Email and Social and Website - oh my!
Do I have to write blog posts, update Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, the latest social fad (SnapChat? Gawd halp us!) and keep a website updated? Roseanne considers this question in this blog post and offers some advice for how to manage your media.
I was in the garden a good while back, having a coffee break. My neighbour Bob has 138 homing pigeons; he breeds them. They really are kind of amazing. For example, they are so attuned to “home” that they only perch on Bob’s roof. It is rare that any of them even put a toe across the completely imaginary boundary between our house and Bob’s. Talk about targeted!
I was thinking that the reason Bob’s pigeons exist is because there was a time when pigeons like this were a communication medium. They were bred for their ability to travel to “home”. Messages sent via carrier pigeon were by necessity brief and I imagine as paper and ink technologies improved so did the length of those messages. I’m no expert. If you have questions, comment below and I’ll ask Bob.
However, pigeons were not the sole or even the most reliable means of communicating and if you wanted to make sure your message was received you sent a horserider and a runner and whatever else was available to you. It depended on your resources. In reality most people lived in ignorance about what was going on in the outside world. Ultimately all those methods have been replaced and Bob and his pigeon-fancying pals still do what they do because of the personal satisfaction they derive from breeding and training ace homing pigeons. Kind of like all those folk who continue to use Google+ ;-)
But like those communicators of yore we have to use all media available to us to get our message across, to stand out from the crowd and to ensure the right people get the right information at the right time. Thanks to modern technology this has become easier and easier. Unlike the leisurely pace at which carrier pigeons and stagecoaches once operated, managing the timeliness of your online presence can be a challenge. I have written previously about making time for social media and creating a content publishing calendar but I’m often asked why does a company have to be present everywhere?
Firstly you don’t actually have to be everywhere. However it is worth bearing the following points in mind when choosing where or how to focus your efforts and spend your resources.
The Customer is Always Right Where They Want to Be
Ultimately it comes down to your customer. If you haven’t already you should have developed an indepth understanding of your ideal customer. In the online marketing business this is called a customer persona. This should inform part of your decision about where your key online efforts should be expended. Persona can be developed through a mix of your anecdotal knowledge of your own customers and research in the form of questionnaires or focus groups. Once you have established your persona: their aims, their challenges, their processes and what success means to them you can begin to develop content that responds to those aims, challenges, processes and success. However, there is no substitute for scientific testing. An initial content strategy delivered across key platforms will deliver insight and allow informed decisions about where best to reach your customer and spend your resources. Search might be your best friend or email marketing: not all potential customers are all over Twitter and Facebook.
Testing, testing, one, two, three
The testing phase might also reveal that certain times of day, days of the week or seasons are better for one platform or another so make sure you mix up that schedule. Don’t be afraid to re-share content to test this theory but use this approach cautiously. This is where a short, inexpensive advertising campaign can also help you confirm some theories about your content and products. You can create a custom audience on Facebook to test your ideas about your persona by promoting content for them to them. Yes you’ll have to pay for it but if it can improve your sales or lead generation then how bad? You should also consider using apps such as Buffer and Hootsuite to help you manage posting content at relevant times, especially if reaching out to international audiences outside your timezone.
This initial testing phase will hopefully help you sharpen your focus. However you should maintain a presence, at the least, on the key social platforms. This is especially true if you find that search or online advertising is bringing you the hottest leads or the most converting customers. A continued presence will mean that searches on any platform will ensure that either your content or your presence will rise to the top of the results page. Bear in mind that not all search results pages are in search engines: Twitter search is a huge discovery tool, as is Facebook search even if the latter still requires some finessing. Having a strong search engine ranking is helped by inbound links from all those huge social platforms. A strong search ranking will help cut down on your ad spend as well but it is a long term game. Search advertising can plug the gap in the short term.
Consider also what the platforms themselves excel at: Twitter is great for customer service, for example. It’s also great for displaying expertise, especially if you have developed content that responds to frequently asked questions in your industry. Specialist sites like Quora will allow you to display this expertise on the fly and maybe even gauge the response to some of your advice, ideas, approaches or strongly held beliefs! Don’t forget those social platforms allow you to be just that: social! Keep it professional but let your followers understand that the business is run by humans!
Is your competition in the ha’penny place? Leverage their lag
Is your competition using social networks? Here in Ireland in particular it amazes me how companies, who I would imagine would be tailor made for social, are still lagging. They have poor or non-existent online presence. If you make the leap into online, experimenting with different platforms, your competition will always be in the ha’penny place.
It can all be a little overwhelming though if you feel that this is something that you cannot turn your hand to with everything else you have to juggle for your business and your personal life. OnlineHub.ie is on hand to help develop your online strategy. This strategy can then be broken into manageable tasks that you can undertake or delegate to others.
Reach out and delegate
If your company is lucky enough to be feeling the recent lift in the economy maybe you can consider taking on staff? If you are considering taking on staff in any role, consider knowledge in online marketing as a key skill in any new staff member. Even if you are considering hiring a virtual PA, many of them offer social media services as part of the package. Like any service they will work best with clear instruction. A strong strategy and clear understanding of your company objectives, customer persona and house style will allow you to mentor any staff successfully. Many young marketing executives, starting in their career, or indeed older executives who have added digital qualifications, to their impressive CVs, will jump at the chance of putting their knowledge into practice. Consider creating a part time role and you will open up the role to a whole world of people who, because of other commitments, are unavailable for full time work. (Read: parents!) Approach some of the third level institutions offering these courses: many are short of companies where their budding digital experts can undertake their practical projects. If you have a clear strategy in place you should be able to gain a lot from the experience. If you approach them with definite goals and ideas you are likely to be treated extremely well and offered students whose interests complement yours.
Although it has long been derided by the social media luvvies my long love affair with email marketing continues. I am not alone. A customer’s email address is the holy grail for marketers, especially in B2B, with it’s compelling conversion rates. Facebook acknowledges the value of your email marketing list by allowing you to use it to create custom audiences like those who have chosen to receive communications from you. If Mary, who is interested in knitting and Ryan Gosling (according to Facebook) is on your email list, chances are that Joe, who likes knitting and Emma Stone, might be interested in what you are peddling too. However if you are peddling nursing bras you can tell Facebook that your focus is females aged 16-45. Sorry Joe! Mailchimp.com also offers (paid) features that allows you to segment your list by social profile, giving you further layers of experimentation and influence.
Part of your online marketing strategy should involve a period of experimentation, trial and error, A/B optimisation, whatever you are comfortable calling it, that allows you to test your theories about your audience. They might love your posts on Facebook or retweet your “It’s always Furday” kitten pics all weekend long but ultimately you might find more conversions from your carefully crafted, segmented and personalised email that responds to their considerations about your product or service at that time.
If any of the above has struck a chord with you and you would like to discuss your online strategy please get in touch with me at OnlineHub.ie. Initial 1 hour consultation and proposal is free!