BusinessSocial Media

Social media IS a marketing tool

Last month we looked at the different ways that social media isn’t just a marketing tool. It offers businesses all kinds of opportunities to engage with consumers – for insights, for research, for public relations, and for …

So, with all of those things in mind, we should probably talk about how social media can be used as a marketing tool – and how to do it properly.

Building consumer groups

Social media’s greatest purpose is to build groups, communities, and networks of like-minded people. Sometimes these grow organically, and sometimes they are cultivated deliberately by organizations. Either way, they form the crux of the way people communicate online.

How should I be using it?

The question of building a group of engaged potential customers is a big one (and my job!), but essentially depends largely on where you’re at in your business cycle. If you’re just starting out, your approach will be one part brand awareness, one part active networking. If you’re an established brand with loyal followers, your approach will be one part community building, one part value-adding.

Learning from consumers

Social media is always a work in progress. Strategies should never be rigid; a social media strategy is a living document that should always reflect what you’re learning about how to communicate with your customers. With that in mind, you can learn an awful lot from them.

How should I be using it?

Unlike the ‘research’ I mentioned in my previous post, the ‘marketing’ side of social learning is in segmentation and buyer behavior. Keep track of how your audience is responding to what you’re putting out and analyze it regularly. For example, are you getting greater engagement with product messaging or with photos of cats? If it’s the latter, why are your customers responding in this way, and how can you merge the two approaches? And after that, how can you take this knowledge and incorporate it into your wider marketing plan?

Brand building

Everything you do in public contributes to your brand. Used carefully, social media can grow your brand more comprehensively than many traditional marketing methods.

How should I be using it?

Take the learnings from the previous step and combine them with your known customer segments. The aim of the social media game is to create a digital personality that is relatable and that consumers can identify with, so look at their interests, news that affects them, and what goes on in their lives. Use this information to grow your brand in an authentic way. “How do you like the Hawks for the flag?” might seem like a weird thing to throw into the mix, but if a proportion of your customers love the footy, they’re immediately inclined to think, ‘That’s a brand that understands me.’

Selling to consumers

Then, of course, there is the core of any marketing activity: the conversion. Social media is strong in many peripheral areas – brand positioning, data collection, building awareness – but can it be used to drive consumers to purchase? Of course, I’m going to tell you that it can, but it may not be in the way that you think.

How should I be using it?

It might be easier to talk about how you shouldn’t be using it. Don’t jump on Facebook three times a day and say things like, “Hey come and buy my product because it rules!” Even the most loyal customers have very little time for this type of hard sell. Instead, use your social media channels to provide product information, launch details, product application, instructional information, lifestyle shots, and so on. By giving your customers reasons to engage with your products, you drive them to purchase and you develop a relationship with them beyond the time they spend at the checkout.

Anna Spargo-Ryan is a writer and digital marketing strategist at Tiny Antelopewhere she pieces the internet together with wonder and joy.

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