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How to build your social media marketing strategy for 2019

Do you have your social media marketing strategy squared away for 2019?

If not, we don’t blame you.

Because 2018 was a whirlwind year for social marketing to say the least.

Facebook was shrouded in controversy due to its algorithm changes and privacy concerns. Instagram finally came into its own by rolling out a whole slew of business features while also passing the one-billion user mark.

All the while brands got bolder, launching conscious and seemingly controversial campaigns as customers want to see brands get real.

And that doesn’t even scratch the surface.

Last years happenings combined with this year’s emerging trends have left marketers with a sense of analysis paralysis. Where do you go from here?

Perhaps what matters most is that you have a strategy at all. To keep your brand from sitting on the sidelines, we’ve broken down the steps to developing a social media marketing plan to carry you through 2019 with a sense of purpose.

1. Set goals that address your biggest challenges

First things first: you need to figure out what you want out of social media at large.

Maybe it’s more social-savvy customers. Perhaps it’s a larger share of voice in your industry.

Either way, remember that social media planning is a marathon, not a sprint.

Brands should strive to set goals that are actually attainable. For example, shooting for a million new Instagram followers in 2019 isn’t going to happen. By tackling smaller, realistic goals, you can scale your social efforts in a way that’s both reasonable and affordable.

And on a related note, your goals will influence everything from your budget to which social networks you’ll tackle.

Sample Social Media Goals for 2019

Below are some actionable goals that brands of all shapes and sizes can divide and conquer.

Increase brand awareness. To create authentic and lasting brand awareness, avoid solely publishing promotional messages. Instead, focus on content emphasizes your personality and puts your followers ahead of the hard sell.

Achieve a higher quality of sales. Digging through your social channels is nearly impossible without monitoring or listening to specific keywords, phrases or hashtags. Through more efficient social media targeting, you reach your core audience much faster.

Drive in-person sales. Many brick-and-mortar businesses are on the hunt for a social media marketing strategy that drives in-store sales. Is your brand promoting enough on social to entice folks to come see you? Are you about alerting customers to what’s going on in your stores, including promotions and action shots of your store?

Improve ROI. Positive social media ROI doesn’t happen by accident. Taking the time to audit your social channels can help keep the cost of labor, ads and creatives down. The end-result is squeezing way more out of your social spending.

Create a loyal fanbase. Does your brand promote user-generated content? Do your followers react positively without any sort of initiation? Your customers can be your best cheerleaders and sources of fresh content, but only if you’re encouraging them to post on your behalf.

Better pulse on the industry. What are your competitors doing that seems to be working? What strategies are they using to drive engagement or sales? Such analysis can help you better understand how to position your own brand both on social media and off.

Any combination of these explicit goals is fair game and can help you better understand which networks to tackle, too. When in doubt, keep your social media marketing strategy simple rather than muddling it with too many objectives that’ll ultimately distract you.

2. Research your audience

Making assumptions is a dangerous game for marketers.

And thanks to the sheer wealth of demographic data and social media analytics tools out there, you really don’t have to anymore.

So much of what you need to know about your audience to influence your social media marketing strategy is already out in the open.

Take today’s social media demographics for example. Here’s a quick snapshot of data points from 2018 that are worth noting for today’s social networks:

This demographic data isn’t fluff, either. These numbers speak directly to which networks your brand should approach and what types of content to publish. Here are some takeaways:

  • Facebook and YouTube are both prime places for ads, perhaps due in part to their high-earning user bases
  • The majority of Instagram’s users are under the age of 30, signaling the strength of bold, eye-popping content that oozes with personality
  • Women vastly outnumber men on Pinterest, which is noted to boast the highest average order value for social shoppers
  • LinkedIn’s user base is well-educated, making it a hub for in-depth, industry-specific content that might be more complicated than what you see on Facebook or Twitter

See how that works?

And although the demographics data above gives you insight into each channel, what about your own customers? Further analysis needs to be done before you can truly know your customer demographics on social media.

