Aiming at a Moving Target

How to successfully sell in the age of social media

Social media marketing is a vast land of tools, opportunities and mayhem. The key to success can sometimes come down to watching and staying ahead of the trends. Pair that with a tuned-in approach to content creation and audience engagement, and you’re looking at a healthy, competitive brand.

Social media marketing is a vast land of tools, opportunities and mayhem. The key to success can sometimes come down to watching and staying ahead of the trends. Pair that with a tuned-in approach to content creation and audience engagement, and you’re looking at a healthy, competitive brand.

We’re tracking the evolution of a few marketing trends and the impact of those trends on progressive brands in the social media space, including B2B companies. Let’s take a look at the top ideas and tools driving social media marketing trends now.

Social Media Selling

If we’re all driving down this crazy road we call marketing, then social media is the car, content is the fuel and the destination is sales. Recently, we’ve watched B2B companies artfully reap the rewards of e-commerce and the generation of sales leads through social media selling. Whether it’s actually leading to conversions or making the hard sale, the trend of social selling is getting hotter and brands should be preparing now.

Social media is the car, content is the fuel and the destination is sales.

To prove that, according to a recent Content Marketing Institute publication, 83% of B2B marketers are using social media content as a main marketing tactic. Further, the same publication found that 40% of B2B marketers cite social media content as one of the most critical tactics for marketing success in 2017.

We’re not just talking about the trend of the buy buttons that brands promote on social media. While there’s merit behind selling products using Facebook Marketplace, Instagram’s “Shop Now” button and Twitter’s redirect links to a shopping cart, the silent seller is the advertising spaces all over the page. Not to mention, a brand’s mere presence on the holy trinity of social media (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram), sells more with less.

Gone are the days where traditional ad buys fed the word-of-mouth marketing monster well enough to stay afloat. Now, we’re in a marketing climate that preys on PPC, SEO and social media post clicks. Even more interesting is that social media marketers don’t always have to put money behind their content to make sales or generate leads—even in the B2B space. Rather, organic posts full of rich content and visual elements do just as much selling as the advertisement a viewer sees in their feed.

Social media graphic

For example one of our clients, The Chef’s Garden, based in Huron, OH, uses a combination of organic and paid posts to sell online. When determining where to focus its main attention, The Chef’s Garden spends about 85% of its time on content creation to achieve evergreen content that can be repurposed and used across all marketing channels. Rather than funneling content into separate boxes, this brand integrates all efforts to make a more comprehensive marketing plan and strategy.

What’s great about a one-two punch approach is that The Chef’s Garden is constantly building its reputation online as an information hub for the B2B food industry, as well as a great business partner that prides itself on ethical, healthy and cost-effective farming, and all of these messages are conveyed using the most impactful trend of them all, visuals.

So while some content may perform better on social media, the team looks to recreate that content angle in other avenues whether it’s a radio ad, a print ad or the like. The brand also created separate voices across the social media sphere by introducing its President Farmer Lee Jones as its own channel. For the brand, Farmer Lee Jones represents an entirely different angle and voice that’s, “relevant with the community and the chefs” that creates a personal approach to B2B sales goals. We like to think of this tactic of positioning company leadership as a social media persona as a growing trend in its own right, as well.

SNAP IPO

What does Snapchat’s IPO mean for brands? The answer is a bit mixed. First, we can expect Snapchat and its following to continue to grow over the next few years, but as for the company’s revenue and overall growth, trouble may be on the horizon. Due to recent brands releasing similar concepts that Snapchat users love (e.g. Instagram and Facebook Stories), many users are jumping back onto the ship they left for Snapchat in the first place. Like most businesses that go the IPO route, Snapchat is likely looking to use the new revenue to feed its need for further app development. With Snapchat Spectacles being the biggest and most recent tech release from the company, we can expect some new features to hit the platform before the close of 2017.

