Social Media Marketing: A Complete Guide for Marketers

Social media marketing – strategies backed by science.

If you’re wondering how social media marketing affects you, read on.

In 2011, four million fewer viewers watched the Academy Awards than the previous year. This was especially so among 18 to 49 year old, whose audience share dropped 12 percent.

And yet, there was one type of viewership which had sky-rocketed. and that was Twitter users.

Hundreds of thousands of Twitter users broadcast their impressions of the ceremony live.

This is one of the major shifts in media consumption since the launch of social media platforms.

Now coming to social media marketing…
…. have you ever wondered, why one brand is so successful on social media, while others fail?

Generally, Social Media Marketing has produced great results. But only for those who know how to work it.

So, who are these ‘social media stars’?

The businesses which have invested the time to learned the nuances of social media marketing and adapted their approach are winning the social media battle.

What are the nuances?

I decided to dive deep into the secrets of social media marketing to uncover the specific aspects which make a brand successful. And what I explain below is the result of this very exercise.


Did you know?: This article has 10,046 words. 78% readers of this article choose to download it to refer later. Click here to download the full PDF and checklist

As a result of my deep dive…

I found that social media is good when it comes to generating first time customers. But it is great for creating repeat customers and generating referrals.

This article will cover all the steps of social media marketing, from creating awareness to getting referrals.

You don’t realize it yet, but in the next few minutes you‘re going to see the entire framework of social media marketing strategy.

As you start reading at the beginning of this article you’ll find yourself getting the hang of social media and start enjoying it.

Now, because this is a researched article, this article is pretty unique. But there’s a particular distinction that makes it especially different from most other articles on social media.

Most articles only list down a bunch of tactics that you can use at your disposal; but, the strategies in this article are in a sequential six-step process.

In this article, I use the terms, social media and social networks interchangeably. They both mean the same for the context of this article.


If you intend to explore social media marketing…

for popularizing you brand, you can follow the exact steps described in this article to achieve your goal.

Although you can pick and choose the tactics that you want to use in any order, this step-by-step guide will get you started in the right way.

Conveniently, this step-by-step social media marketing process follows the acronym ROUTER. The steps include:


social media model

Social Media Marketing Step 1 : Reach out

Social Media Marketing Step 2 : Open-up communication

Social Media Marketing Step 3 : Use participation

Social Media Marketing Step 4 : Take steps to engage

Social Media Marketing Step 5 : Enhance brand commitment


Social Media Marketing Step 6 : Reap advocacy



This might seem like a simple list, but the amount of research I have poured through to produce this article is mind boggling.

I invite you to go through and enjoy this article.

There’s one-more thing …


But before you begin…

Audit your brand

Before you rush out to conquer the social media marketing world, analyze your brand to see if it is capable of

attracting the target audience and withstanding pressure.

If, for some reason, you cannot operate in the social networks, if your product is not the kind that generates conversations, or,

if there are risks to you brand equity, such as a fair chance of generating hostile conversations, then you should hold back or keep a low profile.

Done? Sure your brand stands up to the pressure? Then off to the next point…


Have diversified strategy

Like all media, no single platform is the answer to your social media needs. Your social media marketing strategy, thus,

needs to use a diversified approach.

It is possible that your target audience spans a broad range of age-groups and other demographics.

It might be difficult to find them all on the same networking platform, as one networking platform might suit one demographic profile but might be unsuitable for others.


Here's a quick video case-study on how Britney Spears used multiple social networks to sky-rocket her launch

Or, the communication that you send out might lend itself to one platform but not the others.

It is, therefore, advisable to have different and targeted social media strategy to cater to different profile of customers.

This is how the PRO’s do it

social media


IBM owns more than 100 different blogs. These are like dozens of islands in the virtual world. They also own several official Twitter accounts, and a forum called DeveloperWorks.

They publish a machine series on youTube, and several employees upload presentations to the media-sharing site SlideShare.

With these properties IBM targets a different profile of users. Each has different content, thereby covering the entire spectrum of users and content with the approach.

The next, and the final, point before you start is…


Commit reasonable resources

The fact that most social media platforms are free does not mean that your social media marketing will be free. In fact, e-WOM requires a sustained commitment of time and effort.

Even though the investment to establish a presence in social networks is small, the cost of generating content is high. It demands creativity, time and qualified talent.

Most organizations underestimate real requirements and end up allocating insufficient resources. This causes them getting inadequate media presence and results in social media failure.

That’s it. We have covered the 3 points …now you can get to actual steps

Additional Social Media Marketing Resources:

- Why small businesses owners should give a damn about social media- Corina Manea
- Reporting and Numbers- Rachel Hatfield
- State of Social Media - Pam Perry

The Social Media Marketing Engagement Model

Stage 1: Reach out

If you’re starting from scratch, the first step will be to let people know that you exist on social media. This step covers how you can reach out to your prospects and fans so that they are aware of your social media presence.

Reach Out


For sellers and customers to bond it is necessary for them to connect with each other. Social media makes it very easy to attract large numbers and wide variety of individuals and firms.

To understand the reason, let’s see why people access the internet.

Potential customers could have a need and take to the internet in search of the right product.

If you attract your potential customers at this stage, you can assist them in choosing the right solutions and products.

You can use social media pages to provide product information to the masses to establish connections with potential customers before they even feel the need so that when the need actually arises they look at you for recommendations.

