To succeed in social media, you need to understand how social media works today in 2017, and at the same time give each platform its due right.
What does that mean? Let’s take a look…
The following is a quick primer on the strategic principles of social media marketing and it’s relationship with the various platforms that exist as of 2017.
What do you need to succeed in social marketing across the board regardless of social platforms?
Principle 1: Social media in the past and even today is a TOOL for public relations.
What’s the difference between marketing, advertising, sales, which is one area, and PR, the other area?
Social marketing falls within the domain of public relations.
Public relation is a combination of understanding the market and journalism. It’s the combination of those two.
On the other handing, marketing is the combination of understanding the market, technology, advertising, and sales.
Although there is overlap, which is in the objective of communicating a message, the differences are as follows.
In marketing, you’re trying to make a buck. In public relations you’re trying to connect with people, communicate a message, and build good will.
Think of the idea of being benevolent, giving without asking, and informing people. That goes goes into public relations. It’s about connecting with people without asking for anything in return.
When it comes to social media marketing, it’s public relations first, marketing and sales a distant second.
Principle 2: Social media is journalism in multimedia format
Assuming you understand:
- who’s the individual
- what they want
- what are you providing or offering them in terms of content, media, and news
- how’s that content is of value to the individual, meaning you’re not just saying “Buy my stuff!” rather “Here’s something of value for you without me asking you for anything in return”
You take all of the above and couple it with journalism.
You need to have the ability to create compelling content – whether it be written, audio, or video.
If you’re keeping these things in mind then you get to be good in social media.
But, how do you get your message out there?
Some people think, “build it, and they will come.”
Meaning, “If I create the content, then people are going to want to listen, watch, or read it because how great of a content producer I am.”
When it comes to public relations, anybody who’s studied PR or journalism will understand that when you create the content it needs to be distributed on a platform that has people’s attention.
This is why journalists seek to become a writer for a known publication, or an anchor on a news channel. If you have a social account with a hundred followers, that’s not having distribution. The distribution is having a relationship with a hundred different people who have a hundred followers each.
So, when you have content, you can either give it to them directly or you post the content and you connect with them to share it out. That’s PR in it’s most basic form.
This is how PR professionals work. Their job is to connect with the journalists and different news media individuals so that when there is something to share, they have a press release ready to go out to their specific contacts who will then put it out on the platforms that have distribution.
A press release is a pre-written article that’s relevant and timely in the news today about a product, brand, service, etc. The PR professional connects with the journalists they have on their “media list” so that they can get the news out to the press.
You can imagine a communication between PR and a journalist might go something like this…
“Hey Ms. Journalist, I’ve written this press release article. It’s timely and I know this is what you’re looking to write about because the subject matter is currently breaking news, and it’s the sort of stuff that you write write about.” Says Mr. PR.
“Oh, hey Mr. PR, thanks for reaching out. I won’t every say this out loud, but I need content, and I need to meet deadline. So, yeah definitely, I’ll take this relevant press release and get it out. It’s great getting first dibs on a release that I can quote from so I can look good in front of my boss and readers! Thank you for keeping me in mind.” Responds Ms. Journalist.
That kinda how the relationship between a journalist and at PR professional roughly works.
Part of your job is to be a PR professional.
In social, marketing you as an individual, whether it be as a small business owner, volunteer for local community organization, part of your job is to be that PR professional.
First you create content, or hire someone to create it.
Second, you reach out to other individuals who have a following. It doesn’t matter whether it’s YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat. The key thing is to have people that you know who do have a following of various depths and you know that the following has a particular demographic.
When it comes to demographic, take for example, one individual shares content around religion and spirituality. Another person is all about fashion coverage. A third person is entrenched in personal organization and home life of a stay-at-home mom.
Let’s assume you’re an active volunteer for your local AlMaghrib Institute operations team. And, you have produced some video content that’s a talking head vlog sharing gems and reflections from “Trends” which is a seminar on the spiritual nature of culture and identity.
Imagine the content is sharing reflections on life as a teenager, and self-esteem and how that’s relevant today.
You might want to connect with the individual who shares things about religion and spirituality, as well the he person who’s all about fashion. And, not disrespect the readership of the stay-at-home mommy blog.
Imagine you reach out a distributor who isn’t relevant to what you’ve produced and say, “Hey look I’ve written something about culture, identity, fashion, and spirituality”
Their response might be, “Yeah, but I don’t write about any of that stuff. Why are you spamming me?”
This is what you need to keep in mind.
It would be smart to develop your own social media contact list spreadsheet.
