Attracting new customers is the first step of a successful inbound marketing plan. After all, it’s a one-word statement of your entire company’s end goal: attraction. When your marketing efforts are consistently drawing in a stream of fresh customers, everything else begins to fall into place: sales, profitability, long-term loyalty.
Inbound marketing approaches this challenge from a “pull” point of view rather than a traditional “push” point of view – meaning it woos people willingly rather than trying to pester them into buying. At every stage in a customer’s journey, inbound marketing works to inform, educate, help, and stay relevant to their lives.
Starting with Social
In the inbound methodology, which is a 4-stage process to attract – convert – close – delight, social media sits right at the beginning with attraction. Social media has huge potential to attract new audience, from mass-appeal platforms like Facebook to sites like Care2, which is considered “niche” but still has 45 million followers who are interested in green living and social progress.
Each new social media connection you make is a potential paying customer— and even more importantly, they could become a lifetime fan who spreads the word about your business to a wider audience. When investing in social media the yardstick for success should measure beyond dollars— beyond subscriptions, sales, and profitability. It’s about reach: spreading the conversation about your brand.
Social media has become a go-to marketing approach for businesses big and small because it works. Inbound marketers should take note of these compelling statistics about social media use and effectiveness.
- 72% of adults on the internet regularly use Facebook, 31% use Pinterest, and 28% use Instagram. When you look at young adults, these statistics are even stronger – especially on Instagram, where 52% of users are under age 25.
- One-third of the entire world uses social media regularly, meaning at least a few times a week. This figure is expected to increase significantly over the next 2 years, as even more people gain internet access in developing nations.
- More than half of marketers who use a social media strategy for more than 2 years say it helps them improve sales. 90% say social media has increased exposure for their business.
Social media’s popularity is based in human behavior. People enjoy seeing human faces and forging authentic connections. In a world that can feel chaotic and overwhelming, social media boils everything down to just a few words, emoji, or pictures that give people a sense of being in control.
Using social media is also physically rewarding – in fact, scientists say it gives people a burst of soothing body chemicals like dopamine. Seeing something attractive on social media feeds the reward centers in the brain, encouraging people to come back to social media again and again.
Even your offline behaviors can be affected by social media use. One study of a health-focused app found that after using its social functions with friends and family, people exhibited the following behaviors for hours or days afterward:
- Increased their walking pace by 7%
- Took 400 more steps per day
- Rated themselves as feeling happier
- Looked forward to using the app’s social media functions again
Although the concept of social media as a psychological reward is somewhat controversial, it’s intriguing for marketers. It means that the right social media posts serve an emotional and physiological purpose in people’s lives. Handle social media well and your business can benefit greatly.
From Easy to Effective
Of course, the big question in using social media for inbound marketing is: How? It’s easy to access the internet and make social media posts, but: How do you do it correctly and effectively? How do you make sure your efforts are time well spent?
The absolute first step must be to assign your social posting to someone who knows what they’re doing. While the basics of social media are familiar to most people at this point, success or failure is found in the details.
Too often, companies hire someone to do social media simply because of an assumption that they’re social savvy – maybe because they’re young or a recent college grad. But it’s more important to hire with questions like these in mind:
- What qualifications do they have to be part of a social media team?
- Do they have the writing and communication skills it takes to handle your social posting in a consistent, professional way?
- Do they understand the bigger picture of your business and PR needs?
If not, brace yourself for blowback. One of 2017’s biggest social media fails was from Adidas after the Boston Marathon. A member of the company’s social media staff thoughtlessly tweeted, “Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon!” The wording was painful for survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing a few years ago. Adidas quickly took down the tweet and apologized, but many marathon fans felt deeply offended.
To avoid faux pas like these, your social posters need a proven background in social strategy and navigating new leads through social posting. They should also speak the language of market research and understand how to use tools like Google Analytics.
Make it Meaningful
It’s also crucial that your social posts are engaging, relevant, and meaningful for your target audience. Listen to your customers, address what interests them, and post about what’s helpful to their lives. Don’t focus on the messages your company wants to get across; focus on what your audience needs.
For example, an Instagram post of a stock photo of your product is going to come across as stuffy and formal. They look fake. Your fans would prefer to see a real, un-posed photo of customers enjoying your product. That’s something they can trust, which makes it more meaningful.
If you’re getting stuck on figuring out what’s meaningful to your audience, here are a few quick tips:
- Simply ask your audience about what they need from you. Use surveys, in-store discussions, or ask for suggestions in your social post comments.