You can use social media interactions to collect product features and develop new products to meet these needs.

This stage is about doing all this. Let’s see how to go about it.


When you are starting from scratch, you won’t have many fans. How do you build a fan-following from here on?

Start where most people do : advertise.

Advertising is the first option for attracting followers on social media even today.

According to research, the most popular way to get fans to follow a brand page is through advertising. This is followed by friends’ invitation. (Bashar, A., Ahmad, I., & Wasiq, M. 2012)

If you want to increase you follower base, it might make sense to seek them and entice them to “like” you page.

There are a few important points to remember while advertising in social media, but we will cover them in Step 4.

People argue that advertising is not free, unlike getting referrals. But they forget that you can advertise even when you have no fans, which isn’t possible with referrals.

Once you have a few followers, you can go to the next step…

Leverage network virality

Social networks are equipped for leveraging the internet for exponential reach by sharing (e-WOM).

This is enabled by the peer-to-peer interactions. This helps connect with even more users on a global scale.

Everybody talks about using viral marketing for growth and how they wish they knew how to use it.

So, how does one go about using virality to trigger growth?

While there are no, absolutely fool-proof, ways, maybe this
example will help.


viral marketing



Uniqlo, a Japanese fashion firm, selected 10 items of clothing that were due to go on sale in United Kingdom.

Whenever a user sent a tweet about one of them, the price of that item went down.

The campaign was such a success that Uniqlo was among the world’s top 10 most tweeted companies for the period– a rare feat for a retailer.

When this happens, the impact of a social media campaign is unparalleled.

Here are some other ways to trigger viral growth when you have a limited number of fans…

Collect people with common interests or goals together, to form a group. Announce the joining of a member on the members’ publicly exposed wall.

This has many benefits – it not only creates awareness among the members’ friends, but it also attracts their friends into joining. This is social-proof in action.

Display the page logo prominently with your messages to create brand affinity.

According to a study for testing the viral effects of a message on acquisition of fans, they found that, just two messages could enrol 80 new fans. (Gil-Or, O. (2010), pp 6) that averages at 40 new fans per message!

It’s even better if you can…

Remember to use the cellphone

Nowadays, social media marketing is not limited to websites and computers.

Social interactions have moved from traditional computers to smart-phones.

Looking at this trend Facebook acquired WhatsApp for a princely sum of USD 19 billion in 2014.


social media cellphone

Chat applications enable users to form groups and have social interaction among the members.

This allows us to form groups and have interactions.

Other features which help leverage these social groups are QR code scanning applications, video sharing applications and also photo sharing applications.

Companies are printing QR codes on their products to bring their services to prospects who use smart-phones.

The communication between the user and the brand is enriched by using richer media.

Now, the question arises, having gathered a fan following, how do you get them to refer more fans?

Connect using promotions

Give you fans a reason to remain with you. Your fans or followers should know that they are being offered special treatment.

The key is to treat “fans” differently than other customers is by providing special access to offers and information.


social media promotions

For example, Lowes ran an exclusive promotional campaign for the fans on Black Friday on Facebook.

In this campaign they offered a select range of products at very deep discounts.

These discounts were made available at to the first 100 purchasers only and were in the range of 90%.

This promotion, helped them engage with customers and also triggered prospects to “like” Lowes’ Facebook page.

Lowes then was able to post future deals on the newly acquired fans’ newsfeeds and trigger a viral spread of memberships.

Promotions are also a great way to connect with your community.

By giving exclusive coupons to your social group, you’re rewarding your fans and also reminding them to buy from you.

But still, the best way is to …


Generate leads locally

For small businesses, local search can be the low-hanging fruit that one wishes for.

Being visible and accessible to consumers looking for a business in their locality is important.

Ensure your site is listed in local business directories to help your consumers find you.



local directory listing

First, you need to find out which directories to get listed in.

Follow this neat trick. Check where your competitors get listed. Check for business directories that link back to your competitors’ websites.

These are the directories you can add yourself to. Also, make sure your business has been added to Google Maps, using the Local Business Center.

Take the time to include all the information you can and update any old news.


Social evaluation boosts ecommerce (Hennig-Thurau, T., Hofacker, C. F., & Bloching, B. (2013), pp 4)

Social proof plays a big role in lending authenticity and driving up demand for your product.

Include product evaluations by the potential buyer’s friends, like Amazon or the Google Play retail platform.

Instead of anonymous reviews like those seen on Amazon, include information-focused reviews. This would help you enjoy the effects of social word-of-mouth.

Yadav et al. (2013) point out that mobile driven social word-of-mouth could also be used effectively here.

Like this tip? Then you’ll definitely like the next tip…


Place brands in games

This is what I meant when I put forth the ‘have a diversified strategy’ point.

Social media marketing, like any other form of marketing requires a certain amount of out-of-the-box thinking.

So far, we’ve advertised on social networking platforms and targeted chats and instant messenger applications in cellphones. Now, it’s the turn of…

…the gaming consoles.


social media games

What started with television sit-coms and motions pictures has extended it to social media as well. Brand placements are a covert way of exposing your audience to your brand. Social media offers many avenues for such brand placements through their interactive games.

One summer, 7-Eleven thought of trying out a path-breaking idea. They partnered with Zynga and placed Slurpees and Big Gulps into social games.

