This article was originally published on Forbes on June 17th, 2018; written by Rhett Powers.
Almost everyone has come around to recognizing social media’s importance for marketing and advertising. After all, social media marketing can help entrepreneurs spread the word about their venture and recruit new customers, which some have described as the hardest part of starting a new business.
And everyone from the biggest brands in the world to startups less than a decade old have seen success by leveraging their social media accounts. For instance, Peel, a cellphone case company, has leaned into social media to highlight its products and frequently utilizes Facebook video to tell its story. Thanks to its social media campaigns, the company has achieved three times higher ROI and a significant spike in revenue. So, the potential is clearly there, but when it comes to reaching a specific audience via social media, there are still plenty of challenges.
Most companies take a broad approach to audience targeting on social media, which can be a good way to start. But truly targeting your desired audience requires a highly granular approach that will vary depending on which platform you use, the amount of attention you can devote to it, your messaging, and your budget. In addition, to reach the members of your audience, you first need to know them. To help you on your path to social media marketing stardom, I reached out to industry experts and entrepreneurs to discover their favorite tricks of the trade.
Jon Brody, Co-Founder and CEO of Ladder
Brody advices truly knowing your audience members before you try to target messages to them. After you’ve built customer personas, you need to determine where they spend their time in order to discern the best channel to reach them. Then, figure out what they find appealing about your product in order to hone your messaging.
Brody acknowledges that in the early stages of getting to know your audience and developing your social media marketing strategy, “Guesswork is something you’re forced to contend with. Ultimately, it’s why structuring your strategy around high-volume tests that allow you to measure your impact is your best formula for finding success. It allows you to replace guesswork with validation.” So, do some research on your audience, craft a hypothesis, and test out your theory. Brody also says that replicating AdWords campaigns into Bing and using Facebook’s algorithm to build Lookalike Audiences can help you craft a winning strategy.
Jean-Michel Lebeau, CEO of Cortex
Lebeau has learned that you can’t understate the importance of context when crafting your message. “Based on the fact that we know our reach is pretty industry-specific, we try to make sure we post relevant content that will generate engagement from our fans,” he says. “We ask questions, challenge ideas, and try new things to create some kind of buzz within our network, which will expand to the participant’s networks. Be relevant. Be bold and challenging. Cut the corporate talk and speak the same language as your audience.”
Cortex primarily uses Facebook as a recruitment tool. Lebeau said the tech company wants its messaging on social to resonate with the top talent in the industry and has noticed that, not surprisingly, top talent wants to work on top projects. Keeping that context in mind, it posts interesting case studies that feature recent projects and highlight the opportunities available at the company.
Danielle Narveson, Marketing Technologist and Director of Strategy at LIFT Agency
Because organic reach isn’t what it used to be, Narveson warns that to drive value from social media campaigns, you now have to be ready to pay to play. “It’s a linear channel; you have to pay per engagement, whereas it used to be viral,” she says. “While many leaders still expect organic traction, they need to recognize the shift and not expect crazy virality. However, there are opportunities to tap into the natural sharing mechanisms of these very sticky social network platforms and adapt your social media approach accordingly.”
For instance, ads on Pinterest can be pinned like any other post. Once they’ve been pinned, they’ll be shared with a user’s friends and featured on similar boards, so there’s an opportunity to make paid social ads work harder by tapping into the way networks have been designed.
Ryan Myers, Creative Director at Sapper Consulting
Myers observes that using the right tool to tell your story can heavily influence your success on social. “It’s important to dissect which parts of your story are most conducive for different platforms and how/why your audiences are spending time on each platform. For example, we leverage Instagram more for recruitment because the visual nature of the platform gives people a window into our culture at Sapper. On the other hand, we use LinkedIn to expand on our business narrative.” He explains that Sapper sees a more engaged audience on LinkedIn because the audience there is more business- and networking-focused than audiences on platforms like Facebook, where family photos and cat videos abound.
So, ensure your messaging plays to the strengths of the platform you’re posting on in order to drive the most engagement. Myers concedes that going from “prospect likes tweet” to “paying customer” isn’t always a clearly defined journey, but he advises that “providing relevant content that builds trust and credibility with your audience should be your North Star.”
Leonard Kim, Managing Partner at InfluenceTree
Kim has managed social media for a billion-dollar academic medical center and found success in using subcommittees and Facebook groups to speak to a niche audience. He elaborates, “You have to be able to picture yourself as the end consumer. What do they do for work? What do they like to do for fun? What is their lifestyle like, and what are their interests? I put myself in their shoes, and then I put my focus into (a) where they hang out online, and (b) what they want to hear.”
Figure out where your audience members spend their time and then see whether you can be a part of closed groups such as those on Facebook and Reddit. Reach out to administrators and offer to host a virtual event or provide a resource for the community. When it comes to messaging, be as specific as you can with your targeting. If you’re after individuals looking to lose weight, target a 45- to 50-year-old demographic that has interest in weight loss programs near your ZIP code. When your messaging is relevant, your audience is more likely to respond.
Marina Byezhanova, Director of Candidate Experience and Co-Founder of Pronexia
Byezhanova says that Pronexia is going through a transition that other entrepreneurs are likely familiar with: veering from its traditional sales model to one that leverages social media. “Our two core areas of focus are building brand awareness vis-à-vis positioning ourselves as subject matter experts and building a robust following of ‘raving fans,’” she says. “My team’s main concern has been to ensure that our message does not drown in all of the online noise.”
Pronexia decided to focus on LinkedIn not only because it could reach its audience there, but also because the platform has little “noise.” In addition to creating content native to the LinkedIn feed, Byezhanova credits Pronexia’s social success to surveying its target prospects to find out what keeps them up at night and crafting the company’s content accordingly. She advises businesses to stick to providing value in their content and cautions against crafting content with selling or pitching in mind.
Jason Ganahl, Owner/Maestro of Meat at GQue BBQ
Ganahl has found that visuals can make a positive impact on your social marketing strategy. “We put good-looking pictures of our food to get people’s attention and credit proper use of hashtags with targeting BBQ people and foodies. We have a huge following, relatively speaking, which I attribute to our high-quality pics.” His conclusion is borne out by research that shows content with images gets more views and more shares.
It all comes down to getting your audience to see — and share — your posts. Ganahl encourages brands to embrace video, which prompts even more social shares than image content. Like Narveson, he says that brands should considering paying to boost posts. It’s not something GQue BBQ does now, but he admits it’s becoming more necessary to ensure posts get seen. He understands that starting a social media account can be an intimidating endeavor — at first. Your audience might not like your content right off the bat, but Ganahl says you’ll learn what works as you go.
Social media marketing is a huge industry for a reason. It’s an incredibly effective way to engage with an audience, and the leads it generates can drive incredible value for a company. In addition to picking both your audience and your platform with care, focus on the above tips to hone your strategy and optimize your spending — and then watch your results rapidly improve.