Social selling may be the future of digital sales, but in our time working with clients that practice social selling, we have found that a concerning percentage of them don’t have the proper systems in place to measure and gauge their success. In fact, only 15% of marketers know how to prove their social selling ROI in a quantitative way.
At the most basic level, social selling success can and should be measured in its ability to generate leads for your business. And yes — leads generated is an important metric for measuring your social selling success. But the strategy runs much deeper than simply generating leads and starting sales conversations. Social selling is about building relationships — both with your ideal prospects and with other figures in your industry — in an attempt to leverage those relationships to generate sales and grow awareness of your offering.
Appropriate tracking, measuring, and optimization is crucial for generating a positive ROI from your social selling strategies. Most businesses know the importance of data in modern sales teams. But social selling is a much broader strategy than most sales teams are used to.
Success isn’t as straightforward as it is with other strategies. Leads and sales generated from social channels might be a good metric for getting an overall understanding of your efforts, but that is a lagging indicator, not a current one. Social sellers often have dozens of warm conversations in the pipeline and peripherally-aware prospects that haven’t started discussions in earnest. Those relationships have value — even if they haven’t come to fruition yet. But how do you measure the impact of those soon-to-be prospects?
Often, measuring social selling effectiveness requires that you are able to connect several different systems together including your CRM, marketing automation platforms, social analytics, content engagement metrics, and by-hand tracking of important conversations and relationships. Without all of those together, you’ll never be able to gain a top-down view of your true social selling effectiveness or identify areas for improvement.
Now, we’ll dive into some of the specific metrics that your teams should be tracking. These metrics will provide you with a good baseline for measuring and monitoring the effectiveness of individual social sellers within your organization and your team as a whole.
Measurement #1: LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index
You really can’t discuss social selling metrics without talking about LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index (SSI). The SSI is a metric that measures your overall social presence on LinkedIn and provides insight into where you stand within your industry and within your network. The best thing: you can see your score for free without having to pay for a LinkedIn premium account. The SSI attempts to measure how effective you are at establishing your brand on the platform and engaging with prospects. The score is updated daily with graphs showing you how your SSI score has changed over time.
While the exact formula that the company uses to create your SSI score isn’t publicly available, the company does provide insight into the different elements that they use to determine your score. These include:
While LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index is not the end-all-be-all of social selling metrics, it does provide an excellent starting point for measuring your effectiveness on the platform. With LinkedIn being the primary social network for B2B sellers, it makes sense that you would want to keep a close eye on your ability to facilitate opportunities on there.
The SSI is one of the most popular social selling metrics due to LinkedIn’s popularity as a social selling platform and because of the metric’s ability to encourage engagement and help social sellers to establish goals. LinkedIn states that social selling leaders create 45% more opportunities than their peers with a lower SSI. So, checking your SSI is definitely worthwhile every couple of weeks. No need to obsess over the score and check it daily.
Measurement #2: Social Network Growth
Social selling often focuses on quality over quantity. Success is less about growing your network as large as you possibly can and more about creating warm conversations that lead to valuable relationships with prospects. Social selling is all about influencing the right prospects, and not so much about influencing as many people as possible.
Still, social network growth is an important indicator of social selling success. The more people that enter your network, the more chances of success that you have. More social activity means that your sales reps have a greater reach, which increases the chances of their content being seen by a larger number of people. Content distribution is important for generating awareness for both your personal brand as a social seller and for the success of your company.
Despite the fact that social selling has a narrower focus than other sales strategies, it is still a numbers game. The more people that social sellers are reaching out to and developing relationships with, the higher the chances are that a sale will be made.
The average LinkedIn user has an average of 930 connections. On its face, that doesn’t mean a whole lot. But it does provide a number to use as a guideline as you measure your own social reach on the platform.
So in summation — the size of your social network does matter. It does play a big role in the overall effectiveness of your social selling strategy. But it shouldn’t be seen as a defining factor. It’s really much more about a balance of quality and quantity. Sales reps that focus solely on growing their network without keeping the quality of that network high and in-line with your targeted personas will be disappointed with their results.
Measurement #3: Warm Conversations (Leads) Generated
Social selling is a strategy that emphasizes building of relationships. Your ability to engage in valuable and meaningful conversations with those that fall within your targeted customer personas is a great indicator of your overall success with the strategy.
If we envision social selling as a traditional sales pipeline (it is almost always much more complicated than that but let’s do so for the sake of brevity), the number of warm conversations that you are currently engaged in could be closely compared to prospects that are currently in the sales pipeline. Some will pan out. Others won’t for a variety of reasons. But each is an opportunity for you to get your product in front of someone that you believe is a potentially qualified prospect.
Relationships are an essential element for generating an ROI from social selling. Warm, genuine conversations are the backbone for nurturing those relationships. Generating those conversations pays off not only throughout the sales process but through the entire customer lifecycle. 31% of B2B professionals believe that social selling cultivates stronger customer relationships.
Measurement #4: Content Engagement Rate
Valuable content is a cornerstone of any effective social selling campaign. A social sellers’ ability to connect with prospects and deliver valuable content that helps them to better understand their product, industry, and brand plays a key role in their ability to win their trust and confidence. Sharing relevant information with their audience helps social sellers to activate their social networks and establish themselves as thought leaders in their space.
Delivering high-value content isn’t some trick for winning the trust of prospects — it’s what customers prefer. 81% of consumers would prefer to engage with sellers that have a strong brand on social media. The built-in social proof that comes with sharing highly valuable content that generates public conversations helps social sellers to grow awareness and build a strong reputation within their industry.
