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Chief Social Officer: The rise of the social media marketer

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Social media marketing has seen a serious increase over the past two years. This is mostly in response to Google cracking down on blackhat SEO techniques, which involved a lot of filler content and overuse of keywords to get to the top of the search engine results pages. As an alternative, social media marketing has proved effective and lucrative for brands.

Social Networks

Every major social network, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn and others, now offers a business account for companies to advertise to consumers. These pages are typically different from personal profiles, so users can discern between other users like themselves and businesses looking to promote their products.

To attract new followers on social networks, brands have resorted to a number of tactics. Giveaways and contests that require visitors to “Like” or follow a page are particularly popular, as is offering some sort of a coupon or discount to social network users who join the followers list. As of November 2014, Facebook has banned “Like gating,” which means that brands won’t be able to require users to like a page to view the content, but adding strong content remains a requirement to encourage users to follow a page so they don’t miss out on any news.

Brands will also find their social media efforts pay off by providing content that is useful to their followers. This content doesn’t necessarily have to come from the brand itself. In fact, showing off photos submitted by fans, linking to blog posts about the company and even promoting other companies are ways to keep followers interested without inundating them with product promotions solely from the brand. Building a page as an authority in the industry is more useful in this space than continually talking at a network. Of course, brands should promote their content on social networks, both to boost search engine optimization efforts and to increase engagement with the brand.

Engaging Users

In fact, engagement has become key with social media marketing. Social media managers don’t necessarily have to engage with followers personally, but users are looking for friendly and personable personalities on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks. Photos of staff pets and family members visiting the office, for example, can resonate with viewers. PetSmart, a national pet supply retailer, posts photos of pets who visit the office every week. These include seasonal pictures such as dogs in Halloween costumes. The crew who manages Ellen Degeneres’ social media presence also does a good job of posting content shared by her fans and watchers.

Blogging as a Brand Marketing Tool

Social media marketing doesn’t just mean social networking. For example, blogging has become one of the cornerstones of SMM. Through blogging, brands can become a trusted authority and gain more followers. This content also increases the number of links on search engines.

Brands have experimented with a variety of blog content types, including:

<li>Top 10 Lists</li>
<li>Ask Me Anything Segments</li>
<li>Unboxing Videos</li>

Because blog content can so easily be shared on social networks, it’s especially beneficial. Brands that wish to run a successful blog should include videos or images in every blog post. Not only does this break up the content to keep readers interested in the words on the page, but it also provides multimedia and thumbnails to be displayed when others share that content on Facebook or Pinterest, for example. Finally, adding widgets or links to allow readers to more easily share blog posts with their networks is essential to the success of a blog that exists for social media marketing purposes.

Jobs in Social Media Marketing

This increase in social media marketing has led to new jobs and even departments that, until very recently, did not exist. Large brands have teams dedicated to monitoring conversations, or even complaints, on social networks and creating content to share on those networks. While some companies have their own in-house teams, other companies have seen success selling social media marketing services to brands that don’t want to personally be involved in those efforts. And some companies outsource social media to several companies at once in an effort to stay relevant.

Whether a brand keeps SMM in-house or hires it out, the persons handling social media have to understand that it’s a fast-paced world. A social media manager can’t resist change or be slow to adopt new platforms. The social media marketer has to be on the lookout for new social networks and be among the first to join. In 2011, it took Pinterest only a few short months to rise to the top, and a smart marketer would have been an early adopter of the social network.

Negative Marketing Efforts

Because the social effect is so strong, marketing professionals also have to understand how quickly it can all go south. Given the opportunity, the community will rapidly gain control over a social media campaign in the wild. Consider two marketing efforts that ultimately had a negative effect on their intended beneficiaries. One was a hashtag campaign by McDonalds. The company hoped to inspire consumers to share their positive experiences on Twitter. However, unhappy McDonalds’ customers instead hijacked the hashtag to voice their complaints.

Several years later, the New York Police Department would experience a similar debacle. The SMM team encouraged the hashtag ‘#myNYPD’ in spring 2014. However, posts using the hashtag were less than enthusiastic. Many mentioned instances of reported police brutality against citizens. The social media team was surprised by the influx of negative messages when they had hoped to find inspirational messages to feature on Facebook.

An Especially Effective Marketing Campaign

However, one particularly popular social media campaign demonstrates the power of the platform. In summer 2014, the Internet was awash with users participating in the “Ice Bucket Challenge.” The campaign went viral after encouraging users to dump buckets of icy water on their heads and donate money to the ALS Association, which raised over $100 million in only one month. Everyone from rock stars to TV personalities got in on the fun and challenged other people to do the same, which made this social media campaign one of the most successful in history.