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Content That Builds

How to use social media to attract and engage with customers

February 28, 2017 | Content Marketing, Strategy, Social Media

With a quick Google search, you’ll find an incredibly deep list of strategies and tactics that all claim to grow your business by bringing in new customers. From sophisticated digital platforms with innovative capabilities to a more traditional print ad in a publication, these marketing tactics all have their special place in the world. But more and more you’re looking for the next tactic that can help drive your business forward by bringing more customers to your door–or digital door even.

For many construction-related industries from architects and builders to designers and product manufacturers, the old school business-to-business tactics and strategies are still heavily in play. It’s very likely you spend a great deal of time and effort on key tradeshows that over history have proven to provide some fabulous results for your bottom line. Or maybe one of your most successful tactics is cranking out that direct mail piece. These kinds of outbound marketing strategies aren’t going away and will likely always play a pivotal role in the success of your business, yet you know there’s more you can be doing.

The next logical step is increasing your inbound marketing strategies and tactics. Essentially, grabbing your customer’s attention in an effective way at the precisely right time. Sounds pretty obvious, right? By actively participating in generating leads, companies are looking to find the right customer at the right time, rather than casting a wide net of messaging and content that somebody hopefully gets caught in and finds their way back to your, the company, to purchase or buy what you have to offer, the product.

One of the most essential tools and channels for inbound marketing and lead generation in 2017–and frankly for many years prior–is social media. Now I know what you’re thinking. We’re not talking about cat videos and food photography, nor are we talking about those divisive political posts from your high school classmate that suddenly seems to take whatever <insert your least favorite quasi-news outlet here> says as gospel.

We’re talking about social media that drives results for your business: real, tangible, measurable results. While it’s important to understand that social media can play a big role in your inbound marketing and lead generation strategies, it’s equally important to remember that it’s still only a tool in your toolbox. It’s not THE tool. With that caveat in mind, let’s dive into some of the examples of how you can use social media to drive leads for your business even in a more traditional landscape like that of construction and building products.

Identifying Your Target Audience

First and foremost, you have to know who you’re talking to, why they may want to hear from you, and what you can specifically offer them as some sort of a solution. Again, it seems pretty obvious, right? You’ve baked in this same sort of thinking across the rest of your marketing strategies, and it’s just as essential across the social landscape. Don’t forget about it.

Ask yourself where your audience is spending their time online, and which platform or platforms they are engaging in certain activities. Creating a persona is an easy way to visualize how you can target someone across different platforms.

Let’s say Bill, a 46-year-old contractor, spends most of his time on Facebook skimming through humorous posts from friends, reading up on his favorite sports team, and stumbling across some recipes that he wishes his wife would consider making–mmm, bacon wrapped anything. Basically, he’s on Facebook to escape the world around him and hopefully find a little entertainment in the palm of his hand. When he’s feeling more inspired and gung-ho about his work, maybe he pops open the LinkedIn app, where he participates in group discussions with fellow construction industry members. He primarily uses Twitter while he’s watching his favorite HGTV shows. He’s on Instagram, but only to monitor what his 13-year-old daughter is posting. He watches a ton of YouTube videos though–mostly for DIY projects and product reviews.

Given Bill’s behaviors, it’s easy to see what social platforms rise to the top. Now, of course this is just a simple example that’s not meant to be a generalization of your entire community and audience. The main point is you need to spend time examining not only who your audience is, but their habits too. That’ll naturally help you formulate the types of content you produce.

Content Marketing

The phrase “content marketing” is thrown around by a load of people these days. It’s been the hot-to-trot, buzz-filled two words that has taken the marketing world by storm–no matter the industry. But it’s not a new idea by any means. It’s the simple mixture of what you can produce–either in-house or through other parties–that aims to get the attention of your prospective audiences. Let’s use our friend Bill from above as an example of the different types of content you can potentially produce that he may be inclined to engage with.

Knowing that he consumes an immense amount of YouTube videos, consider creating a series of videos that directly speaks to his interests. The keyword being “series.” Not just a video here and there; a regular schedule of fresh, content that will keep him–and others too hopefully–coming back again and again.

Video of course is just a single example of the kind of content that may bring Bill into the fold. Again, think of it as another tool in your toolbox for attracting and connecting with customers, both prospective and loyal.

Owned, Earned, Shared, and Paid

A successful content marketing plan also includes a variety of delivery channels. Sure, you can publish a great piece of content yourself on Facebook, but if your audience isn’t significant, the splash it makes may be underwhelming. There’s absolutely room for owned content that reminds people what you’re about, but combining it with earned, paid, and shared media channels is going to take you to the next level.

Earned is an old stalwart of the marketing and communications industry. You pitched a publication an idea–maybe you even handed over an entire article–and they ran with it because the content had value for their audience.

Shared content has made a more recent appearance to the scene. Like so many other avenues of marketing, it’s rooted in relationships and shared values. Someone out there is likely producing content for a like-minded audience, and you just so happen to be great friends that seek to help each other out. While there can be monetary contributions behind the scenes, it’s not obvious that content is sponsored just for the sake of sponsoring it. There’s a genuine connection between one another.

In other cases, you have paid media. Due to the sheer amount of customer data that social networking sites have at their disposal, paid social media has taken the industry by storm. Even publishers, a group that typically garners good organic reach, has started using paid media to reach a broader audience. With all the specific data points available on behavior, social media platforms are making it easier than ever to pinpoint an audience. Factor in the use of retargeting technologies and you can start to see the marketing funnel take shape.

Back to our pal Bill. Just because he only tweets along with his favorite show doesn’t mean you can’t target him appropriately. Besides having product integration with one of those shows on television, many networks are expanding their sales capabilities to include social media. A simple mention of your brand on Twitter can go along way to feeding that marketing funnel from the top.

But it doesn’t end there.

Having Meaningful Conversations

One thing that so many companies forget about social media is that it’s a two-way communications platform. All too often you’ll see a brand, whether big or small, simply publishing piece after piece of content. Automated social marketing publishing tools have made it easier than ever to increase the amount and frequency of content that goes out, but there still needs to be a the human element of conversation in your social media strategy.

Back to ‘ol Bill. In the real world, you wouldn’t just start yelling at him, “HEY LOOK AT HOW GREAT WE ARE WITH ALL THE THINGS WE KNOW,” and then turn away when he has something to say in return. You’d listen. And you should be doing the same thing on social media. Monitoring the conversations in your audience is one of the most critical parts of a successful strategy, but being a valuable part of the conversation is even bigger.

Don’t just rely on what people are saying to you directly or in response to what you’re publishing. Be proactive in your social listening. Setup keyword and hashtag searches that directly relate to your business, the industry, or specific events occurring in the industry. Check in on them everyday a handful of times to see if any new opportunities to connect with your customers have popped up. They’ll be able to see through a veiled marketing ploy with ease though, so keep it authentic. Pay attention to what they’re talking about, and nurture that relationship with a thoughtful and valuable response. Is there a specific piece of content you or your brand has produced that could be helpful for them? Send it their way and bring them closer to your brand.

At the end of the day, remember to enjoy what you’re talking about on social media and be a fan yourself. To be interesting, you have to be interested.

What are some other ways for creating and attracting customers that maybe we glossed over? Is there a specific tactic you or a company you’ve seen put into place that really knocks it out of the park? We’d love to hear from you. We’re into building things, especially connections.

Follow us on Twitter at @FunctionAtlanta, on Instagram at @FunctionAtl, or on Facebook and LinkedIn.

 


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