LinkedIn

Last year, we published a blog post written by our president encouraging other company heads and influencers to, “drop the excuses and get social.” By social, he of course meant the new trend in which CEOs are consistently using social media as both an external and internal marketing tool. LinkedIn, unsurprisingly, offers brand leaders the most appropriate ways to do so. Whether it’s posting articles for their connections or regularly publishing long-form content, CEOs now can leverage social media more than ever to offer a more human element to the mainly robotic world of technology. Using this platform to recruit, share stories and celebrate victories of the company and others, CEOs have endless opportunities to showcase their unique voice and personality online in a more professional manner. This year, we expect to see more conversations between company leaders and community networks over just the brands talking from their company pages and in a way, changing the marketing game to be more truly one-to-one.

Advanced Ad Targeting

As each social media channel creates or reinvents its ad platforms, the average digital marketer becomes more nimble to these systems. The latest social media advertising trend we’re tracking is the increased use of advanced targeting. It isn’t a new tool, but more brands are getting comfortable with custom audiences, not to mention the insatiable curiosity for all things new, like Snapchat ads.

If you’re scratching your head wondering what these custom audiences are, just think of it like cloning your most loyal customers from one of several data points who are loving your content, products and services, and targeting them with ad content. Upping the ad game on channels where this is an option will be something to test and perfect this year.

Explore Licking County, OH, the official travel resource for visitors to Licking County, Ohio, has spent years on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Since its inception its “approach has changed drastically” when it comes to social media marketing. In total, the team dedicated time each month creating and curating captivating content across all of its channels. When considering the change in the Facebook advertising atmosphere, the team predicts that, “With the ad space on this channel decreasing, ad targeting needs to be more specific so it will reach the correct audience.” Content that contains dynamic images or videos performs significantly better than others, so the Explore Licking County team does not believe that the limited ad space will change its opportunities to connect with audiences any time soon.

Instagram Stories

Instagram, a Facebook-owned company, took a play out of the Snapchat playbook when it unveiled its “Stories” feature. Brands saw a new opportunity at their fingertips to advertise their products, services or experiences using the tried-and-true techniques established on Snapchat in the more comfortable native land of Instagram (and now Facebook, too).

Unlike Snapchat, Instagram rolled out a corresponding reporting tool to help marketers gauge engagement, reach and impressions. For brands, this is great news and one large reason why this trend is one to watch. Snapchat’s ad space is both competitive and expensive, so having the option to essentially use the same tool on an app that’s both familiar and provides metrics? Double win!

Plus, the rollout of this feature seemed to at the least, wound Snapchat. Throw in that brands can manage Instagram content more easily than Snapchat, it might just be the perfect storm to bring brands away from Snapchat. We’re betting on the brand-favorite Instagram in this showdown for 2017.

Middle-market brands like Explore Licking County and The Chef’s Garden aren’t that impressed with the brawl between the social media channels. Instead, Explore Licking County believes that audience members might gravitate between the feuding channels based on “the demographic of the person.” For example the team suggests that, “The older user will gravitate more toward Facebook because that is the platform they’re familiar with and on the most.” On the other hand, Explore Licking County also believes that younger users are more likely to choose Instagram or Snapchat over the new Facebook Stories option.

The Chef’s Garden, on the other hand, isn’t too worried about losing audience members to the new flashy story options on Facebook and Instagram. Instead, the team believes that its audience “heavily populates Instagram.” In fact, its team has seen an increase in viewership and followers with direct correlation to the introduction of Instagram Stories. The Chef’s Garden tells us that it uses the new concept as, “a call to action to push viewers to something else—whether that be an article, a product on the website, a live video or just an image.”

So if you’re keeping track, there are major themes we’re following ranging from capitalizing on visuals to expanding your marketing methods to using deeper and richer tools depending on the audiences’ natural tendencies. While these trends may not be groundbreaking, they are another example of the evolution of social media marketing techniques. Staying with the same old tactics isn’t enough, switch lanes and take a detour. Just because other marketers aren’t getting to the destination in the same way doesn’t mean your journey has to follow suit.

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