With all of Google’s post-Penguin focus on natural link building and the increasingly high weight given to social performance by the company’s algorithms, it’s clear that social media marketing should be a priority for every business operating online these days.
However, when it comes to social networking, there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about promoting your business. Take a look at the following tips to see what’s working in 2012, and which outdated social media marketing tactics should be avoided at all costs!
On Your Website:
- Run a blog (and update it more than once a month) – The fastest way to beef up your social media marketing campaign is with frequent blog posts that your readers can share across their own social networking profiles.
- Respond to comments on your company’s blog posts – To encourage social sharing, you’ll want to start by building a community atmosphere on your blog. Responding to comments on your posts demonstrates your willingness to engage with your audience.
- Post new blog posts to your social media profiles multiple times – Use tools that automatically add your posts to your social media profiles, but also use tools like Buffer that enable you to post your links multiple times. This is especially important on Twitter, where updates can become buried quickly by the stream.
- Add social sharing buttons to the top and bottom of your blog posts (or use a scrolling option like Digg) – Some readers will share your posts as soon as they land on your pages, while others will want to wait until they’ve read everything before sharing. Accommodate both styles with social sharing tools found in multiple places.
- Maintain a good balance of business, personal and promotional content on your blog – Business blogs shouldn’t be too dry, but they shouldn’t be overly personal either. Use the “5:3:2 Rule” for best results.
- Encourage readers to share your posts on their social networking profiles – Don’t expect that all users will take action to share your posts without your explicit prompting. Ask, and ye shall (maybe) receive!
- Advertise your social media profiles wherever you are online – If you send out an email newsletter, post to industry forums or engage in any other type of activity online, you should be advertising your social media presence whenever possible.
- Use your Google Analytics account to identify possible post topics – To come up with content topics that your readers will want to share, take a look at your top content pieces and top keywords within Google Analytics, and use this information to create future posts.
- Practice creating viral content – Monitor the performance of your blog articles and try to find commonalities between the posts that do best. Use the lessons you’ve extrapolated in future posts to increase your likelihood of going viral.
- Set social media goals and monitor your ROI – Take the time to determine what specific benefits your social media marketing campaigns offer and compare them to your investments to better understand your overall marketing ROI.
On Your Facebook Page:
- Offer free, unique products on your page – People love free stuff, so make something interesting available on your Facebook page and your followers are sure to share your profile with others.
- Set up your Facebook vanity URL – To make your page as easy to remember as possible, set up a custom URL that reflects your business name or tagline.
- Customize every graphic option available on your Timeline profile – Within your page Timeline, you can customize your cover photo, your profile image and the icons associated with all of your page’s apps. Modify each element to create a consistent visual brand on your page.
- Use Featured Events to highlight your company’s milestones – Use full page-width Featured Events to recreate your company’s story and engage readers. Here are seven examples of companies doing this well for your reference.
- Encourage fans to ensure your updates show up in their News Feeds – Recent Facebook changes mean that not all users who have liked your page will see your updates in their News Feeds. Encourage them the take the following actions to make your posts visible.
- Follow up with reader comments – Any time someone posts on your organization’s page Wall, take the time to follow up. Nothing reflects worse on a company than a series of unanswered comments or questions!
- Post engaging question prompts of comments to your timeline – Take advantage of Facebook’s social nature by getting people talking! Asking question prompts like, “If you were stuck on a desert island, what five items would you want to have with you?” is a fun way to engage readers and keep them checking back.
- Create a custom branded Facebook app – If you have the budget, custom branded Facebook apps can add memorability and functionality to an otherwise plain fan page.
- Use apps that allow you to offer special discounts to followers who “Like” your page – If you do decide to go the app route, pay particular attention to programs that allow you to exchange premium content for page “Likes,” as these will help to build social proof.
- Experiment with Facebook Ads for “Likes” – Similarly, if you’re having trouble attracting followers the old-fashioned way, running Facebook Ads for “Likes” can help to quickly boost your subscriber base.
- Monitor your Facebook Insights – Facebook’s Insights program offers tons of valuable engagement statistics, so pay attention to the information displayed in this area and use it to structure your future campaigns.
- Respond professionally to negative feedback – Occasionally, you may encounter complaints on your Facebook page. Handle these instances professionally and appropriately, without letting your emotions get the best of you!
- Create follower groups and segment your status updates – To make sure your status updates are as interesting as possible to your followers, experiment with some of the segmenting features Facebook offers.
- Determine the commercial value of a Facebook “Like” for your business – Having more “Likes” may increase your sales – or it may not. Take the time to determine what impact Facebook promotions have on your bottom line in order to understand how much emphasis this tool should receive in your social media marketing campaigns.