These were placed in Farmville, Mafia Wars and YoVille and offered redemption codes for in-game rewards.

While this is active brand placement, they could also be place in a passive way, as a fixture in the background.

This creates a sub-conscious level of brand awareness.

Another advantage is that, social media games have spread built-in, because they request referrals from players for earning rewards. That means, as the popularity of the game spreads, so does your brand awareness.

Now that you’ve seen some tactics to connect with your audience, the next step will explain how to take the interaction forward.

Social Media Marketing Tactics

  1. Create a business page for your business and use this to run advetisements to drive traffic to  your fanpage. Offer something in return for “liking” your page.
  2. Ask your fans to share your post in return for exclusive discounts or exclusive access to premium content. If your content is share-worthy this can start a snow-balling effect.
  3. Run special promotions only for your fans and make them feel special.
Additional Social Media Marketing Resources:
- How to get New Followers Take Action With Your Direct Message on Twitter - Erik Christian Johnson
- How to build a Facebook-Ads Funnel - Ginni Dietrich
- Creating Winning Social Media Strategy - Rebekah Radice
- 27 ways to get more retweets - Marc Guberti
- 4 Whats working now Facebook post ideas - Kim Garst
- The importance of engaging with current customers - Mandy Edward
- Twitter lists decoded - Keith Keller
- 3 ways to target your facebook ads to get results - Andrea Vahl
- 5 ways to use influencer marketing- Eric T Tung

 Stage 2: Open up communication

Having completed the step 1, you will feel a sense of clarity… like a fog lifting and you can now see how easy social media marketing actually is.

As you scan each word of this step, you’ll begin to think of areas where you can use the tactics discussed here.

Interactions among sellers and their customers can improve your understanding of customers’ needs.

Needs change over time. Regular interactions help you change existing products or to develop new ones to meet these needs.

You can play an active role in the formation of communities using social media.


“Social interaction in virtual worlds, for example, where users communicate and interact in real time can be used to connect with customers, provide information and experiences, and obtain customer input.” (Tikkanen et al., 2009)

Go beyond a profile

Creating a profile on a site and then not using it is like creating an obsolete electronic billboard. (Blackman, A. S, 2009, pp 10)

Social media is what the name suggests, media to have social interactions. These interactions need to be frequent, up-to-date and relevant. Creating a profile is the first step in implementing a social media strategy.

We will see where to go from here in these next steps.


Allow users to generate content

User-generated content enhances customer satisfaction and loyalty as customer needs change over time.

This represents a democratic culture where everybody works together for the general good of the group or community.

Only if sellers or current customers connect and interact with potential customers and succeed in turning them into transactional customers does the possibility arise of their transition through subsequent stages of the customer engagement cycle with some eventually becoming fans.(Sashi, C. M. (2012), pp 17)

Informal user networks create a dynamic and interactive environment . Interactive applications like chat, instant messaging and video / photo sharing allow consumers to play a central role in producing, editing or publishing content. (Krishnamurthy & Dou, 2008).

This point is pretty simple, I am sure you’d have understood this. Let’s go on to the next point.

Generate New Ideas

The nature of the medium lends very well to take interactions to the next level i.e. from mere interaction to collaboration.

Be it for new ideas, customer feedback, concept testing, etc.

This can utilized to reduce the guess-work and potential redundancy of your ideas.

Here’s how Dell has implemented it.

Dell has tapped the power of social media with its popular IdeaStorm website. Here users add thoughts for new creations and enhancement.

Because of the site, Dell has ongoing stewardship of computers with Linux installed OS.

Burger King has also boarded on the social media bandwagon and taken their campaigns to the next level.

The chain offered Facebook users a free Whopper if they “unfriended” 10 connections! How’s that for innovation?

Starbucks has started to use this representation to some success with its MyStarbucks Idea Site.


Track changing behavior

Social media also allows brand owners to study online consumer behavior. Since almost everything is on display on the internet, it’s easy to watch consumers in their tracks.

social media behavior

A manufacturer of a TV brand was experiencing a drop in visits to their websites and also their sales.

They wanted to understand how the customers decided which brand to buy. They wanted to understand how they went from one stage to the next till they finally purchased.

They commissioned a market research. And what they discovered was beyond their understanding at that point.

Until then, they were focusing on online media to create awareness. They were investing in banner advertisements and their own websites to attract prospects.

They focused on updating their own website with the latest information. They assumed it would drive more traffic and create more brand awareness.


But what they discovered

They found that few prospects (10%) even visited the website when they were making a TV buying decision.

And, they clicked on banners only when they had a discount coupon in them.

Instead, what the prospects did was, they started with a few known brands. Brands they had previous experience with.

From here, the process got interesting.

The TV manufacturer assumed that the prospects would go to the search engines to research these brands.

But it wasn’t so. With these handful of brands, the prospects went to online retailers like Amazon or Best Buy .

Here, they compared the different brands of TV and the different models within each brand.

They would also read the customer reviews and the expert reviews before deciding to buy.

The TV manufacturer found that customer-reviews and expert-reviews were more of an influence on the sale than features and benefits of the brands.

The research also uncovered that the interaction did not end with the sale. The customers were active even after the purchase with their own reviews and serving to ‘convert’ other prospects. They became advocates for the brand.