Monitoring the engagement rates of the content that you share, both on social networks and on your website itself gives you insight into whether you are providing the right information to your audience. On social networks the engagement metrics that you should be keeping an eye on include likes, comments, and shares. On your website, keep a close eye on the bounce rate and time on page of the content that you share.
Content with high engagement rates is typically content that is valued by your audience. Further, content engagement metrics speak to how engaged your following is on the whole. Less engaged followings may mean that you need to take a harder look at the content that you are sharing with them.
Measurement #5: Prospect Referrals
Often undervalued, one of the key benefits of social selling is its ability to generate referrals for your business. As you establish a reputation as a thought leader in your industry and engage in warm conversations with others in your industry (even those that may not be interested in your product when the conversation takes place), you position yourself to be a safe recommendation. Everyone loves to share something of value with their network. You want to position yourself as that “thing” of value for them to share.
According to a report from Demand Generation, a warm referral increases the odds of closing the sale by up to 4 times. Additionally, 70% of B2B companies report that referrals convert better and close faster than any other type of lead. It’s the preference of most B2B buyers, of which 84% start their buying process off with a referral, even if the company they are referred to is not the company they eventually end up going with.
Relationships are at the core of everything that we do with social selling. The conversations that you engage in aren’t just meant to connect you with your ideal prospects — but also with people that are in a position to recommend your business to your ideal prospects as well.
Measurement #6: Activity Metrics for Leads
There are a number of metrics that can safely fall under the “lead activity” umbrella. For many prospects, the process of getting to know your company and becoming aware of the value that you can offer them is ongoing, with flurries of activity that can be a strong indicator of their interest in your solution.
There are many steps that a prospect may take along the way to ultimately converting into a sale. Ensuring that you are measuring the different activities that a prospect can take is important for optimizing your approach and pushing prospects toward steps that correlate with sales.
Some of the different lead activity metrics that you should be monitoring include:
Keep a close eye on the different actions that your leads take on their way to becoming customers. There will be differences in the process for every business and identifying metrics that can be measured throughout gives you more data to work with in order to optimize your strategies.
Data Delivers Growth
While getting your hands dirty and actually engaging in social selling will allow you to identify improvements that can be made over time, no social seller or team should be flying by the seat of their pants. Collecting, measuring, and analyzing data helps social sellers to identify what is working, what is not, and create hypotheses for how they can improve their approach. While tracking many different metrics can be complex and time-consuming, having that data on hand can help to reveal weaknesses in your strategy. Even if you don’t use it right away, you may at a later date!
What metrics are you tracking to measure your social selling strategies? Share in the comments!
So — you’ve probably been reading up on social selling, digital selling or whatever you want to call it. You know that it can completely reshape your business for the better. You’ve seen the case studies and reports from social sellers that show how much of an impact the strategy has managed to have on their business and want the same for yourself.
But how do you actually get started with social selling? If you don’t have any experience in social selling, it can seem daunting. There are so many considerations that come with running an effective social selling strategy that learning everything from the ground up can seem impossible. But — the truth is that while, yes, social selling is a skill that takes a long-term commitment to sharpen, most people have no problem improving rapidly and learning how to become an adept social seller in a few short months when they are willing to commit themselves to improvement.
A lot of success in social selling is about shifting your mindset and applying some common sense to your interactions with prospects. You have to move away from the traditional pitching mindset that has been ingrained in many salespeople and instead focus on building genuine relationships based on content and providing helpful information.
Success in social selling often comes down to your initial planning and your ability to stick to those plans. As they say — how you start is how you finish. In this article, we’ll detail some of the initial steps, tips, and best practices that you should follow in your early days of social selling to set yourself up for success down the line.
Tip #1: Establish a Social Brand that Reflects Your Business
How you present yourself on social media matters. A lot. Even when you aren’t social selling, ensuring that you are putting a positive message and professional personal and company brand out there into the world is critical for shaping how prospects and customers feel about your company.
Start with an audit of your current social media accounts. This audit should include not only your own personal and professional accounts, but any company or salesperson’s social media accounts that will be joining you in social selling as well. You have to make sure that you are putting your best foot forward. Think about the image you want your prospects and clients to see on every social media channel.
In this audit, you should evaluate and look for a few key things across your social media accounts:
The trick is to find that balance of professional and personally relatable content. You don’t want to post anything that could reflect poorly on your personal and company brand in any way. But you also don’t want to seem like a robot either. Prospects like to know that there are real people behind the curtain.
Tip #2: Focus on Listening on Social Media
Great social sellers know how to listen. They know how to listen and react in conversations with prospects and they know how to listen to social media in general. Often, the biggest hurdle for new social sellers to get over is knowing how to make those initial connections with prospects on social media that will one day lead to new opportunities.
The best advice that we can give in this area comes down to one simple word: listen. Keep an eye on conversations about and within your industry. When the opportunity presents itself, don’t be afraid to jump into ongoing conversations. Later, you can follow up and add the people that you chat with. Keep in mind that 90% of all B2B buying decisions are influenced by peer recommendations.
A few tips to keep mind:
Social listening becomes much easier when you have followed or added enough relevant people to your account. Having the ability to listen and judge situations before diving straight into talking about your company or product will play a key role in your social selling success.
Tip #3: Think Outside the Typical Social Network Box
Every social seller should be active on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even Instagram. Those are the biggest social networks in the world, so there’s a good chance that a large number of prospects for your business are on those networks and would love to hear from you. That said, networks are different and not equally appropriate for each business. For example, B2B brands are likely to be better suited to LinkedIn and/or Twitter, while consumer brands are more likely to find buyers on Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest.