That’s why many brands use a social media dashboard which can provide an overview of who’s following you and how they interact with you on each channel. Most brands today are using at least some sort of dashboard.

However, does your dashboard tie in your specific goals? Brands should be where their target audience is hanging out: that’s a no-brainer. A robust dashboard like the one Sprout offers can help you double-check that you’re spending time targeting the proper channels.

Whether you’re an agency providing insights for your clients or an enterprise company discovering your own demographics, an all-in-one dashboard solution is critical.

3. Establish your most important metrics

No matter what you’re selling, your social media marketing strategy should be data-driven.

That means focusing on the social media metrics that matter.

Because while “likes” and shares are nice to have, they amount to little more than vanity metrics if they aren’t resulting in meaningful engagement or sales. What good are your millions of followers if you can’t do anything with ’em?

Engagement metrics are essential to building meaningful, lasting relationships with your followers. Large audiences and likable content is great, but here are some additional metrics to keep an eye on in 2019:

  • Reach. Post reach is the number of unique users who saw your post. How far is your content spreading across social? Is it actually reaching user’s feeds? In the face of ever-changing organic algorithms, tracking reach is arguably more important than ever.
  • Clicks. This is the number of clicks on your content, company name or logo. Link clicks are critical toward understanding how users move through your marketing funnel. Tracking clicks per campaign is essential to understand what drives curiosity or encourages people to buy.
  • Engagement. The total number of social interactions divided by the number of impressions. For engagement, it’s about seeing who interacted and if it was a good ratio out of your total reach. This sheds light on how well your audience perceives you and their willingness to interact.
  • Hashtag performance. What were your most used hashtags on your own side? Which hashtags were most associated with your brand? Or what hashtags created the most engagement?
  • Organic and paid likes: More than just standard Likes, these likes are defined from paid or organic content. For channels like Facebook, organic engagement is much harder to gain traction, which is why many brands turn to Facebook Ads. However, earning organic likes on Instagram isn’t quite as difficult.
  • Sentiment. This is the measurement of how users reacted to your content, brand or hashtag. Did customers find your recent campaign offensive? What type of sentiment are people associating with your campaign hashtag? It’s always better to dig deeper and find what people are saying.

An effective social media marketing strategy is rooted in numbers. That said, those numbers need to be put into a context that circles back around to your original goals.

4. Dig into what your competitors are doing

Before you start creating content, you should have a good idea of what your competitors are up to.

Doing so involves might just require some surface-level analysis. Some brands might also look into third-party competitor analysis tools to dig deeper into their competitors’ numbers.

Looking at your competition’s presence will directly inform your own social media marketing strategy. The goal here isn’t to copycat or steal your competitors’ ideas. Instead, it’s to determine what’s working for them and how you can adapt your own campaigns accordingly.

Same industry, different strategies

For example, let’s take a glance at how two brands in the same space can take two totally different approaches to their social media marketing strategy.

In this case, we’ll dip in the world of ice cream.

Halo Top Cream prioritizes their own eye-popping visuals and clever captions to show off their treats. Their posts score tons of engagement on a consistent basis.

On the flip side, Ben & Jerry’s takes a totally different approach to social.

In addition to their own in-house promotional photos, the brand pushes a lot of user-generated content. Perhaps most notable is the fact that Ben & Jerry’s does not shy away from activism and politically-charged posts. Some might argue that politics and ice cream don’t mix, but the brand has generated plenty of buzz by putting their values front-and-center.

The takeaway here is that brands have so much room to set themselves apart from their competitors in terms of content and voice.

Of course, you need to know who your competitors are before you start stressing over content creation.

How to spot your social competitors

The simplest way to find competitors is through a simple Google search. Look up your most valuable keywords, phrases and industry terms to see who shows up.

For example, if you sold various soaps, “handmade natural soaps” would be a great keyword to investigate. Excluding major retailers like Amazon and Bath & Body Works, take a look at who’s popping up in your space both organically and via ads.

Then, you’ll want to take a look at who’s active on social media. In this particular case, Wild Soap is a smaller operation with an active, thriving social presence. This means they’re a great candidate to track.

