6 Social Media Trends to Follow in 2017

What social media trends can marketers expect to be on the rise in 2017?

Every year – in fact, it sometimes feels like every day – it seems like social media evolves and matures, ushering in new trends that shape the way we do business; 2017 is no different. Sprout Social has put together this detailed infographic highlighting some of the social media trends marketers can expect to see on the rise over the course of the year.

With the explosive growth of artificial intelligence in 2016, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that this is a topic that finds its way into several trends we can expect to see in 2017. Machine learning and artificial intelligence are among the most powerful resources marketers and society as a whole can access. It is all but certain that in 2017, these two fields will make their way into more and more processes and applications. Take a look at the infographic and find out what you should be on the lookout for in the coming year.

Social media trends to watch in 2017

Effectively Manage a Social Media Crisis

We hate to think about it, but we should always be prepared for the case of the dreaded social media crisis.

The speed at which information travels has increased exponentially with the advent of social media. Therefore, when a crisis breaks, a carefully thought out strategy and proper mechanisms need to be in place in order to mitigate the issue before it spirals out of control.

In our latest eBook, we walk you through the proper steps to managing a social media crisis, and provide you with an easy-to-follow document that will allow you to outline every aspect of a crisis, making it that much easier to handle should it ever occur.

Click here or on the image below to download the eBook today and find out how you can properly plan for a social media crisis and mitigate an issue spiralling out of control!

How 2 Manage a Social Media Crisis

Useful Social Media Advertising Tips for Beginners

When it comes to social media, there are few areas that can be more powerful than social media advertising, and these social media advertising tips will help you get the most out of a campaign.

It is no secret that the social media space is increasingly favoring the pay-to-play model for brands and businesses. That being the case, we are starting to see a move by many users towards social media advertising. Whether you are building your social presence, launching a new product, or driving conversions from untapped audiences, social media advertising can be a powerful tool. But it is important that you are using it properly.

Social media advertising tips to help you get the most out of it!

These social media advertising tips are really presented as thought points that should be considered when deciding to venture into the space. Though social ads are cost-effective, you still want to make certain that you are not wasting any money by simply throwing it at a network and hoping it works.

Know Thy Target Audience

Target audiences are extremely important on social media, and that is particularly true for social ads. With so much noise online, we need to ensure that we know exactly who we are talking to. When developing your social advertising campaigns, have a particular audience in mind for the message as opposed to a generic one – it will lead to significantly greater conversions.

Use Relevant Content

Once you know your audience, you’ll want to make sure that the content you plan on promoting is relevant to their tastes and preferences. One of the greatest benefits of involving one’s brand on social media is the amount of information that is available about your audience. Determine what type and tone of messaging will work and create that ad.

Don’t Boost Your Account

It might seem enticing, but one of the most futile ad types are the promoted account ads. While these ad formats might generate positive results in terms of audience growth, we have moved away from the days where a larger audience means a more valuable social presence. With a targeted message and a clearly defined audience type in mind, you will find that your ads not only garner engagement, but acquire new fans and followers as well.

Take Advantage of Additional Features

Simply boosting a post to your friends and fans can be somewhat useful, but to really get the value out of social advertising, take full advantage of its capabilities! In Facebook’s Power Editor or in the advertising backend of Twitter, you will find several additional capabilities, like Custom Audiences and Twitter Cards. Learn all you can about these features and then incorporate them into your campaigns.

And on that note…

Study the Social Advertising Landscapes

Social advertising is much more than “boosting” your content. If you have decided to begin taking advantage of the social advertising landscape, you should be taking the time to learn everything there is to know about the platforms. As noted above, there are a lot of valuable features that can be exploited in the backends of these programs. Figure out what they are!

Pay Attention to Your Ads

Throwing a budget behind some content will yield average results, but you want your results to be above average! Keep a close eye on the activity of your social ads and make adjustments where you see opportunities. Real-time ad optimization is a great practice, and one that will keep your operation profitable.

Avoid Optimized CPC

Bid for yourself. Optimized cost-per-click does not yield the best results. It is significantly more convenient, and the results are not bad. But again, you don’t want your campaigns to simply be average! Once you understand how these ad platforms work, start bidding for yourself in order to extrapolate all the potential that you can out of every penny you invest.

Keep some of these tips in mind when you decide to begin your journey into the world of social media advertising!

What other practices have you found valuable? Tell us in the comments below or on Twitter!

