are a one-stop shop. You can create your own original content in-house, free of charge. The average user is bombarded daily with big-budget marketing. In fact, 86% of people on social crave authentic content rather than expertly-crafted material from ad agencies. Stand out in the crowded market and create something to which your audience can authentically relate, without breaking the bank!

The immediacy. We’ve talked about the ways social media branding is useful, but how will you know it’s working? There is a way, and unlike mail surveys or television polls, you won’t have to wait weeks and months to see results. Simply start a poll on your desired outlet. The media mentioned above offer  functions where you can pose a question with two or more answer options, and users can select their response. These polls can run any where from one day to one week. Once the poll closes, you instantly have your results – you can even see votes as they are happening.

Traditional media are already at capacity. Rather than beating your head against the wall trying to break into an incredibly competitive market, take matters into your own hands. Use freely available social media and make your mark today.

Publicity 101: The Importance of Tracking Your Pitching

While tracking the outlets you’ve pitched in hopes of procuring reviews, features or interviews for you and your book isn’t the most exciting process there ever was, it sure is important.

Why, you ask? Firstly, it saves valuable time and money. Arguably just as important, tracking the outlets, contact names, contact emails, phone numbers, addresses, contact positions and outcomes will not only keep you organized, but also stop you from pitching the same people twice. No one enjoys getting the same copy and pasted message more than once.

Your personal running record of contact information acts as a good reference sheet for future pitches as well. For example, we’re currently launching a media campaign for the third installment of Chris Babu’s Initiation series (more on that to come—stay tuned!). Having worked on the second book, The Expedition, and documenting every pitched outlet while noting those who ran our pieces in the past gives us a better idea of who we should re-pitch for the new book.

In other words, because of our record-keeping, we know who is more likely to say yes, who only offers paid reviews, who only works with local authors, and so on. You’ve already spent countless hours on outlet research. Why start over for every pitch? Tracking your work is also crucial for determining when to follow up. Sometimes all it takes is a friendly check-in via email or phone to yield a response.

Now that we’ve covered why it’s essential to track your pitching, you may be wondering how exactly you should track. Lucky for you, there are plenty of tracker templates and organizers out there that make it easy for you to input key information. Even an Excel spreadsheet does the trick. Below you can find a sample format:

Want more information on how to curate the perfect media list? Check out our five-step process.