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MARKETING: Mastering Social Media Marketing in 7 Steps
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Social media is more than just a way to catch up with friends, share photos, and stalk ex-lovers. Many businesses are taking advantage of social platforms in order to gain attention and increase website traffic and sales. Five years ago, only a handful of businesses were merely experimenting with integrating social media into their marketing plan. Today in the US, 77% of B2C companies and 43% of B2B companies find customers on Facebook. No matter if you are selling cars, hamburgers, insurance, or haircuts, social media is an important way to build your brand, to generate new leads, and to build a strong relationship with your customers. Whether you are a technophobe or a technophile, the following is a list of easy to follow and implement steps to launch a successful social media marketing campaign.


1. Do your Homework

Once you have committed to developing a social media campaign, choose the right social media platforms that will allow you to target your demographic. You don't need to use every social media website on the web, just choose the ones that your customers spend the most time using. If you are developing a social media campaign for a restaurant in Tianjin, it doesn't really make sense to use Yelp! and Twitter because they are both not used in China. Limiting the sites you conduct your social media marketing on will allow you to better concentrate your attention and energy on developing better content. You also want to register an account with other social media sites, even if you don't ever plan to use them. You want to reserve your brand name so that you could use it in the future and to protect your company against someone else using the name.


2. Set a Schedule and Update!

You don't need to spend several hours a day updating profiles in order to get good results, you just need to spend a couple of hours a week. Just make sure you update your social media profiles with new content regularly. This can easily be done by adding it to your calendar so that you never forget to update. It doesn't look good for your brand if your last blog update was weeks ago.

You can use a social media monitoring and management platform like Hootsuite or Buffer to save time by updating multiple profiles from one place. These management platforms will allow you to easily post one message to all of your social profiles at a set time and date in the future. This means that in one sitting it is possible for you to setup all of your future posts and Tweets for the week instead of trying to find time in your busy schedule several times a week.


3. Don't post the exact same message on all of your Social Media Profiles


Ideally you want to tailor your messages specifically for each social media platform as each platform is centred around different themes. Linked In is for professional networking whereas Pinterest is all about sharing theme-based images. Your content for each site should reflect the style and theme of each platform in order to resonate more closely with your customers. In addition, if you have the same exact message on each platform, customers who are subscribed to multiple channels will receive duplicate messages. This shows customers that you are not fully committed to engaging your social media followers and could put you in danger of losing followers.


4. Listen to your customers

Social media marketing is all about your customers and having them create a favourable word of mouth buzz which is far more valuable than traditional advertising. However, it would be inappropriate for you as a marketer to post advertisements on a potential customer's Facebook wall. Instead, what you want to do is listen to what people are saying about your brand using analytic software (Hootsuite, Google Analytics, Twitalyzer, Facebook Insights, etc.) and publicly address any comments, complaints, or concerns that your customers have. Remember, social media is not just blasting messages and advertisements at people. You are also engaging in a conversation and building a relationship with your customers.


5. Use Multimedia 

Today's online consumers have more information at their fingertips than ever before- thanks to the internet. Consumers are searching for pictures and videos that can help give them more information before they buy a new product. Fortunately for businesses, it’s pretty easy to include multimedia in your social media marketing campaigns.

Include pictures not only of your products, but also company and office events. Giving customers a glimpse of the people behind the product can help convince others to work with you and buy from you. In some instances it could also help your HR department recruit outside talent as you show off how fun and exciting the work environment is.

Videos and slideshows are a great way to explain complex ‘how-tos’ or concepts. Trying to read even the most well written step by step directions can be frustrating but a well put together video can make learning how to setup or properly use your product a cinch. To make great instructional videos you don't need to invest in a high end expensive camcorder. There are plenty of budget options out there and of course, there is always your smartphone. 


6. Contests and Discounts

Once you have built up a relationship with your customers, you can begin to generate sales and unlock the true potential of social media. Hosting different contests can help to build an 'organic' buzz where your customers are actively participating and engaged. There are a number of different contests that you could hold including photo contests, sweepstakes, and challenge contests. A sweepstakes is the easiest contest to run and can be carried out on a number of different social sites including Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Sweepstakes are easy for users to participate in and can also help you obtain more detailed information about your customers. Have them fill out a brief survey to enter the sweepstakes while at the same time stealthily building brand awareness. The contestants must also provide their e-mail address which is a great way for your company to build up its mailing list.

Discounts offer a great incentive for your customers to connect with your community. Offering exclusive discounts rewards your customers for engaging with your company and it will help to drive sales. Try using Facebook Offers to attract quality leads.


7. Integration

In order to maximise your efforts and get the most out of your social media marketing campaign, you want to make sure that all of your online and offline marketing efforts are integrated. Be sure to include your Facebook page, blog URL, Twitter handle, or whatever social media you are using on all of your offline advertising: radio, print, and cable. Also, link all of your social media profiles together. Integrating your online and offline advertising will not only help to convert consumers into customers, but it will also help build the size of your community and promote your brand. 

If you send out an e-mail newsletter or have a company blog, make sure to embed social media icons on every post and article. This makes it extremely easy for customers to spread your message to their personal network with one push of a button 

By Justin Toy
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