The customers would talk about their purchases in social networks and post reviews online. These reviews needed to be triggered by retailers’ post-purchase e-mails.

Many customers would also turn to review sites for troubleshooting advice.

On learning this, the manufacturer decided to track comments or reviews “following” them. This gave them a better understanding of consumer needs.


Promote inter-messaging

Organizations use two-way communication with customers to interact and express their needs.

Duncan and Moriarty (1997) have suggested that more communication channels can be used for building bonds.

For example, service messages (e.g., contact with sales staff) and unplanned messages (e.g., team-related chat rooms).


social media messaging

Consumers can interact with different types of messages, and messaging can originate with either party.

Relationships follow a pattern. It begins with small steps (or acts). It could be an invitation to subscribe to a newsletter, or, enroll into a community.

These interactions combine to make episodes and episodes collect to create sequences. Its sequences which when combined lead to relationships.


Create social buzz

With the ease of interaction provided by social media, it’s easy to create viral buzz of popular memes.

Savvy brands use this for creating a buzz before the launch of new products. This ensures that an eager audience awaits their products by the time they are ready to launch.

social media buzz

How do brands use it to their advantage

How brands create buzz pre-launch

Eighteen months before the launch of its new model, Fiesta, Ford began a promotion. They called it the Fiesta Movement.

As a part of the campaign 100 social-media influencers received a European model of the car to test drive. And they had to share their experience on a selection of social channels.

These shared videos of the campaign got 6.5 million views on YouTube. Ford received 50,000 requests-for-information about the vehicle, mostly from non-Ford drivers. When it finally became available to the public, in late 2010, some 10,000 cars sold in the first six days! How’s that?


Use social media to run contests


One way to involve a community is to create a contest. The contest can create competition between users.

The contest builds a buzz. And, if contestants need to collect most comments to win, the contest itself becomes viral.

A good social media marketing contest should include some sort of sharing as a rule for winning.

This helps in three ways. First, it gets the interaction rolling. Second, it spreads the word (word-of-mouth), and third, it creates a viral effect by spreading the word.


Conduct Brand Intelligence using social media marketing

Businesses can use social media for many things. They can collect consumer feedback, establish brand presence, or, observe the way their brands get discussed.

It gives the business the opportunity to develop a trusting relationship with customers. By way of direct interactions, they can address customer needs and concerns, or even conduct market research.


Gap once ran a campaign to test the acceptability of their new logo. They unveiled the new proposed log to the fans on their fan-page and asked them to comment.

They didn’t expect to got what they got.

They received a barrage of negative feedback. Gap had opened a Pandora’s box. To pacify the fans, Gap invited them to submit their own designs.

But this failed to pacify the fans and the out-cry so much that, the retailer restored its original logo.

Likewise, it helps to test out new initiatives with the closed group before going out in the public.

It allows you to make course-corrections and conduct damage-control before it escalates into a crisis.


Maintain brand control (Bolotaeva, V., & Cata, T. (2010), pp4)

Social networks are places where users congregate and have free interactions. These interactions are unmediated.

This is user-generated content where end-users write about their experiences with products, services, customer service, etc.

The content can be critical of the product, and brand owners have very little control in what end users share in their social network.  (Slavin, 2009).

social media brand control

Networks dealing with health and wellness have massive amount of discussions between all parties. These are the patients, caregivers, and physicians (Ellerin, 2009).

By monitoring these free discussions, the group owners understand different perceptions of their product or service.

The group owners can interact with members and confirm their understanding of the issues. In this process they get aware about issues that had not been considered before.

These conversations can throw up previously unconsidered points of view, which, still, are important for the organization and the business.

These critical messages come to the fore in an unhindered environment where the users feel safe voicing their views without fear.


Use social networks for crowd-sourcing

Many organizations use social networks to help in product development. They use the network to unveil new ideas and test the acceptability by the target groups.

They could go as far as offering the product for pre-ordering and produce it only if a certain number of pre-orders are received.


social media crowdsourcing


Some time ago Wal-Mart used crowdsourcing tactics on Facebook to test a promotion.

The promotion was called The Wal-Mart Crowd Savers program. They invited large groups by offering special potential deals to Facebook fans. These deals were available only if enough fans “liked” the deal – in effect, joining together to reach a goal – like Groupon’s model.

Jump in to moderate

Moderation is critical when negative comments escalate into a crisis. This threatens the brand – the biggest threat associated with social media by managers (IBM 2011).

Millions of consumers are able to post negative experiences and attitudes about goods and services. Because of this, social media crises could occur any time, but their extent and impact differ.

social media moderation

Few crises become as wide-spread as Singer Dave Carroll’s painful service experience with United Airlines.

He summarized in the song “United Breaks Guitars” that snowballed all the way to viral status. (Hennig-Thurau, T., Hofacker, C. F., & Bloching, B. (2013), pp 4)

Sometimes over-moderation can escalate an issue rather than deflating it.

An example is the time when Nestlé users criticized it for its use of palm oil.

There was a barrage of negative comments on their website which lead to bad publicity.

Nestlé reacted by deleting these critical posts. Their argument was, ‘It’s our site, we can do what we want.”

The authoritarian way ignored the co-creative nature of the media. It led to a snow-balling effect rather than solving it.

Run petitions online

Social media marketing can have a large impact on the outcome of events.