Imagine columns identified by:
- Name of person or brand
- A separate column for each social platform they have a presence on and what their specific social handles are – this includes blogs, podcasts, and popular social app and networks
- Separate column next to each platform with a number for estimated reach
- Subjects that they post about
- Whether they’re personal brand themselves (ie Tim Ferris and lifestyle), or focused around around something specific (ie Nouman Ali Khan and Arabic)
You want to look at this data and match it up with what you’ve produced and see whether it’s relevant to the individuals and their audience.
When you’re connecting with them, you’re not saying, “Hey, promote my stuff!”
Rather, “Look, I’ve created something that would benefit you and your audience. Because I admire you, love the work you do, and consider myself a fan, I just want to be able to contribute.”
This is how you build goodwill and garner publicity on social media.
I’ve read a lot of discussion about Twitter, and how to use Twitter. “Is Twitter good for auto posting?” yada yada yada.
It doesn’t matter.
The key thing is: Are you connecting with the people on Twitter, or whatever social platform to discuss.
I’ll go into the individual platforms in a later post.
But this is the second principle. Act like a PR professional, and have some sort of behavior that emulates the process of connecting with a media contact list and giving value to the readership out there.
Principle 3: Social media is also pay-to-play
One option is you do the you do the grunt work and labor of connecting with and reaching out to people, and actually giving value to them.
The second option is pay-to-play.
Social media is also a social marketing platform. If you don’t want to go through the grunt work or supplement the activities of the grunt work with the jet fuel of cash then what you can do is create content, post it, target that content to the people that you want to get it out to, and put money behind it so that those targeted individuals see it.
Almost all social platforms enable you to do this. Amongst them Facebook is in the current king.
With Facebook you can target and create multiple campaigns and split test the very content that you’ve created. You can reach out to specific interests in addition to people within a specific geographic region. These two features combined gives you a lot of power to connect with people. The content shows up on their news feed as if they are already following you.
Other social platforms have similar functionality, but Facebook is king in this regard. Regardless, the idea is to fuel it with cash to push it out further.
Successful marketing campaigns that leverage social media tend to use a combination of these things.
You have to think within the context of local small business marketing and advertising and local small business PR. This way, when you create content and you put money behind it, you’re trying to drive traffic and interest to a specific location, and connecting with you as a individual.
Let’s say for example you’re a local AlMaghrib Institute student body volunteer. And, maybe you’re producing a weekly show of some sort. A show that has something of real value in relation to your next upcoming seminar for your city.
You know the show is good because it’s not just telling people to “Register for the seminar!” or “Listen to this shallow testimonial!” Rather, there’s real substance and transformative value in it.
You know it’s good because the can stand on its own and has real value. You’re create this, put it out there, and then you put some money behind it. Maybe you budget a dollar a day or five bucks a day.
If you’re deliberate about targeting the right individuals and interest groups. Then, you’re setting yourself up for success.
Remember, the content and creative itself has to be good. If it sucks, then it’s going to drop dead.
If the content is good, then the advertising you put behind it is going to be a force multiplier for what you’ve got.
Principle 4: You can do product placement with “influencers”
In addition to reaching out and giving them value, in addition to putting money behind the content and creative, another option is then do product placement.
What do I mean by “product placement,” especially in a scenario like an AlMaghrib Institute seminar, where it’s not a physical product?
Let’s assume you want to promote a seminar or event in your city.
An example of product placement would be you reaching out to different people that are on any of the above mentioned social platforms in your geographic locality.
If this person is active and has a relatively strong presence on social media locally, whether it’s Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, or Facebook, then consider them.
Say this individual has a page with five or ten thousand followers, find their contact, connect with them, and offer them the opportunity to come to the seminar as a guest. Have them agree to update throughout the event like they normally would.
You might wonder, “Okay, what’s in it for them?”
Well, you’re offering them an experience. They’re a guest to the seminar, meaning they don’t have to pay. Heck, maybe you can even pay them a hundred bucks so to come and do this. This is what you call “influencer marketing.”
This is assuming that people locally follow them and will see it. It brings about some more social proof. Consider someone cool. It doesn’t have to be a celebrity, or a politician. It just has to be people who have a following and the attention of the type of people you’re seeking to connect with.
The same thing is applied to traditional PR. There may be journalists who have a following. Reach out and connect with them. Invite them to the seminar and event.
This is social marketing in a nutshell.
These general principles are the things that work today in 2017.
You have the choice of either diversifying and putting effort and cash to all of the above, or you can go all in on one principle due to limitations in either cash or people.
You will be successful.
