No business can grow in today’s always on Digital Eco System unless you are a social platform competent brand.
Marshall McCluhan was prescient beyond his years when he published: “Understanding Media: The Extension of Man.” Platform and message are symbiotic.
Your brand story has to be optimized for each platform, with visuals and content in context to increase the likelihood of your updates getting heard.
LinkedIn is the Defacto Best Social Platform for B2B Focused Brands
- For B2B brands LinkedIn traffic converts better, has more brand engagement, less bounce rates than any other social media platform.
- LinkedIn is in “expansion mode” and they have the financial and marketing resources to keep growing.
- Your LinkedIn profile (personal and company page) is going to pop up in Google in a matter of days and “live” there forever.
- There are over two million LinkedIn Groups, think of these as a smorgasbord of conversations. Some of these Groups have stellar managers and others (50-60% in my estimation) are the Wild West, with just a lot self-promotions. So, pick your Groups carefully. If joining a Group take the time to message the Administrator directly and make a concise business case for why and how you’ll add value to the Group.
- Creating and managing a Group on LinkedIn can be a great way to build brand for yourself or your company: time intensive: 90-180 days on average to scale to some success.
- It’s a global platform, with over 50% of the community based outside of North America.
- This platform is still in high growth mode: new user every two seconds, over 300M users, reaches over 200 countries, 40% of user check it daily, 3 million business pages, 200 conversations per minute, 41% access via mobile, aiming for 3B users.
- Create a full Profile: Keyword driven Profile Summary, Past Jobs/with dates, Bio picture, Education, Non-Profit Work, Skills/Expertise, Add Presentations/White Papers - prepare to spend 8-10 hours on a robust profile and use LinkedIn’s completion percentage algorithm.
- Join some finite number of Groups (10-20) that you want to at least check out once or twice a week and also provide comments and/or share topical news via your Groups and be mindful of Admin’s “rules of the road.” Don’t join Groups where you are preaching to the choir.
- Connect your WordPress Blog to your LinkedIn profile account during setup so blog posts are automatically shared on the platform.
- LinkedIn owns SlideShare; so, integrate any PowerPoint Presentations with your Profile.
- Share your Content (Blog Posts, Valuable News) with Profile Status Updates 2-4 times per day; remember, content curation is important. Optimum time: weekdays, 9-5 EST if targeting people in the U.S.
- LinkedIn’s Newsfeed is now image centric; so, don’t rely solely on textual updates - be creative with your images.
- Remember your connections drive your newsfeed - demographic targeting is a good thing. Although some pros just look for high volume connectivity with minimal targeting. Not recommended.
- Use LinkedIn’s publishing functionality as it can drive significant traffic, adds luster to your profile. Don’t forget to add a blurb at the bottom thank others for reading & commenting, and cross link all of your published content on each single piece of content, add links to web site and social profiles.
- Update your Profile frequently: 3-5X per every 60 days at a minimum.
- Pay attention to LinkedIn’s new profile analysis tools which show your levels of engagement: these are not robust but will give you some perspective.
- LinkedIn’s “People You Know Tool” has been recently upgraded (integrating an algorithm with import features via email) - useful for building connections. And their Outlook Plugin is cool too.
- LinkedIn has a cool Mobile Phone App that has good basic functionality and mobile growth is skyrocketing.
- Linkedin has opened up their API (Application Programmer Interface) and there are a large number of plugins that work well - here is a great collection of the top ten via Mashable.
- Free or Paid account: Paid account give yous more Advanced Search functionality, higher volume of in-mails per month and profile views. But, free will work for most, but paid is worth the $200-300. per year.
- Note: this post is a 2,500 word deep dive into LinkedIn Best Practices
Moving the Meter with Your Brand on Twitter
Twitter has “jumped the shark” - it’s go/go insane growth days are probably behind it. But, it’s still the number two platform for B2B brands behind LinkedIn for good reason. If you are targeting other businesses you want to be on this platform.
