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Marketers are falling short when it comes to building real social relationships with their customers.

This from the recent Forrester report, "Social Relationship Strategies That Work," which suggests that more often than not, the carefully crafted messages they post on social media essentially go off into space. Customers either miss them or ignore them. “Top brands Facebook and Twitter posts reach only about 2 percent of their fans and followers, and less than 0.1 percent of fans and followers interact with each post,” according to the report.

It's a crowded field and businesses are looking for effective strategies to engage with customers on social media.

This means answering more detailed questions about how, when and what to post. To save time, some marketers cross-post content on social channels -- is this a good or a bad idea?

Question: 

Should you cross-post the same material on all social channels?

The Answers:

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Jeff Rohrs, Vice President of Marketing Insights at Salesforce Marketing Cloud
Rohrs is author of AUDIENCE: Marketing in the Age of Subscribers, Fans, and Followers. Tweet to @jkrohrs.

A personalized customer journey is key to successful marketing. Social media is part of this journey, and your engagement should be tailored appropriately to fit the audience. While it is often OK to share the link or story across some networks, you should engage each social network the way it was meant to be used, and to the best of its abilities.

Consider things like content length, visual and video content, tone and timing of a post, and optimize those variables based on the platform. There is lots of data when it comes to the best times to publish, the best content, the best post types, and the best calls to action. Our 2014 Social Engagement Benchmark Report  provides benchmark data from more than two million Facebook posts and three million tweets managed through the Salesforce Marketing Cloud in 2013. Our report revealed the following:

Twitter

Follower numbers are trending up. In 2013, companies tracked an average 43 percent increase in Twitter followers, with four industries tracking percentages higher than the average: technology and manufacturing (93 percent), retail and e-commerce (75 percent), CPG (55 percent), and financial services (55 percent).

Few brands tweet on Sunday -- the day with the highest engagement.

Facebook

Across industries, posts with photos and links generate the most engagement.
Users are most engaged with Facebook content on weekends—which also happens to be when marketers are posting less content.

However, only you have the data to decide what is best for your brand. A/B test your publishing strategies, and once you have a large enough sample size, assess your brand’s best practices for each channel.

Vanessa DiMauro, CEO and Chief Digital Officer of Leader Networks

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Vanessa is a popular speaker, researcher and executive advisor. With over 20 years’ experience in social business leadership positions, Vanessa has founded and run numerous online communities, and has developed award winning social business strategies for some of the largest and most influential companies in the world. Her work has been covered by leading publications such as CBS, New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and was recently named a one of 40 top social marketing masters worldwide by Forbes. Tweet to @vdimauro

The goal of social sharing is to engage with others -- prospective and current clients, influencers, employees -- so it would be unlikely that the same content would be useful or appropriate for all social channels and audiences without customizing it. A “one size fits most” approach rarely is great for anyone.

To avoid content that is a little too baggy or generic, you will need to tailor the content to both the channel as well as the audience you are trying to reach and engage with. You may be able to use the same material across all the different channels, but how you position the information and engage around it should be differentiated. Here are a few process steps that can help.

1. Know your audience. While we all know that Facebook users tend to be female. Twitter is slowly skewing to be male dominant, and teens are all on Instagram (see The Social Networking Fact Sheet from the Pew Research Center for detailed breakdowns). Think about who your firm engages with on each social channel. Make a list of your social channels, then examine the types of followers or connections your profile tends to attract.

2. Develop user personas. Create a suite of user personas based on observations about your channel audiences. Consider three to five depending on how complex your business lines are or breadth of services. Ask yourself if you can connect with the right people for your business on the social channels you're participating in. If the answer is no, move to the ones that allow you to reach your target audience. Don’t assume that just because a channel is popular that it is the right one for your company. Niche communities may be a much better fit in some instances. Know your audience and their needs. The Social Consumer is a recent study that explores consumer brand expectations in great detail.

3. Understand the social channel rules of engagement. Each channel has a unique culture, norms and engagement expectations. Therefore, content posting should mirror the needs of the both the channel and the audience you are trying to reach. For example, industry-focused online communities will require deep information exchange, ongoing participation, whereas Twitter tends to be more catchy, rapid-fire and nuanced by keywords, hashtags, photos and wordplay, LinkedIn will be more professional in nature and communication guidelines here mirror those commonly found in an in-person meeting.

4. Design communication for business outcomes. Armed with an understanding of your business and communication goals, you can now share meaningful message with the people you are trying to engage with in a way that they are most likely to respond. Think about what you would like the outcome of the social engagement to be. For example, do you hope for social sharing or to influence a buyer’s decision? These are different goals with that require a hand-crafted message, accordingly.

Cappy Popp, Principal & Co-Founder of Thought Labs

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Cappy has decades of software development experience and has successfully designed and implemented social media strategies for dozens of companies in multiple markets. He specializes in social media strategy, analytics, and monitoring and is the co-author of the acclaimed book, "Essential Facebook Development." Tweet to @cappypopp

Copying boiler plate posts between multiple networks using Buffer, HubSpot, Sprinklr, Hootsuite, Salesforce or other cross-posting tools is better than nothing, but you can expect about the same return on investment as you put in: not much.

Understand your audiences in the communities you've built and what content, language and post format resonates most successfully with them. What "success" means should be clearly tied to concrete business-focused goals, not how it's defined in a deck you grabbed on SlideShare or read in a blog post. And hopefully you haven’t "bought" your fanbase through cheap "click to like" ads run in third-world markets or you're going to have a bad time.