10 Questions to Address in Your Social Media Audit

These are ten questions that should certainly be addressed when conducting your social media audit.

A social media audit can be an extremely valuable practice. It can provide you with some insight into your strengths, indicating where additional resources should be invested, as well as showcase weaknesses where you need to improve upon your performance or restructure a part of your strategy.

These ten questions are valuable inclusions in any social media audit, because they require you to take a step outside of your ownership and look critically at what you have done, what you are doing and what you would like to do.

On Your Business

Have you aligned your goals on social media with the goals of your brand in general?

Keep in mind that social media is a tool that should be used to achieve business goals. Superficial or quantitative goals like a growth in audience size are good to have, but the focus should be on how social media is helping your brand achieve business goals in the short and long term.

Are the right departments involved in the use of social media?

As with the point above, marketing is only one department where social media can have an impact. As a business, you might find that increased operational efficiency is a goal that social platforms can help obtain. In that case, determine which departments need to be leveraging social channels and make sure that they are doing so properly.

Do proper strategies exist for each of these departments, and are these strategies being adhered to?

Once again, building off the last question, it is crucial that for each department where it has been determined that social media can be useful, a proper strategy has been developed and is being executed efficiently.

Social Media Audit for Your Strategy

Image Credit: Shutterstock. Used under license.

On Your Analytics

Do you have measurement criteria in place for all of your goals?

You have a set of goals that you are trying to achieve with the use of social media, and in order to measure those goals, you need to have certain measurement criteria in place for each one. Make sure you know what you are measuring for and that those measurements are being carefully evaluated.

Do you have measurement tactics in place for all of your KPIs?

Not all KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are easily measurable. As noted above, you might be able to look at purely quantitative results with ease, like the growth of your audience, but others might be trickier. Determine what a successful benchmark is for each KPI (discussed in the following question) and be sure that you have a process by which that benchmark can be quantitatively and qualitatively measured.

Are you surpassing your benchmarks?

Just because you can measure your results, it does not necessarily mean that your results are always positive. Pay attention to whether or not you are achieving or, better yet, surpassing benchmarks. At this point, reset your benchmarks to new levels and ensure that you are working towards surpassing those before your next audit.

Surpassing benchmarks with your social media audit

Image Credit: Shutterstock. Used under license.

Have your test runs succeeded or failed?

As noted in the question above, at each point of the audit you’ll need to be setting up new benchmarks and testing new criteria to see how it performs on social media. Then, at each subsequent audit, you’ll need to evaluate your tests to see if they should be implemented on a full-scale basis or scrapped from the program entirely.

On Your Audience

Have you sufficiently defined your target social client persona?

Your target social client persona is the person (not just demographics or archetypes, but more or less a definition of an individual) that you are trying to engage with your program or individual initiatives. In running your audit, evaluate if you have targeted the right client persona, or if there exists an opportunity to target new demographics based on spike in individual engagement rates.

On Your Budget

Have you reached your ideal results with the budgets you have allocated to social media campaigns?

There are several metrics to consider when it comes to evaluating the effectiveness of your budgets. What’s more, these criteria can be very useful in determining the need to increase or reallocate budgets. They can also help you determine if your campaigns are effective in driving traffic, your audience is properly targeted or your landing page properly optimized. For example, a high click-through rate and low cost-per-click are great, but if you are not generating conversions, you might need to change your target audience or properly optimize your landing page for the remainder of the campaign.

On Your Tools

Are you tools acting as complements to one another, or against one another?

You will always want to ensure that your tools are working as complements to one another. Ideally, tools will be able to produce reports and provide value that, together, help you achieve your goals in the shortest, more cost-efficient way possible. In your social media audit, it will be important to evaluate the tools you are using in order to ensure that they are working for you and not against each other.

Conclusion

A social media audit is going to be a valuable component in any strategy. It is extremely important to spend time whenever possible evaluating how you are performing on your networks and with regards to your strategy as a whole. These are just ten questions of the dozens that might be asked when conducting a social media audit, but they are important ones that should be included in virtually all cases.

What questions do you ask when conducting a social media audit? Tell us in the comments below or on Twitter!

The Best and Worst Features of Major Social Networks for Brands

Not every brand is right for the major social networks, and not every one of those networks is right for a specific brand.