However, if you avoid these principles completely, then you’re wasting your time on social media. Especially with the way that social media and the landscape of social marketing is today.
Principle 5: Understand Polarization, and Be Newsworthy
I have a workshop program called “The Falcon of Spain,” which is a full day seminar that takes a practical look at propaganda, politics, and leadership through the lens of marketing from the eyes of AbdulRahman Ad-Dakhel.
If you’ve unfamiliar with this, it’s a story about a Syrian refugee who fled his home and came to the west because he was driven out by invaders wielding black flags. When he later rises from exile to lead his people in 8th century Spain, he has have to choose between seeking vengeance for the murder of his family, or establishing justice and order in his newfound home.
I’ve conducted the program in Houston, Raleigh, and Atlanta. And, slated to do it in Minnesota this coming summer.
To connect with your audience in the space of social marketing, the content, your engagement, and your presence has to fulfill certain needs.
In media doesn’t matter if the form is digital or traditional. The importance is in whether or not you’re timely.
If you’re not timely, then nobody cares.
Today you can produce an awesome video about Hurricane Katrina, but it’s going to fall flat on its face because that natural disaster happened over ten years ago. It’s not relevant nor timely.
For anybody engaged in any form of outreach, for anybody who is a communications professional, and those who volunteer with AlMaghrib Institute by default are that, you need to be up on what’s trends.
I’m not talking about being up on news. You should have Google Trends as your homepage.
Every day you should at least once just take a glance on what’s trending. See what’s trending on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.
You’ll get an underlying impression of what the world, your country, and maybe even geographically of what people are talking about.
That’s how you learn about what’s timely. If you engage in the discussions that are taking place, then people will potentially connect with you, and maybe even engage with you.
If you’re not timely, then you’re not relevant.
However, that’s only one aspect. It’s not enough to engage on something that’s trending. You need to approach it with the understanding of what’s polarizing about it.
For example, When Batman v Superman came out right away people took sides. Team Batman or Team Superman. And, even when Captain America Civil War came out, people were like, Team Cap or Team Iron Man.
Even on the macro scale, there’s Marvel versus DC.
On the Batman v Superman discussion, people are like “Batman sucks!”
Then they respond, “No, you suck!”
And, then a fight breaks out in the comments section, because things that are polarizing tend to cultivate discussion. Especially if there’s genuine conflict.
So, find something that’s trending, understand what’s polarizing about it, then take an authentic, yet compelling position. And, sprinkle some irony on top of it.
Now, you have to be careful here.
If you’re doing this on behalf of a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, then you want to steer clear of politics. This is especially important for volunteers with AlMaghrib Institute who are engaging on behalf of the institution.
However, you as an individual are free to do what you want. If you are trying to build your personal brand by trying to engage in politics and other polarizing topics, then go all in.
It’s publicly that some of the instructors of AlMaghrib Institute have strong political opinions and are vocal about it time to time.
Abu Eesa Niamatullah and Yasir Qadhi are a couple of known examples. They discuss it, not as AlMaghrib Institute instructors, but on their own social media platforms as individuals who have their own personal opinions and world views.
They’ll basically chime in on what’s trending, take a compelling and authentic position within the polarizing issue, and then sprinkle a little bit of irony on top of that.
Take Yasir Qadhi for example.
Here’s an individual who’s traditionally educated in Medina, Saudia Arabia, clearly looks like someone of a traditional background, but holds the opinion that the theory of Evolution and Islam can be reconciled. His compelling and authientic position is that Evolution is observed within micro-organisms, but not human beings
But, you can imagine the headline being a bit Ironic. “Religious Muslim Cleric Says Evolution Exists!”
He’ll mention that the theory of evolution doesn’t necessarily go against Islam. And, he’ll present the argument for and against it.
Arguments like, “Evolution is just a theory!”
“Well, so is gravity” is a logical response.
And, he’ll go into the appropriate methodology of understanding the differences between science and religion. On the surface, for people who just read headlines, you’d never expect to read that from about traditionally educated Muslim cleric.
If you’re going to create content, find something that’s trending, understand what’s polarizing about it, take an authentic and compelling position within that polarizing facet, and sprinkle some irony on the surface.
This way you’ll have content content that has all the core elements of potential virality.
These are basically five principles you need to understand to win at social media marketing in 2017.
- Social media is a tool for public relations
- Social media is journalism in multimedia format
- Social media is also pay-to-play
- You can do product placement with market influencers
- Understand polarization, and be newsworthy
I’ll be putting up a follow up that goes into each of the individual platforms and how you can leverage that to win.