In this latest in our series of the best tips from Inbound.org’s AMAs (Ask Me Anythings), we've rounded up the top social media marketing wisdom shared by expert marketers.
Justin Isaf, Dharmesh Shah, Paul May, Oli Gardner and many others have given us all a chance to pick their brains in the Q&A-style threads on Inbound. Here, you'll find the top social media marketing tips from the AMAs, organized by:
- Content promotion via social media
- Social media marketing tools and tactics
- Social media measurement & ROI
- The business of social media marketing
Be sure to check out our first two posts in this series, 21 Content Marketing Tips from the Best Inbound.org AMAs and Best of the Inbound.org AMAs: SEO Edition.
Image via New Old Stock Photos
Promoting Content via Social Media
On creating content people will share:
Beyond your day to day content, you've got to do something "big" to get attention. I call these content events. As I mentioned above, during the first three months of Copyblogger, I tried three of these, and finally succeeded with a free report on gaining traffic with content (a hot topic at the time and always). But I also reached out to every popular blogger around to get the word out. Remember, at the time I was completely unknown. At first, producing great content is not enough. You've got to hustle to get it seen. But, at a certain point you'll have enough of an audience (what I call a minimum viable audience) and they will begin spreading the word for you via social media, links, and other forms of sharing like email forwarding. That's when all your hard work starts to really pay off.
- Brian Clark, CEO of Copyblogger Media
On the basics of content promotion:
If you're an impressive brand, why aren't you well known? If you have a really awesome product or service and a great business model but no one knows about it, you really need to start back at PR 101 and get the word out. If you're putting out good content that resonates with your targets AND you have a killer business, the only reason I can imagine that you wouldn't be known is that you aren't promoting your content. You're not taking advantage of social relationships, you're not asking for reviews, you're not optimizing your content, you're not inspiring media coverage. Start there.
- Larry Kim, founder and CTO of WordStream
On promoting a new piece of content:
For Twitter: I Tweet the article right away and then Buffer it another 2-3 times for the coming days. Here I often use different titles to see if I might be able to come up with a headline that spreads more.
For Facebook: I always add it to our Buffer as an image. (I've learnt this technique from SEOmoz's Jennita). This way it spreads a lot further. Also, it gives me an opportunity to share the same article multiple times to FB each time with a different image and different focus.
For G+: I almost always post it straight after we publish, I've not seen any "optimal timing" differences yet for G+.
For LinkedIn: I add it to the Buffer at the same time as I post it the first time to Twitter. I tend to only do it once.
Hacker News + Reddit + Inbound: I rarely submit articles myself, but I keep an eye on these sites, in case someone else does and I will give it an upvote.
- Leo Widrich, co-founder of Buffer
On differentiating content for various social channels:
At a minimum, we differentiate by audience. We know the Twitter audience (until recently) wouldn't expect a video or photo embedded in their news stream, and that Facebook audiences respond far better to photos. On Reddit we might be far more detailed.
- Ian Lurie, CEO at Portent
Social Media Marketing Tools & Tactics
Image via SALTOnline
On online community building for a brand new website/business:
Go to followerwonk and look at the word cloud of the all the followers of the biggest player in your space and then use those keywords to build co-relevant content ideas. Push the content at their followers through outreach and ads. Build the site so that it rewards profile creation, newsletter signups and follows. Keep the conversation going through the relevant social channels and continue to push out shareworthy content. Your community will grow.
- Mike King, Digital Marketing Consultant
On the ethics of using sharewalls to boost social shares:
If you're giving something of value I don't think you can really go wrong. Yes you get some tweet and delete, but that's okay. The end result will still be that if the content delivers value, you will get further referrals down the road (either social or other word of mouth). If you offer both options (email and tweet) then you're not forcing it and I don't think there's room to complain about that practice. Here's an example page so people can see what we're talking about. Note the two payment options, and also the preview (in the form of a slide deck) which can lift conversions.
- Oli Gardner, co-founder and creative director at Unbounce
On social media strategy for start-ups:
If I had it to do over again, I'd focus almost all of my early efforts on social engagement and incorporating early customers into the development of the product. Provide amazing customer service. Not only does it turn customers into advocates, it drives you to build better products and it invigorates you. Your odds of loving what you're doing go way up if you happen to love the people you're building your products for. Sounds a bit trite, but it's absolutely true.
