By Clare McDermott published December 11, 2015

Future Watch: Expert Talks Social Media Ideas for 2016

CMI_CCO_FutureWatch-01

Social media expert Ian Cleary explains some fundamentals social media marketers still can’t seem to master, as well as next-horizon ideas to apply in 2016.

CCO: What do marketers struggle with most in social media?

Cleary: Building an effective sales process from social media. Marketers are great at building engagement and relationships, but not so good at driving all that engagement to a sale or thinking of social media as part of the sales funnel. When building the sales funnel, you need not only a social strategy in place, but also access to analytics, access to email marketing, etc. … There’s a disconnect there; those working in social media often don’t have access and influence with the right people across the organization.

CCO: What are you excited about that’s new in social media?

Social selling

Cleary: To see how it works, check out Heyo Cart. A company posts a product for sale, users type in “buy” in the comments and an in-platform app opens to take care of the sale. Increasingly Facebook and other social sites will expand this concept and we’ll see more direct sales on these channels.

heyo-preview

Live streaming

Just a few months ago I wasn’t on Blab and Periscope, but now I think tools like those will play a very important part in social selling in the coming years. Meeting your customers face to face is the best way to build a relationship. Live streaming means you’re online and on video, interacting with people one on one. Social media is great, but it’s so much more effective to see one another live.

Here’s how it works: Periscope, for example, lets me get on video and broadcast on a topic of potential interest to my customers. They can see me and interact with me. Using live streaming, your audience is getting a real feel about who you are, what your business is about, and what your personality is like. They are much more likely to buy your product and services. Channels like Blab and Periscope are still immature, but I believe they represent the next phase of social media … and those that get in early reap greater influence on the channels. It’s a risk, but I do believe one that will pay out massive rewards.

As the newest entrant to the field, Blab.im also feels the most innovative of the bunch. Pull four people into a live video conversation, and invite others to watch and chime in through messaging features. When someone wants to join the video feed, the host can remove a current member of the foursome to make room. Viewers weigh in by messaging and adding “feels” (i.e., emojis) to those guests with whom they feel most at one. Host a debate, a fireside chat, or a live workshop – the content types are endless.

Facebook’s competitive moves

I’m interested to see what Facebook is doing with Notes. In a nutshell, Facebook is trying to keep audiences on its site rather than linking to third parties. The new Notes interface is beautiful – imitating the look and feel of Medium – and it may draw users to begin blogging on the platform. Facebook also recently introduced the capability to upload video directly on the Facebook platform, which is in direct competition to YouTube. Both these changes are a serious threat to media companies. Marketers need to think about what the changes mean for their own strategies, and how to tap the massive Facebook audience while still growing a subscriber base to owned channels.

CCO: What practices do you see the most sophisticated brands using?

Influencer marketing

Cleary: Sophisticated marketers realize the importance of building relationships with influencers as a gateway to access audiences. Audiences already are fragmented, and as more channels open up, the problem becomes even more acute. It’s difficult for marketers to build a presence on all these channels.

Do a cost analysis on the amount of time and effort required to understand a channel, build an audience on that channel, and stay engaged with it. It’s not always the case, but we usually find an influencer strategy is both important and cost effective.

Companies can use influencer-identification tools to keep tabs on the most important voices in their niche or industry and build relationships with them. The dilemma is: Do you spend time nurturing and building relationships with influencers or do you immediately look for value from them? I believe if you invest time to build relationships, it generally leads to longer-term benefits. Marketers should always be careful in their initial outreach – if you spoil it in the early stage, your actions will have negative long-term impact. And remember, you can’t outsource the building of relationships. Companies often employ agencies to help identify influencers and handle outreach, but I think it’s a mistake. For a top-level influencer, you really need to make a direct connection.

Employees as publishers

Another key area where sophisticated marketers excel is getting employees involved. Tools like GaggleAMP help you use employees as content distributors. The whole idea of social is building a relationship with your audience. Your employees are on the front line and in a perfect position to help. If you fear using employees in this way, remember that if done well this type of engagement is also a win for employees because it helps them build their personal brand online.

