The first thing any good public relations professional learns is that the only thing worse than being talked about poorly is not being talked about. In a cynical world, it’s tempting to stay below the radar in order to avoid criticism. But if you have a business or service to promote then that option isn’t really open to you. Identify what you want to be known for first and foremost. Once you have this figured out you can really begin to market yourself. If you’re just starting out, social media is a great way to do this. I’ve been using social media to market clients for years. These are some of my best social media marketing tips to get you started.
What Do You Stand For?
- Your business values
- The aspects of the goods or services you offer
- How you intend to interact with staff and customers
All of these contribute to a corporate personality.
This, in turn, forms the basis of brand and reputation. The simplest definition I’ve found to express the distinction is that brand is what you want people to recognize, and reputation is…
“How well you live up to your own story?”
Whatever values you want to project, it ought to be a corporate discipline and responsibility to think of creative ways to express them. This might focus on price, customer service, innovation, design, locality, effectiveness… The list is endless. But it’s crucial to know what you stand for, in order to differentiate yourself from the competition.
Do You Know Who You’re Talking To?
The most common error that PR professionals and marketers come up against is when business folks end the thinking right there. They know what they want to say and are pleased as punch with their own offering. But it’s just as important to look outside yourself to the audience. You need to identify what your audience wants and values, so you can tailor your offering to their needs.
Questions to consider when thinking of what your audience wants
- How do they access information?
- How do they like to purchase?
- What age and wealth demographics are you targeting?
- What sort of language are they used to, in both words and visual media?
- What’s the competition doing and how could you make yourself stand out?
- What are the audience’s expectations and prejudices and how could you work with those, and not against them?
There is a wealth of customer research available online. Local demographics, buying habits and keywords that consumers search for online are all readily available. But communications is an inexact science and often the best thing is just to get started. If you know what you want to say, and have filtered this through researched knowledge of what your customers want to hear, then social media offers the lowest possible barrier to entry.
Choosing Your Social Media Platform
What social media platform you’re on determines both what you can say and what sort of audience you might attract. However, say the wrong things to the wrong people and you might suffer backlash. So before you choose your social channels, have a good look at what others are doing and saying in the same place.
The rule of thumb is that one speech from a single platform is unlikely to change the world, so get your message out on several platforms at once, if appropriate. As a generalization, Instagram works well for pictures; Pinterest for lifestyle issues; Facebook for general interest, Twitter for news and LinkedIn for business — but there is a huge amount of crossover and a lot of leeway. Social media management tools such as Hootsuite allow you to group and schedule posts in advance across multiple channels.
Also, if anyone tells you that you need to be on every platform, raise a superior eyebrow and let them know that you’ve researched your market. Then hit them with an old-tech analogy that in the days of newspapers, very few people bought every paper, every day. People form preferences on which social platforms they use, just as they have favorite newspapers, books and television programs. The trick is to match your message with the most productive platform for your aims.
Content is King
Remember this is social media, so if you come out with an endless diet of sales messages, you become like the bore at a party. Good PR is all about seeking ways to engage with your audiences. So, while platforms are important, content is king.
Last Christmas, one of my challenges was to promote new apartments aimed at first time buyers. Having caught my twenty-something son dancing to a catchy seasonal song while wearing a Santa hat and washing the dishes (I won’t tell you which surprised me more), I got him to recreate it within the show apartments. That video hit five-figure views in no time flat. It was seasonally appropriate, charming and enabled me to promote the existence of a showhome to my targeted demographic. All it cost me was the promise of no more washing dishes within a defined period, yet the promotional benefit was immense.
The aim should be to intrigue, entertain and delight your audience with information relevant to their interests first and your product second. Charm them with photography and video content. It’s worth investing in great product photography. But if you want to promote lifestyle concepts then stock photography sites offer terrific options for low-cost, eye-catching illustrations. The simple rules are to make sure the imagery reflects your brand. If you post home-made, badly lit or uninteresting images, people will draw similar conclusions about your product. Show yourself as you want to be seen.
Be Strategic With Social Media
Treat communication as any other business discipline and plan and organize relevant content in advance. I aim to have a month’s supply of social media content in the bag at any given time. And at least six months of advance blog topics. Typically, I identify a list of around six relevant subject areas, then work up a balanced diet of posts in each area. Preparing them in advance and in similar subject groups is much easier. Then all you need to do is to mix them up, according to your priorities, to deliver varied messaging which is less likely to become boring. You need to be creative, and always remember who you are speaking to, if you want to get your messaging, tone and content right.
Make sure you’re watching social analytics too. This is easier than it sounds since most social platforms are really good at revealing how posts have been received. Stats on how many people have viewed or liked your posts are readily available, for example. Being analytics-savvy allows you constantly refine and tailor content as you go on.
Dealing with Criticism Online
Communication and PR are never a one-way street. Especially online. People will probably not hold back about telling you what they think. There are several ways to deal with online criticism, but I’ve found following the below social media marketing tips for criticism have the best results.
- Always address the feedback. Use it as an opportunity to further demonstrate good brand values and service.
- If it’s unjustified trolling, you may choose to ignore it. Allow an audience to draw their own conclusions. You may be surprised how often others will jump to your defense. Equally, however, if the criticism is justified, it’s surprising how quickly it can snowball into a much larger problem.
- Don’t hide any comment then ignore it. This ensures that all your good work is undone as you are actively demonstrating that you really don’t care.
- Never be ignorant of what it is being said about you online. If you choose to do promotional work, you are effectively setting up a shop window and inviting customers to look in. It will not look good if the window is covered in the digital equivalent of graffiti and you don’t even know.
These social media marketing tips will help you to spread the word about your business or product. Do you have any advice or social media marketing tips of your own? Join the Prime Women Facebook Group to share your best practices for social media marketing with other Prime Women!