Social media is surprisingly sometimes still considered the new kid on the block for product marketing. Brands know they need it, but many marketing teams still have difficulty getting funding for a comprehensive social strategy. Often perceived as frivolous or overly simple, there is still a divide between a marketing team’s request for a social media budget and leadership’s understanding of its true cost and it’s real value to a brand.
Unlike the traditional marketing tools of the recent past, social platforms allow for both personal and business publishing. There is a lot of activity that centers around pop-culture and celebrity in-fighting on social media, but it shouldn't be discounted as a powerful business tool.
Social media for business can be a difficult sell to upper management when the brand team is unable to articulate how this type of marketing content can add to a brand’s bottom line.
In order to make a compelling case for social media, senior leadership needs to understand the connection between regular social posting and increased revenue for the company. To help you make the case for a social media budget, here are seven legitimate business reasons that support having a strategic plan in place for social media marketing:
Join the Conversation about Your Brand on Social Media
Whether your brand is sold regionally or nationally, people are already talking about you online. If your company doesn't have a presence on social media yet, then all those conversations are happening without any input from you.
Worse yet is a brand that has social accounts advertised on its website and packaging, and yet they do nothing with them. An equally unfortunate scenario is when a brand has social accounts advertised on its website and packaging, and yet they do nothing with them. No regular posts, no retweets, nothing. That is the functional equivalent of never picking up the phone when someone calls.
Active, thoughtful social accounts give your brand a direct connection to shoppers who are interested in what you are saying and selling. Tune in to content trends, and pay attention to what your audience is saying about your brand; social media provides easy access to consumer insights that can be helpful in defining your overall marketing strategy, sales methodology, and product development.
Social Platforms are the Front Line of Customer Service
While the advent of social platforms grew from cell phone technology, consumer interest in making actual phone calls has dropped dramatically. Because texting and social messaging is the predominant form of communication, shoppers are now much less likely to make a phone call and are far more likely to reach out via social channels when they have questions or concerns about a product.
For contemporary shoppers, social channels feel like they are more direct than picking up the phone. With no hold times and no automated menus to navigate, social media implies an immediate connection to a human being. What this means for you is that a dedicated person from your company needs to be monitoring social accounts and quickly answer any queries or concerns that come in.
Consistent social posting and monitoring the comments and replies allows your audience to form more personal connections with your brand. The way you manage your content and connect with your audience will help set your brand apart from your competitors.
If the personal connection is not enough for you, here’s some financial incentive from Twitter research: Shoppers who receive a response from a brand via Twitter will spend up to 20% more with that brand, and are more likely to recommend that brand to others (source).
You shouldn’t fear customer complaints, either. It is far better to be engaged quickly than to sit silently while a small issue blows up into a viral sensation. Social channels allow you to respond quickly and provide a friendly, personal resolution.
If you prefer to take a conversation to a private channel (like a direct message or email), you should always respond to the customer comment directly, even if it's to say that a dm has been sent or to supply the email address for your support team. This way, other followers won't think you are ignoring your customers.
Extend your Marketing Reach with Divisible Content
You are already writing about your brand in many places: product catalogs, specification guides, suggested uses, sales sheets, and shopping cart descriptions to name a few. With some edits to adapt this content to your social platforms, you're extending the return on the content you are already producing. Commercials or how-to videos can be cut into many small clips and shared through social channels. Benefits statements from your product descriptions can become the source for content posts with minor edits to adapt them to each social channel. To see maximum results, remember to think about the purpose of each channel before posting your content.
Most brick-and-mortar retailers and many distributors are asking brands for content to both sell products and train employees on how to sell products. Rather than seeing this content creation as a cost of doing business for a particular channel, repurpose it for your own publishing.
Writing for store associates or distributors describes why their customers would love to find and use your brand. It shouldn’t be a stretch to flip that story to the consumer’s point of view by describing why your brand fulfills a desire or need.
BONUS: If you are actively engaged with your followers, you have a better idea of what content your audience engages with, therefore you can provide high-performing content for your channel partners. With a solid social media stream, you why your customers love your brand because they’ll be telling you directly when they engage with and share your content!
Social Media is the First Step to Capture Leads
On the surface, social media can seem like casting your efforts out into the universe and crossing your fingers in hopes that someone receives it. Rather than an entirely shotgun approach to advertising like the "spray and pray" method (advertising everywhere and hoping someone responds), strategic use of tagging and community building will get your message across to an audience that has self-selected to hear from you.
While most social media applications do not have a direct financial return, social posts can and will move shoppers further along the shopper journey to the sale. Keep shoppers informed with engaging content, and they’ll be more likely to respond to requests to sign up for emails or even follow links to shopping cart items in a targeted ad.
We grew our Virginia Foodie audience by posting curated, brand-specific content that is designed to engage people who share our ideals about food sourcing. We sprinkle our content with requests for them to sign up for our emails so they can learn more. To date, roughly 10% of our @vafoodie followers have volunteered to let us contact them with regular emails.