When a brand gets started with social media marketing, the initial thought process is something along the lines of: “I need to be everywhere, all the time, no matter what.” Considering the massive presence that some of the most successful brands have had on major social networks, this is a natural rationalization. But to really find success when it comes to social media marketing, you need to understand two things above all else. The first thing is crucial not only to where you want to have a presence, but to the success of your program as a whole: you need to set your goals. Your goals will be a defining characteristic of virtually every decision you make, and the process that led to that decision. Second, you are going to want to have a fairly strong understanding of the benefits and the drawbacks of every one of the major social networks. For this discussion, the networks that make up that group are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Google+.

One common benefit is obvious: they are popular. You want your brand to have a presence on networks where people are talking. Considering the mass of users these networks have garnered, you are more than likely (in most cases) to find members of your target audience on these platforms. That said, depending on your brand’s message and the social persona you create for your brand, it might not be all that beneficial to have a presence on every one.

In this article, we’ll look at some of the greatest strengths and weaknesses of these five major social networks. Of course, there are others (dozens if not hundreds, depending on what you consider a social network) on which you might want to have a presence. The likelihood is, however, that these five will be among your pool for consideration, hence our decision to look closely at them.

Facebook

As the largest of the bunch (with an audience size well over 1.2 billion users) this is almost a guarantee to be added to the “Yes” column. The page layouts are simple and effective. Other networks can be easily integrated. And there exists a world of possibilities when it comes to apps and plugins as well as a huge mobile audience. Everyone is familiar with the “Pros” list when it comes to Facebook. But what about the “Cons”? What is it that brands should be wary of when venturing to use Facebook to grow their social presence?

benefits and weaknesses of facebook

First of all, if you don’t want to make an investment, don’t waste your time with Facebook. The network has made it abundantly clear that they have no intention of doing brands any favors when it comes to organic growth. Recently, it was made public that Facebook intends to decrease the organic reach of Pages – reach without any ad dollars spent – to roughly 1%. What’s more, certain tactics that have been used to game the system for some time (such as the “Like” vs. “Share” posts) will soon be penalized. So for brands thinking that it will be easy (or, for some foolish reason, free) to grow their brands on Facebook, they will not find the network particularly beneficial after just a short while.

Twitter

Twitter has made a lot of strides when it comes to the benefits for brands. The introduction of Twitter Cards has made interactive content much more readily available and inspires increased engagement with target users. Twitter also recently announced over a dozen new ad features, which will certainly be beneficial to brands. Then there is their most recent announcement about real-time communications (like Facebook chat). Twitter is going above and beyond when it comes to providing new ways for brands to use the platform. But what might hinder your desire to use the network?

benefits and drawbacks of twitter

Well, for starters, everyone is thinking the same way you do: I can just share my brand’s message a thousand times a day and get people to click through to my page! While it’s true that this is an option, no one will see what you have to say. And as more brands go with this approach, fewer users care to follow brands at all. The most difficult part about Twitter is the content strategy. 140 characters can be used extremely well or very poorly. It all depends on how you plan on getting your message out. What is going to entice the audience you wish to target? And when it comes to targeting, the same problems exist on Twitter as they do on Facebook: you’re going to have to be willing to spend money. A lot of those benefits listed in the paragraph above are really only apparent if you’re using Twitter’s ad platform (which is an excellent one). So if you won’t invest, you won’t succeed.

YouTube

Obviously, if you plan on sharing videos, you don’t have a choice but to share them to YouTube. You might prefer Vimeo or some other video sharing platform, but the reality is that these other platforms aren’t owned by Google. (One of the benefits of owning the Internet.) Sharing videos (that are properly optimized) on YouTube can mean increased search rankings, and linking your other networks, website and Google profile to your YouTube channel can mean some incredible benefits to those rankings. And all of that can happen very fast.

benefits and weaknesses of youtube

The drawbacks to YouTube are in the numbers. The longer your video, the less likely it is that people will watch it. The more boring your video (i.e. all corporate videos) the less likely people are to watch it, and the more likely they are to make snide comments. With so many hundreds of lifetimes of content available on YouTube, you need to really pull your audience in right away. Anything more than eight seconds, you’ve lost them. YouTube also cannot stand alone. Without the help of your other channels and your website, it is unlikely that your YouTube audience will grow. Again, with so much content available, people simply are not going to find your videos organically. At least, that is the case for most brands. Lastly, video sharing networks in general are not for every brand. Videos are (or can be) expensive and time consuming. And much like a blog or website, you’ll need to continue producing new content in order to find your channel on top. If you don’t feel like this is something your brand can do, don’t create a blank YouTube channel; that’s a worse option.

