Column: Top social media marketing resolutions for 2016

The following column appeared in the February 15, 2016 edition of the Westchester Business Journal.  The article was written by Robin Colner who is director of the Digital and Social Media Professional Certificate Program at Fordham Westchester’s School of Professional and Continuing Studies and a social media marketing consultant.  For more information about Fordham’s Social Media program, visit this site.
It may be February, it’s not too late to make New Year’s Resolutions. As a social media marketer, I have been busy evaluating the expected changes to the platforms and strategies affecting the digital landscape in 2016.
Here are my predictions for the rapidly evolving world of social media presented as a “to do” list for everyone working in the field and those brands, businesses, organizations and professionals that want to improve their social media marketing efforts.
1. Increase the use of video marketing platforms including the recently rolled out “Facebook Live”, the new mobile live-streaming video apps, Periscope and Blab, and the already popular YouTube, Instavid (Instagram Video) and Vine. Businesses are using video in creative ways to interact in real-time with fans and showcase their products, services and staffs in authentic, informative and entertaining ways.
Budgets for video productions are expected to increase along with the need to customize and repurpose the productions for distribution throughout all social media platforms. I expect that quality improvements will influence the popularity and shareability of video content in the coming year. Plan to spend money on equipment and skilled resources to improve the quality of your video productions.
2. Create high quality long- and short-form content on a regular basis by following a disciplined editorial schedule. Algorithms that distribute content to users through apps and social media platforms are redefining the role that content marketing plays in attracting customers and prospects to a business. 2015 was the year that images became a critically important component of the content approach on all social media platforms.
Snackable visual content in the form of photos, GIFs, infographics and animated videos as well as premium written content such as e-books, white papers, blog posts, case studies, tutorials and webinars aimed at targeted niche segments are important strategies to break through the congestion, increase the viral reach and improve the ROI for content marketing efforts.

Podcasting has had a renaissance as more subject matter experts are expanding their use of this early social medium. Stay tuned for the Savvy Social Marketing Podcast that I will be launching in the near future. I anticipate that virtual reality experiences will be the next content frontier.

3. Implement the use of daily, weekly and monthly editorial calendars for planning the creation and distribution of content related to each social media profile. Quality, quantity, engagement and sharing are the mantras defining content marketing through social media channels. Editorial calendars provide an important mechanism for organizing and improving the consistency of content production for professionals as well as organizations, businesses and leading brands.

I advise businesses to develop a custom template that will enable colleagues and staff members to successfully contribute and share valuable content through multiple social media accounts.

4. Increase the use of online tools to create, distribute, monitor and measure social media content in all social media channels. The growing demands of social media marketing have created the need to scale content production. I research, discover and test new online content marketing platforms and dashboards daily. Be on the lookout this year for my regular reviews of online tools to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your social media marketing operations.

5. Expand social media advertising to target key audience segments with compelling marketing messages. Organic reach for Facebook posts has plummeted to roughly 1% of a fan base. Although it is still possible to organically reach a wider audience on other social media platforms, I expect that monetization pressure will create the need to pursue a paid advertising approach on the other leading platforms over the next few years.

Therefore, since it will be increasingly important to “pay to play” in social media, I advise structuring A/B tests of advertising copy, audience segments, offers and creative concepts on Facebook. These tests will produce valuable metrics that can improve future results from social media advertising on Facebook as well as the other social media platforms.

6. Use marketing automation software such as InfusionSoft or Hubspot to nurture relationships with prospects and customers and provide an ongoing stream of valuable content to activate and grow their interest in your services. Studies have shown that throughout every stage of their buying journey, customers are turning online to evaluate the expertise and reputations of service providers.

Automating the messaging process allows businesses the ability to provide the right message to the right prospect at the right time and collect email addresses in the process. Email marketing is alive and well and continues to support the overall marketing efforts for professionals and businesses.

7. Build and grow relationships with social media “influencers.” Instagramers, Snapchatters, Viners, Youtubers, bloggers and industry leaders with large social media followings are the new marketing celebrities. In order to take advantage of the viral nature of social media, it is important to motivate key influencers to spread messages to their followers. Blogger outreach efforts have grown to include creative influencers on each social media platform. Online matching platforms and specialized talent agencies have been introduced over the past several years to help brands connect to and cultivate relationships with appropriate influencers. This process will continue to require significant financial resources.

8. Master the data to be smarter in setting key performance indicators and measuring the ROI of social media marketing. As the resources required to implement and optimize social media marketing strategies continues to increase, so too does the need to monitor and measure the return on investment for social media marketing and advertising. Fortunately, the platforms along with outside providers are offering more data to help users understand how to improve the results from their ongoing social media activities.

Social media engagement plays an important role in the marketing mix of most businesses. Therefore, performance data will help ensure that social media remains an important part of the integrated marketing and communications strategies for your products and services.

9. Stop ignoring LinkedIn (especially B2B professionals) and keep alert to the new kids on the social media block. Social selling, which is defined as producing content to demonstrate expertise, engender trust and generate leads, rose to prominence in 2015. In a 2015 Forrester survey, 74% of business buyers indicated that they conduct more than half their research online before making an offline purchase. Informative content produced for websites and LinkedIn can and should be repurposed to attract leads on new and established social media channels.

It will be exciting to track whether Instagram and SnapChat will continue to grow in popularity. Current research suggests that the average user has an active presence on 5 or more social media platforms. Therefore, it is important to keep studying where your ideal audience may be spending time and the best ways to engage with prospects and customers.

10. Learn everything about messaging applications such as WhatsApp and WeChat as these will be the preferred social communication channels in the future, especially among younger demographics. It is always important to research and follow your audiences’ social media activity over time. Soon sophisticated brands will be tapping the personalization opportunities on these channels with targeted advertising.

11. Renew the gym membership and schedule regular times for exercise. Yes, I am serious. This resolution appears on my personal as well as professional lists of 2016 goals. Spending time off the grid can help recharge your creative juices and improve your ability to manage a social media presence on multiple platforms. Becoming agile in mind, body and spirit is critical to achieving success in social media marketing. It will also help you continue to look good in selfies, which remain extremely popular on every social media platform.

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