In 2010, a Facebook campaign surfaced in the form of a petition. Users signed a petition asking NBC Universal to get actress Betty White as the host of Saturday Night Live.

Once signed, users forwarded the petition to all their followers.

The petition went viral, and on May 8, 2010, Betty White hosted SNL.


Use Social Networking to build lists privately.

For those who are starting out, social media marketing can get you started on your marketing list.

Barack Obama’s presidential campaign was able to generate a potential list of supporters this way. The campaign managers went through the profiles after they reacted to the campaign posts.

The Democratic Party went after them with e-mail campaigns asking for votes and campaign donations.

social media lists

In this step you see how to increase interaction among your group members and followers.

Interactions are necessary for increasing the reach of your posts, but they are not enough for satisfaction.

More about increasing reach and Facebook’s changing algorithm here. Read more.

In the next step we will see what drives satisfaction and how to increase it among customers.

As this step ends allow your thoughts to focus on how you can increase the interaction among your fans in social networks.

The more you keep reading this article the more you’ll feel like keeping on reading. When I started writing this article my
aim was to make this article the most referred article by my readers.

Social media marketing tactics

  1. Use your profile to tell your fans more about you- tell your story, what made you start your business, show your weak spots. Relate with your audience.
  2. Invite your fans to share content. Share ‘slice of life’ posts – your typical day, where you normally go for coffee, how you workstation looks, etc. and ask them to share their experiences.
  3.  Have unstructured conversations with your fans, either through comments or messenger.  Ask for their opinions on certain topics and validate your ideas.
  4. Has sale dropped recently? Has interaction reduced suddenly? Track the changing behavior among your target audience.
  5. Is there a cause that you are close to? Use your business page to run petition to garner support.
  6. Run website conversion campaigns to build your list.

Now without more ado…

Additional Social Media Marketing Resources:

- 9 Easy Places to find new ideas for  great content - Melonie Dodaro 
- How to find Facebook post ideas for higher organic reach - Ian Cleary
- 6 Social media lessons from tourism that will boost your brand - Donna Moritz
- Contagious- Why Things Catch On - Jonah Berger
- How to make your social media posts more exciting - Lucy Hall

Stage 3: Use participation

Okay, you’re probably thinking how this step is different from the previous one?

I agree… on the face of it, this step appears to be like the previous one. But there’s a big difference, the previous step was about increasing interactions.

When you think about it, mere interactions are superficial and don’t involve the fans.

This steps talks about participation, which more involvement and more committed fans. So, this step is further than mere interaction in the journey towards loyalty.

When you continue to read, you’ll know what I mean and ignore any preconceived notions about this step. It will cause you to come to the conclusion that you must give it a try.

Imagine, what‘ll happen when you use these newfound tactics tomorrow?

Interactions between the peers and between the brand and customers are necessary for customer satisfaction.


Importance of Satisfaction

If interactions result in satisfaction will customers stay connected and progress towards engagement.

As we have seen in the previous step, interaction between seller and customer can be used for to create value and also extract it.(Prahalad and Ramaswamy, 2004).

This, in turn, leads to satisfied customers. Satisfaction is a necessary for customer engagement.

Satisfaction is a dynamic feeling and can change at any stage. E.g. satisfaction with interactions during a sale process may precede or follow the sale.

Dissatisfaction at any stage can disrupt the process and result in customer exit.

A thing to note is that, satisfaction, may not result in repurchase and it may not give rise to a long-term relationship.


Why does this happen?

This happens because there’s a difference between the satisfaction types. There is a transaction-specific satisfaction and cumulative customer satisfaction (Oliver, 1993).

Cumulative satisfaction is defined as “an overall evaluation based on the total purchase and consumption experience with goods or service over time” (Anderson et al., 1994).

Cumulative satisfaction results in brand loyalty and not transaction satisfaction.

Then, there is customer delight.

When brands exceed customer expectations and produce highly positive emotions it is termed as customer delight (Oliver et al., 1997).

How does one go about increasing the satisfaction levels among customers? The following section takes you through the various ways.


Use Social Media Marketing to Learn From Customers

The starting point of value creation is, knowing what “value” is for the customers.

As we have touched on this topic in step 1, we will skim through this topic here. But know that social media is very helpful in uncovering customer views. This can be used to conduct formal and/or informal market research.

E.g. PepsiCo used social networks to collect customer insight via its DEW McCray promotions. It led to the making of new variety of its Mountain Dew brand. Since 2008, the company has sold more than 36 million cases of them.


Have meaningful conversations, not just posts

Organizations use social media for updating their followers on new developments and stop there.

That’s a mistake.

Because, you don’t engage with them.

A social media marketing professional must develop a social aspect in the strategy. Trigger fans to comment on the status updates.

Incite them to retweet (posting on Twitter) of other members’ tweets and introduce posts which invite comments from others. (Blackman, A. S, 2009,  pp 10)

social media conversation

An executive director who as part of his first order of business created a Twitter feed and a Facebook profile.

The task of maintaining these got delegated to the marketing team. The team began tweeting on Twitter and so-called updates on Facebook.

All the information was in one direction – from the brand the public, incoming information was ignored.

Big mistake.

When public figured this out, the brand began to receive massive amounts of the electronic hate mail.

Some of it because the company, under the guise of being “social”, was only using it for free advertising. It was not intended actually for interacting with the public.