After gathering a handful of industry competitors, it’s smart to use a social media competitive analysis tool like Sprout Social to track Facebook and Instagram content. This can clue you in on what tags they’re using and likewise what content they’re posting. Once you analyze an array of competitors, you’ll have a better idea of what your own audience wants.

5. Create and curate engaging social content

Your social media marketing strategy is obviously centered around content.

At this point, you should have a pretty good idea of what to publish based on your goal and brand identity. Similarly, you probably feel confident in which networks to cover.

Still overwhelmed by the specifics of what you should be posting?

Hey, we get it.

From picking the right creatives and captions to finding the balance between promotion and personality, there’s a lot to mull over. The pressure is certainly on brands in an era where 46% of users say they’ll unfollow a brand that’s overly promotional. Additionally, 41% of users say they’d unfollow a brand that shared too much irrelevant content.

To help narrow down the specifics of what you should be publishing, let’s start with 2019’s social trends and best practices. Consider any combination of the following as you put together the content piece of your social media marketing plan.

Video Content or Bust

The need for brands to produce video is greater than ever.

Across all networks, social video content is among the most viewed and shared hands-down. Facebook and Instagram, in particular, are pushing video hard right now which is notable given how their respective algorithms will continue to evolve in 2019.

Live? Long-form? Short looping video? There’s no shortage of options for brands to play the role of producer these days regardless of your budget.

User-generated content

Again, we can’t stress enough the importance of curating user-generated content from branded hashtags. Customers today absolutely love authentic content that doesn’t always have that sort of professional, polished touch. If nothing else, curating UGC means less work on your plate and less pressure to constantly be thinking of new ideas.

Build Content Themes

One of the toughest challenges to visual content is creating it on a day-to-day basis. A Venngage infographic showed 36.7% of marketers said their top struggle with creating visual content was doing so consistently.

This shows how important highly-visual content is to marketers and the people they want to reach. That’s why building content themes is a great approach to sectioning out your content. Instagram is one your premier channels to work off visual themes.

For example, Anthropologie does an amazing job at keeping their Instagram feed consistent, colorful and eye-popping.

Check out how Profetic uses collage-style content to tie their feed together for something totally different.

If consistency is a problem with your social media marketing strategy, think about how a theme can help.

6. Make timeliness a top priority

Timeliness is a two-way street.

Not only do customers expect speedier responses from brands in 2019, but also meaningful conversations on a regular basis.

Let’s start with the first point. Social media channels are built as networks. You know, a place to converse and share content.

Your brand can’t forget these core elements of “networking.” It takes effort to ensure conversations or engagement opportunities aren’t left unattended.

Through social media, you gain respect as a brand by just being present and talking to your audience. That’s why social customer care is so important to brands wanting to increase audience awareness. It’s all about engagement.

For example, Seamless does a wonderful job of not only responding but showing customer care is a high priority.

Through the right social media monitoring tools, you can find instances across all your channels to interact, respond and gauge customer service inquiries.

Designating teams to specific tasks can help your staff run like a well-oiled social media team, whether you’re a group of one or 100.

Post at the Best Times to Engage

When is your brand available to engage and interact with customers?

You might see some recommending times to post late in the evening, for example. But if your brand isn’t there to communicate, what’s the point of posting at the “preferred” time?

Instead, try to ensure your social media or community managers are available and ready to answer any product questions or concerns when you tweet or post. It’s smart to learn the best times to post on social media, but it’s just as critical to engage after posting.

According to our Index, a brand’s average response time is around 10 hours. But did you know that most users believe brands should respond to social media messages within four hours?

With all the updated algorithms, organic content has a tough time reaching the majority of your audience. The last thing you want to do is ignore those who engage and lose out on sending more down your marketing funnel.

7. Assess what’s working, what isn’t and how you can improve

By now you should have a big picture understanding of your social marketing strategy for 2019.

However, it’s important that you’re able to adapt your strategy as you progress through the year.