LinkedIn

The professional network that every eager entrepreneur or seasoned veteran is using has some pretty obvious benefits. For starters, it’s full of professionals, many of whom have common interests. For individuals, it provides an excellent platform on which to build out your professional network, and for brands, it means garnering support and exposure within your industry or from potential investors. The latter item in that last point is especially true for B2B brands looking to make a splash and reach decision makers.

benefits and weaknesses of linkedin

There are two problems, however, with LinkedIn. First, their ad platform is a little archaic. Targeting capabilities are excellent, but people have become accustomed to ignoring right column ads, and that’s where the majority of your ad dollars will go. Second, LinkedIn hasn’t quite yet figured out how to create value for Company Pages. Sure, they’re great to feature your brand and some of your services, but there is nothing to really pull people in. To their credit, LinkedIn is now in the process of revamping Company Pages (they just removed the poor-performing Products & Services tab) and have been working to make it a content publishing platform. That said, while the network is an excellent resource in which individuals can share content and expand their network, it still has not found that “it” factor for the brand itself.

Google+

Google+ is an invaluable (yes, as in has so much value, you can’t even assign it a number) tool when it comes to increasing your exposure. Why? Much like YouTube, it is a Google product so it has to be used and it has to be used well. It also has a huge customer base outside of the United States, so brands with an international presence can leverage the platform to reach a global audience. The Communities feature on Google+ also offers users a great way to connect with like-minded individuals, and allows brands to share relevant content to an already engaged audience.

benefits and weaknesses of google+

The biggest problem with Google+ is that everyone knows they need to use it, but a lot of people are having trouble figuring out how to use it. As such, much of what you see on Google+, particularly in Communities, is self-promotional. Only the truly devoted Community Managers keep their networks clean from spam. But it still makes its way in there. There is also a lack of strong analytics with Google+ Pages. Of course, Google Analytics is designed to be integrated with the network, but unlike Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and even YouTube, another Google-owned property, Google+ doesn’t provide much more than superficial data. So if Analytics are important to you – as they are to most people – you might find yourself a little disappointed with Google+.

Conclusion

Every major network has its positives and its negatives. And depending on your brand and what it is you want to accomplish by leveraging social media, your choices are going to be different. But it’s important to remember that a successful program does not mean a presence on every single network. A Pinterest board (and yes, Pinterest was a consideration to be added to this list, but frankly, the article was running a little long) with a handful of images that is infrequently updated has less value to a brand than no Pinterest presence whatsoever (in many cases).

So to sum up, consider your goals, the strengths and weaknesses of each of these networks and what the best course of action is in order to achieve those goals in the shortest timeframe possible.

What network is your most beneficial for achieving your goals on social media? Tell us in the comments below or on Twitter!

7 Habits of Highly Effective Social Media Managers

What makes a social media manager stand out from the crowd?

While every social media manager approaches his or her job differently (after all, the job changes quite drastically depending on your goals) there are a few habits that the most effective social media managers will have in common.

These seven criteria should be applied if you want to succeed in your role as social media manager. With a medium that changes as often and as quickly as social, it’s important to be on top of your game.

Early Starter

The day does not start when you wake up, it carries over through the night and early into the next morning. If you want to find success in your position, you are going to have to be right there monitoring your brand and industry conversations on social first thing in the morning. A major part of the job has to do with keeping an eye out for bad press, negative comments or a social media crisis. These kinds of cases do not wait for you to sleep in and take your time in the morning.

Getting an early start means being alert from the get go. With real-time platforms like social, managers do not have the luxury of easing themselves into the day. If an issue or event comes up, you have to be ready to tackle it. So for all those morning people, you’re off to a good start. For the rest: a cold shower and a bucket of coffee should do the trick.

Great Writer

Great as in even when you throw something together quickly most people envy your innate ability to write. You don’t need to have the most eloquent of speech, but you should be able to speak well (not good, but well) and with complete grammatical accuracy. One of the most upsetting things for social media users is poor grammar from brands. That’s right – not terrible customer service, but poor grammar. (That said, don’t overlook good customer service in the name of proper grammar.)

As a social media manager for a brand or business, you are (generally) speaking on behalf of the company. That means that everything you say or do reflects not on you, but on the brand. So a whole bunch of misspellings and grammatical slip-ups means the brand looks bad and you’ll be taking the heat.

