Social media is everywhere. Almost exhaustively, so. It seems everything has a hashtag and everything is shareable. But even if you feel resistance toward social marketing, it’s here to stay, which means now’s the time to get your act together.
There are tons of social “gurus” out there. All of them have opinions and all of them likely to chat about how their techniques are the best.
And that got me thinking: when you boil it all down to the basics, what really works the best?
What social media marketing strategies are really the most effective?
Today, I aim to show you precisely what the real social marketing gurus are doing (the ones that walk the walk, not the hype masters with no substance) and how you can use their tested tactics to extend the reach of your blog.
From sharing your latest blog posts to curating content to analyzing your audience, I’ll cover it all right here.
But first, let’s learn by example.
Case Study #1: RebekahRadice.com
Social media marketing extraordinaire, Rebekah Radice is a digital marketing and social media strategist who has worked with many companies and individuals. But when she’s not consulting, training, or speaking, she’s maintaining her excellent blog. Not only does it have a consistent brand, her content is actually useful and good.
Her site is built on the Genesis Framework and she uses a combination of a couple of plugins to encourage visitors to share her latest posts. For instance, she uses the Social Warfare plugin to add stylish and super fast-loading sharing buttons to her site. They not only look nice but also function really well and allow for total control over how her content is shared by other people.
But in terms of how she shares her own blog posts, she shares them to her social network following when they’re published.
But she doesn’t just blanket promote them across all networks. Rather, she provides custom information and images for each.
On Facebook, Radice includes a compelling sentence or two with the link to her new post, along with a custom image made specifically for the blog post and for Facebook.
And while she hasn’t yet shared this post on Pinterest, previous blog posts show that she creates another custom image for this social network that maintains the same branding (orange color scheme) with the addition of a vibrant cartoon character.
Case Study #2: Ann Handley
Ann Handley really has this content marketing thing down. She’s a best-selling author, chief content officer at MarketingProfs, and has a significant social media following.
On her personal site, AnnHandley.com , she offers up advice on all topics related to content production, with an emphasis on creating quality content.
On Twitter , she promotes new posts as they’re published and several times thereafter, always including a compelling image to further encourage a click.
While some marketers use Instagram to directly brand their sites, others like Handley take a subtler approach .
Rather than posting quotes from her books all the time and watermarking every image with her website’s logo, she instead just posts photos from her life.
She lets her personality shine through, which is really effective for brand building, especially when your business brand is made up of you!
Case Study #3: Feld Thoughts
Let’s move out of the social media sphere for a moment and take a look at something completely different.
Feld Thoughts is the personal blog of Brad Feld, a managing director of Foundry Group and venture capitalist.
The site is very simple. In it, Feld shares his latest musings on business and life, often rather insightfully. His social media strategy is bare-bones but effective.
Beyond that, however, Feld doesn’t promote his blog posts all that much. Instead, he engages with real people in discussion. And it’s working. @bfeld currently has over 217k followers on Twitter, so he must be doing something right.
Case Study #4: Thrifty Nifty Mommy
The Thrifty Nifty Mommy site is built on a custom child theme for the Genesis Framework and is a comprehensive review site for everything having to do with babies, kids, and parenthood. Oh, and there are plenty of giveaways, too.
With 35k Twitter followers, 70k Facebook likes, and 17.6k Pinterest followers, site owner Janessa has a handle on social media, especially integrating it with WordPress. She appears to use Publicize to initially promote her posts but also has Simple Social Icons by StudioPress installed for better social sharing and connecting.
The Future of Social and What’s Trending
It seems like there’s a new report or study being released about social media marketing every month. And while that might seem ridiculous on the surface, it actually makes sense.
Social marketing is dynamic. It’s constantly in flux as more people use it and adopt it for different purposes. So new studies and new reports can show us where we’re at on the social landscape and how businesses and individuals with websites can adjust their strategies.
As of September 2015, I can say with confidence that several emphases and techniques have risen in prominence on the social front. A few others have recently fallen by the wayside.
Here’s a look at current trends.
Video is Dominating
And not just in the ways you’d think. According to Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends report, online consumption of videos is steadily on the rise. In fact, 64% of global Internet traffic is for videos, which means if your social strategy doesn’t at least in part include video, you’re missing out. Plus, when you factor in the fact that 53% of Facebook video views are from shares, you’ve got serious potential to make an impact with video.
Whether that’s creating your own videos or acting as a curator of other people’s content a la Upworthy , there’s really only one lesson to learn here: if you’re not already doing video, now’s the time to start.
It’s All About Mobile
Social media is naturally adapted to mobile. Many of the networks out there are designed for on-the-go updates, like Instagram and Vine. And all the social networks have apps accompanying their desktop versions.
Now that mobile use is on the rise (and Google is knocking back sites that aren’t optimized for mobile) it’s now or never in terms of adopting a mobile strategy that works with/on mobile devices.
The numbers don’t lie. In fact, according to the 2015 U.S. Digital Future in Focus study conducted by comScore back in March 2015, the number of people accessing social sites via mobile devices has quadrupled since 2011. That means you need to make sure your images are uploaded at the optimal sizes for use on each social site. That your updates reflect a wide range of experiences (not just while you’re hunkered over your laptop). And that your calls-to-action and social sales efforts are simple and don’t require multiple taps to navigate through.
The Rise of Social Sales
According to a study conducted by Internet Retailer and cited by Social Media Examiner , more and more online merchants are using social media and seeing it pay off in the form of increased sales. In fact, sales that could be directly linked to social referral were at $3.3 billion in 2014, an increase of 26% over 2013’s $2.62 billion. The takeaway? If your company isn’t fully engaged on social media yet, what are you waiting for? The proof is in the numbers. Social engagement = sales. Period.