- Paul May, co-founder and CEO of BuzzStream
On competitive analysis for social media marketing:
As far as reporting goes, this may sound a bit morbid, but I really take a bit of a sharp shooter approach to competitive analysis. For example, I had a client who provided [ridiculously delicious] fine chocolates. But they were having a hard time competing against the likes of Ghiradelli and Godiva. But when I pulled a host of social media metrics from their top five competitors, we found all kinds of kinks in their competitors' armors. So, although they couldn't compete with them on Facebook, they had HUGE opportunities with YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram. Their competitors were asleep at the wheel with these networks.
- Annie Cushing, Annielytics
On the future of the social graph:
Social graph is used a little, but it can do much, much more. I think we've seen that with Google+ and a little w/ Facebook graph search (too early to really say there). The social proof element of social graph + search is the most powerful, IMO. I don't totally subscribe to the idea that people only want to see what their friends recommend when they do websearch, but I do believe they may be swayed by knowing that their friends liked/shared something that showed up in the SERPs.
- Rand Fishkin, Moz founder
Social Media Measurement & ROI
On goal setting and benchmarking:
At WordStream, we define awesome content as content that has generated 5000+ visits in the first month, has an average time on site of 10+ minutes, has generated over 250 shares on social media, has gotten over 10 comments, and has been cited by at least one other major publication. The goal of the content team is to hit 1 article per week that meets these “awesome” criteria every month, and we periodically revise upwards the definition of awesome content. The types of content that generate these kinds of outcomes for us are described here.
- Larry Kim, founder and CTO of WordStream
On measuring engagement from social traffic:
The longer we can keep people engaged, the more likely it is they will discover a talk or an idea that resonates with them and sparks their curiosity. We also look at bounce rates and compare that to how people arrive on the site. The assumption is that if a user clicks through FB or Twitter or some social media channel, that their interest in the topic is already piqued (and the content probably validated by a friend or other respected source) and they are more likely to watch the full talk. If they are just wandering through the site the abandonment rate is a bit higher. One other things we are eager to measure is when people share talks. Most of our talks are pretty long (up to 18 minutes). That is a long time to keep people engaged online for any type of content. So we're interested in when people share the talk (within the first minute? at the end?).
- Aaron Weyenberg, UX Lead at TED
On measuring an audience's "listening":
It's hard to measure true listening. The best we can do is measure the degree to which people are acting based on their listening, and extrapolate that they're listening based on that action. For example, let's say a company is "listening" on Twitter for support issues related to their product. We can't really tell how well they're listening. What we do instead is measure how well they're responding. The assumption here is that if they're responding quickly and well, chances are, they're listening. And, there are a variety of "listening" tools out there. Things like Radian6 (now part of Salesforce.com) come to mind.
- Dharmesh Shah, founder & CTO of HubSpot
On "dark social" traffic misattributed to direct:
You can 100% control if your social actions will end up in the dark bucket (especially traffic from mobile and desktop apps). Be brave, use campaign tracking parameters on 100% of your own social shares. See what I do in a comment somewhere in this AMA (search for UTM). You can't control what others do when they link to you. Your browser-based traffic (mobile or desktop) will have a referrer so you are all set. No darkness. The app-based traffic will be dark. But not for Twitter. Twitter you see is a very smart company. It wraps 100% of its links in t.co. So no matter what people use (apps or browsers) it is never "dark." If you don't add tracking parameters, it is sitting in referrals under t.co. So our problem is mobile and desktop app traffic only for Facebook etc. where other people link to you but don't use campaign tracking.
- Avinash Kaushik, Google Evangelist
The Business of Social Media Marketing
On future career opportunities in social media marketing:
There are a few "buckets" of use cases that I think will create new career opportunities:
- Community engagement/management
- Support (related to the above)
One of the challenges with career opportunities in social is that it's such a new discipline and the bar is so low that there are too many would-be social media consultants/gurus out there. Hard for people to separate the stars from the chumps.
So, instead of focusing on social, what I'd do is look at opportunities that cut across social into other areas:
- Analytics. Measuring what matters and figuring how best to apply resources.
- Content Creation. There's still a massive opportunity to create great content. Anyone that can do that really, really well will have great career opportunities.
- Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). Taking the traffic that is already coming into a website and figuring out how to make the most of it.
- Dharmesh Shah, founder & CTO at HubSpot
On social networking vs. community building:
A community is a web of people, a network is a hub-and-spoke. Communities revolve around interests and passions (think forums like this) and networks revolve around individuals and personalities (think Twitter followers). Both are needed for good community building and ongoing engagement. Networks bring new people in while communities keep people there.
- Justin Isaf, Community Manager formerly at Change.org and Huffington Post