However, thebig networks also have the most competition. There are social sellers all over the world that are monitoring those social networks every second of the day. That isn’t to say that the competition is too stiff to drive results through Facebook or LinkedIn — just that it can be a bit more crowded.
We recommend that social sellers think outside of the box and look at establishing a presence on other, smaller social networks as well. There are a few in particular that make excellent choices for social sellers to establish a presence on:
Too often, YouTube is viewed as simply a video sharing and watching platform and not as the gigantic social network that it actually is. In fact, YouTube is actually both the 2nd largest social network and 2nd largest search engine in the world.
YouTube has more than 1.9 billion users that login every month. While most of those users are simply logging in to watch videos, start paying more attention to the comments section. There, you’ll find discussions happening about subjects that are related to your business or product that would be perfect for you to jump into. You can establish connections with the video uploader themselves, or with the people that are taking part in those discussions. But to leverage YouTube effectively, you’ll have to regularly create and share content here. So, ask yourself if you’ll be able to keep up and provide a number of videos every month. If not, that’s a problem.
Quora is a question and answer platform that is perfect for social selling. The platform allows users to ask questions concerning any topic. Then, experts on the topic can respond to the question with an answer. Other users “upvote” the best answers, which then appear at the top of the list. If you are able to have your answer voted as the best answer to a question, that can mean a lot of exposure from other users and search engine traffic for related questions.
Take a look at this example. Here are some of the questions that pop up when you search for “social selling” on Quora:
For example companies like Social Sellinator, Quora is a great resource and these discussions are very helpful for us to participate in. Try running some searches that are related to your industry and product and see what kind of discussions are taking place. Share some thoughts and insights and you’ll be surprised about the feedback and effect it has for your SEO,
All around the web, there are online communities where people are discussing your industry and products. These communities could be on forums, in product communities, Facebook groups, LinkedIn Groups, or under hashtags on the larger social networks. Some of those communities will be invite-only, others will allow you to join for free. Identifying active communities where your targets are hanging out can give you a huge leg up on your competition. Over time, if you are able to establish your brand within these communities by delivering value, you’ll develop real relationships that will result in sales. Just keep in mind that communities are primarily not marketing vehicles. They are meant for discussions between people that have shared interests. If you start blasting out commercial messages here, don’t be surprised to get kicked out quickly.
Tip #4: Connect Valuable Content to Pain Points
Effective social selling relies on your ability to be a valuable source of information for prospects and interested parties. Most social selling engagements that result in a sale start with a conversation. Maybe a prospect has a question that they need answered, a pain point that they need a solution for, or just a desire to learn more about something related to your industry or product.
The best social sellers are not only able to jump into conversations and engage with prospects that have questions but are able to supplement their discussion with content that dives deeper into the subject at hand.
For this reason, it’s a good idea for social sellers to have the content that they will share pre-planned, based on questions and pain points that are common among their audience and customers. Being able to dive into a conversation to discuss a pain point helps you to put your expertise on display — but providing them with a detailed resource on that topic (that was written by you or published by your company, ideally) makes you and your brand valuable resources to prospects.
Tip #5: Create a Routine and Calendar for Consistency
There are few things more important to your success in social selling than consistency. Even if in the beginning you are doing everything wrong, consistency helps you to gain the experience that you need to recognize your mistakes and improve your social selling skills.
There are a few steps that you can take to ensure that you have a social selling routine that helps you to maintain consistency:
Success in social selling is almost impossible without consistency. It takes time to build your value in the eyes of your prospects and establish yourself as a valuable resource among your following. Without daily interaction, you’ll have a hard time staying top-of-mind among your most valuable prospects that you do make connections with.
Tip #6: Become a Reliable Networker and Talent Connector
In social selling, you are only as effective as your value to the people that you develop relationships with. While you want to establish yourself as an expert in your field, you should also look for other ways to become a valuable resource for the people and brands that you engage with.
Don’t just focus only on connecting with your ideal prospects, although they should receive a bulk of your attention. Also, focus on developing relationships with people that could potentially send business your way in the future. A great way to develop new relationships is to share the fruits of your networking with new connections that you make. Simple acts such as connecting them with a service or product that they need (even when it is not your own) can go a long way toward helping you to develop trust and be seen by them as a valuable resource.
Tip #7: Share Your Successes Proudly
We all know that social proof is big. Social sellers have the ability to get their biggest successes in front of prospects as the successes take place. When you’ve been able to help someone reach their goals or achieve success using your solutions, don’t be afraid to share it. Letting prospects see when you have been able to help others gives your offering credibility.
Getting Started is the Hard Part
Your first weeks of social selling are the hardest ones. You’ll have little to no experience. Your social presence will be the smallest that it will ever ben. You won’t have the connections or relationships to help you expand your reach on platforms. But over time and with consistency, your presence will steadily grow, putting you in a position to develop more relationships and close more deals.
The biggest mistake we see people make is that they stall because they’re too worried about being perfect. Consider that the half-life of a Tweet is around 15 minutes. Similar times apply to postings on other social networks. Get yourself out there and start posting. Sure, don’t write something blatantly stupid, disrespectful or insulting.
In short, don’t write anything that you’d be ashamed if your mother saw it. But does every post have to win a Pulitzer? Absolutely not. Will every single post be 100% on point and brilliant? Likely not. But consistently regular and good content with the occasional highlights is still better than long times of nothing and a great post once a year. Imperfect action over imperfect inaction.
Having trouble getting started with social selling? Share your troubles in our comments below and we’ll see if we can give you some advice to get you over the hump!
Any marketer or social seller should know how impactful personalization can be within their marketing. Epsilon research recently found that 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a company that offers a personalized experience. Personalization allows you to provide specific content to a very targeted audience that will find it most relevant. But that can be difficult on social media where you aren’t interacting with a single person, but a large number of followers at the same time. You can’t create content for one specific follower, the rest of your followers would never want to interact with it.
