At Arke, we’re a little obsessed with social media. In fact, we talk about it a lot.
But not without good reason. Social media, if used properly, offers businesses and organizations an unprecedented opportunity to engage highly targeted audiences in meaningful dialogue. And at a fraction of the cost of other marketing activities.
It’s the democratization of marketing. And through it, disruptors, upstarts, and Davids are toppling established Goliaths.
In the last few years, we’ve seen brands in every industry pour resources into protecting their market share with well-funded, but often poorly executed, social marketing campaigns. And small businesses of every stripe are launching their own efforts, even if they have no idea what they’re doing.
This rise of social media marketing in mainstream business means the market for our audiences’ attention is more competitive than ever. So how do you compete – or even begin?
Over the past couple of months, I’ve found myself repeating the same five phrases in meetings with clients, conversations with our team, on campaign planning sheets, and on sticky notes. While none of them are particularly revolutionary, they’ve become, for me, the guiding principles of our social media marketing. So I thought I’d share them.
Adapt and Evolve
If you do a quick Google search on social media marketing, you’ll find thousands of blog posts that share the same two pieces of advice: add value, and be entertaining.
Your content should add real value to the lives of your audience, and not just contribute to the noise. Offering expert advice, sharing resources, and solving your audience’s problems are much more valuable than pitching your product or service. If you can do that, and entertain while you’re at it, then you’re off to a great start.
While that’s great advice, it’s hardly the whole picture.
In the early days of social media, that would have been enough. But today, everyone is using the same formula, and it’s just not enough.
Social media success, now, is a gradual process that stems from
… or, consistent and deliberate evolution. In reality, no one (not even us!) has any idea what will resonate and what won’t on social media. We have our best guesses, but we’re often surprised what people find valuable and entertaining.
Most experts will tell you to avoid ‘salesiness’ on social media… but what if that’s what your audience wants?
We’ll call it a champagne problem: having the ability to target a highly-specific audience doesn’t mean we know exactly what they’ll like. At least, not until we try it.
This means you’ve got to look at the numbers. Most social platforms make it relatively easy to see how your content is performing and how your audience is reacting to it. Once you have the data, the course of action is simple: if something works, do more of it. If something doesn’t, try something new.
Fail fast, and fail often.
Even when you find something that works, test it constantly. Try variations, perfect it, figure out why it works, and then let it go when it stops performing. In short, kill your darlings.
A Brand’s Voice on Social Must be Fluid
Great brands pour a lot of resources into developing their identity. From logos, typography, and commercials to billboards, magazine ads, and who they hire as spokespeople, brand consistency is key.
Except on social media, strictly maintaining brand standards leads to committing the cardinal social sin: inauthenticity. Social media is on-the-fly, time-dependent, and transient. Forgetting this makes your brand look stiff and uncomfortable on the medium that its trying to find success with.
Content has to evolve with the audience, and so should a brand’s voice.
Still, one of the biggest concerns we hear from business owners and CEOs is that starting a social media program will mean they’ll lose control of their carefully crafted brand voice. What they don’t see, though, is the opportunity that implies.
A single post won’t define a brand’s voice – but we can use it to test and experiment with what’s effective. Does a certain tone resonate more with your audience? Are they more fun-loving or whimsical than you thought? With social, we’ve made discoveries about a brand’s audience that’s driven sweeping brand change.
Fluidity is opportunity, and social the perfect avenue to experiment. You just have to make sure you’re listening.
You Have To Be Seen, Heard, and Felt
Businesses and marketers alike wonder how to break through the noise of social media. There is such a vast amount of content available – and it’s increasing every day – that businesses feel their content will never be seen, no matter how brilliant or valuable or entertaining it is.
To stand out from the pack, you have to be seen, heard, and felt.
Content can’t just be valuable – sometimes, you have to jump up and down, wave your arms, and make a splash, in order to hook your audience.
But content can’t just be all smoke and no substance. There are marketers who are great at getting attention with flashy, gimmicky, click-bait-filled, cat-video-loving, topical, show off-y content. But it doesn’t make their audience feel anything. They just get a click.
To successfully stand out, and really engage your audience, you have to create content that is seen, heard, and deeply felt. It has to resonate on an emotional and intellectual level with your audience.
It’s Not About You – It’s About Your Community
This one is hard for some business owners to swallow. Especially with founders who have poured their heart and soul into their business, when their business is an extension of themselves.
Social marketing – and all marketing, in fact – isn’t about you. It’s about your audience. The most successful campaigns are designed around the community and focus on giving the community what they want.
Thanks to social media metrics and analytics, marketers can constantly follow what their audience wants, what they’ve enjoyed reading or watching, what they couldn’t care less about, and what gets them to finally make a purchase. So let them eat cake! Even if you loathe the content your business is publishing, you have to remember: it’s not about you.
Mistakes are Inevitable
Social media is fast, messy, and constantly changing. There will be mistakes. Don’t let that stop you!
At the risk of flogging a dead horse, I’ll repeat: the only way to succeed in social media marketing is to experiment, measure your success and evolve your strategy. Part of experimentation is failure.
An example: Way back in the early days of Arke, we misidentified an insect spiecies in a picture, and a member of our client’s community pointed the mistake out to us in a comment. We initially panicked – didn’t we fact-check? – but we sat down, swallowed our pride, and penned a witty mea culpa response.
What happened next renewed my faith in the power of social media: a genuinely interesting and valuable conversation between a number of community members took place on our client’s page. They had fun (we had set a self-deprecating and punny tone with our response), they got something out of it (we and other users answered some great questions), and they felt connected with our client’s business (they felt they had been listened to, and that our client cared about them).
At the end of the discussion, the initial poster who had called out our mistake gave our client’s Facebook page a five star rating. They’ve been a customer ever since.
Mistakes are some of the best opportunities to stand out online and to engage in a meaningful way with your community. They’re authentic and relatable, which is what social media is meant for.