Without continuously analyzing your efforts, you’ll never know how one campaign did over another. Having a bird’s eye view of your social media activity helps put things into perspective. This means looking at your top-performing content and fine-tuning your campaigns accordingly.

There’s no denying that a lot of social media is a matter of trial-and-error. Monitoring the metrics behind your campaigns in real-time allows you to make small tweaks to your social media marketing strategy rather than sweeping, time-consuming changes. This dynamic approach to marketing makes perfect sense in a day and age where social media is constantly evolving.

And with that, we wrap up your social media marketing plan checklist for 2019!

Is your social media marketing strategy up to snuff?

Hopefully this breakdown served as some much-needed inspiration and guidance for reaching your social goals for this year.

We also wanted to give our readers a few resources to use moving forward. Check out our social media campaign plan template and editable reporting template to help put your ideas into action ASAP.

Good luck and happy 2019!

This post How to build your social media marketing strategy for 2019 originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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About Daniel Rodgers

A lot of news that you will not see in the paper. A lot of technology that is coming out that will not see in the paper.

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5 SEO Mistakes Killing Your Content Performance and a Fix for Each

Common SEO Mistakes

Common SEO Mistakes

Even the most seasoned content marketers make mistakes. In the world of SEO-driven content, with constant algorithm tweaks and changing search patterns, it’s nearly unavoidable. However, those same mistakes can often lead to discoveries that enable even better content performance.

The key is being able to recognize those easy-to-fix SEO mistakes and address them. As a result, your content will become an optimized, integrated network of metaphorical highways, leading searchers to best-answer content in a strategic and purposeful way.

So, what are the most common SEO mistakes, and how can they be addressed? Below, I’ve singled out the ‘usual suspects’ along with guidance on how to fix them while setting yourself up for long-term SEO success.

SEO Mistake #1 - Choosing Target Keywords Based on Volume vs. Relevance

How Keywords Affect Content Marketers: Great content isn't great unless people see it. But when content marketers overemphasize high-volume keywords, they miss out on meaningful engagement.

It’s tempting to plug into your keyword research tool of choice and select keywords with the highest search volume as your focuses for new content. But if the content you’re creating doesn’t match the search intent for that high-volume keyword, it’s unlikely to perform to your expectations.

The Fix: Google it! All jokes aside, evaluating the first ten search results for your target keywords can help you understand what searchers are trying to find, and what supporting content you should provide to truly be the best answer for that query.

While you’re analyzing those top results, pay attention to key factors that will shape your content creation and promotion strategy:

  1. What type of information is NOT included in top content, but is topically related? This can help you inform how you differentiate your content.
  2. What’s the content demand for that keyword? For example, are mostly top of funnel blog posts ranking, or are you seeing mostly product or service pages?
  3. How many backlinks and referring domains are pointing to the top search results? This can help you understand how competitive the first page of results is, and whether or not ongoing link building should be part of your content promotion strategy.
  4. How long is the top-ranking content for that keyword? This will help you determine ideal content length for your own post.

SEO Mistake #2 - Targeting the Same Keyword with Multiple Pages or Posts

How Same-Topic Targeting Affects Content Marketers: Pressure to create comprehensive content on a topic can actually result in dilution within search.

The conventional wisdom that more is better doesn’t apply universally — especially when it comes to SEO-driven content. Creating multiple pieces of content that target the exact same keyword is a surefire way to stand in your own way of success. There’s enough competition out there for B2B marketers without having to compete with your own content.

For example, a B2B technology company that wants to rank for B2B software consulting should optimize their service page for that term based on what is currently being served in search results. But, if they also create a series of blogs or resources that are targeting that specific term, search engine bots will be confused about which page is the best answer for that query. This could result in none of the content appearing in the top 10 results, in favor of competing sites with a more clear ‘answer’ to that query.

The Fix: Determine which of your pages or posts is the best answer for that particular query by analyzing ranking and analytics data. Which post or page sees the greatest amount of engaged organic traffic for your target keyword, and most closely matches the associated search intent?