A 2017 study by Monetate, found that 79% of companies that exceeded revenue goals had a documented personalization strategy in place within their marketing operations. That’s a pretty strong correlation. Finding ways to inject personalization into your social media strategies, where personalization is much harder to pull off than in, say, paid advertising or email marketing, can re-shape the way that you think about social media.
But to understand how you can increase personalization in your social media marketing, let’s define what personalization is and how it works. After that, we’ll outline specific strategies for injecting personalization into your social media marketing campaigns.
What is Personalization in Marketing?
Consider a sales presentation. Good salespeople know that for a sales presentation to really hit home, they have to customize that presentation to their audience. You wouldn’t present a soccer training program to a hockey team. That is personalization at its most basic level.
But it goes much deeper. In sales presentations, personalization is all about catering that presentation to your audience’s specific needs. Some customers want to know more about specific features. Others want hard facts and statistics to illustrate the assertions that are made in the presentation. Others may want to have specific objections and concerns answered. Each member of the audience has different needs in terms of what they want to hear from the salesperson. Getting a feel for your audience and being able to deliver the things that they want to hear about your product is the trick, both in sales and in marketing.
Think about the last time you shopped on Amazon. If you bought an iPhone, you would probably see accessories on your “recommended items” list for some time after you made the purchase. This is a good thing both for the company and you. You want to see those accessories. After all, you just bought a new iPhone and want to make sure that they have the tools to get the most out of it. The company wants to sell more products and increase their average order value. It’s a mutually beneficial and personalized addition to their website.
Put into as simple of terms as possible — marketing personalization is a strategy where businesses use audience analysis, analytics, and data to deliver relevant messages to their target audience. This means putting the information that you collect to use in creative and interesting ways to grab your customers’ attention and deliver a better overall experience with your company.
Customers Want Personalized Content
Personalization doesn’t just work, customers actively want it. The type of recommendation systems that have worked in the favor of Amazon, Netflix, and other huge technology companies can be just as effective for small, diligent eCommerce companies.
Smart recommendations and personalized content aren’t seen as something that is a nice addition to digital sellers, it’s something that all companies must have. Customers expect it. Check out the results from a 2016 poll from Accenture:
Customers have made it clear, they want relevant recommendations and personalized content. They want brands that get to know them the more they interact with each other. Consumers want brands that remember them, who they are, and what they want from the company.
In some channels (like email marketing), personalization is straightforward. There are creative ways to use the data that you collect. But emails are direct communications with people that have subscribed to your list. You should know at least something about them based on that fact. When it comes to social media, finding ways to inject data for true personalization into your campaigns can be difficult. Most of your followers will have never engaged with a single piece of your content. And those that have may be difficult to pinpoint.
Benefits of Personalization in Social Media
Now, with those basics out of the way, , let’s dive a bit deeper into the real-world advantages that you can expect from using it. The benefits are numerous and will reverberate throughout your business once you have a consistent way to facilitate interactions that are more personal across all of the social networks that your company maintains a presence on.
Reasons for personalization include:
Increased Social Media Engagement
People interact with personalized content more readily. Over time, you will see an increase in engagement you receive from your following. A study from eMarketer showed that 56% of CMOs experience higher response and engagement rates with personalized content. 47% found that they experienced more timely and relevant interactions. This increase in engagement will also cause your following to grow more rapidly than it otherwise would. Personalization helps to get your audience engaged and involved with your content.
Improve Ad Relevance and Advertising Costs
Facebook and other social media networks want to show ads to their audience. Ads that feature personalized and tailored messages will generate more positive feedback from users and will receive a better Facebook relevance score. This score will directly affect the price of your advertisements. Ads that receive higher levels of positive feedback and engagement will receive a higher relevance score. Ads with higher levels of negative feedback will have a lower relevance score. Put simply — personalized ads cost less and produce a higher ROI.
Generate More Warm Conversations and Leads
Your following ismore likely to interact with your content when that content is tailored to their interests. This will lead to more conversations with prospects and ultimately, more sales of your product or service. Personalization leads directly to an increase in the ROI of your social media marketing investment.
Grow Awareness and Brand Loyalty
Personalization helps you catch the eye of your customers and keeps them coming back for more. When you become recognized as a provider of high-value content that aligns with their interests, they will develop an affinity for your brand. It makes your audience recognize that you care for them, based on the fact that you have published content that is specifically aligned with what they want to see. They return that favor with interest and loyalty to your brand and your online presence.
How Can You Personalize Social Media?
Now, for the big question. How can you actually personalize your social media? While technically possible it’s not feasible for most of us. Interestingly, you can achieve this goal with 10,000s of tailored messages if you are willing to spend enough money. This was shown in the work of Cambridge Analytics’ for the Trump campaign.However, neither you nor I can target each individual social media update to a specific person. That would be too expensive and too time-consuming. However, you can use a few tools and strategies to narrowly target individuals within your following and create content that will align with their biggest concerns.
Like any social media marketing strategy, injecting personalization relies on a smart balance of automation and manual management of your social media accounts. You personalize what you can in terms of public-facing content, and use that as a springboard for warm conversations with leads, highly personalized customer service, and better content for your following.
You can’t expect for every action you take on social media to be hyper-personalized for a specific persona that you would like to target. But you can target them a bit more broadly within your content, and use advertisements and creative strategies to bridge the gap.
Let’s take a look at some of the best strategies for injecting personalization into your social media marketing campaigns:
Like any ROI-producing marketing campaign, generating a return from personalization on social media starts with smart audience analysis. You can’t personalize and individualize the content that you share if you don’t fully understand who you are sharing it with.