But, as bulleted below, it’s pretty hard to scale up a meaningful presence on Twitter without using some kind of account optimization. I don’t mean pushing out broadcasts via HootSuite, you want to use a platform to automate Follows and Unfollows, some of the back end drudgery that’s going to help you grow.
- Google is starting to index (find and list) Tweets in their search results again. This has been an on and off again “romance” - as of this writing its’ on. So, know your Tweets move your brand into Google’s results instantaneously.
- Create “influencer” lists for competitive intelligence and to aggregate & automate content sharing.
- Pass on Twitter chat discussions, unless high value brands are participating. These are labor intensive and your time is better spent on content marketing as an example.
- Change your profile frequently; it gets ranked by Google immediately.
- Connect your Twitter account with other platforms (this is just good content marketing) and don’t forget to embed Twitter account with email newsletter.
- Use high impact images on Twitter: 20-40% of your Tweets should have attached images. Especially now that Twitter has gone to full screen images on mobile and is embracing video via recent acquisitions.
- Use Twitonomy to understand what your competitors are doing: follow their lists, assess their content marketing strategy: what they are sharing, hashtag usage, who they are Following.
- Invest time: be patient and expect to spend 3-6 months to build up a Following on Twitter; forget your Follower count: a smaller and engaged community is much better than larger group of Followers who are not engaged.
- Used Tweetdeck to segment lists (“columns”) of users, hashtags relating to your industry, competitors and your own lists.
- Twitter’s Advanced Search can be used to pull up hashtags or keywords used by potential customers who are Tweeting about a problem they are having. This is 1.0 data-mining and labor intensive; but, can be useful for sourcing leads or partners.
- Twitter’s new profile page is a great way to use a dramatic image that makes your brand stand out - change it at least once a month. Pin your best Tweet every few days to your profile page: should be a Tweet linking to your blog or other branded content.
- Don’t just Tweet your headlines: extract “fresh” headlines from the body of a blog post, use questions or quotes from your content.
- Use Twitter Cards to attach rich visual images to your Tweets.
- Cool Twitter apps: Tweetdeck, Topsy, Social Bro, Twist.Ly, Twitonomy, Hashtags.org, ManageFlitter, Twtrland, SocialOomph and TweetBot.
- Deeper dive into Twitter Best Practices just click here.
Pinterest is the Best Platform for Reaching today’s Connected Female Demographic
Success on Pinterest really comes down to curating images and videos. Everything else pales in comparison. And, like Twitter and Facebook, Pinterest is embracing direct sales right on their platform and targeted advertising. Expect this direct on platform sales model trend to accelerate as they look for more ways to monetize their platform.
- Use great block and tackling fundamentals: Board descriptions should be well written, with integrated keywords and individual Pins descriptions should be 200-300 words.
- Create high quality content comprising images that resonate with the Pinterest community: 800 by 1,200, with maximum size 2,300 pixels in length. Images with multiple colors (complex) get 3.25 more repins.
- Use Pinterest to leverage content marketing costs: repurposing all Infographics, Images, Staff, Company Functions, Events and Tradeshows, YouTube, Instagram (in some cases), Vine Videos, Blog images.
- Images featuring tutorials, FAQ, DIY recipes/instructions get 42% more clickthrough rates. Red, orange and brown (bright!) colors trump blue.
- Make customers part of your social fabric: use them in images and boards. #becreative
- Be social and engage with the Pinterest community - comment back on other Pins and Boards.
- Refresh your account 3-5 times a week at a minimum with 1-3% new boards as a per centage of your total number of boards.
- Map and assess Pinterest’s analytics against Google - we see some disparity in the former when comparing data.
- Remember, Pinterest is overwhelming female demographic (75% estimated): it’s about cachet, style, being eclectic and targeting the right demographic.
- Integrate some personality with a mix and match “board strategy,” blending product-centric boards with “lifestyle” boards that drive engagment.
- Deep link into your product pages with dedicated pins and a URL string mapping to the right page to drive SEO benefits.
- Download and use the Pinterest browser plugin to curate content as you move around the web.
- Twelve great WordPress plugins for increased efficiency.
