9 ways to get ahead with social marketing

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Jon Miller, cofounder and VP of product marketing at Marketo
Jon Miller, cofounder and VP of product marketing at Marketo

We've gone through a world of change over the past decade. Not long ago the primary channel for a prospect to get information about a company was by engaging directly with a salesperson. Marketing focused primarily on brand building via advertising, trade shows, PR, and print media. But in today's buying and selling environment, there's no shortage of channels, forums, and sources for prospects to glean insight on your product, company, and brand. And the avenues that increasingly have the most potential to impact buyers? In a word: social.

Yet mere social media activity (e.g., posting on your company Facebook pages) doesn't cut it. To succeed today, you must use social marketing—by weaving social into all aspect of programs. You can't expect prospects to flock to you just because you've tweeted five times a day. You have to do social marketing every day, you have to be social. That's because the more your audience wants to engage with your content on social channels, the more likely it is that they will want to share and, ultimately, convert to customers. Not only will increasing your efforts help your organization develop a powerful new source of sales leads (and revenue) that costs a lot less than traditional media, but it will also help reinvent marketing as a core part of the company's revenue engine.

Sound revolutionary? Not really. There are nine golden rules to get started and down the path to social marketing success. I assure you the results can be stunning:

1. Goals are essential: Like any new program, you need specific objectives and ways to measure social marketing success and accountability. Be sure they align with existing marketing priorities and strategies—and keep them in mind for every new initiative.

2. Keep it light: It's about being social, after all. That means you need a good personality to make your brand likable.

3. Inbound just isn't enough anymore: Never underestimate what a bit of paid promotion can do for you and your business. 

4. Good content + solid offers = successEven the best social tactics will fail without well-produced, engaging content. Whether it's a whitepaper, blog post, or infographic—or a cartoon that pokes fun at a common industry misconception—use content to not only show your expertise, but also your personality. Check out Marketo's Facebook page for a good example.

5. Have a strong call to action: It's just as important in social media as it is anywhere else. Whether you're looking to drive traffic to your website, a landing page, or new whitepaper, make it clear what you want the recipient to do.

6. Always add valuealways: At the end of the day, if you are not providing some sort of value to your prospects and customers, your audience will figure it out. (And fast!) If you're just sharing the same article or whitepaper repeatedly, your follower/share rates will suffer.

7. Encourage peer-to-peer sharing: The closer you get to saying something unique and relatable—and the easier you make it to share your content—the more peer-to-peer engagement is possible. In social marketing, that's the best way to get your message heard.

8. Remember: It's a two-way street: By asking your audience to share, you're starting a conversation. No one likes being preached at, so remember to keep the lines of communication open in both directions.

9. It's more than social pages: Create a social presence that resonates with your target audience, promotes relationship building, and encourages sharing. It's not enough to merely post an article or two on Facebook and Twitter pages every so often and call it a day.

Social marketing is the new business imperative for all companies, whether you're a Fortune 500 CMO, or marketing intern at an up-and-coming organization, but especially for marketing managers and directors. Begin with a vision and a roadmap for getting there. Break down your steps, get some quick wins, and you will see impact fast.

Jon Miller is vice president of content marketing and strategy at Marketo. Follow him on Twitter @jonmiller.

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