So, learn about your audience. Use the customer personas that you have put together for other aspects of your marketing operation and analyze how those fit within your social media followings on the different platforms. If you haven’t done that yet, start today and define your target audience and buyer persona by using a template. Get to know your followers by interacting with them and asking them questions that are tangentially related to your product. Their answers to these questions will provide you with a lot of information and context about your audience.
Other data and information that you should seek out as you analyze your following includes:
Once you have enough data on hand to make informed personalization decisions, you can begin injecting it into your social media marketing campaigns through a variety of strategies.
1. Retargeted Advertisements
Retargeting is the practice of showing advertisements to people that have already been to your website. When they visit your website, a cookie is placed on their browser and then that cookie is used to show advertisements to them on social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
Retargeted ads produce an extremely high ROI for a number of different reasons. First, these ads are shown to people that are already aware of your brand. You know they have already visited your website. You can pinpoint the exact pages they visited and how much time they spent on them to determine what advertisements will be the most relevant to them. That leads us to our next benefit of retargeted social media ads — they are perfect for personalization.
Because retargeted ads are shown to users that you have already had a chance to collect data about, that gives you data to work with for personalization. If they recently bought a product from your company, you could show them related products or accessories they might be interested in. If your visitor interacted with a piece of your content, you can send them to a landing page for a product that is directly related to the content that they interacted with. You could deliver coupon codes to prospects that abandoned their cart, like this:
Retargeting is only done through paid advertising systems but should play a big role in any effort to increase personalization on social media. By combining retargeted ads with sharing content that is laser-targeted to your customer personas, you can stand out and catch the attention of your ideal customers on the platforms you are active on.
Automated Targeted Interaction & Engagement
Social media marketing campaigns rely on your ability to find the right balance between by-hand interaction and automation. You would think that automating personalized content is impossible, but that’s not entirely true. You can personalize automated updates by tagging individuals that might be interested in the content you are sharing. A popular strategy is to tag an influencer or two and share a hashtag with the update that will help it to catch the eyes of your intended audience. An influencer retweeting or sharing your update can help to rapidly expand its reach and get your social accounts in front of customers.
Finding the balance between automation and genuine manual interaction is important. If an influencer did share your update, you should be in the comments interacting with people who react and growing your awareness manually.
2. Personalized Videos
Personalized video content is a somewhat recent trend on social media, but one that is predicted to play a huge role in the personalization of your social media marketing campaigns. Tools like Idomoo and Vidyard have added features for personalization within your video content.
Vidyard, for instance, allows you to input specific data about a customer into your videos including:
Idomoo merges data and video to deliver experiences that’s meant to create higher and more measurable ROI. Both companies use dynamic elements that are rendered on a frame-by-frame basis to include real data about your prospects within the content of the video and not just through an overlay. These videos can be used in social media advertising campaigns, or through genuine outreach and interaction. For social sellers, this kind of technology could be a godsend and help you to get your proposals viewed more often.
3. User-Generated Content
User-generated content is perfect for personalization campaigns and is often overlooked. This kind of content encourages more sharing and engagement on social media.
Let’s take a look at a recent example. In this example, the team from Kimpton, a premium hotel brand, actively seeks out photos and updates that are shared by their guests. When appropriate, they ask if they could share the photo on their own social media accounts. While doing this, they share terms and conditions for the interaction with the prospect.
This is a great way to increase interaction with customers and bolster the amount of social proof that you share on your accounts. They don’t just share that content on their social media accounts, either. The terms that the user agrees to give them permission to share the content on their website as well:
Don’t you think that users that have had their pictures and content shared on the Kimpton website will be likely to share it with their friends and family as well? This highly-personalized approach might be manual, but it helps to develop a lasting connection with guests and expands the reach of each piece of content. You can make it scalable by focusing part of your social media activities only on this highly-engaging and ROI-producing outreach. If you’re on your own, you could even task a virtual assistant with this.
A Powerful Tactic
Personalization is extremely powerful in any marketing campaign. While it is more difficult to find ways to inject personalization into social media marketing campaigns than it is through other channels, there are some viable strategies that can help you to connect directly with your ideal customers in a personal way. Social media personalization will always require a careful balance of automation and by-hand engagement, but companies that are able to find that balance will enjoy large boosts to their social media ROI.
Share some strategies that have worked for you or how you have personalized social media and content campaigns.
What is a brand? When we are introduced to someone in real life, we seek to learn more about them. We ask questions that give us a brief overview of their life and the type of person that they are. We listen to their stories, ideas, and opinions. It’s a part of getting to know someone and, in our personal lives and in business, becomes a part of their personal brand as we perceive it.
Brands go through the same steps when customers evaluate and get to know them. A prospect might find your website and become intrigued. Maybe your messaging really hit home with them. They check out your product, verify that it covers their most pressing needs, and then they begin the process of getting to know your brand- just like they would a person. The goal is to get to know the brand, it’s promise, value, and benefits on a deeper level.
We try to unearth the story of a brand. We prefer to shop with brands that share our values, beliefs, and concerns. We check out what people are saying on social media about those brands, their products and maybe even their employees. We read reviews that other customers have left about a product or service. We read the brand’s blog posts and learn about their founders and executives. When you’re looking for a B2B partner, it pays to really do your homework before committing to an expensive solution and individuals as well as businesses want to make sure they’re in good company and don’t end up with questionable acquaintances.