Quick on Your Feet

As noted above, a lot is happening and it is happening fast. You don’t always have the luxury of taking your time to deal with things as they come up. It’s important that you are quick on your feet when it comes to social media. When you need to respond to a tweet, for example, you should know your brand’s voice, the image it wants to maintain and, most importantly, how best to address a comment (or let it lie) in order to avoid any negative repercussions. That takes some quick, critical thinking on your part.

Of course, in the event of a crisis, the best thing to do is to bring the issue to higher ups that know how to handle these sorts of things. Try not to take on too much yourself. Which brings us to our next point:

Modesty Can be an Asset

There is a time to let your ego shine and there is a time where modesty can be your best friend. As a social media manager, you are going to have to realize (sooner rather than later) that you cannot do everything. Sometimes a senior marketing executive is going to have to take the reigns. Sometimes the PR department will have to step in. Sometimes there is an issue best handled by your support staff or the sales team.

Know the limits of your job description and recognize times where something is out of your league. Knowing when to pass things off is just as important as knowing when to take charge.

Friendliness

You were not put in this position because you are a monotonous drone with no people skills. You were likely charming in your interview and a great conversationalist. That’s a great start. That personality should extend to your brand’s social presence. Of course, you will probably be given some guidelines when you first get started indicating what you can and cannot say, but try to give everything that human touch.

People are active on social media because they want to engage in conversations with people all over the world who share similar interests. So, make the social channels highly sociable. A great example of a brand that understands this is Cadbury.

Coolheadedness

We seem to keep circling back to one important point: social media are fast paced environments wherein a ton is happening all in real-time. You need to be able to handle that sort of thing if you plan on being a successful social media manager. Becoming easily overwhelmed means it will be tough to go far with the platform. So if you want to succeed in your role, know that you will be able to take a step back, take a deep breath and handle everything that is going on without feeling like it ‘never ends’ – because it doesn’t.

The larger and more public the brand, the truer this holds. If you recognize this aspect and still feel confident that you can handle this without breaking a sweat, you’re in great shape so far. Only one more step to go!

Coolheadedness is good for social media managers

Born Decision Maker

In contrast to the modesty mentioned above, you will also want to be a born decision maker. Marketing, PR and advertising executives do not want to be bothered with every little thing that comes up. It might not seem like it at first (especially when people constantly ask you if you simply post to Facebook all day) but you are being given quite a bit of responsibility as a social media manager. The public voice of the brand is being put in your hands, and you ultimately control its fate. To succeed in this role, you’re going to have to be able to make some important decisions with the utmost confidence.

Know when to respond and when to leave a comment or criticism alone in the socialsphere. You need to be capable of making decisions in real-time about a number of different elements including what content to share, how to respond to messages, how to handle small crises, the best ways to measure returns, the best tools to use, the right campaigns to run, the key demographics to target and quite a bit more.

Conclusion

If all of this sounds like a walk in the park, and these seven habits identify you to a tee, then you might have found your calling! Of course, these are not the only seven habits of highly effective social media managers. Quite a bit more goes into the job. But if you possess these qualities, you are certainly off to a great start!

What other qualities do you think effective social media managers possess? Tell us in the comments below or on Twitter!

4 Growth Opportunities You Might Have Overlooked

Growth opportunities exist all around us on social networks, and there is a good chance we have overlooked one or two.

We are always looking for growth opportunities on social media. After all, why does our business have a presence on these networks if not to expand? The social web is filled with these growth opportunities, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise to hear that we might have overlooked one or two.

These four growth opportunities are surefire ways to get your brand noticed in new communities and by potential customers across the social web.

Google+ Communities

Before the detractors attack Google+, keep in mind that it is a Google-owned product. That alone makes it important. What’s more important is that this year, according to SearchMetrics, Google+ +1s are the most important ranking factor for your content on Google (shown in the chart below).

us-ranking-factors-2013-growth-opportunities

Communities on Google+ are groups of individuals with similar interests. When you share content from your brand’s profile to these Communities and it generates shares, +1s and comments, that’s a powerful ranking factor for Google. It becomes even more important if you have influential users engaging with your content. All that to say is do not overlook the power of Google+ – and Communities in particular – when it comes to increasing your brand’s presence on search engines.

Quora

Sometimes all people want is an expert opinion without having to pay an expert for their opinion. Enter Quora.

If you are not familiar with Quora, it is a network where people ask questions and have them answered by others with the answers. Simple, and a great opportunity to showcase your expertise in a given field.

