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Social Media Marketing: It’s About Building Relationships

Social Media Marketing: It’s About Building Relationships


By Lee Westell
Principal – New Media Marketing Strategies, LLC.  And APUS Industry Advisory Council Member

Social media means big business. Statista, a leading online statistics portal, projects by the end of 2015, worldwide social commerce revenue will reach $30 billion.


Emarketer predicts advertisers will spend $23.68 billion on paid media to reach consumers on social media networks by the end of this year. Internet Retailer’s, “2015 Social Media 500,” a study of 500 select merchants’ use of social media, total commerce sales that could be tracked back specifically to social networks totaled $3.30 billion, a bump up from $2.62 billion in 2013.

But while some companies are thriving using social media marketing, others are lagging far behind. And these days, if you’re not using social media to build customer relationships, you aren’t really marketing.

In my work with companies, here’s what I’m seeing as the top three problems companies have when using social media:


Social Media is…well, social. Social media marketing was partly created because people were tired of getting blasted with impersonal company press releases and robotic faxes. Yet, often what companies send out through their social media channels amounts to the same thing. There’s nothing wrong with doing a promotional post about a new product now and then, but don’t reduce your content to sales pitches. Remember, customers do business with people, not logos. Social media at its best is a two-way street and just as in any kind of relationship, people want to get to know who you are. They want to know who and what kind of company is behind that account and how do they treat their customers?

I’ve been a long-time fan of District Taco’s Twitter feed @districttaco (and their huevos rancheros. Check them out next time you’re in Washington, DC). They do engagement well by conversing with their audience in a variety of ways: thanking them, mentioning daily specials, listening to complaints and offering helpful advice. District Taco’s Twitter account’s “voice” is telling its audience that we’re a fun company, we listen to our audience and customer service is a priority.

westell2Not using visual content.

If a company isn’t using visual content as part of their social media marketing strategy, then they’re missing out on some big returns.

westell3With the rise of visual-based social media networks such as Pinterest (72.8 million users) and Instagram (300 million monthly users) adding visuals to content should be a key marketing tactic. Visuals serve as quick bites of content that people can easily take in and immediately relate to the company’s brand and story.

Here are a few visual content ideas to explore:

  • How-to-use product videos
  • Behind the scenes photos of the company workplace, employees and events
  • Customer photos of products and events
  • Inspirational messages
  • Product photos and videos
  • Charts
  • Infographics
  • Storytelling through comics

Twitter is not Facebook, nor is it LinkedIn.

Each social media platform has its own unique expectations, customs and audiences. There’s nothing worse than going to a company’s website, clicking on all the “Follow Us” icons and then receiving the exact same content from each social media feed. It’s the equivalent of spam and it’s not the way to attract loyal customers.

A much better strategy is for companies to tailor their content to each network. Have a behind the scenes photo of a conference event? Share it on Facebook and Instagram. Breaking news? Post it to Twitter. Does the CEO want to share thought leadership lessons on recent industry mergers? Place that article on LinkedIn Pulse.

[Related: Social Media Best Practices]

If a company doesn’t have the resources of either in-house or outside social media staff to maintain several accounts, then concentrate resources on one or two networks that your targeted audience uses most and make that feed the best in the business!

When it comes to a complete marketing strategy, social media can’t do it all. But what it can do, when used effectively, is serve as a powerful tool in creating customer loyalty and telling a company’s story.

About the Author: Lee Westell is a digital marketing specialist who serves as an active member on the APUS School of Business Industry Advisory Council. Her background includes extensive experience in creating and implementing marketing strategies for non-profits, corporations, small business and entrepreneurs. Lee can be found on Linked In and Twitter @Lee_newmedia.




















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