For several years running, Americans have chosen to spend more time  in social media than anywhere else on the Web. Marketers recognize the opportunity; 86% indicate that social media is important for their business. Yet 88% still want to know more about the most effective social tactics and how to engage their social audience.
In fact, only 37% of marketers think their Facebook marketing efforts are effective and almost nine in ten marketers still believe  the top benefit of social media marketing is exposure.
Social media marketing done right reaches far beyond broadcasting messages about your brand and getting exposure. Use these tips to expand your social presence and realize the potential for direct sales, converting prospects, driving relevant traffic to your website and nurturing client relationships.
Supercharge Your Social Media Strategies
Plan to Succeed
Of course you don’t want to fail. But you will if you don’t have a solid social media marketing plan in place.
Gather competitive and market information to determine your audience’s interests and which platforms will be most effective for reaching them. Social media content creation must be informed and thoughtful. Craft content and compile it in an editorial calendar. Google Docs Spreadsheets  are a good starter tool for this.
Get your company social policies down and determine the roles each member of your team will play. Establish the workflow and approval process for posting new content and monitoring interactions. Empower your social team members to respond and engage your social followers.
Tie Social Efforts to Real Business Outcomes
Benchmarking and goal setting are critical to your social success. What do you want to accomplish with your social efforts and how will you know if you’re reaching your goals?
Many social marketers are tracking activity, but few are managing to tie the gathered insights back to real business outcomes.
Recent research  from Altimeter shows that 53% of companies have formulated metrics that show the positive outcomes of social activity on marketing optimization. Less than half have achieved this in measuring the effects on brand health and customer experience and just 24% are effectively demonstrating the effect of social activity on revenue.
Big brands now have social media staff across an average of 13 departments, yet only 52% of companies say their executives are aligned with their social strategy. Benchmarking, goal setting, accurate measurement and a more holistic, cross-enterprise approach to social are all necessary for taking your social strategy to the next level.
Understand Your Cross-Channel Audiences and Tailor Content Accordingly
People typically aren’t looking for the same volume, format or tone in content on Twitter as they are on LinkedIn. You can make certain assumptions like this when you’re just getting started, then use your social analytics data  to fine tune your content strategy.
Cater to the visual nature of Instagram and Pinterest with high quality graphics and photos. Use Twitter to participate in relevant conversations and broadcast short and sweet messages or links to longer form content. LinkedIn and Facebook can be great for sharing in-depth or multimedia content and starting conversations.
Increasingly, social networks offer ways to target various segments of your audience by geography or other parameters, so take advantage of this when you can. You might have some overlap across channels, with customers and prospects choosing to follow your company on more than one platform.
Broadcasting the same information across channels simply doesn’t deliver the unique experience they’re looking for on each network.
Get Comfortable with Social Customer Service
It doesn’t matter whether you intended for your social channels to be used for customer service or not. Social audiences now expect it. In fact, 42% of customers  with a complaint voiced via social media expect a response in 60 minutes or less.
Companies face a number of obstacles and challenges in social media customer service, not the least of which are that you may be dealing with potentially sensitive information or confusing customers with a mix of marketing and customer service messages. Corey Eridon shares some great insight  at HubSpot on combating these problematic situations and more through good planning, solid policy and setting realistic expectations.
Positive and negative mentions alike deserve a prompt response. If you plan on having a serious social presence, assign a first responder to monitor each channel and give them access to a troubleshooting library that addresses common questions and issues. Establish a brand voice and ensure proper training so your messaging is creative, but consistent across all channels and team members.
Finally, never, ever ignore a comment posted to your social channels. Each one is an opportunity to resolve a problem, showcase your customer service skills, build brand advocates and more.
Own Your Mistakes
Everyone goofs on occasion, even the biggest brands . While an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, all is not lost if an employee goes rogue or your social automation software posts a scheduled tweet at an inopportune time.
Take a page from Pamela Vaughan’s book. HubSpot’s lead blog strategist accidentally posted a picture of her baby bump meant for her personal Twitter account to the company account back in December. We’ve seen this happen before with varying levels of impropriety, such as an errant Red Cross tweet about drinking alcohol (getting slizzered, to be exact).
Pamela, like the Red Cross before her, responded with humor and grace that would be hard for a Twitter follower not to forgive. She deleted the tweet after checking to make sure there were no replies to it (in which case she would have responded). She then wrote this apologetic blog post  explaining how the mishap happened and what measures were in place to prevent a repeat.
Everyone was able to have a laugh and move on. This is how you want to handle a social goof.
Social listening is a science. The greater your audience and the volume of conversation around the brand, the more difficult it can be to find the nuggets of insight in the noise.
Listening at any level of scale requires social monitoring software. Ideally, your social listening will integrate seamlessly with your customer database, allowing you to reap the most personalized and valuable insights from online interactions.
Setting up alerts on specific keywords brings peace of mind, allowing you to respond to select issues immediately. Listening also points to opportunities for your company to insert itself in relevant conversations, engaging influencers and establishing thought leadership.
The data gathered by your social listening software also informs your social media marketing strategy going forward. If you haven’t found the right social listening software , get on it. This is a must-have for companies serious about social.
Get Up to Speed in Search & Google Authorship
Recent Google changes mean companies need to understand how team members, brand advocates and influencers all creating and amplifying content can impact search visibility.
Even if you’ve been less than impressed with the size of your potential audience on Google+, it’s worth incorporating into your social strategy. Not only has it become increasingly important for local marketers , each profile on Google’s social network acts as a publisher’s identity when Google is ranking content in search.
Google Authorship helps Google understand who is behind a piece of content and what influence they have in their industry or topic area. Connecting your blog and other content to your Google+ profile allows Google Search  to consider your entire body of content, the popularity and authority of the site it’s published on, social relationships and more.
This is a fantastic opportunity for marketers investing in authority building and social media to positively influence the search visibility of branded content.
The last few years have been a whirlwind of new social tools, features and the explosion of niche networks like Snapchat and Pinterest. At first, it was about reaching out to our target market, getting in front of an audience and trying to decipher some type of business intelligence from those interactions.
Understanding that data is becoming simpler, thanks to evolving social analytics tools. Acting on it is becoming less cumbersome, with cross-enterprise strategies and a trend towards social as an integrated part of the overall marketing strategy.
Social media marketing is growing up and marketers are growing with it. As social continues to mature, we find ourselves ever more able to tie real business outcomes to a single tweet, or Facebook conversation.
If you’re not quite there yet, don’t delay – your competitors are implementing some of these tips already. As it becomes more reliable and measurable, social is sure to become more competitive, as well.
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