The secret weapon for building a brand that your customers relate to is brand storytelling. By sharing stories and anecdotes about your business, industry, product, and employees, you give your customers a window into your operations, your inner workings and what makes you unique. By giving them a peek behind the ‘green curtain’, customers and prospects get to know your business more intimately and get to understand the “why” behind what you do.
Your brand isn’t just what you tell people. It’s what everyone believes about your brand based on the signals that you send, both negative and positive. Brand storytelling is our tool for taking ahold of these narratives and helping our customers see through the noise to see the qualities that make us love a company. We are all hard-wired to love stories.
What is Brand Storytelling?
Brand storytelling is any piece of content that shares a story about your brand, in the broadest sense. Any story that you tell that relates to your brand in some way is brand storytelling. It gives your customers and followers insights into your company and creates more opportunities for them to connect with your brand on a personal level.
Brand storytelling comes in many different forms. It could be a video case study that details how you helped a prominent client. When you describe your interactions with that client, you are telling a story about your brand. Sharing a story about the early days of your company, doing an interview with one of your employees, or giving your followers a video walk-through of your office — all examples of powerful brand storytelling.
Too many people try to put brand storytelling in a box, where you are expected to tell stories about actual events, without examining how they can creatively make those stories more impactful by packaging them in different ways. In the examples at the end of this post, you’ll see some high-level examples of brand storytelling that are a bit more creative.
Brand storytelling is channel neutral. You can tell your stories through a blog post, social media updates, video, podcast, or live speech - or even a comic strip. The medium you use to tell your story is less important than the story itself. Ensuring that you tell stories your core customers will connect with is important for building brand awareness and loyalty. Effective brand storytelling can turn happy customers into true advocates and promoters.
How to Make Your Audience Love Your Brand StoriesWhile there is no formula that you can use to create your brand stories. That said, reading up on proper narrative structures in your chosen medium helps you improve the effectiveness of your stories. In particular, I’m a huge fan of The Hero’s Journey. And once you start recognizing the various stages, it becomes addictive to discover them. Especially in Movies. In the meantime, here are a few tips you can follow to ensure that your content connects with your audience and hits all of the beats of a good story.
Say Something Unique
Think about the movies you love. A big part of the reason why you love them is because they do something that you like that helps them stand out from the competition. Maybe it’s an unexpected plot twist, a quirk that they give the character, or the way the relationships play out throughout the story. While most movies follow similar narrative formulas, no one wants to watch a movie that is a complete copy of another popular movie. The same is true for the content and stories that brands share.
Make sure your brand story has something unique to say in each campaign. If you are talking personally about something that happened to you, your company, or your employees, filling in the details should be enough to make your story unique. Nobody else can tell these stories, and you should lean on those personal anecdotes as a resource to make your content personally unique to you.
Design Stories for Your Audience
It may seem like common sense, but a quick look at the types of stories many brands tell might leave you asking — who is this for? If you aren’t designing stories for a specific customer persona you are missing the mark. Don’t tell stories for your own benefit, or for the benefit of your employees. Make sure that you are telling stories your audience actually wants to hear because the story conveys some insight or guidance. Or maybe it’s just entertainment value. Either way - know your audience.
Mostly this means that your audience should be able to relate to your stories. Maybe your story centers around a particular business problem your key customers can relate to. Maybe it touches on a personal story on the sacrifices that you make as a dedicated professional. Your story can take any shape. But take a moment to consider what your audience and you have in common and try to touch on those points throughout your story.
Show, Don’t Tell
This is perhaps the most common advice given in creative writing classes across the world. In some ways, it’s over-recommended. Sometimes we do want to tell. Still, as it applies to brand storytelling, far too many creators get caught up in telling when they should be doing more showing.
If you were telling a story about how your brand helped a client, you wouldn’t end the story simply saying that your recommendations “performed well.” Instead, you’d want to provide data and statistics that back up your assertions. How did specific changes result in measurable outcomes for your client? Don’t just talk about your work. Show the results of the work you did in an illustrative and practical way whenever possible.
Consistency in Storytelling
Stories themselves should be self-contained and tell a complete story for your audience. But that doesn’t mean that each individual story shouldn’t be building toward a larger narrative. Before creating your first brand storytelling campaigns, you should outline some of the main points that you would like your stories to make when taken together.
For instance, if you are running a company that offered several lines of all-natural and green skincare products and you really wanted to push the green angle — some brand themes that you might want to push in your stories might include:
Character-Driven & Personal
You wouldn’t want to read a story that was a bulleted list of the events that took place. That’s not even a story. That’s just a laundry list. Effective stories are character-driven. They draw on our emotions and help us relate to those characters. Brand stories should contain the same ingredients any great story does — a protagonist that overcomes challenges on their way to success (or failure), an antagonist (business problem), and secondary characters. Make sure that when you tell brand stories you are telling them in full.
Tell your stories from the perspective of a single person to improve their impact. Speaking from the first-person can help make stories seem more personal. First-person stories are generally easier to write, making them a good introduction to brand storytelling for first-time storytellers.
2 Real-World Examples of Effective Brand Storytelling
In this section, I want to share some high-level examples of brand storytelling. One of the aspects you will notice throughout these examples is that effective brand storytellers don’t just view the stories they tell as individual articles. Instead, they are chapters in a book - part of a larger strategy that helps dictate the way consumers perceive their brand. Ultimately, brand storytelling helps define their target market and position their brand within that market.
Dannijo Uses Personal Storytelling to Drive Their Lifestyle BrandLifestyle brands are, more than most, in a position to benefit from brand storytelling. Customers want to see themselves living a specific idealistic life when they use products from lifestyle brands. Telling stories of the way that other customers have integrated their products into their lives can help to show customers what their life could be like with those same products.
