Marketers are really starting to understand the impact social media can have on their businesses. A recent survey conducted at the Pivot Conference revealed that 37% of marketers plan to move beyond just experimentation in social media in 2012. The reason for this shift? 68% of marketers said that an increased understanding of the benefits of social media is the factor that most influenced them to flip the switch.
Hallelujah! Marketers are starting to realize that just setting up social media accounts on sites like Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Twitter and "experimenting" by participating sporadically isn't really going to generate results. After all, no one ever achieved anything noteworthy by doing the bare minimum, right? If you really want to get the most out of all social media has to offer your business and truly make it work for you, you need to do more than just experiment. That's why you'll find no fluffy, elementary tips like "be engaging," "share content," and "be transparent" in this post. We're pulling out the big guns. Here's how you can step up your social media game and leverage all social media has to offer your business in 2012.
15 Ways to Step Up Your Business' Social Media Game
1. Leverage All Features of Social Networks: We don't just mean filling out your business' social media profile and adding a photo. We're talking about leveraging all the features at your disposal on each social network on which your business is present. We're talking nitty-gritty details, and it's amazing how many businesses don't take advantage of all the free, awesome features social networks offer. Have you enabled company status updates for your LinkedIn Company Page? Are you using them? Have you created custom tabs for your Facebook page? Do you leverage the visual potential of Google+? Here are some awesome cheat sheets for Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn to help you get the most out of each of these networks.
2. Develop a Social Media Editorial Calendar: Just like you should have an editorial calendar for your blog, you should also have one for your social media accounts that outlines what content and updates you'll share on each network, and when. It's probable that you have fans who follow your business on multiple social networks, so it's smart to organize your publishing so you don't share the same things at the same times on each network.
3. Integrate Social Efforts With Other Departments: Social media shouldn't just be a function of your company's marketing department, and social media shouldn't strictly be used for promotion. Use a third-party tool like HootSuite to manage multiple social media contributors so you can involve people from other departments such as customer service, support, and sales. This will enable you to provide fans and followers with the best responses and answers to their questions from the appropriate department.
4. Be Agile: A company that has social media down pat understands the importance of regularly monitoring their social media presence. Marketers need the ability to be agile and respond quickly in a social media crisis. They need to be able to address problems, concerns, and negativity in a tactful and caring way. We've seen plenty of examples of what happens when things go sour in social media, and such instances can have a very damaging--and lasting--effect on the perception of your brand. Make sure you always have someone tracking mentions of your brand in social media--both on and off your business' specific social media pages/accounts--and be sure that person is trained on how to handle those situations appropriately.
5. Organize and Host a Twitter Chat: Give your Twitter presence a boost by planning and hosting a Twitter Chat for your followers. Choose a topic that your audience would love to know more about, create a hashtag, invite other industry thought leaders to participate, and schedule and promote your Twitter Chat to your audience. The exercise will help you connect with and better understand your followers, spread your thought leadership, and probably even attract brand new followers to your account.
6. Pump up Social Media Lead Generation: As a marketer, one of the best ways you can prove to your boss and the rest of your business that social media is working for you is to show that your participation is actually generating new leads ... and even customers. In order to generate those leads and customers, you need to optimize your social presence for lead generation. This means regularly sharing links to landing pages with lead-capture forms and using appropriate social media real estate to include calls-to-action. It also means making sure you have the appropriate marketing analytics in place to track and report on these numbers regularly.
7. Target Your Social Content: Personalization is the future of effective marketing. While the capabilities available in social media aren't very robust, use what you have at your disposal to create a more personalized and targeted experience for your fans and followers. Experiment with topic Circles on Google+ to target content to followers with varying interests, create targeted product pages on your LinkedIn Company Page, and modify your share setting to share certain content with different demographics on Facebook when appropriate.
8. Integrate Search and Social: Search engines are increasingly taking social cues into consideration when they rank content, and social media updates are getting pulled into search results regularly. In fact, Google recently started serving up Google+ status updates in organic search results for Google.com. Integrate search and social by optimizing your social updates with the keywords you want your business to get found for and regularly updating your social accounts to improve your chances of getting found in social search.
9. Socialize Your Blog & Website: Your social media accounts shouldn't be on an island. Promote your presence on your website and encourage others to share the content you publish on your blog and website in social media. You can easily do this by adding social buttons throughout your website, blog, and content. Include social subscription buttons to encourage people to follow your social media accounts, and add social sharing buttons to motivate people to share blog posts, landing pages, and other content with their social networks.
10. Offer Exclusive Content: Research shows that people who follow brands in social media expect exclusive content, offers, and promos. In fact, ExactTarget found that 58% of Facebook users expect exclusive content from Facebook business pages. Create specific offers that are only available to members of certain social networks to leverage this expectation of exclusivity. Offer product/service discounts or coupons to people who like your Facebook page, provide an exclusive ebook or webinar only to people who follow your LinkedIn company page, or give Twitter followers a special offer in exchange for a promotional tweet.
11. Launch a Contest: Boost engagement with a specific social media account and generate new fans or followers by launching a contest. What about leveraging Google+ or Facebook's appeal for visual content by posting photos and holding a caption contest? Or you could offer a prize to a randomly selected Twitter follower who tweeted their favorite industry-focused tip.
12. Use Google+ Hangouts to Conduct Focus Groups: Social media can be a great tool for eliciting feedback about your business, its products/services, or content. Consider using Google+ Hangouts as a way to conduct low-cost focus groups with a select group of prospects or customers.
13. Integrate Social and Email: As we mentioned earlier, the benefits of social media don't have to be limited to the individual social network. You can use social media to amplify the impact of some of your other inbound marketing channels, too, and email is definitely a great example of this. Add social elements such as social subscription and sharing buttons to all your email communication to give your emails more bang for their buck. This way, email recipients can easily share the content within the email with their networks and thus expand your email's reach beyond your email list.
14. Use Social Media to Maximize Offline Interactions: Whether you're networking at an event, hosting your own, or supplementing your inbound marketing with print materials, there are various ways to use social media to maximize the benefits of offline interactions. Add information about your social media presence to your business cards, create and promote hashtags when hosting events, and add a QR code to print materials that directs people to your Facebook or Google+ page.
15. Leverage Social Media to Nurture Leads and Aid Sales: Don't overlook social media as a tool not only for generating leads, but also for nurturing existing leads into a position where they're readier to buy. Use your lead intelligence tools to identify your leads' social media accounts, and interact directly with those people by creating conversations and sharing content that relates to their problems and needs. Educate your sales team to investigate leads' social media behavior to get to know them and identify some of their key problems before they even pick up the phone to follow-up.
Are you planning to move beyond social media experimentation in 2012? What other ways can you step up your social media game?
Image Credit: Will Folsom