- In-depth overview of Pinterest Best Marketing Practices
Facebook will be 20 Pound Gorilla Your Brand Needs to Optimize for a Long Time
For some brands Facebook has become the “social media Secret Santa” - you know you’re getting something but not quite sure what. Look for patterns in the data. Facebook is a twenty pound gorilla you have to pay some attention to, even if you are targeting other businesses.
Facebook has finally made it clear that brands have to pay to play on the platform: organic reach with consumers is still possible. But, you need to distinguish and optimize Earned Media (organic updates) on Facebook vs. Paid Media to be successful.
Seven Critical Marketing Maxims that Drive Brand Engagement on Facebook
- Engaged people are your target on Facebook, not fans, likes or other artificial measurements. Understand what your customers care about, what’s going to inspire and resonate with them. Address their needs and blend in some creativity so your profile is not boring.
- Paid and earned media need to be integrated. Test “organic” posts that are not promoted. Then, understand which of these is performing well on it’s own and amplify these with advertising.
- Share great content. Lousy content is not going to drive engagment and that means don’t share the same stock images, videos or updates being done by others. Take risks with your content and your community manager needs to be aware of what’s working and what isn’t.
- Build strategic alliances with key bloggers, thought leaders and industry pundits and do what you have to do to motivate them to engage with your brands. That’s Fed Exing in chocolate, champagne, with hand written notes or more. That’s not pushing a “free” use of our product for a month email BTW.
- Facebook has shifted from a textual platform to a full blown multimedia channel. Be visual and media savvy. Chunk up your video content and share it aggressively and don’t exceed more than two minutes per each video. Video should garner attention and drive traffic back to your site, not tell your brand’s story in ten minutes.
- Savvy community management determines success or failure on this platform. A great community manager is your brand voice on this and other social platforms. They must know how to engage with the community, understand when to escalate a customer service issue up the food chain, be personable and articulate, have some technical training - expect to pay these people well, they are in demand and good ones are hard to find.
- Profile best practices are important and not mundane; integration with other apps and services underscore your brand’s sophistication, use Facebook’s profile and cover photo creatively.
Facebook Advertising Best Practices
Facebook is in an arms race with Google and aggressively buying demographic information from data providers and bundling these with their own data to drive value for advertisers. You are getting “reach” and “scale” (in marketing speak) across hundreds of millions of users and to date, Google has been the only viable alternative.
Facebook has data on just under 1.7 Billion users. The targeting is powerful, with two options, cost per click or impressions and your ad spend may be significantly lower than PPC. There are no hard and fast cost metrics, these vary tremendously; but, in general expect to pay $.50-3. per click or lower if using impression based ads.
Anticipate spending 3-5 hours setting up an ad campaign and if your media spend is more than $500. a month it’s well worth your time to use Atlas (the rebranded Ad Platform). Test your targeting (interests, age, marital status, zipcode) and early on you don’t need to use the Ad Platform as long as you are being conservative with your ad spend (under $50 a day).
One of the most powerful drivers for brands advertising with Facebook is generating “social referrals” - there is no other platform that can generate this kind of traffic; i.e. friends referring a link or product recommendation to their friends.
- Establish goals; Page Likes, Visits to your web site, Fan engagement on your page. Facebook’s Ad processes will map to these goals, so choose carefully.
- Don’t every buy Followers for any social account commercially. Use Facebook’s advertising to build up your Fan base initially. The more Likes you have for a page the more robust your page looks and this will give you broader “reach” (more fans) for an ad campaign that is more offer focused.
- Use Facebook Offers Campaigns to drive list signups; a free ebook in exchange for an email address works great.
- Be very clear with a call to action embedded in your ad. Facebook users are distracted and confusion kills ROI.
- Test Activated Sponsored Stories (in the Newsfeed). Yes, you are paying Facebook for the privilege of making sure you get “seen” on the platform.
- If you are promoting a Facebook page the Title of your page will be used for the Headline of your ad. Customize the Headline and know, like any ad campaign, the Headline will determine success or failure.
