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How not to waste money on social media marketing

How not to waste money on social media marketing

Editors note: This is a guest blog post from Birmingham, UK, based blogger Susan Roan. Check out her website for more productivity tips.

Social media is becoming more and more popular these days.

It also become so integral to marketing in 2015, that it could be argued it’s even rivaling the likes of TV in its ability to successfully engage with, and motivate, potential customers. Any major marketing scheme these days will have a substantial focus on social media – to say the two are important to each other is like saying water is important to fish.

Accepting this fact changes the first priority question. It is no longer a question of if businesses should invest in social media, but rather which social media platform should businesses invest in. It’s not a simple question by any means.

Those without a firm grasp of social media may believe they are all the same. And on a base level, they are – they connect people together through a website or app. But the different approaches taken by the platforms vary greatly. So just as a marketing team would narrow down a choice of TV channels or radio stations to advertise on, they must also isolate the best social media platform, or platforms for them.

So how do you discern the good from the bad in terms of how each social media platform pertains to your company and your customers? By putting in some good old fashioned research. We’ve put together a list of areas you’ll need to explore in depth. Should you utilise all of them, you have given yourself the best shot of achieving something from social media.

Audience

Business has a very simple first rule – you will get absolutely nowhere without knowing your audience. This is just as true in social media marketing as it is in any other aspect of business.

By means of an example, we’ll focus on a broad audience factor in age. If your job is to create a social media marketing campaign for a soft drink aimed at kids, you may go to your basics. Bright colours, a fun jingle, an animal mascot, etc. You then simply splash it across all of the social media channels you can. Unfortunately, things aren’t that simple in social media marketing. You have to adapt your process.

Google Plus, for example, is geared towards “professionals”. Kids may have a Google Plus account, as they gain one when they create a Google account on any of their affiliates (including YouTube), but chances are they don’t even know it exists. So spending money advertising here is a waste of time. Research further, however, and you’ll find that even websites one would presume to be kid-centric aren’t necessarily so. Facebook have been hemorrhaging youngsters ever since it became popular with moms and dads. They have flocked to places like Snapchat and Vine.

The best solution for those with little knowledge of social media is to use traditional market research, coupled with hands-on experience. Signing into a site will give you an almost immediate feel for who it is aimed at, and who is using it. There are also thousands upon thousands of websites dedicated to tracking social media usage among demographics.

Unfortunately, you may have to do this regularly, as the social media landscape can change rapidly. One platform may be all the rage one week, only to be supplanted the next. Keep an ear to the ground for upcoming apps, and look out for surges in popularity. You wouldn’t want to invest everything into 2015’s version of MySpace.

Product

Audience research alone won’t be enough to narrow down your choice of platform accurately. It is a very important pillar, but you run major risks by using it as the sole structure to base your marketing scheme on. The other vital part of the process is product research. Thankfully, product knowledge should be very easy for you – as long as you know your product inside and out, with all of its relevant unique selling points, you can begin to apply it to social media.

To use another example for illustration, a jeweller is going to be relying a lot on visuals. Their products aren’t in need of a great amount of text, and don’t really pertain to the business world most of the time. That dictates they utilise social media platforms based around images and videos, of which there are thankfully many, including the likes of Instagram, Snapchat and Vine. Word heavy platforms like Twitter and Google Plus can be used, but it may require more effort.

Where would you use these platforms? Again, if they are suited to your product. Need to sell a new business-centric computer program? Focus on Google Plus. Need to put across an edgy new energy drink? Twitter is the place to go. With the vast amount of social platforms out there, finding an ideal marriage of product and social media outlet is not difficult if you put some effort in.

Location

One tricky part of social media is that it is localised and global at the same time. Because of the interconnectivity, there is no telling what might catch on all around the world, and what big idea will instead sit in a little pond.

Again, research on a local scale can tell you what social media sites are popular in your area, and which aren’t. But if you’re thinking globally, you are looking at a serious amount of research. While Facebook and Twitter may seem all conquering in America and the UK, each country will have variants, and even entire social media platforms unique to them. China, for example, have sites like RenRen (the equivalent of Facebook), Sina Weibo (the equivalent of Twitter) and QZone, which have millions upon millions of users.

Appealing to all of these many different cultures will require tweaks in every new country you enter. What works well in one may offend in another. You may be lucky, and have an entirely visual product that can get the job done almost by itself with little localisation. If not, don’t fret – you are likely to have a big budget anyway if you are targeting a global market, so make sure you spend a good amount of money on culture research in each major market, and localise appropriately.

Budget

Finally, with all of your research in place, and your social media platforms sussed out, we arrive at a tricky question – how to spend the budget wisely? While social media platforms are free to use, getting any momentum going on them can be difficult. “But look!”, you may think “We can use sponsored posts to directly target our audience!”. Most platforms offer it, and it can help a lot, but it can be a slippery slope in more ways than one.

Sponsored posts can indeed be targeted directly at your audience. Facebook, Twitter and the like will look for users in your set demographics who have shown an interest in similar products before. If they are always talking about cake, a user may be subjected to a lot of advertisements from local bakeries and national confectionary companies. In an ideal world, this kind of direct advertising would solve all problems – you advertised to an interested party, and they in return buy your product almost without fail.

But that isn’t always the case. Social media has had a turbulent past with advertising. They used to be virtually free of them, and the turn towards more targeted posts and frequent advertising interruptions has not gone over well in some sectors. So if you are constant in your barrage, you may actually end up alienating potential customers.

It is best to use restraint. Eventually, you hope to be in a position where your social media following is so strong, that you only have to run marketing campaigns a few times a year, to either drive sales at key points, or to introduce new products. When you reach this point, a badly executed social media campaign, or a slip up in your social media usage, won’t necessarily bring your business’s whole social media following crashing down. Making the mistakes we outlined earlier can be that devastating, and could easily cost you your job.

To recap – research thoroughly, get a feel for each social media platform, whether you initially intend to use it or not, and scale appropriately. Then you stand as good a chance as anyone in nailing your next social media marketing campaign, and just as importantly, not wasting time, effort and money on a campaign doomed to fail.

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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Richard Lalchan is founder of Creatives Hub whose mission is to help as many creatives as possible get rid of the shackles of procrastination, break out of fear, grow in confidence and get stuff done. He also works with individuals and businesses to build their web presence, runs a podcast network and is currently writing his first sci-fi novella.

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