This fact isn’t lost on Dannijo, a brand founded by sisters Danielle and Jodie Snyder in 2008. From the very beginning, they embraced storytelling as part of their broader marketing strategy. In an interview with Fast Company, Danielle Snyder explained their focus on “creating narratives that are so compelling to consumers, they want to build your products into their lives.” That’s a perfect representation of the power of storytelling. Amazing stories make your customers want to make your company and products a part of their lives.
Dannijo’s brand storytelling has been immensely successful for the company. Today they have more than 176,000 followers on Instagram. That social platform plays a key role in their strategy. Here, Dannijo showcases snapshots of their team, their business, the lives of the people that wear their product, and the brand draws attention to its products by highlighting when celebrities use them.
They also take things a bit further as far as follower engagement goes. They often hold inspirational #ConversationPieces.Great hashtag. On that topic, check out our article on hashtag marketing for more examples. In these #ConversationPieces one of the sisters interviews another influential person. Danielle and Jodie (and the other guests) use these chats often to share personal anecdotes and tell stories about their rise to success in business as much as hardships in their personal lives. This content isn’t directly connected to their products, but it doesn’t need to be. It speaks directly to their target audience.
Zillow Uses Their Internal Data to Create Narratives
For the second example, we want to call out Zillow, a U.S.-based online real estate marketplace. In recent years, the company has become the frontrunner in online home sales. Today, their database contains data for more than 110 million homes, including data for value estimations, the square footage of each home, nearby attractions and amenities, location data, and aerial photographs.
Zillow doesn’t let that data go to waste. The company has made it a priority to leverage the data it collects to help customers better understand their brand, the housing market, and develop personal connections.
Take a look at this post that shows where millennials can find affordable homes. Here, Zillow combined publicly available data about average millennial- wages with their own internal data on home prices in cities across the U.S.
Check out their findings:
In another example, Zillow used their data to determine the 20 Best cities for Halloween Trick or Treating leading up to the 2017 Halloween holiday. They determined these cities based on home values, how close the houses are located to one another, the crime rate of the city, and the size of the population under 10 years old. They then created an infographic that illustrated their results.
These are both great examples of Zillow taking what would otherwise be extremely dry user data and turning it into something interesting that still points back to their main product — a comprehensive real estate database. Zillow does an excellent job bringing data to life through real-world examples, featuring millennials, parents with trick-and-treating kids (and many more) and combining boring data and making it relatable, relevant and interesting.
Brand Storytelling Drives Awareness, Interest, and Loyalty
Brand storytelling will help your business throughout all phases of the customer life cycle. By showing your customers that you are a brand that can solve their problems and share their beliefs, you can help facilitate that initial awareness in your company and products. As they learn more, that awareness develops into a genuine interest. Later, after they’ve become satisfied customers, those same traits that made them interested in you in the first place, will also make them some of your most loyal customers.
Have you ever done any brand storytelling? How’d that work out for your business? Comment below!
You see it all the time. A company or a person posts a Tweet or an Instagram post that links to a piece of content, followed by a dozen (or unbelievably, sometimes more) hashtags. If you’re at all like me there might have been a point where you wondered — “What is that really doing for them?”
Most of the time, the answer is simply: nothing. However, that isn’t meant to be a statement on the effectiveness of hashtags in general. Hashtag usage can be extremely rewarding, but only when it’s done in a smart way. Forward-thinking social sellers, digital marketers and social media managers can benefit from the audience and awareness growth that hashtag marketing brings to the table.
In this article, we’ll explain what hashtags are, why they work with audiences, and we’ll cover some of the typical strategies used in hashtag marketing to grow the reach of social updates.
Why Do Hashtags Work?
When Twitter first debuted hashtags, I’m not certain that they fully understood the magnitude of what they created and the widespread uses their feature would receive. The feature still acts as it did when it was first launched, although Twitter has bolstered up the systems around it to make hashtags easier to engage with. The feature was so popular that it was eventually adopted by other social networks like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn — making it a key feature in the social marketing world.
Initially, hashtags were created for content tagging. When you share a piece of content, you can tag it with a relevant #hashtag, which will make it easier for people to search for this keyword on the respective platform. That is still true today, despite the ballooning number of ways that users use them.
Today, hashtags help users in a few key ways:
Studies have shown that Tweets and Facebook posts that include 1-2 hashtags typically receive more engagement than those with zero or those with 3 or more.
Hashtags work because they are helpful. Social networks are inherently very messy. There is a lot of noise, with thousands of users sharing their thoughts on different topics any given second. Hashtags help us to break through that noise and find our niche and the conversation we’re interested in. They give us a way to easily discuss the topics that are important to use and find that island of community in the sea of social networking.
Now let’s dive into the different hashtag marketing strategies that are most commonly used to grow the reach and presence of a social post or topic. In each section, I’ll provide examples of popular brands using each method to get the gears turning on how you might be able to integrate hashtag marketing into your own business.
Types of Hashtags to Use
Using hashtags isn’t enough. If you aren’t smart in the way that you use them, you’ll see no more engagement than your typical hashtag spammer does. Finding smart and effective ways to use hashtags will not only expand the reach of your social posts but will help to improve your brand awareness overall as you consistently appear in specific industry-related hashtags.
In this section, we’ll cover the different types of popular hashtag marketing strategies we see continually delivering results to brands.
Trending hashtags are perhaps the most common hashtag marketing strategy and arguably the most impactful when done well. The trending hashtags that show up on Twitter and Facebook drive a lot of eyeballs to the posts that perform well and use those hashtags. For most companies, the trending hashtags will rarely align with their business or service, but keeping a close eye on them can yield creative opportunities to tie your brand to a current trending topic.
