- There are a great many social media platforms in existence, and each of these platforms—as well as the community within it—has its own metagame.
- When choosing the platforms that are right for your business, remember that each social media site has its own signature appeal and unique engagement methods.
- With proper preparation, you can prepare multiple weeks' worth of content in a single day and feed it to your followers over time.
By Karen Kimerer
Social media is all around us, and it’s become a major component of our personal and professional lives. Social media has proven itself to be an effective tool for brand marketing, and an online presence is now critical for businesses of all shapes and sizes. A social media presence can enable brands to reach and engage with customers and prospects on a global scale. Given the importance of social media in today’s business climate, it’s not uncommon to feel a bit overwhelmed when attempting to establish or improve your position in the playing field. A social media strategy involves much more than simply being active on various platforms, and just a few missteps can tarnish the customer relationships that you’ve worked so hard to develop. This article considers some of the most common challenges associated with social media marketing and offers some tips for navigating them.
Learn the Rules of the Metagame
Because social media marketing features a level playing field, businesses of all sizes can compete for mindshare. Every participant is given the same tools and must play by the same rules. Even so, some brands tend to overlook the presence of an unwritten "game within the game," which is more commonly known as the "metagame." The "meta," often considered an acronym for the "most efficient tactic available," was initially associated with the video gaming world. Today, this same term is used to describe trending online strategies and best practices. The metagame doesn’t just concern the popularized algorithms we often hear about; it's more closely tied to how social media participants engage. There are a great many social media platforms in existence, and each of these platforms—as well as the community within it—has its own metagame.
As an example of this trend in action, think about how YouTube has evolved over the years. Early in its lifespan, the most popular YouTube channels were accounts run by individuals. It was a game of discoverability, as the platform’s algorithms favored frequent and consistent uploads for the front page. As a result, the meta (or best practice) was to churn out low-effort content in high volumes, often in the form of daily video blogs or vlogs. Over time, though, the focus shifted toward more valuable content of higher quality. As a result, the draw of the platform evolved to include tutorials, video essays, and more. This shift in meta has increased the potential for branded channels to succeed on YouTube.
As you work to develop your social media presence, it’s a good idea to develop a basic knowledge of each platform’s metagame so you can hit the ground running. It’s also important to recognize that your social media account is rented space from the company that provides the platform. These “digital landlords” can—and will—alter the terms and conditions without warning. Abrupt changes to layout, algorithms, and more can factor into how and when your intended audience will see your business.
Get to Know Your Customers
Experienced marketers know that a solid strategy starts with identifying your target audience. One great way to do this is by creating a customer persona, which details preferred demographics like location, occupation, income level, and life stage. Psychographics or related interests and personalities can also be helpful.
Once you have your ideal customer in mind, the next step is using the search functions on sites like Instagram, LinkedIn, or Twitter to explore relevant hashtags (e.g., #print, #art, #graphicdesign). This will provide insight into how people engage with those topics and the existing content on the platforms. Take note of other hashtags that are commonly used in tandem. Your search will likely reveal the trending pain points that are being voiced by your audience. These can be valuable topics of discussion for the content you post.
Next, look at what your peers and competitors are doing and uncover patterns of behavior from successful brands. How often do they post, and what kind of content are they posting? Is the content long-form, short-form, casual or formal, in the form of blogs or videos? Armed with this knowledge, you can develop your own best practices for approaching your audience.
Choose the Right Platforms
According to a study by The Sprout Social, the top platforms that customers currently use to follow brands include Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter. At the same time, however, relative newcomers to the social media space can quickly become forces to be reckoned with. Case in point: TikTok has seen incredible growth over the past few years, surpassing 1 billion active users in September 2021. In addition, TikTok recently introduced business profiles, ads, and the ability for creators to collaborate with brands on both paid and reward-based campaigns. When choosing the platforms that are right for your business, remember that each social media site has its own signature appeal and unique engagement methods. It’s a good idea to establish a presence on a variety of platforms so you can reach as many prospects as possible.
Once you’ve decided on your platforms, you’ll need to develop content that aligns with the parameters that people expect from each platform. For example, Instagram and Twitter are designed for succinct interactions using images and text that inform and entertain. Pinterest is popular for visual communications. Think first about your strategy, and you’ll eventually land on some platforms that suit your audience and their needs.
Deliver the Right Kind of Content
There are many different types of social media content at your disposal, including live streams, blogs, newsfeed posts, infographics, and videos. Everything that you post should reflect the values of your company and customers alike. Market data can help pinpoint what works and what doesn't, but the reaction of your audience will be the true test of effectiveness.
It might sound obvious, but start by delivering content that resonates with your audience's interests. Some examples are tutorials of your products, education on different printing methods, and tips on color theory or finishing options. The more topics you can cover, the wider the net you will cast. Use all the resources that are available to you—if you have a team of talented graphic designers, have them create infographics for Twitter and Instagram. If someone excels at public speaking and improv, enlist them to host a Livestream. Ask your best writers to draft up scripts for YouTube and snappy tweets. Each type of content has its own unique value. A video can put a face to a brand and make it more personable, while images can make concepts more digestible at a glance.
Once you decide on content, it’s a good idea to establish a manageable calendar that will keep you on track. There are many great tools that enable you to schedule posts ahead of time and maintain a consistent output without constant check-ins. With proper preparation, you can prepare multiple weeks' worth of content in a single day and feed it to your followers over time.
Emulate Industry Influencers
Today’s social media platforms cover every niche imaginable. There's an established audience and community for every possible pursuit, including marketing and sales, design, and workflow. You will find individuals who have risen up to "influencer" status within each of them. These are the people and pages you want to follow, study, replicate, and consider partnering with.
During your research, keep an eye out for creators that have already captured your target audience's attention. Find the industry influencers who are making tutorials and leading webinars. If their approach aligns with yours, you have an opportunity to get your brand in front of their followers by offering your services in creative ways. Every day, many artists and designers will post their latest work to their feed and maybe film a quick 15-second video for TikTok in between. These influencers are seeking their own unique content to present. This opens the door for collaboration, particularly if your firm provides specialized printing formats, finishing, and techniques.
The Bottom Line
Establishing and maintaining a social media presence might seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be! When you’re first starting out, take the time to establish a system that will work for you. Take the right approach by developing messaging that aligns with your brand’s values as well as those of your customers.
Social media is often the first point of contact with valuable prospects, so start small and focus on doing what you do best so you can begin experiencing the rewards. Over time, you can scale up. Finally, remember the strategies that brought you success in other areas of your business. Many of these might also apply when perfecting your social media strategy.
Karen Kimerer of Keypoint Intelligence has experienced the many challenges of expanding current market opportunities and securing new business. She has developed a systematic approach to these opportunities, addressing the unique requirements of becoming a leader in our changing industry. She is well-versed in 1:1 marketing, web-to-print, direct mail, book publishing, supply chain management, data segmentation, channel integration, and photo products.
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