Once you’ve determined your target page, it’s time to evaluate the remaining content targeting that keyword. Look for opportunities to:

  1. Remove or prune low-value or outdated content. Is there a blog post full of stats from 2009 that’s hindering your priority page’s chances of ranking? It might be time to consider removing that post and implementing the proper redirects.
  2. Optimize existing content for related, but different, keyword targets. For example, if you have a priority post for Chocolate Chip Cookies, and another post that more closely relates to ‘Crunchy Chocolate Chip Cookies’, consider optimizing that post for the latter and implementing internal links back to your priority cookies post.
  3. Combine closely related content. For example, if you have several blog posts around your targeted keyword(s), consider combining those posts into a longer, more robust piece of content.

SEO Mistake #3 - Ignoring Internal Link Structure

How Internal Linking Affects Content Marketers: Links are like electricity on the web, lighting up content for people and search engines alike.

Content is discovered by links. Your site’s internal linking structure tells bots (and users) which pages are most important, and which pages are most relevant to specific keywords. If you link to several pages from the same anchor text, for example, there will be some confusion about which page is truly ‘about’ that topic. Other times, you could have pages or posts on your site that are orphaned, with no internal links directing users or bots their way. This can confuse your site users, search engine bots, and even your own team. Confusion is not a ranking factor!

The Fix: Make sure you develop and continue to update your site’s keyword map. It can be as simple as a spreadsheet that lists your page’s URL and associated target keyword(s). This keyword map will help you determine what anchor text should be used to link to your target pages.

Next, conduct a site audit to determine:

  1. If there are orphaned pages that need internal links
  2. If you are linking to multiple pages with the same keyword-rich anchor text
  3. Where there are opportunities to create additional supporting content
  4. Where you might have opportunities to reduce and prune existing supporting content

Next, you’re going to want to crawl your site to find any orphaned pages. Then, map those into your overall keyword strategy and implement internal links.

SEO Mistake #4 - Ignoring Data from Other Digital Tactics

How Marketing Data Affects Content Marketers: Inspiration often drives ideation for many content marketers, but data drives optimization for ideal content performance. Marketing performance data can provide both.

Any data you can collect about how your audience engages with your content has the potential to be an SEO gold mine. For example, analyzing the keywords from your paid search campaigns can give you insight into which keywords are your best converters, and what content best suits searchers for those terms. Social posts that get the greatest amount of engagement can tell you which topics your audience is most interested in. Ignoring data from your other marketing and sales channels means missing out on an opportunity to better engage your prospects.

The Fix: Meet with different teams or departments to find out what kind of content performs best on their channels. Look at the data each platform or channel provides and compare that with your site analytics data for a full picture. And, be sure to share your channel performance data with the rest of your marketing team. The more information available related to content and marketing performance, the better equipped you are to optimize.

SEO Mistake #5 - Giving Up

How Persistence Affects Content Marketers: Content performance in search is a long game and persistence is essential for success.

SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. Sometimes a lack of results can feel demoralizing, but giving up is simply not an option. You wouldn’t stop building your house just because the nearest lumber yard ran out of wood, right? You’d find another lumber yard and keep plugging along.

The Fix: Take a step back. Re-evaluate the search landscape, your competitor’s organic presence, and your site’s overall health. Being able to remove yourself from the frustration can help you find opportunities you may have missed and additional whitespace to tackle.

Next, seek out advice from other SEOs. Ask questions on social media, in specific groups or forums, or send a question to your favorite SEO blog. If budget permits, enlist the help of a consultant or SEO agency that can help you break through your roadblocks.

Finally, we have two big SEO bummers that are tougher to fix, but absolutely necessary to address.

Bonus SEO Mistake: Migrating Your Site with No SEO Plan

How Migrating Without a Plan Affects Content Marketers: A bad migration can effectively undo your hard work, reducing content visibility and creating more user friction.

If you listen closely, you can hear the sound of SEOs cringing around the globe. A botched site migration can wreak havoc on your organic positioning and torpedo your results. It can take months, even years to recuperate organic visibility to pre-migration levels.