On Your Twitter Page:
- Make sure your username is memorable – Experiment with different variations until you find a memorable username that’s both available and meets Twitter’s character limits.
- Use a headshot instead of your logo for your profile picture – Twitter profile pictures aren’t large when displayed on the site, which means that logo detail can’t usually be seen. Headshots or pictures of faces are much more appealing to site users.
- Customize your Twitter background – With the number of free tools online that can be used to create custom Twitter backgrounds, there’s no excuse not to take this important branding step.
- Split test your bio – Change your bio frequently and track which versions result in the most new subscribers.
- Post controversial content – Twitter makes it easy to share interesting content, which is why controversial opinion pieces often get spread around like wildfire.
- Monitor Tailored Trends within your industry – Instead of monitoring Twitter trends by geographic region, use the social network’s new Tailored Trends tool to monitor topics of interest within your industry.
- Get “best of Twitter” updates in your inbox – Using Twitter’s newest notification features can help you to track trending topics within your industry if you aren’t able to stop by the site frequently.
- Be personal – Twitter users want more personal information than followers on any other social network, so break down the barriers a bit here and share more details about your life on this site (just don’t go too crazy – save your drunken musings for your personal Facebook profile!).
- Follow users that follow your industry’s experts – To find new followers (and, consequently, boost your perceived authority on Twitter), go through the follower lists of experts in your field and follow as many new people as possible. Many will follow you back automatically.
- Use Twitaholic to identify and build relationships with power Twitter users – Creating and leveraging relationships with power users in your industry is a great way to get your own content seen as quickly as possible. Use Twitaholic to find these top performers within your field.
- Try Tweriod to determine when your tweets will be most effective – Using the free Tweriod tool will tell you when your followers are most active (and, therefore, when they’re most likely to see your messages).
- Use Buffer to pre-load your Twitter stream with helpful content – If you can’t be on Twitter all day, the Buffer tool (linked to above) can automatically release pre-loaded messages at certain times in order to build your perceived presence.
- Post inspirational quotes and sayings – No matter how cheesy or repetitive they may be, tweets based on popular or inspirational quotes tend to be shared on Twitter more often than other types of content. Use them sparingly, however!
- Try Triberr to amplify your follower reach – Triberr enables you to team up with a network of friends to automatically share each other’s tweets, making it a great way to increase your online reach and quickly build exposure.
- Use industry hashtags appropriately – Keep an eye out for hashtags that are popular within your industry, but use them carefully. Tying your content to hashtags will increase your exposure, but plenty of businesses have been burned by using these tools inappropriately (see: Kenneth Cole).
- Use Twitpic to share fun images – Finally, Twitter users respond well to images, so take the time to set up a Twitpic account for your Twitter profile and share fun pictures of your everyday life.
On Your Google+ Page:
- Make use of enhanced image and video galleries – Google’s galleries are by far the coolest of the media features found in today’s popular social networking websites, so use them to their full advantage by uploading as many images and videos as possible.
- Add action-oriented hover text to your profile – Use Google’s hover text features to make the “at a glance” details people see when hovering over your name as engaging as possible.
- Use enabled formatting commands throughout your updates and posted content – Google+ supports a few different formatting commands (including bold, italic and strikethroughs), so take advantage of these tools to make your posts and status updates more visually appealing.
- Tie other social networking profiles to Google+ using the “Recommended Links” section – Make sure that your Google+ followers can find you on other networks by linking out to your various social media profiles.
- Post regularly, even if you’re the only one in your industry doing so! – Google+ is slowly building steam, but it’s still pretty quiet in some markets. Even if this is the case in your field, keep up your marketing efforts on this service in order to secure the SEO benefits that come along with popularity on Google+.
- Claim any relevant Google+ properties – Depending on the type of business you run, you may be eligible for both a Google+ Page for business and a Google+ Local page. Claim both if you’re able to in order to expand your social footprint.
- Hosting Google+ Hangouts on Air with Youtube – Videos are ranking incredibly well in the SERPs right now, so bolster your company’s Youtube channel by conducing Google+ hangouts with customers or followers on this popular video service.
- Attend public Google+ Hangouts hosted by industry experts – If others in your industry host open Google+ hangouts, join them in order to build relationships with these power users and expand your own web presence.
- Set up rel=author attributes to claim your blog content – To claim rel=author attributes, you’ll need to link your blog content with your Google+ profile.
- Segment your Circles to provide customized offers – As you add followers to your Google+ Circles, break them down into as many smaller Circles as possible in order to better tailor posts and offers to specific groups of fans.
- “Circle back” users who have added you to their Google+ Circles – When people add your profile to their Circles, it’s common courtesy to “Circle back” and add them to your own following lists. Doing so creates good will amongst your followers and may expand the reach of your brand.
