Businesses and organizations are increasing their focus on social media marketing because the medium is moving farther forward in the consideration process. Approximately 50 percent of Facebook users have provided a referral on the medium. Four out of five people who receive a referral on social media will first search for that organization within that same channel, meaning if someone first learns of you on Facebook, it is most likely the first time they type your business’s name into a search, it will be on Facebook. How can you use social media marketing to provide the best possible first impression?
Part of the science of Social Media Optimization (SMO) is making it easy to be found by people looking for you. Multiple components are considered. Is your company name also the title of your Facebook page? Is your Twitter handle your company name? If not, does it employ keywords relevant to your business? Or have we gotten a bit too clever? Another component of SMO is establishing connections. It’s important to establish “reach” early and quickly. People should know and be easily able to use and remember your Twitter handle and “tag” your company page on Facebook. Another reason it’s essential to draw people to your page is because Facebook’s search algorithm is much less concerned with keywords than it is with connections. Pages are more likely to be suggested to individual users if more of their “friends” have elected to “like” the page. It’s also crucial to make sure yours is the right “type” of Facebook page. Much like other local online directories, Facebook will create a “Community Page” for businesses having a brick and mortar address. While this provides potential benefits to the business, such as enabling Facebook users to provide exposure to the business with “check-ins,” the Community Page does not provide an ability to post content or market the page. The best strategy is to claim the community page and merge it with or convert it to a proper Facebook Page.
As Twitter and YouTube continue to experiment with different layouts and as Google+ decides what it wants to be when it grows up, and as businesses and organizations weigh involvement in Instagram, Pinterest, Meetup.com and other Internet social networks, the icons, banners and backgrounds become the most impactful initial representations of your brand. Is your profile icon consistent across channels? Does it use text that cannot be deciphered when displayed in its smallest and most prolific form—the news feed? Are your cover photos optimized to appear sharp and crisp? Is the imagery consistent with your intended brand experience? Are they colorful, interesting and consistent across multiple networks? Do they change on occasion? Are they unique to you? Can all the imagery and text be seen and read (or is that Facebook profile icon disrupting part of the cover image)?
Listen and respond to online comments.
The part of the medium you “own,” such as your Facebook page or your Twitter feed, is quite likely to be the first “landing” place for your prospect. When a visitor scrolls down past your cover art to see the content on your page, will they see comments, reviews and other things created by your community? Will they see that you are responding—in a tone and manner they would enjoy and appreciate? Are you taking ownership of issues and working to resolution? Are you generating dialogue? More than four out of five people interpret a lack of response to online comments as indicative of poor customer service, and that this makes them less likely to do business with the company. Reach and engagement must be simultaneously and constantly pursued.
Dependability matters. When a prospective customer arrives at your Facebook page, will they see that you regularly contribute new content? Or will it appear that social media is an afterthought for you? This can be crippling, as the prospect who uses Facebook or Twitter, etc., to initially learn about a potential partner is likely to value and use it as a primary source of communication. In this vein, the use of social media dashboard tools like HootSuite and TweetDeck can work against you. While they provide the momentary efficiency of being able to post content across multiple Internet social networks simultaneously, they expose you as looking for the quickest way to check social media off the to-do list rather than seeking to learn about and engage with your community. These also work against reach development because Facebook severely penalizes content proliferation when it is posted from a third party tool and while Hashtags are helpful for Twitter and Google+, posts that employ Hashtags are far less likely to generate engagement on Facebook. Similarly, auto-forwarding your Facebook posts to Twitter or vice-versa communicates you are using the channel to broadcast rather than connect and engage. “You should care,” this communicates, “what I have to say, but I can’t be bothered with you.”
When you do post content, is it information that enriches, entertains, informs? If too much of your content is, “Hey, look at the stuff we sell,” the message you send is that your customer can expect your focus in the relationship to be on what’s good for you. If on the other hand the preponderance of content is shared knowledge that helps people, the inference is that your focus is on being a positive contributor to the relationship.
How to use this Information
While, as a marketing tactic, social media remains primarily a tool for customer retention and referral through building community around your brand, it is increasingly part of the early consideration process for prospective customers. Social media marketing is effective in winning the business for those who put their best foot forward in every aspect of every channel.
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