Social content that is fully supported with landing pages and an inside sales rep can open other opportunities for revenue. Landing pages are particularly effective for large-item purchases, things that shoppers will spend time considering before breaking out the credit card.
B2B wholesale channels can also be fortified with social content, targeted ads, and landing pages tied to an email nurture campaign. If your brand has had success selling directly to a particular type of small business, like coffee shops or gift shops, consider developing a targeted campaign that includes social content that validates your brand’s success in those channels.
Remember, though, to keep your posts centered around healthy social skills, and keep the “buy me!” requests to a minimum. No one wants to stand next to the guy at the party who is only trying to sell you something. Just like Dale Carnegie advised in his classic, “How To Win Friends and Influence People,” the key to getting others to like you is that you should talk about them more than about yourself.
Social Media Improves Site Traffic and SEO
Social media is not the first thing to come to mind when you think of SEO, but it is definitely a factor in building backlinks, which search engines like Google look for when crawling a page. Regularly posting about your own content with links to blog posts and other pages on your website is a great way to increase your SEO and in turn, reach a larger audience.
A comprehensive content strategy should include regular blog posts that address topics centered around the typical needs and desires that interest consumers of your product category. Then, using the principles of divisible content, you can create content posts that are appropriate to each social media channel you’re using to drive viewers back to your site.
Everybody loves sharing helpful tips. If your brand’s social stream can become a reliable resource for tips and useful information, social shares of your content will increase. Every share contains another link to your site, which as I mentioned earlier, increases your SEO and boosts your presence on search engine results.
Gaining Audience Insight through Social Media
Crowdsourcing campaigns like “Name this Product” and “Invent a New Flavor” are examples of marketing campaigns built around audience feedback. They’ve shown that they can be effective marketing tools that produce memorable results. Who can forget Lay’s Chicken and Waffle chips? But literally asking a crowd of followers what a brand should do next is just a sliver of the consumer insights you can gain through social media.
There are many ways to use your social media followers as a source of information. Just through sharing social content and monitoring the engagement rates, you’ll be able to see how shoppers interact with your brand in real time. By following popular hashtags and your competitor’s hashtag campaigns you’ll gain insight into trending topics, and adjust your marketing accordingly.
Marketing is an ongoing cycle of sharing content, measuring response rates, editing and repeating the process. Running mini-campaigns that use Facebook polls or the survey tool for Instagram stories is an inexpensive way to test your audience’s response to various product versions or improvements.
As you promote products through social campaigns, watch the engagement rates and follow the click-through rates to your site. You’ll be able to track what products have a higher response rate, which can drive both sales programs and product development.
Social media is the ultimate test lab and is a relatively inexpensive way to conduct early product research. Sparking conversations about trends in the market can also show you opportunities for product development or creating alternate versions of existing products, without ever building a prototype. Pay close attention to how consumers talk about your brand after the sale, and you’ll discover opportunities for product improvements, add-ons, or line expansions.
As you build an engaged audience that is comfortable learning about your brand and sharing content, you’ll also be building your own, very-specific, consumer research community. A brand that provides consistent and trustworthy content will develop a loyal following. Loyal fans are the perfect place to find brand ambassadors or an inner-circle of reliable product testers who provide valuable feedback.
Product Announcements via Social Media
When QVC takes on a new brand, one piece of advice they give is to “bring your followers with you,” meaning, tell your followers to watch for your brand on tv. QVC knows that people will follow a trend, and if a few of your loyal followers call in to purchase at the start of the promo period, people who are new to your brand will follow suit.
The same applies to your brand when you launch a new product or launch an existing product into a new market. Launching into a crowd has more impact than launching into a void. Your followers will support your new venture, and that activity will bring new people to your brand.
Using social media to make product announcements can boost sales in all channels, not just online transactions. When you secure a new retail partner, run campaigns that direct shoppers to the new stores. As loyal fans purchase your products, more shoppers will give your brand a try.
As an added bonus, actively and strategically posting on social media demonstrates your brand’s value to potential partners. Show them how you can leverage your digital audience to drive traffic to their stores.
Strategic Social Media Pays Off
Social media is a viable marketing tool and applied purposefully with a strategic plan in place, social content can bring value to your brand platform. The danger with social media lies in taking a slapdash approach to creating content. Just casting posts into the void without purpose only adds to online noise and won’t advance your brand in the public forum.
A strategic social posting strategy takes the customer journey into account. Content planning should revolve around building brand awareness, providing helpful content that aids product research, and engaging consumers by reaching out to join trending conversations and providing prompt feedback.
Social media can be a daunting task, especially if you don't have an existing strategy in place. We can help your brand with strategic social planning, content creation, social media management and training programs for brand teams. Questions about how we can help you? We'd love to chat.