You Might Want to Focus on The FIT
That’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I just came up with that right now. Don’t like it? Fine! I won’t use it anymore, I promise. Anyway, I digress…
Looking back at Meeker’s report, The most used social apps are Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. While some people, depending on the niche of their site, might benefit more from focusing on a site like Pinterest, on the whole, these three networks are where most of your time and energy should be spent.
Embrace the Livestream
A lot of social media can be scheduled in advance. For instance, promoting your blog posts is probably something you’d want to schedule in advance. Even most videos are pre-recorded.
However, this year has witnessed the rise of the livestream.
You don’t even necessarily need to appear on camera, but spending some realtime with your followers is a great way to create engagement, build your brand, and expand your reach.
Top Social Media Tools
I did a little digging and found that many social experts use the following tools to promote their blog posts and engage with their followers:
A personal favorite tool is Buffer. What started as a simple app for curating content has turned into a full-fledged social marketing platform. It integrates with numerous social networks and can be used for curating and scheduling posts in advance with images and without, 24/7. The company even recently launched a companion app called Pablo that makes it easy to create social images on the fly.
It’s a winning combination that’s bound to save you a lot of time when sharing your blog posts on social media and when curating other people’s content. Buffer offers several plans to accommodate the needs of a wide range of businesses. The Awesome Plan is for those with a few social accounts while Buffer for Business is aimed more toward agencies who need to manage social profiles for numerous clients.
With IFTTT, which is short for “if this then that,” you can create hundreds of “recipes” that allow you to connect specific actions to apps or products under certain circumstances. For instance, if you post a photo to Instagram, then Pin it to a specific board on Pinterest. Or, if you publish a blog post, share it on social networks X, Y, and Z.
It’s easy to setup and use, and once you create your recipes, they’ll just run in the background and you no longer have to worry about them. A nifty time saver, this one.
Sprout Social is a social media management suite of tools that allows you to manage all of your social profiles, analyze conversations, and assess your target market to ensure you’re best marketing directly to them. It can also be used as a customer service tool and is an all-around great way to publish content.
It’s currently used by several top brands. Sprout Social is available in several plans starting at $59 per month.
Now here’s a social marketing tool that I wish I would’ve thought of! snip.ly allows you to add a call-to-action to any link you share on social media. So, let’s say you share your blog posts regularly. People click those links and are taken to your site where they may or may not convert. But a major part of any social strategy is sharing other people’s links and content, too. And when you curate, you’re taking people away from your brand. It’s important for building a good rep but it’s not going to directly help you make sales.
But with snip.ly in hand, you can ensure a small CTA is displayed on any link you want, even links to other people’s content. It’s a small popup box that appears at the bottom of the linked page and you can direct people back to your site and to your call-to-action. It’s basically a way to maintain your branding even while the user is experiencing someone else’s content. It’s the ultimate, “This webpage was brought to you by…”
Pinterest is sort of a unique animal when it comes to social marketing, so it makes sense you might need a dedicated tool for handling your content there. This app allows you to schedule pins, monitor trends, and measure your success all from within a single convenient dashboard. The Pin scheduler is by far the best part of this tool, since it allows for bulk uploading, drag-and-drop scheduling, and audience engagement analysis for perfecting your publishing times.
Pricing for Tailwind starts at $9.99 per month for blogs and small businesses and goes up to $799 per month for agencies.
Top Plugins for Social Marketing Integration
Here’s a handy tool and plugin that makes it easy to capture visitor data on your website to use however you see fit. Leadin can be attached to any form on your site so that the information captured there is uploaded to the cloud for later analysis. You can add subscribers to a mailing list, use the auto configured data to connect with prospects on social media, and so much more.
The plugin is free and is easily integrated with the popular email marketing platforms like MailChimp and AWeber.
Here’s a super simple plugin that integrates the ability to share and schedule your blog posts with Buffer into WordPress. With just a click, your latest posts will be sent to buffer for scheduling across all of your social networks. You can configure this plugin to share your posts whenever new ones are published and even when pages or posts are updated.
It’s always a good idea to make sharing your content as easy as possible for your site visitors. That’s why a sharebar that scrolls with the user is helpful. It puts your share icons always within sight and gives visitors plenty of options for how to share. It covers all your basics like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn, and you can add custom buttons, too. You can also customize the look and feel of this shareware as you see fit.
Though no longer in active development, I just had to include Flare here because it’s such a great way to display social share buttons and give your visitors an impression of how many other people have enjoyed your content. The share buttons can appear anywhere you’d like on your site and within posts and can display how many times a post has been shared for social proof.
New development has turned this plugin into Flare Lite, which is a hosted app that works on any CMS.
If you’ve been looking for a way to get more mileage out of your old blog posts, search no more. The Revive Old Post plugin allows you to drive traffic to your older blog posts and content on a regular basis, without having to manually schedule everything yourself. All you need to do is pick a frequency for sharing posts and how many posts you want to share each day and you’re done. The plugin takes care of the rest.
A Pro version is available that allows you to add images to your tweets, which is invaluable for increasing social shares.
While several social networks automatically add images to your posts when you share them (to Facebook, for instance) sometimes it’s better to have more control over what images are shared and when. That’s where the Pinterest “Pin It” Button plugin comes into play. This plugin automatically turns the images on your blog into images that can be directly shared on Pinterest. The Pro version adds a “Pin It” button to each of them.
This is really helpful for building your Pinterest reach with the addition of just one simple button.
The Inline Tweet Sharer plugin makes it easy to make selections of text on your site that visitors can then tweet with the click of a button. So instead of sharing just the title of your post with a link, visitors can share a quote and a link. It can be a much more effective way to increase interest in your content. And best of all, the plugin is free.
Image credits: Hans-B. Sickler