Though polarizing, persona-based marketing is an effective tool to help discover which content is appropriate for a community at a specific time. Personas are tied directly to your business goals and "buyers journey," not to the whims of the networks on which you participate. This allows you to craft content that targets different personas at different phases of this process, sales pipeline or conversion funnel.

Everything you publish should provide a tie-in to the next action you want a reader to take. Otherwise what's the point of publishing it? The days of, "oh, we're just testing out this thing called social media to get some followers" are long gone. Cross-posting the same "buy now" marketing copy to five social networks twice a day ad nauseam isn't going to get you anywhere but unemployed.

So do you cross-post to all channels? Short answer: no, not if you can help it. It's not necessary to create custom content for each channel. However, you should use the original content as a starting point. Tailor it to make sure its core messages remain consistent but the language and call to action are appropriate for the personas you're targeting on each network.

With the collapse of "free" organic reach on most social networks it's become more difficult to reach a wide audience without sometimes significant investment; however, there are a few things you can do to maximize your chances of converting the people you do reach.

1. Make sure your website has a landing page for every social post. Ideally, A/B testing would show you which perform best. And yes, I said website. Depending on third party social networks to handle this for you via apps, tabs, etc. is dangerous these days. Why? Privacy, user fatigue, changing terms and conflicts of interest come to mind. You think Facebook cares about your business as much as you do?

2. Make sure each post contains a trackable link to that landing page that you can attribute to a social click. Most social networks and monitoring solutions offer tracking pixels to make this easy.

3. Make those landing pages simple -- and I mean brain-dead simple. If you can't tell the landing page visitor, above the fold, why your product/service/offer/opportunity is the greatest thing since breathable air in a few big bullet points, you're doing it wrong.

4. Most important? Give the user the biggest, clearest, call-to-action on that landing page you can possibly get away with. Think big red "Click Here to Change Your Universe!" button. Make the text on that button something unique that speaks to the power of your new product. It better not say "Submit." Getting them to click that button and satisfy your call-to-action is the goal, nothing else.

Bottom line: every post on each network should speak to a specific persona or targeted audience. If you've done your homework, you should know roughly when your users are online and what they are using to get there (mobile, laptop, tablet). Make sure your content is responsively designed! You can go even further using techniques like NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) to understand what "conversion" words work best. Are they primarily visual? Use colorful and illustrative language to talk about the product. Kinaesthetic? Talk about how the product will make them "feel" while using it.

Using your original content, create a battery of posts timed to go out on specific networks, written in appropriate language, at the optimal times for each persona. You can use any popular cross-posting tools to bundle and schedule them. Remember, you've got tracking links on every one of them, targeted landing pages for users to visit from them, and you're targeting them at the right time. Now run some simple ads to get a feel if your assumptions were right. Even a few dollars on Facebook will give you a clear sense if something is working or not. A/B Test your messaging and refine! (And hey, this all applies to email marketing as well.)

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Michael Idinopulos is Chief Marketing Officer of PeopleLinx
Michael is responsible for all aspects of brand, content and revenue marketing at PeopleLinx. Previously, he served as global director of knowledge technology for McKinsey & Company and as GM and chief customer officer of Socialtext. His TEDx talk, “Mr. Manager, Tear Down These Walls” can be found on YouTube. Tweet to @michaelido

Marketers are kidding themselves if they think any customer wants a relationship with their corporate Twitter handle or LinkedIn page. People form relationships with people, not with brands. Companies should activate and empower their sales reps and account managers on social networks. That’s how real relationships are formed.

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Mary Shank Rockman, Principal and CEO of MSR Communications 
Mary has more than 25 years' experience in enterprise B2B and service organizations; Internet, mobile and consumer-lifestyle companies. MSR Communications is a PR agency that's been creating and executing award-winning PR, social and digital marketing programs for the world’s leading brands since 1999. Tweet to @marysrockman

With all of the social innovation today it’s easy for busy marketers to create and syndicate content across channels without considering the audiences receiving their messages. Remember that relevance is key, and people behave differently and have different expectations for interactions on each channel. If you cross pollinate too much, then you're broadcasting irrelevant content and not listening. As a result, engagement will fall short, as will the ability to forge stronger social connections with customers and prospects.

Know Your Audience by Social Outlet: Knowing your audience is critical. Each channel represents a specific opportunity to build relationships with different communities whose needs and interests are unique. Brand leaders should maintain consistency in messaging across social channels, but it’s just as important to create relevant engagements across networks that reflect these particular interests. This way, appropriate messages will be delivered and received in a relevant forum, where and when your particular audiences are most receptive.

For example, LinkedIn members will likely care about your posts from an industry, business or career perspective while Twitter followers may expect you to share similar topics in smaller news bits with relevant hashtags. And on Facebook, communities expect more personal touches with direct communication to individuals. Customers and prospects assume that you understand their business challenges and needs. Given these presumptions, your social content and outreach should reflect the issues that concern them while being authentic and true to your brand voice and core brand values.

Consistency and Follow Up are Key to Building Relationships: All relationships require ongoing care and nurturing and social relationships are no different. Consistent, regular follow-up, ongoing conversation and timely responses will help ensure continued engagement with key customers and community followers alike. Also be sure to respond to the responders. How you do that will also differ across each network -- whether with private, direct messaging or through individual shout-outs to the entire community.

When you leverage social as a vehicle with which to consistently communicate and engage with relevant, tailored messages vs. simply as a platform to broadcast generic content to the masses, you will demonstrate your commitment to develop meaningful interactions and build stronger relationships.