The brand exposure can be astronomical if you are in the right place at the right time. This can’t be shown any more clearly than during news events that trend, when news publications often have the most popular Tweets in the category.
Let’s look at an example.
Do you remember the Pokemon Go craze? Pokemon Go was a Pokemon mobile game that allowed players to catch Pokemons out in the real world using a GPS system. The game was a huge hit and had brought in more than $1.8 billion in sales by Summer 2018, just two years after its release.
The game was trending on every social network. That fact was not lost on Warby Parker, a prescription eyeglasses company. While their business may seem wholly unrelated to the Pokemon Go trend, they found a simple way to make the most of the hashtag and use it to their advantage:
Nothing earth-shattering in terms of engagement, but a simple post with a few digitally-added Pokemon in their office with some of the employees caught a small wave on the trending #PokemonGo hashtag and got them noticed. This example is great because it shows a fun side of their team that customers don’t usually get to see as well.
Community hashtags can be a great way to connect with a very specific audience. Some might say that they are another version of branded hashtags because many influential brands have communities that pop up around them.
Using our earlier example, a quick search of the #JustinBieber hashtag pulls up a long list of fans celebrating the person and the music and a few voicing their dislike as well:
It comes as no surprise. People are always sharing their opinions on Twitter. Let’s look at a brand example. Nike is a company with a lot of fans. At any given time, there are dozens of loyal supporters discussing Nike products, advertisements, and news on Twitter.
These brands see genuine communities grow around their brand and products. Often, brands will use their own name as a hashtag in an attempt to get a sort of social media community growing around their brand. While this strategy will only work for companies that have passionate and loyal customers, it can be a great way to help people find information about your company regardless.
One example of a smaller company using this hashtag marketing strategy comes from West Elm, a furniture and home decor company. They tag all of their Instagram photos with the #MyWestElm hashtag and ask that their followers to do the same when sharing pictures of their furniture.
This allows the company to showcase a variety of styles in their products and provides would-be customers with social proof that their products are loved and appreciated by their customers.
While the West Elm example highlights a long-term branding approach to social media, there are shorter, more focused ways to use hashtag marketing to grow your social presence. Campaign hashtags are used as part of a social media marketing campaign or contest. They typically have a start and end date — however long the company will be running a particular campaign.
Some of the common types of hashtag campaigns that we see having success socially typically promote things like:
While marketing hashtag campaigns have a limited lifespan, they can make a big splash in a short amount of time when they connect with your audience.
Events make for a great opportunity for hashtag marketing. They have a built-in audience of attendees, those that wish they could attend, and the rest of us that are on the outside looking in, wondering what all of the fuss is about.
For example, posting updates about popular industry conferences can be a great way to not only schedule some interesting coffee meetups during the conference, but it can help your brand to gain more visibility throughout.
Here’s a good example of using a conference hashtag to bolster brand content:
Once Pubcon had wrapped up, the company published a detailed wrap-up of the event. Then, they promoted this content on Twitter and other social networks using hashtags that were associated with the event.
Do you know what a Twitter chat is? A Twitter chat is essentially a public discussion that organizes itself by hashtag. Let’s say a teacher’s union wanted to take a day to discussion teaching salaries in the US. They might choose to do this under a hashtag like #TeachingPayChat or something similar. Not only does this approach help chat participants to find discussions to take part in, but it increases the visibility of the cause to users outside of their group that normally wouldn’t participate.
Here’s a an example of a few Tweets from a Twitter chat called #BlogChat:
In other words, a Twitter chat is simply a way for people (and brands) to have somewhat organized discussions around a popular topic. If you are able to find a Twitter chat that closely aligns with your brand or product, it can be a powerful opportunity to get your product in front of an ideal audience.
If you want to find Twitter chats (scheduled ones, anyway), I recommend keeping a close eye on the TweetReports Twitter Chat Schedule page.
Content Description Hashtags
Simple, but often effective. Simply tagging your updates with useful hashtags that describe your content can be an effective way to increase their visibility. For instance, if I were to promote this post on social media, I might use a content descriptor hashtag like #SocialMediaMarketing or #HashtagMarketing. This will help searchers who are interested in content around those subjects to find my post.
There are many companies that keep a close watch on hashtags that are related to their industry. They use it to find brand partners, customers, and answer questions for authority building. Appearing in content description hashtags can be a solid way to network and find like-minded companies to partner with.
Product or Service Hashtags
If you have a company that offers multiple products or services, hashtags can draw attention to the different sides of your brand. This is incredibly helpful when your products have different audiences.
These hashtags can help consumers to perform research on a product. Sifting through your catalogue can be difficult if you have a large range of products and services. A product or service hashtag makes it simple for consumers to find information about that product.
Take a look at this example from GoPro, while promoting their GoProPlus:
If you hadn’t guessed already — the elephant ends up kicking the camera and damaging it. This is a fun and lighthearted way to promote new selling points for their Go Pro Plus line. The post did very well, receiving more than a whopping 100,000 likes and 600+ comments.
Hashtag Marketing ToolsNow that we’ve covered popular hashtag marketing strategies, we have to recommend a few tools that will make your life a whole lot easier. These tools will help you generate, track, and research hashtags for your social media marketing campaigns:
Use Hashtag Marketing to Grow Your Social Reach
Smart hashtag usage isn’t about spamming as many hashtags as you can into each update. It’s about finding smart, strategic ways to get your social media updates in front of your ideal audience. The strategies in this article should help you to get the gears turning on how you can implement effective hashtag strategies into your own social media presence.
What do you think? If you’ve used hashtags in a unique way or have questions about hashtag marketing, we’d love to hear from you in the comments!