As you study this option, keep in mind that including employees in your content-promotion plan should never be transactional (i.e., Here is some content; please share it.). You need to look first at your organization’s goals: With whom are you aiming to build relationships and what types of communities do you want to sustain? From there, define your employees’ role as part of that plan. Employees are just a small part of the whole.

CCO: How can marketers better connect social to sale?

Cleary: Marketers need to become one with the social sales funnel. (Is it possible we’re still talking about funnels?) It seems a basic piece of advice, but too few social media marketers have mastered it.

Map the funnel

You’re building an audience on social media and trying to improve engagement. But beyond that, how will you drive people to your website? How will you drive the next action (e.g., become an email subscriber)? How will you lead each person through a series of interactions that signals a maturing relationship, ending with a sale? You should have a plan for starting with a tweet and ending with a sale.

TIP: Use a content grid to map your content marketing strategy.

Measure each step

Look at the rate of people clicking on a tweet, then find out what they do once they’re on your site. What percent signs up for the next step? What portion ends up buying? Be sure you share links through each social media channel using unique tracking codes so you can see the impact of each. Not all social interactions can be measured, but you can track traffic from social to your website.

TIP: Check out this list of social media analytics solutions.

Tie metrics to business goals

What are the company’s goals? What’s the end goal? With answers to these questions, work backward. If the end goal is, I want to sell products, then what metrics do you need to track to measure it?

TIP: Translate content marketing goals to KPIs.

This article originally appeared in the December issue of Chief Content Officer. Sign up to receive your free subscription to our bimonthly, print magazine.

Looking to score big points with your target audience? CMI’s 2016 Content Marketing Playbook has tips, insights, and ideas that can help increase your success with 24 of the top content marketing tactics.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Please note:  All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team.  No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).

Author: Clare McDermott

Clare McDermott is the editor of Chief Content Officer magazine and owner of SoloPortfolio, a Boston-based content marketing provider for professional service firms.You can follow her @soloportfolio.

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  • http://www.bigskywords.com/ Greg Strandberg

    How do your employees benefit from writing content, that let’s face it, you should probably be having others do? Are you giving them a bonus, boosting their pay, perhaps giving them a gift card?

    No, you’re giving them more work and nothing else. Is that a good idea?

    • Kat

      Another way of looking at that is there are more actors in the sales funnel now, and that includes employees engaging with prospects in public or private social channels. It’s just the way business works. Thus, part of everyone’s responsibility, from product to marketing to sales, includes writing content to engage with the marketplace. So we can characterize it as a new responsibility in response to evolving sales strategies, not “more work.”

      • http://www.cheese.com/ John Goatbirth

        Business spiel nonsense. A lot of prolixity to get around to specious reasoning – it is simply another way of dumping more work on already overworked, underpaid employees. Many bosses STILL seem to be of the opinion their staff are shirkers who don’t commit to their work and, consequently, they reach the vacuous conclusion they need to throw more at them.

        If employers want their staff to appreciate their work they need to stop burdening them with unrealistic workloads. Demanding they write articles to be “actors in the sales funnel” (?!?) for a batch of characterless, banal, tedious articles about nothing at all is not the answer to anyone’s “sales funnel”.

        If you want your business to stand out, do something interesting. What the online community doesn’t need is another series of vapid “How To Improve Your Profit Margins” guff which no one ever reads.

        • http://brownsugar28.com/ Brown Sugar

          GREAT response! I read that part like wha???? Most content marketing efforts fail b/c they don’t want to hire real staff to do the work and instead dump it on people who already have so much other work to do. If you’re going to invest in social/content then HIRE the right people to do it. Stop being cheap.

  • http://www.razorsocial.com/ Ian Cleary

    Thanks so much Clare!

  • https://blogulr.com/kwash Kathia Washington

    Every business needs a good content marketing plan. Blogulr.com is a good place to start. Its built to optimize its users activities across all social networks (esp. twitter), blogs and other websites. Users can post articles (with videos), contact other bloggers, setup adverts among other features. All for free.