The Fix: Always, always consult your in-house SEO team or SEO agency when you’re considering a website migration. Before you move forward, it’s imperative you have a plan for technical, on-page, and off-page factors.

If you’ve already migrated your site and have experienced a loss of organic traffic and rankings, start with a site audit. Check for the basics, like whether or not your site is being indexed, first. Then start to evaluate technical factors like broken links, crawl errors, and duplicate content.

When in doubt, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Recovering from a site migration is a challenge for even the best of SEOs, and sometimes those big challenges call for a little teamwork.

Bonus SEO Mistake: Not Optimizing for Mobile

How Not Optimizing for Mobile Affects Content Marketers: Even the greatest content can’t stand up to a bad mobile experience. Users will bounce, reducing engagement and sending negative signals to search engines.

Mobile accounts for about half of web traffic worldwide. Knowing this, in March 2018 Google started migrating sites to mobile-first indexing. Providing a seamless mobile experience is no longer optional, especially when you’re living in the wild world of search.

Sites that didn’t properly prepare for this can and will likely see some declines in organic search traffic and rankings as a result. And, as more sites follow mobile best practices, more users will notice and become frustrated by poor mobile experiences. This leads to declines in other pivotal ranking factors like on-page engagement. In short, if not properly addressed, a poor mobile experience can wreak havoc on your search visibility.

The Fix: The first thing to do is to conduct a mobile audit on your site. Understanding your site’s mobile performance is step one toward making improvements. Look for things like:

  1. Mobile site speed. A couple great tools for this are Google Page Speed Insights and Pingdom. These tools can tell you where to look for issues like slow-loading code, images that aren’t optimized, and other technical issues.
  2. Mobile experience. Visit your site on your phone. Ask someone who doesn’t use your site regularly to do the same. Record your experience, take notes on where you get stuck and why. Click on everything. Turn your phone into horizontal mode. Try to think of every single way a user could browse your site. And, don’t forget to try a site search on mobile.
  3. Look at mobile analytics. This will tell you key metrics like mobile bounce rate, mobile time on page and pages per session.

These steps will help you build a hypothesis to test against. Is your mobile bounce rate crazy high? Does your site take a long time to load? Is your time on page way out of line with desktop traffic? Then, use A/B testing to root out the discrepancy. Use these same metrics to test if the fix is working. Then, repeat with another element.

So, What Does This All Mean for You?

Ultimately, following SEO best practices as a content marketer can reduce performance-related headaches and set you up for long-term success.

For example, when Innovatech Labs decided it was time to make major changes to their website, they worked with our team at TopRank Marketing to implement a safe website transition strategy, minimizing their risk of reduced content visibility on Google. This assessment involved avoiding many of the big risks mentioned above, including linking, use of data and keyword research which allowed us to act quickly post-migration to combat organic traffic declines. The result? Double- and triple-digit increases in organic traffic (and increased conversions, too!).

A best-answer content strategy focused on creating content with the most relevance to their audience was the ticket to better marketing performance for a martech SaaS company. Working with the team at TopRank Marketing, long-tail and hyper-relevant keywords were researched for a comprehensive content strategy to help the brand content become the best answer for those queries. The “best answer” approach and topics were applied across organic and paid efforts. As a result, the volume of both paid and organic MQLs increased, leading to better content performance and spontaneous proclamations of love from the client’s sales team.

Fixing these big SEO mistakes aren’t only for short-term wins. Our longtime partner Antea Group USA has achieved amazing triple-digit growth over three years by avoiding these big mistakes and implementing an ongoing commitment to SEO-driven, best answer content.

As I mentioned earlier, even the most experienced content marketers can make these common SEO mistakes. But, with the right SEO strategy driven by diligent execution and monitoring of results, you can get back on track. The key is to be intentional about your site’s architecture, as well as the content you create, and to never, ever give up.

Still feeling stuck? Or maybe your team doesn’t have the resources to take on this battle alone? Check out our SEO services, tweet us your thoughts @toprank, or drop me a line in the comments. We are here to help!

The post 5 SEO Mistakes Killing Your Content Performance and a Fix for Each appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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