- Check trending topics using online tools like Buzzsumo, Feedly, and Hubspot Topic Generator.
- See what Google Trends says about today’s most popular conversations. Use the tool’s search box to zone in on your specific audience.
- Engage the help of an inbound marketing consultant for expert help with strategy, research, and analyzing your social plan.
When in Doubt, Stay Short and Sweet
Lots of companies make the mistake of over-communicating through social media with long, boring posts. Their own enthusiasm for their brand prevents them from acting like regular people. And regular people prefer brief, everyday language.
Consider which of these Facebook posts is easier to absorb:
Today we are absolutely thrilled to introduce the newest addition to our line of organic lip balms with Lip Organics, a product geared especially for people with sensitive skin. Have you tried using it yet? If so, let us know what you think about it in the comments below.
Sensitive lips? We get it. See how Lip Organics soothed 100 lips in this video.
Option 2 is shorter, easier to read, and uses less complicated language. It sounds more fun and less salesy. It also hints at an interesting video. In just 15 words, it’s much more effective than option 1.
Seek Out Remarkable Topics
In case you haven’t noticed, the internet and social media have been around for a while. Today’s 18-year-old has always lived in a world with social media, and today’s 30-year-old can barely remember a world without smartphones. Your audience likely feels a bit jaded and skeptical about information shared on the internet. They’ve seen it all their lives.
That’s why it’s so critical to ensure your social strategy includes remarkable content – content that’s not just interesting, but provides an “Aha!” moment your audience won’t find anywhere else. Remember, your long-term social media goal is to reach Stage 4 of inbound marketing: delight.
When your social posts are remarkable, they have characteristics like:
- True individuality. No two are alike, ever.
- Helpfulness. They sound like a friend who always has your back.
- Authenticity. They focus on the topic, not your brand.
- Immediacy. They’re up-to-the-moment fresh, making people want to act immediately.
- Easy shareability. If someone wants to share with 1 friend or all their followers, you’ve made it easy to do.
- Viral oomph. Something about it is buzzy and shareworthy.
Connect it to Content
Don’t let your social posts languish in boring black-and-white. Always connect to your overall message with a link, video, or photo that creates something interesting to experience. This is called customer engagement and is proven to increase post viewership and make people feel more connected to your brand.
Walkers, a British snack food company, engages customers by showing photos of happy snack eaters and offering fans a way to win free snacks. In a typical social post, they highlight someone who uses their product and link to a contest.
Nice work, @REGYATES. Now your turn! Snap & Share with #WalkersUnited for a chance to win @ChampionshipLeague prizes every day.
The post above will catch the eyes of anyone who like celebrity Reggie Yates, the Walkers United campaign, and the football Championship League. It’s on-brand, but in a way that provides something helpful – a daily possibility of free snacks.
The same concept can be applied to almost any social media post. Link to a video review, educational blog post, ebook, infographic, or any other meaningful content.
Cross-Post Without Duplicating
Another cornerstone of social media strategy is cross-posting, or sharing the message across social media platforms. To do it correctly, memorize this mantra: coordinated but NOT duplicated.
When you duplicate the exact same message on, say, Facebook and Twitter, it’s a dead giveaway of an amateur operation. Your biggest fans tend to follow you across platforms. They’ll recognize the identical language and it will scream FAKE!
Instead, phrase things differently for different social channels. Make sure you also follow the language/posting standards of the individual platform, like using hashtags for Twitter and native videos for Facebook Stories/News Feed.
When cross-posting is done correctly, all of your messages will have the same overall identity, but without duplication. For your fans, the entire experience comes across as smooth and genuine.
Embrace the Fun
Marketers sometimes forget one final, and very important, point about social media: It’s fun. Unlike classic advertising methods— TV ads, radio spots, and billboards— inbound marketing supports a fun-first approach. People are already having fun with social sharing and your message joins the fun rather than interrupting it.
The Discovery Channel, which generally has a rather straight-laced image, made an effort to lighten up and have fun on social media. When the Pittsburgh Penguins said the average height of one of their players was 6’1”, @Discovery jumped in with a joke about not seeing any current penguin activity in Pittsburgh. Suddenly, the two companies were in a funny back-and-forth conversation that amused sports fans and nature fans alike.
Starting to feel more confident about your company’s ability to attract new fans through the power of social media? Ok, you’re ready to move to the next stage in your inbound marketing strategy: converting interest into leads.