- Control Your Ad Costs: you can bid on clicks, impressions or a specific action (download). Facebook’s automatic bid option may cost you money: manually bidding for clicks or optimizations can be cheaper.
- Choose a Daily or Lifetime Budget and note each campaign has a separate budget.
- Daily Media Spend it set at $50. but you can go in an change your daily ad budget at any time after a Campaign is set up.
- Facebook has powerful built in targeting: age, gender, location, marital status, language, education and more; test and refine these.
Why Tech Savvy Brands are Embracing Social Selling
Twitter and Facebook are testing buy buttons with select accounts and Facebook is now supporting buying and selling products directly in Groups. For good reason, today’s retail shoppers have phones in hand and use social media to find deals and information.
Company’s like Stripe and Gumroad are incorporating buy functionality on the fly, enabling brands to sell within apps and on any/all platforms. Even second tier social platforms like Snapchat are embracing early stage social eCommerce, adding “snapcash” to its native functionality.
Anticipate these trends will accelerate moving forward. Again, social media is changing from a two dimensional marketing and engagement platform to eCommerce direct social selling - a social platform is a must have for any brand that wants to find new sources for commerce.
Tech savvy brands are moving to social selling: first generation fan/followers build out is done and the more sophisticated brands are leveraging social influence to convert sales.
- Referral traffic from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube increased 41.8 percent from 2013 to 2014, driving 51.5 million unique monthly website visitors, according to the 2014 Internet Retailer Social Media 500 Guide.
- Revenue from those visitors increased 63 percent to $2.7 billion in 2013 and we are in the early build out phase of social selling. Expect these numbers to grow quickly, just as ecommerce did.
- Social is “smart selling” as long as your brand is on the right platform. Consumer focused: Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube & second tier platforms like Tumblr. For B2B brands: Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook as an adjunct channel.
- Determine the optimum way to connect with your prospects: @at messages on Twitter are much better than “DMs” (direct messages); many don’t even monitor the latter. LinkedIn is a great way to find and connect with professionals; but, do it directly with a personalized invitation to connect. Cut and paste messaging is not an optimum way to build rapport and may generate spam complaints.
- Create an attention grabbing profile: underscoring what makes you business or personal brand different from others, updated frequently, with some baked in personality. #dontbeboring
- Use social to front end load your brand reach: Twitter’s Advanced Search is a great way to find conversations and individuals and then couple this with direct contact via LinkedIn.
- Contribute to conversations on social to drive engagement. Don’t 24/7 broadcast or use social selling as a one call close. It’s about building relationships.
- Don’t use generic pitches to prospects with a link to your home page. Share a link that relates to their specific problems. Social selling is about personalization.
- Your Sales Team needs to know social selling has a sales cycle like any sales channel: research issues, identify contacts, engage and then reach out with a personal message.
- Social media platforms represent critical opportunities to shape consumer experience around your brand but it takes frequency (repetition) to get their attention.
- Social selling is moving to real time - inculcate direct social sales right on the platform of choice to negate sales funnel drop offs and to leverage the always on immediacy of social media.
- Optimization variables you should be measuring: which social network, what type of content performs best, are you reaching target customers/companies, what relationships have the most impact?
Social Platforms are Algorithmic Driven Beasts Moving at Warp Speed
All of these channels “serve” an investor base or the public and constantly shift their algorithms just like Google.
Some publishers are now abandoning their own web sites and going “all in” on social. This is a risky strategy and fraught with peril - your business is renting on these platforms and you don’t own your intellectual property.
There are no hard and fast rules for being successful on these top tier social platforms other than sharing meaningful content tailored for the unique attributes of each platform.
Select a platform that maps to your demographics, hire and train a great community manager, again, share great content and embed social selling once your business has reached critical mass.
Like any marketing activity, look for patterns and back end conversions that map to a specific platform.
Be patient, there are no instant fame and fortune formulas, unless your a celebrity du jour of the month.
Be creative when/where you can. These platforms are all crowded and noisy - standing out necessitates more than algorithmic geeky “thought leader” driven techniques. Self included. #goforth