Create alerts for yourself to be notified of new questions that come up in your given field and make it a point to show people just how much you know by answering questions. It is important that these answers are detailed, on point and not self-promotional. You are there to be an expert, not to sell your services. That comes naturally when people see how qualified you are.

LinkedIn Groups

First of all, if you have not joined as many groups as you possibly can, do it now. There is no reason not to be engaging with your industry peers wherever possible. Moreover, this is a great way to increase your relationships on LinkedIn.

In these groups, you might have noticed an influencer rating on the right-hand side. Engaging and, more importantly, starting conversations in these groups (not just sharing your content, but maybe asking a question every once in a while) is a great way to build your influence. People take note of a top influencer in their groups and, a generally common reaction is to view their profile, maybe research their company, etc.

Groups aren’t all about finding interesting articles; they are a great way to generate new interest in your business and your expertise.

Bookmarking

Effectively bookmarking your blog posts, articles and guest blogs with proper tags is a great way to generate exposure. Take something like StumbleUpon, for example. You have people regularly clicking through content to find something that they might like, based on their preferences. By properly assigning your content to a category, you are more than likely to have someone interested in what you have to say landing on it.

Bookmarking is an excellent way to generate new exposure. Sites like Digg allow your network to see what you have archived and share it with their extended networks as well. Don’t overlook the value of simply clicking the icon and bookmarking your content (and ensuring that it is enabled on all of your pages, of course).

Are there any other subtle growth opportunities that have worked for you? Tell us in the comments below or on Twitter!

4 Reasons Why B2Bs Should Leverage Social Data

Though it is no secret that social data is important, B2B brands are not taking enough advantage of it.

Data mining – whether on a large or small scale – is a critical component when it comes to a successful social business strategy; this is especially true when it comes to B2Bs. And yet, so few B2B brands are taking advantage of the values that social data can offer when building a comprehensive, goal-oriented strategy.

The reasons listed below should be enough to convince any decision maker as a B2B enterprise to start paying closer attention to their social data.

Optimize Your Content Strategy

Recently, we published an article discussing the difference between content strategy and content marketing. Essentially, your content strategy is the strategy with which you are going to generate interest from your target audience on social platforms.

As a B2B, it can sometimes seem difficult to find a message that resonates with your audience. After all, with so much content from which people can choose, the message from a B2B is not always going to make it to the top of the pile. By keeping a close eye on your data, however, you can see exactly what types of content and what motifs generate the most interest from your audience, and share information geared towards garnering their attention.

Monitor Your Competition

It’s one thing to look at superficial measurements, like the growth of a competitor’s network. It is another thing entirely to dive into the public data that exists about your competition’s social presence and see where they are succeeding, where opportunities exist for your brand and, most importantly, how you compare in terms of share of voice and sentiment when it comes to key criteria.

Because we might not necessarily be looking at increasing sales directly through social media as B2Bs, it is important to find a way to set benchmarks for measuring success. Often, identifying KPIs among your competition’s data and striving to surpass those benchmarks is a great way to work.

Reach Broader Audiences

Understanding when your target audience is most active and where they spend the majority of their time is going to be essential to reaching the broadest audience possible.

At the outset of any social business program, you are going to want to ask yourself who you want to reach. Do you want to reach your buyers, or would you rather reach the end users of products or services to whom you are selling? Knowing what kind of audience you want to reach with your content will help you better leverage this data in order to ensure that every piece of content you share is shared strategically so as to reach the broadest audience possible.

Understand Your Buyers

On the surface, social is all about sharing stories. But just beneath there is a world of opportunity in the form of data, and that data can be leveraged not only on these social media, but in your business operations.

Studying the data that concerns your buyers – either as individuals or businesses – on social media can help you optimize your offline and off-social marketing initiatives in order to ensure that they resonate with your buyers.

Traditional B2B marketing tactics need to incorporate, at least to a degree, social data. By understanding your buyers’ habits, preferences and knowing what it is they are looking for, you can better prepare yourself offline to make the sale.

The potential that exists within your social data is virtually limitless. With so much being published every day, and more insights being made available at every second, it is hard to understand why more B2B businesses are not taking the time to study social data.

Are you leveraging your social data? What are you using it for? Tell us in the comments below or on Twitter!

And next week, don’t miss our Director of Global Social Business Strategy, Corey Padveen speaking live in Las Vegas! Find out more here.