The company’s use of social networks only for disseminating information and refusing to interact was causing the irritation.

They didn’t value the public enough to listen to feedback. They were likened to everything from Balloon Boy to the KKK.

The company realized the mistake and began to work hard to reverse the negative image and interact in a more positive way.

When you plan your social media strategy avoid alienating your member base.


Stay on top of competition

While social networks have also made it easy for the competition to keep track of what you are doing in the market.

Companies use social media to announce offers or events, and keep the members updated with important news stories.

These tweets and posts by brands are visible even to the competition.

It becomes easy to track your competitors’ activities online, and to plan counter-moves in real-time.

This helps in countering any move which may result in decreasing the satisfaction levels among your fans.

If you liked this point, you’ll really love the next one.


Co-create products

Sounds risky, doesn’t it? Trust me, it’s not that risky.

We have seen that interactions with your fans help you to understand their needs.

In this stage you take the relationship a step further by involving them in co-creating new products. This has a two-fold effect on the relationship.

First, it shows that you trust your fans to include them in the product development process. Second, it increases their satisfaction levels with the products.



Gummesson (1999) also highlighted the importance of opportunities for joint value creation that could be used to create a long-term “win–win” for both parties.

Engaged and empowered consumers with direct access to business organizations expect to be involved in the creation of the next generation of products and services (Tapscott, 2009).

The more you understand the power of this one tactic, the more you’ll need to remember and give this a try so that you can judge for yourself.

Reassure unsure buyers

Gummesson (1999) highlighted the importance of joint value creation that creates a long-term “win–win” for both parties.

Consumers expect to get involved in the creation of the next generation of products and services (Tapscott, 2009).

The more you understand the power of this one tactic, the more you’ll need to remember and give this a try.

buyers remorse

First-time buyers to feel unsure about their purchase immediately after buying. This feeling is termed as “Buyers’ Remorse”.

To counter Buyers’ Remorse, it is necessary to give reassurance.

Social interactions help in reassuring buyers about their purchase so that they don’t feel buyers’ remorse.

Some time ago McKinsey conducted a survey among customers of facial skin care products.

They found that more than 60% customers conduct online research about their purchases after they buy.

If the customers are happy with their purchase, they advocate it using Word-Of-Mouth. This acts like fodder for the evaluation of other potential customers.

In many categories of products the single most critical factor to buy is someone else’s advocacy. (Edelman, D. C., 2010, pp 4).


Display negative comments

Anderson (2008) provides a compelling example of a consumer contest. The contest was to create YouTube ads for the Chevy Tahoe.

There were many negative messages in the submissions. E.g. messages relating the sale of an SUV to global warming or social irresponsibility.

Yet, the negative ads had more views than the positive ads. In some cases, they “drove” viewers to the Chevrolet Web site and even resulted in conversions.

This shows that organizations are not “in charge” of the interaction and do not control the message. The more unbiased the feedback, more is the trust in your brand.


Avoid Aggressive Marketing

While there are people who are subtle about asking for the order, there are also people who bulldoze you into buying.

It can be similar in marketing.

Aggressive Marketing

Businesses should establish their presence and develop strong applications to encourage members to give feedback. (Bolotaeva, V., & Cata, T., 2010, pp 3)

Social commerce should be a secondary goal for any organization. Because social networks are for interacting and communicating than for transacting business deals.

“The users will not return or stay with the network if there is too much pressure to buy or if the network is viewed as too commercialized.” (Bolotaeva, V., & Cata, T., 2010, pp 3).

What this means is that you need to…


Adapt you messages

What might be acceptable on Twitter might be spam on Facebook. A specific style of messaging might spread on chats but fail on blog comments.

Each network is different and customizing your messages will ensure that they do well on all of them.

Adapting messages as per the network not only helps the messages to spread, it saves the users from seeing the same ones.

What’s even more important…want to take participation up a notch? Try this next point…


Collaborate with talent

At times, you might have to seek outside help for activities which aren’t core to your business.

Your social network becomes a great place to find the right resource for such activities. This helps in two ways.

First, you show that you trust your members.

And second, because you include their help in co-creating it helps increase their satisfaction levels.

With sites like LinkedIn, you can identify the right talent for your business.

This makes identifying the right skills, experience and educational qualifications very easy.


Social media marketing tactics

1. Invite customer inputs along the product creation process. Reward the most practical and useful inputs.

2. Go beyond selling on your business page. Display testimonials from past buyers to reassure present buyers. Also, ask the present buyers to send in their testimonials.

Additional Social Media Marketing Resources:
- How to increase engagement to better serve your audience - John Lee Dumas
- Map you content to your buyers- Steve Farnsworth
- How Harvard Medical School Does Visual Social - Neal Schaffer
- Incorporate Participation Marketing for More Scalable Content Marketing – Lee Odden
- Why Your Business Should use Twitter - Helen Colquhoun
- 8 ways local businesses can use online help - Julie Herndon

Stage 4: Take steps to engage

Wow, you’re half-way through article…now.

What is necessary about finishing this article is that you at least agree to give these tactics a try before you decide to continue.

Now back to Step 4…

Customer engagement results from either satisfaction over time or positive emotions.

Overall satisfaction is a result of repurchases and implies a long-term relationship between seller and customer but not necessarily highly positive emotions.