On Your LinkedIn Profile:
- Pay attention to SEO keywords when creating your profile – Doing so will help your profile be more visible to users who search within LinkedIn for people with your specific background.
- Adjust your settings to “Full View” to increase your visibility – Setting your information to be displayed publicly will help your profile appear more frequently in the natural search results.
- Expand your bio section with case studies and information – The more information you can include in your bio, the better (whether you’re trying to attract clients, enhance your perceived reputation or increase your odds of appearing in the natural SERPs).
- Join LinkedIn Groups within your industry – Participating in groups is a good way to “see and be seen,” helping you to build your brand while providing helpful information to others.
- Start a group if you can’t find one that meets your needs – Alternatively, if you the existing Groups in your industry aren’t a good fit, start your own. Just be sure you bring something unique and valuable to the discussion.
- Syndicate your blog to your LinkedIn profile – Plenty of plugins and software add-ons enable you to sync your blog posts to appear automatically on your LinkedIn profile.
- Post press mentions to your profile – If you or your business receives positive press mentions, be sure to link out to them from within your LinkedIn profile.
- Monitor LinkedIn’s Q&A section for opportunities to provide helpful advice – Offering advice isn’t just a good way to give back to your community. It’s a great way to make connections and build your perceived authority as well.
- Use shared connections to expand your network – Periodically browse mutual connections within your LinkedIn profile for opportunities to expand your personal and business networks.
- Attend LinkedIn Events in the real world – Some communities host get-togethers for nearby LinkedIn users. If these Events occur in your area, give them a try in order to deepen your online connections.
- Make connections amongst your LinkedIn contacts – Good karma comes back around, so take the time to introduce members of your network whom you feel could benefit from new contacts.
On Your Pinterest Account:
- Optimize your website content for Pinterest sharing – Plain text blog posts aren’t good candidates for Pinterst sharing, so optimize your presence on this network by including aesthetically pleasing images and graphics inside your website articles.
- Target micro-demographics – Although Pinterest is primarily dominated by young to middle-aged women, look for sub-groups within this demographic to appeal to. As an example, pinning content specifically for work-at-home moms of kids between ages 1-5 could help you to build more meaningful connections than trying to reach all women at once.
- Create instructional pin boards – Help Pinterest followers to get more out of your content by creating pin boards that instruct viewers on how to complete multi-step tasks.
- Build themed pin boards based on industry trends – Pin board topics should be relatively narrow (for example, “retro-styled home appliances” versus “kitchens”), and monitoring industry trends should give you some great ideas to work off of.
- Experiment with alternative pin board styles – Watch your industry for Pinterest users who are creating innovative new pin board styles that provide an exciting alternative to standard boards.
- Use business keywords in your Pinterest pins – Plenty of Pinterest followers use the site’s search bar to find content that interests them, so be sure your pins contain the necessary information to be found in this way.
- Make use of all three Pinterest linking opportunities – Each Pinterest pin gives you three opportunities to link back to your website. For best results, make sure your URL is correct in all of these fields.
- Space out your Pinterest activities – Don’t flood the Pinterest stream. Instead of pinning twenty new pins in one hour, add one new pin every hour for twenty hours.
- Practice regular Pinterest link reclamation – As pins are passed around, the information contained within them may change. For this reason, it’s a good idea to get into the habit of seeking out pins that contain your products or images and asking owners to correct URLs if this occurs.
- Re-pin content responsibly – Before re-pinning other people’s content to your boards, make sure the pins are still functioning correctly. No one likes to click on an interesting pin, only to be taken to a 404 page!
- Follow top pinners in your industry and ask them to follow you back – As with traditional social networking websites, Pinterest has power users as well. Building relationships with these participants can be incredibly useful, as one pin from a Pinterest authority could substantially increase your on-site presence.
- Avoid Pinterest copyright issues – As a business owner, you’ll need to be especially careful of violating copyright ownerships when posting content to Pinterest. Take a look at Mashable’s guidelines for avoiding potential legal claims.
- Be a person, not a business! – Pinterest users are highly skeptical of overly-promotional content. So while it’s fine to be a business using Pinterest, make sure your pinned content reflects your personal sensibilities – not just the latest product you’re trying to pitch!
While implementing all of these guidelines at once may seem daunting, trying out just a few at a time can make a significant difference in your social media marketing efforts. Take advantage of them now in order to maximize the potential this innovative new promotional opportunity can have on your business’s growth!
About the author: Sujan Patel is the co-founder of Single Grain, an SEO Agency based in San Francisco, CA. Single Grain specializes in helping start ups and Fortune 500 companies with their digital marketing strategy. You should follow Sujan on Twitter.