Social media planning tips for 2015

As seen in Westchester County Business Journal

A new year is the perfect time to evaluate what marketing tactics worked well during the prior year and what areas could be improved. Among the many tactics to evaluate as part of this annual marketing audit is social media. Be it Facebook or Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest, it’s important to identify which channels are attracting the right audiences, engaging constituents in meaningful ways and positively impacting your business’ bottom line.

As you hone your social media marketing program for 2015, keep these tips top-of-mind:

• Quality should always trump quantity. Feeding the ‘content beast’ isn’t easy. Social media is a living, breathing organism and doesn’t fair well when neglected. That said, opting to generate a high volume of content at the cost of quality isn’t prudent.

When building your monthly content calendar, be realistic about your marketing team’s bandwidth. Further, focus on content that is highly relevant to your target audience(s) and helps move prospects through the sales funnel, starting with awareness and ending with action. Be sure to generate content that speaks to audiences at various phases of the sales process, answers key questions and builds brand trust.

• Think visually. In December, photo-sharing platform Instagram officially surpassed Twitter’s 284 million active users, reaching 300 million active users. An active social community, Instagram users share a total of 70 million photos per day. While the platform’s user demographics may or may not align with your company’s target audience(s), Instagram is a testament to the power of using visuals to effectively communicate with online audiences. Whether you commit to building a photo library to enhance social media updates throughout the year, creating custom visuals to accompany blog posts or hosting a photo contest to engage your online audience, focus on using imagery to tell your company’s compelling story.

• Focus on integration. The most effective marketing programs strategically blend online and offline marketing to achieve measurable objectives. They help to achieve overall business goals and keep the company’s target audience in mind. When evaluating your social media successes and missteps from 2014, identify how integration among social media platforms — and other marketing channels — can help to optimize success. Perhaps you’re a commercial real estate broker and could use the photos of your latest listing to enhance email marketing and make a blog post highlighting the property more compelling. Maybe you’re a small business exhibiting at an industry trade show and want to get more value out of your time at the show — think pre- and post-event blog posts, a series of Facebook factoids or Tweet-worthy show takeaways.

• Be human. In recent months, many marketing trades have focused on the concept of ‘business-to-human’ marketing. While the terminology may be new, the concept is tried and true — be authentic and focus on your audience.

In a digital world, it’s easier than ever to automate online marketing. And, while this approach can save time and streamline processes, automation can come at the cost of human voice and interaction. It’s important to find ways to strike a balance between increasing efficiency and remaining authentic and interactive. If you opt to pre-schedule updates during peak seasons, or use automation tools to increase consistency of communications, be sure it doesn’t come at the cost of acknowledging and engaging your audiences. The bottom line: Relationships matter.

• Embrace the concept, not the medium. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to hear Peter Shankman present a social media workshop and one key takeaway remains a top priority today. As Shankman told his audience, it’s not about being successful on Twitter — it’s about being successful communicating in 140 characters. As social media platforms come and go, it’s important to take the ‘lessons learned’ with you and apply them to the next social media marketing channel.

If Twitter were to go away, it’s important to know how you can leverage short, succinct communications moving forward to engage audiences and drive conversion. Likewise, if Instagram were to go away at some point in the future, it’s important to know which visual marketing lessons you could apply to a new communication channel.

As the social media marketing landscape continues to evolve, it’s paramount to remain focused on the channels that generate the greatest return on investment. While some companies may define ROI as sales, others may define it as increased reach or bolstered engagement.

Danielle M. Cyr is vice president of integrated marketing for Co-Communications, a marketing and public relations agency with offices in Mount Kisco, Manhattan and Farmington. She can be reached at Danielle@cocommunications.com.