But, a customer’s highly positive emotions for a seller do not imply that the customer has a long-term relationship with the seller. Thus engagement may be the result of enduring relations.

It is possible to engage customers in various ways. Let’s explore some of them here.

Develop relationships not transactions

This is something we hammer into our clients’ marketing team. At the end of the day, your relationships will decide the success or failure of your business. Those who get it have flourished.

In the sports industry, fans who perceived higher levels of relationship quality tended to consume more sport through media, buy more licensed products, and attend more games.


social media relationships

Consumers share their likes and love with others through networks and might expect something in return.

Celebrities like Ashton Kutcher are successful because they share private perspectives with their social media fans.

As you read this you will want to know how to take the relationships to the next level.


Induce loyalty through relationships

As relationships evolve from sales transaction to information exchange, more enduring bonds get formed.

Customers appear to be engaging like parts of the same firm that transact with one another.


The roles of the seller and the customer converge, with seller and customer collaborating in creating value (Prahalad and Ramaswamy, 2004).

Web 2.0 technologies and tools…

appear to facilitate the co-creation of value by seller and customer ( (Harrison & Barthel, 2009).

Customers often add value by generating content. They even become advocates and influence buying decisions in peer-to-peer interactions.

But what exactly is customer engagement seems to be unclear.
There are variations in the interpretations of the concept.

And several different definitions of customer engagement are proposed by practitioners. As a consequence, managers and consultants choose the one that suits their purpose.

Forrester Consulting (2008) conducted a survey among 200 decision makers in companies across the world.

They define customer engagement as “creating deep connections with customers that drive sale decisions, interaction, and participation over time.”

According to Gallup, engaged customers pay 23% premium on an average.

At the same time, disengaged customers seek discounts. They spend approximately 13% less compared to average customers. On the basis of share of wallet, profitability, revenue.


Provide exclusive privileges

Make your fans feel special. They should feel privileged for being your fan.

social media privileges

Here’s an example.

The Phoenix Suns’ Emmy-award winning social media network, Planet Orange members receive benefits. These exclusive benefits range from invitations to special events, and, opportunities to meet other Planet Orange members.

Fan interactions and opportunities to contribute content also lead to increased loyalty to the team.

The loyal fans consume more products (tickets, memorabilia, etc.) and services (matches, premium paid content, etc.).


Mine the data

Social networking is an opportunity to collect consumer data.

E.g. When Disney’s Hollywood Records label wanted to advertise Jonas Brothers latest album, they wanted to reach out the Latin American community. They used Colligent’s data to create a strategy for this campaign.

Mined data is used to target better and offer relevant offers and products. We will see this in the next tactic.

Caution: Aggressive harvesting of personal user data can backfire on the business.


Target right customer

In the previous tactic, you mined the data to learn the customer dynamics and understand their behavior.

Having mined this data and converted it into knowledge, now you can target the right customer.

social media targeting

Focus-groups help brands to have a targeted group of prospects who share similar tastes and world-views.

Such targeted groups could be harnessed to communicate and promote targeted messages.

E.g. Levi Strauss has used social media to offer location-specific deals.

In one instance, direct interactions with 400 consumers led 1,600 people to turn up at the company’s stores. This is an example of social media’s targeted messaging and word-of-mouth effect.


Use customer check-ins

Technology is a boon for the one who knows how to use it. If you know how to leverage the technology, you enlightened.

customer check-ins

Mobile-device check-ins is a popular way to announce your arrival at a location.

This has enormous value for retailers, since they typically identify customers only when they’re trying to check-out, if at all.
And, at that point it’s too late to influence them.

Facebook enables retailers to provide electronic coupons and loyalty points when customers check in at arrival.

This increases store traffic and sales. Thus giving retailers a clearer picture of their customers’ behavior.

Last year REI tried an innovative approach. They offered $1 donations (with a ceiling of $100,000) for charity for every web check-in to the stores. This drove traffic to its stores.

American Eagle has offered 20% discounts to customers who check into its stores.

This helps companies target customers better. It also increases the conversion on the discount coupons distributed this way.


Additional Social Media Marketing Resources:
- Redefining engagement to understand the future of marketing - Michelle Killebrew
- 5 Annoying Facebook marketing tactics you need to stop doing right now- Rich Brooks
- Why data-driven marketing is the next big thing - Michael Brenner
- How Berneslai Homes use Social Media to Engage Younger Tenants- Ross Mc Culloch
- Twitter now lets you retweet yourself - Herman Couwenbergh

Stage 5: Enhance brand commitment

As you come closer and closer to the end of this article you’ll notice a strong urge use the tactics covered here.

A relationship has two types of commitments :

  • affective commitment and
  • calculative commitment (see Gustafsson et al., 2005).

Calculative commitment…

is the rational type. It results from a lack of choice or high switching costs.

E.g. A customer who enjoys Lebanese or Moroccan cuisine patronizes a restaurant nearby because of a lack of alternatives.

Calculative commitment leads to higher levels of customer loyalty. These relationships are enduring ones till the time another seller comes on to the scene.

leads to higher levels of customer loyalty and enduring relationships with sellers.

Affective commitment…

…is emotional. It results from the trust and reciprocity in a relationship.

Take above example of the customer who dines at a particular restaurant. The regular diner could become friends with the staff. The staff remember the diner’s tastes and provide amazing service.

Affective commitment leads to higher levels of trust and emotional bonds with sellers.

