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Debunking myths about social media and inbound marketing

A popular misconception exists that inbound marketing is all about spending lots of time on social media platforms. This is just not true!

We’re now half way through our ten article series looking at putting together a successful inbound marketing strategy, and only now are we considering social media as part of our plan.

Social media can be a terrible waste of time if you don’t have a plan or clear objectives about what you’re aiming to achieve by engaging with people online.

Social media isn’t free – it has a time cost associated with it, and if you’re doing it yourself, you need to remember this. If you’re not naturally drawn to it, then get some help. It’s not something that can be completely outsourced, as only you and your employees can communicate authentically with your target market. Would you send your best friend on a date for you? The same applies when marketing online: Be yourself, represent who you are as well as your business’ values

The three main social media platforms that can deliver good business results when used correctly are Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. My general rule for people is to choose one as a main focus. For example, if you have a product that’s primarily B2C, then Facebook is a good place to connect with your audience. If you offer a B2B service, then LinkedIn’s usually the place where you’ll best connect with your target market. Recently, we’ve seen the rise of another platform – Pinterest – but at this stage it’s probably too early to include it in your inbound marketing strategy, unless you’re already achieving your goals on other platforms and feel you have the time.

When starting out online (this is also relevant to people looking re-energise their social media strategy), the key to success is having a clear objective about why you’re going to invest your valuable time in social media. What are your business goals? If you want to increase your sales by 20 percent next year, 50 percent of which will come from online marketing, then you need to work out many people in your target market are online and implement a plan as to how you will communicate with them.

Here’s some steps for making social media an effective part of your inbound marketing strategy:-

1. Using your keywords, set up Google alerts to find out who’s talking about your specialised area online without having to spend hours trawling the web. You can have this information fed to you once per day and again you can decide to only read the information in those alerts once per week. For example, if your business teaches languages to children, you could set up an alert for “french classes for kids.” This will also help you find out what your competitors are doing.

2. Like all the similar Facebook pages in your industry, follow Twitter accounts and join LinkedIn groups where your potential customers might spend time. Listen to what they’re talking about first, and from there you can design blog posts that answer their questions and write articles to help solve their problems.

3. Do not sell! You need to offer more then just advertisements about your product or service.

Quite often, people will say to me that it seems like I spend my entire day one. It might appear that I spend all day, every day on social media (well it is my business after all) this couldn’t be further from the truth. I have a clear business objective, and I actually hop in and out during the day on my iPhone or iPad in between work tasks. It is possible to build an effective social media strategy in just an hour a week. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Set some time aside to read information about your industry online. I like to do this on a Sunday when catching up on the weekly news.
  2. Take 10, 20 or 30 links you’d like to share with your community, and add a few words about why you like that article/video/picture or blog post.
  3. Connect your Facebook page to your Twitter account.
  4. Copy these updates into a scheduler like Timely.is or Buffer to send them out 2 or 3 per day over the coming week or so. You can do this only once per month, coinciding with when you write your blog posts.
  5. Download Twitter and Facebook app to your smartphone or reader. Now you can check your social media platforms when you’re on the go. I like to get to my meetings five minutes early, or stay on after they are over, and use this time to check Twitter and Facebook to see if there is anything interesting to share or if somebody has contacted me directly, and then respond.

The primary goal of your online marketing strategy should be to bring people back to your own blog or website, so you can engage and build a meaningful relationship with them. The hope is that they’ll move from casual social media acquaintance, to visitor on your website, to prospective lead, to a buying customer.

Social media is just one part of your inbound marketing plan and should be given a proportionate amount of time in relation to the results you’re looking to achieve overall. Consider this – you wouldn’t take your marketing budget and invest 100 percent of it on a TVC, would you? You’d divide it up. The same applies to online marketing – social media is simply a tool, that when used properly can contribute to the success of your business.

Next, we’ll discuss conversion on your website. We’ll look at how you’re engaging with visitors to move them through your sales cycle.