16/10/2013

By Firdaus Haque, Search and Social Strategist at The Search Agency

Social media marketing is a lot more than just posting content on social channels and amassing followers, likes and comments. Engaging your target audience and influencers on social media is pivotal to creating a successful online marketing campaign. A successful social media marketing plan should really be about augmenting social and search visibility for the brand and website (on desktop and mobile) against top keywords. Here’s my (fairly broad) overview of the aspects to consider when refreshing your social media marketing strategy.

Where before What: Choosing the right social channels to focus on
There are millions of businesses, both big and small, publishing amazing content and campaigns on numerous social media channels. So where to start? The answer is in zeroing in on the most important and feasible channel for your brand or product. The best way to approach the problem would be to ascertain how much time and resources you have to dedicate to social, understand the opportunities within each network, keeping in mind the nature of your business and product, and finally align your overall marketing goals with your social activity.

So there is no one-strategy/network-fits-all. While Facebook is a must-have for most brands, LinkedIn can be on the top of the priority list for B2B brands and Pinterest and Instagram are important for visual brands.

Social & Search: Fine-tune your social profiles and posts for search
Search engines are paying more attention to social signals for keyword phrases (or brand searches) these days in order to present more relevant, recent and popular results to users.

Although there is no official announcement from Google about considering social signals for search rankings, most believe that the search engine is looking at, considering and in some cases favouring social signals — on and off Google properties like Google+ and YouTube.

Optimising Your Profile Information
From custom URLs to Twitter handles, and from business taglines to office locations, every bit of information or customisation that you add to your social profiles is indexed, recorded, understood by the search engines, which is later presented to users in the search results. So, it is essential for brands to pay attention to each and every field while creating a profile and make sure they are keeping them updated with the relevant information regularly.

Google+ is the social network which has the most opportunities for optimising for brand and non-brand search. Google lets brands connect their pages to their website and presents results from the Google Plus page onto the knowledge graph for brand-term searches.

The same goes for other networks too — give some thought to your profile information and don’t miss the opportunity to add all important details about your company and products – keeping in mind the keywords that are important to you. For example, consider revising the 160 characters of your twitter bio and using related hashtags.

Optimising Social Posts
While it has been proven and established that posting an image (usually the funnier the better) is the best way to grab attention and have your audience interact with your content; the rules of the game are slightly different for each network.

Successful brands on Google+ and social gurus have been creating Google+ posts as they would write a blog. We found this very useful infographic put together by Dustin W. Stout about how to create a perfectly optimised Google+ Post:

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Elsewhere on the web, brands are testing out Facebook’s most recent feature — including related hashtags within their posts. Hashtags are one of the easiest and fool-proof ways of getting visibility for your posts for the related terms on Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest and now Facebook.

Search with Content: Experimenting with content
In the ever-evolving world of content marketing, the key is to experiment with various new types of content; either based on your top keywords or on your understanding of your target audience. It is very fruitful to keep in mind that search results both on search engines and social networks are based on keywords. Dedicate ten minutes each day on social networks searching for your top keywords to see what kind of content is successfully engaging the audience. Can you create content that will replicate this?

Another very useful and easy way to find new content that will is using Google suggest — put together a list of all long tail keywords by seeing what Google suggests to you as you type them into the search bar. You can then develop content streams based on those terms. So, if you were a shoe retailer, you could enter ‘what shoes’ into Google and get:

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You could then choose to produce some content around what shoes to wear with a maxi skirt to tap into this popular search term.

Examples of content ideas include creating visual infographics, how-to lists and top ten lists, which currently work well for most brands on social media.
Bonus Tip: Set up a bunch of Google Alerts to keep abreast of the latest information and content in your industry.

Content can come from Anywhere: Exploring content opportunities within the team
So you need new sources of content. Apart from looking at search trends, where else should you look for content ideas? Stumped? It could be that you are overlooking certain channels that can generate meaningful content for your brand.

The answer lies in exploring content opportunities within your organisation, or rather within the key teams. It would be worthwhile to have your social marketing team of community managers get together with other teams within the organisation and look for opportunities.

It has been long proven that Twitter is a great customer service tool for many retail (and other) brands. So does it not make sense for the customer service team on ground to give their feedback on how to keep customers happy on social? Social media is the best place for crowd sourcing ideas and soliciting feedback from your audience around new products. So does it not make sense for your product development team to get a chance to interact (through community managers) with your audience?

Get to know your company and the people that work for it and you could find a wealth of content ideas at your feet.

Experimenting is Key: Exploring new features
Social networks are regularly bringing new features to keep users happy and boost time-on-site. As much as these new features are used by users to explore and play with, these are also used by marketers as tools to enhance content or boost visibility.

Facebook has recently rolled out two new features – clickable hashtags and the embed feature for posts. And now both users and marketers have started using hashtags to tag posts to topics and interest areas. Though there are mixed opinions of how effective using hashtags on Facebook are; we believe using hashtags wisely will definitely improve the visibility of the post most of the time.

While hashtags provide a way to boost search visibility within Facebook, embedding Facebook posts can be a very visual and user-friendly way to let visitors on your blog or website interact with your popular posts without leaving your website.

In the ever-evolving social landscape it becomes an absolute necessity for social media managers to be informed about the new features and explore the opportunities within.

Think Beyond the Top: Exploring niche social networks
You probably have found out the secret recipe of success for most of the mainstream networks — Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Google+ and LinkedIn but are you undermining the importance of the niche networks?

The thing about niche social networks that I love the most is that they take care of targeting and segmentation for the marketer.

There might not be a niche network for every brand but if you find one that fits your brand or product offering, it can get you visibility and engagement that you cannot dream of on Facebook or Twitter.

There are many popular niche networks like Quora — the Q&A network (and advanced version of Yahoo Answers), Meetup for promoting events, Care2 for discussing eco-friendly lifestyle and products, Athlinks, a social network for athletes or Polyvore the fashion-centric social network. To find your niche try searching for your top keyword including ‘social network’.

Example: ‘fashion’ + ‘social network’ or ‘pets’ + ‘social network’.

So, if you want to refresh your social media marketing strategy remember to optimise your profiles and posts for search terms; tap into search trends on Google and social networks; find content opportunities from within your organisation; explore new features on social networks and discover niche networks that would work well for your industry — it’s not rocket science, it’s just social media.