What’s the Difference Between Content Strategy and Content Marketing?

While both content marketing and content strategy fall into a very similar category in the realm of social business, there are some subtle but important differences to be aware of.

What's the difference between content marketing and content strategy?One of the most trending concepts in the world of social business these days (both on and offline) is content marketing. We hear it mentioned by virtually every thought leader and industry member. But as with a lot of buzzwords, as they increase in popularity, they can often decrease in clarity.

People use content marketing and content strategy interchangeably. That’s a mistake. While both phenomena are closely related, they possess some notable differences that make them distinct features of a business strategy.

Why do we keep hearing about this stuff, anyway?

Content marketing and strategy are much more than simply sharing content to different media; content marketing is storytelling.

Lately, we have seen some outstanding examples of brands leveraging the power of the story. Lots of brands – from small to large – are jumping on the content marketing bandwagon to try and create an engaging story of their own, but it is a lot easier said than done.

Unlike conventional forms of marketing and advertising, the concept of content marketing relies heavily on your ability to connect with your audience. For consumers, the novelty of endless content being shared on multiple media channels has worn off. People only want to see (and, more importantly, share) content that they find interesting and resonates in some way.

For this reason, the brands that have found the most success when it comes to content marketing are those that have developed an intricate content strategy based on what they have deemed relevant to their audience.

What is content strategy?

Content strategy all starts with some good ol’ fashioned research. Sure, there are plenty of tools to help you out; after all, there is so much data to sift through that we would never be able to do it without at least a little help. But content strategy all starts with determining what your audience cares about.

This can be industry-relevant – for example, maybe you notice that your audience is most interested in learning about the difference between content marketing and content strategy – or it can be a social issue. And no, not a social media issue. A social as in societal issue. First identify what your audience cares about, then share information that they find relevant and interesting.

People do not like spending money if they don’t have to. (Or really want to.) So, when you share nothing but self-promotional content, they are more than likely to ignore you. After all, why would they listen to what you have to say if they know it is all going to lead back to a sales pitch?

Content strategy is all about avoiding the sales pitch. Determine how your brand can connect with your audience on a human level and share information that resonates from that perspective first.

How is content marketing different?

Content marketing is, by definition, a form of marketing to your audience. When people are listening to what you have to say and develop a rapport with your brand, then you can tell them about your products, services or special offers.

Considering the historical seller-consumer dynamic, there is, in many cases, an inherent distrust of the brand by the consumer. However, if, through your content strategy, you can build that trust by showcasing that you really do care and really are a brand that your consumers can relate to, there is a much greater likelihood that your audience will listen, and maybe even consider your product or service.

Your sales position needs to be in line with the issues that connected you to your audience in the first place. Maybe it is something as simple as a donation to a worthy cause from the sale of certain products.

Is there an example that showcases both these concepts?

Say, for example, there is an office products retailer than develops a content strategy around recycling. Much of the content that is shared with their audience relates to green practices and recycling.

After some time, their content begins to go viral, as their target audience – businesspeople with a penchant for environmentalism –  can relate to what they share. At this point, they begin to promote one of their complimentary services: buyers can return used ink cartridges for reuse instead of throwing them away.

There is a much greater likelihood that people will listen to the sale pitch if this is the case.

The difference between content strategy and content marketing is all about the marketing side of things. While content strategy sounds a lot like it is done behind closed doors, it is actually a very active endeavor.

Brands have to devote to learning about their audience and be patient when it comes to successful content marketing. Success with the strategy is not going to come overnight. But with patience and a strong devotion to your audience, content strategy and content marketing are sure to pay off.

Have you ever considered a content strategy or engaging in content marketing? Tell us about yours in the comments below or on Twitter!

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How to Look at Post Details on Facebook [VIDEO]

Your post details on Facebook can give you some tremendous insights into the success of your Facebook marketing.

When it comes to marketing on Facebook, the network has come a long way. That’s not surprising, considering it is now a public company and needs to provide value to the businesses that use it.

That said, Facebook is constantly going through changes – some more drastic than others – and it is not always easy to keep up.

One of the great features that Facebook provides for marketers is the ability to look at post details on Facebook to see exactly what your audience is doing when they come across and engage with your content.

Superficially, it’s a simple feature. But when you tie it into some of the great data that Facebook Insights provides, it can be extremely valuable.

Have a look at the video below and see for yourself why the ability to look at your post details on Facebook can be a great asset when marketing your brand on the world’s largest social network.