Opinion: When Twitter and Facebook aren't enough to sell on social media

So, your company now has a presence on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and is regularly posting updates. Social media doesn’t scare you anymore.

By Chris Morrison.

But are your online marketing and communications efforts working? And should you be thinking about using new and emerging social networks such as Reddit?

Employees at Ottawa-based print shop CanvasPop ask themselves this regularly when evaluating the firm’s social media reach in weekly meetings.

“Our ability to successfully promote our brand and attract new customers is heavily reliant on our online marketing efforts. We don’t have an advertising budget,” said Nazim Ahmed, co-founder of CanvasPop.

“As a result, we have to make sure it’s working, and this requires that we track and analyze what we’re doing on social (media) constantly.”

If CanvasPop’s growth is any indication, it is working. The firm has ballooned to a staff of 70, fielding more than 300,000 orders since 2009.

Mr. Ahmed believes other Ottawa businesses can succeed using a similar social media strategy, regardless of the product or service they provide.

While each business needs to understand its own voice, story and corporate culture before engaging on social networks, there are some key fundamentals to consider first:

-Social media shouldn’t operate in a silo. Some might argue you need a separate social media strategy. But while each network should be used differently, social media is just one tool in a company’s overall marketing and communications plan. If a key objective is to increase the number of newsletter opt-ins, social media becomes part of that strategy, not a plan unto itself.

-Creating original content is difficult and time-consuming. Providing original content to your audience is absolutely essential, but allowing others to create content for you via curation can significantly cut down on time spent on social media. Various tools exist to help you cherry-pick the best content for your audience, such as social media monitoring programs Sprout Social and Radian6.

-Engaging is more important than broadcasting. Twitter has become a staple for distributing news releases and sharing product announcements. But if you aren’t engaging with your followers meaningfully – such as by talking at, rather than to, them –  it’s likely a wasted exercise. Instead of simply promoting yourself, use Twitter and other social networks to provide value to those in your industry.

-Post once, measure twice. Understanding the effectiveness of your efforts and then repeating what works – consistently – is critical. Benchmarking activities and metrics such as number of followers, likes and shares against your competitors is another step toward figuring out where you stand.

-Experiment with new social networks. Most companies use Twitter and Facebook, but you also need to go where your customers are. Find out which networks those in your vertical prefer and use those: Maybe you need to add a Flickr or Pinterest account.  But before engaging on a new network, it’s imperative to understand the rules of engagement on that particular platform and even experiment with a personal login before registering your business.

-As social media becomes even more prominent, the importance of measuring the effectiveness of your campaigns along with repeating what works, while changing what doesn’t, is critical.

Chris Morrison is the co-founder and president of Ottawa-based media monitoring and analysis firm MediaMiser.