As an Inbound Marketing Consultant at HubSpot, it's my job to help marketer's learn to be on the cutting edge of the latest tactics and technologies to help drive qualified traffic, turn that traffic into leads, and empower their sales teams to close business. I consistently field questions from customers wondering what they should be doing on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other popular social networks because they see HubSpot hyper-engaged in social media and because social media marketing gets so much pundit and media coverage as part of the growing trend of Inbound Marketing.
Most marketers that I speak with are shocked by my answer - after all, I invest a great deal of time and effort into optimizing and leveraging my social presence. However, the answer that most marketers don't want to here - and aren't prepared to here - is that they're not ready for social media.
Rightfully so, social media has garnered a great deal of attention from the greatest minds in marketing for the last several years. Social media is an effective method of driving traffic to your website as well as a great way to improve the life-time value of your customer base through ongoing engagement. Also, social sharing is becoming an increasingly important part of search engine optimization as it becomes a more and more heavily weighted factor of your website by search engines.
However, most marketers don't have a concept of a real social media marketing strategy nor do they understand what metrics they can use to measure their success. Most marketers obsess over worthless vanity metrics like their number of followers on Twitter and spend their time simply broadcasting and self-promoting. Without an effective strategy and metrics that actually matter, most marketers are simply wasting their time spending time on their Twitter accounts.
The reason is that there's a critical element missing from most marketer's portfolio's without which social media marketing won't be effective: Content.
Most marketers have a key deficiency in content creation which impairs their ability to be successful in social media marketing. Let's review some of the key advantages of social media marketing to understand how integral content creation is:
One of the primary metrics that smart marketers use to measure their effectiveness in social media is their simple ability to drive clicks and traffic. In order to drive traffic through social media, you need to acquire an active, enthusiast audience and keep them engaged. There's simply nothing engaging about most of the regular content on a website. Your "About Us" page, "Contact Us" page, and even your product detail pages simply aren't interesting or engaging. If all you do is simply broadcast promotional and transactional offers in social media, you'll fail to gain any significant audience because there will be no reason that anyone would want to receive your messaging on an ongoing basis. Also, any audience that you do gain will churn away at a high rate as they eventually become annoyed with unengaging social media promotion.
For example, on Twitter I operate on a rule of thirds: I spend a third of my time self promoting (that is, tweeting HubSpot lead generation offers), a third of my time promoting content that's not mine (such as the wonderful articles by Inbound Marketing Agents), and a third of my time sending engagement tweets (asking questions, answering questions, and tweeting general ideas and thought leadership content without links). The interesting phenomenon was that as I became less "pitchy" and self-promotional, the number of absolute clicks to my lead generation offers increased, my follower growth increased, and the general engagement of my audience led to a significantly enhanced velocity of social amplification of my content. Without engaging content (blog articles, mostly), there's no way I'd have seen any real valued that justified an ongoing and significant investment in Twitter.
Social Sharing for SEO
There's now very little doubt that the number of social shares a piece of content or a website domain receives impacts its search engine optimization and the correlating increase in search engine rankings and amount of organic traffic. Search engines assume that if you have a website about Inbound Marketing just like this one, but this website has hundreds of people who have tweeted and retweeted the article, that this website is more interesting and authoritative than yours and they will rank you in search engines accordingly (along, of course, with their myriad of other factors and considerations that go into calculating search engine rankings). That's part of why it's so important that you not just read, but click here to tweet this article!
If this website was comprised entirely of service detail pages, you'd probably not see any reason to share it into social media. The only really plausible and practical way to be consistently creating quality content that's engaging enough to incentivize visitors to share it into their social networks is to create educational, problem oriented blog content. After all, when you consider the inherent psychology behind social sharing, most people share content into their social network because they think that the members of their social network will find the content interesting or useful. Neither "interesting" nor "useful" describes most of the standard pages on a commercial website.
One of the greatest business benefits of participating in social mead is the ability to increase the life time value of your customer base by keeping them engaged with your brand outside of the normal research and purchase process. By sharing interesting, compelling, and useful content into social media, you can keep past and future customers engaged with your brand and keep yourself top of mind while simultaneously exposing your social audience to the calls-to-action on your website that surround your blog content (if you look at the bottom of this article, for example, there should be some kind of interesting and compelling offer that you should download).
Without consistently creating compelling content, you're going to find it extremely difficult to keep your audience engaged in social media. If all you do is ask "How is everyone doing today?" and then tweet promotional posts, your audience will rapidly become disengaged - or even churn - from the ad nauseam.
The ability to identify potential sales prospects in social media was one of the earliest predicted values of social media. However, this value has been significantly diminished by the asinine and abusive tactics that most companies used in the early days of social media - and many continue to use today. Quite simply, no consumers find it a valuable marketing interaction if they tweet "I have a headache" and you instantly tweet them back "I sell Tylenol! Click on this shortened link that probably leads to a virus:"
Instead, if you have a catalog of engaging, problem-oriented content through effective blogging you can respond to people expressing sentiments which indicate a potential sales opportunity with free content that they find useful. Once you've helped them without asking anything in return, they're significantly more likely to engage with your website and - especially if you're in a consumer enthusiast of professional vertical like inbound marketing - even connect with and engage with you in social media.
The Moral Of The Story...
Unless you're creating frequent, interesting, engaging, and useful blog content - then stop pretending that you're adding enterprise value to your marketing organization by engaging in social media. All you're doing is wasting time and causing your sales and management executives to become disenfranchised with what could be a valuable tool in your marketing mix if properly leveraged.
GO WRITE A BLOG ARTICLE. RIGHT NOW.
Sam Mallikarjunan is the Director of Experiments Marketing at HubSpot.com, an All-in-one marketing platform and the market leader in all things Inbound Marketing. You can message him on Twitter by Clicking Here.
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