Customer loyalty is the result of calculative commitment to a product, brand, or company … while…
… customer delight is the result of affective commitment to a product, brand, or company.

Customers are loyal and delighted when their commitment to a seller is both: calculative and affective.

In this case, the customer and seller enter an enduring relationship with strong emotional bonds.

The following tactics will help build such relationships with your members.


Build Credibility

According to InSites Consulting…

38 percent of social media users see product reviews as the most reliable source of information about a brand or product.

The next most popular option, chosen by 32 percent of respondents, was the brand itself. At the bottom of the list were journalists (7 percent), marketers (3 percent) and other brands (1 percent).

This tells us that potential customers value opinions of other customers.

This follows the communication sent by the brand itself. Advertisements or press releases are the least reliable by the social media users.

Thus, to build credibility have conversations with your users and seek their feedback.

Then you could acknowledge the feedback and reassure them that you are acting on it.

Such conversations will increase emotional bonds. By being approachable and open to the customers’ points of view you help open interaction.


Provide content communities

Engaging consumers in such potentially valuable interactions is not easy, as there are large number of brands and companies striving for consumers’ limited time, attention, and emotional resources.

Research suggests that interesting and arousing content helps (Berger 2011; Berger and Milkman 2012).

Content communities such as YouTube and Flikr provide a variety of interaction options for fans that add value by allowing them to personalize and control their relationship with the brand or organization.

Access to content communities can be increased by embedding these tools in traditional Web sites or social networks. For example, the Boston Celtics sponsors a YouTube channel (

The channel gives fans unique video content. This provides new opportunities to enhance loyalty and brand building.

Fans subscribe to the YouTube channel and take part in discussions.

The fans get thrilled because they get to create the content.

This involvement is relevant to relationship marketing. It provides a forum for increasing interaction and peer-to-peer participation.


Use Content Aggregators

RSS (real simple syndication), creates news feeds.

This is an example from Major League Baseball. Here is a web page that provides links to RSS feeds for news from each team (

You enable users to generate their own feeds. And, it increases customer satisfaction and enhances loyalty.

content aggregators


Create stronger social identity

The stronger the social identity of the online community members, the more likely they are to accept advertising.

For your advertising campaign select those sites with strong group identities. These communities offer the greatest chances of being receptive to your messages.


social identity

A strong group identity helps in creating a homogenized group. Homogenized groups are where members have common interests and world-views.

This helps in targeting them with relevant messages, thereby increasing the conversion rates.


Communicate group benefits early

A stronger group (benefit) norm has a positive effect on such group intentions.

social media benefits

The stronger the social identity of the online community members, the more likely they are to accept advertising.

For your advertising campaign select those sites with strong group identities. These communities offer the greatest chances of being receptive to your messages.

Social identity

A strong group identity helps in creating a homogenized group. Homogenized groups are where members have common interests and world-views.

This helps in targeting them with relevant messages, thereby increasing the conversion rates.

Communicate group benefits early

A stronger group (benefit) norm has a positive effect on such group intentions.

For instance, online communities could use group activities to create bonding among users. This enhances social identity perceptions because everyone works together as a team.

Online team building activities interspersed with regular activities also help.

These learning could propagate the benefits of accepting advertising. It will enhance the group benefit norm.


Focus on the perceive relevance and perceived value

To make advertising acceptable you need to consider the relevance of your messages.

When group members feel advertising is relevant to the theme and in line with their social identities, they regard it valuable.

Social media relevance

Strong group identity helps members to spot the relevancy of the messages.

Groups should help develop strong identities through incentives, recognitions, and so forth.

Strong group identity and group (benefit) norms lead to the group accepting advertising.

It could result in higher relevancy and value perceptions about community advertising.

For instance, Imagine a social network of Chinese students is studying in New Zealand.

Given its focus on fostering social relationships, this groups may oppose advertising. Whereas, a product-oriented community, may be open to such messages.


social media relevance


Create specific apps

These apps make it easy to keep your social networking profile updated. They pull data from the brand owners’ sites and display in social networking websites.

social media apps

Leverage Social Media Marketing to Sell

JCPenny opened a storefront on Facebook containing its entire catalog of products.

This was followed by the UK retailer, ASOS.

Facebook cannot be far behind. They are testing a Buy-with-Facebook program’.

They publish your purchases in friends’ news feeds and entices them to buy with discounts.

social media sales

Additional Social Media Marketing Resource:

- Why 75%  of US franchising systems are using facebook as part of their branding and sales strategy- Robin La Pere
- The importance of engaging with current customers - Bonnie Sainsbury
- Using Social Media and Content Marketing for Product Launches - Jennifer Davis
- Driving sales on the road: How linkedin's upgraded mobile app will help you stay connected and engaged in your busy- Viveka von Rosen


Stage 6: Reap advocacy

If you have read this far, you obviously like this article.

Why not help us spread the word? Your friends will thank you for this.

This is the last step of the process. Let’s take this last step together and work towards creating a loyal and engaged fan-base.

By following the steps so far, you have managed to delight your customers. But now they have a choice too, they can keep their delight to themselves.

Or in a connected world, they can interact with others through the social networks to spread the word.

But they might, just as easily, decide not to spread the word. What is the magic that decides whether loyal customers become advocates or not?

That magic ingredient is – emotional bonds.

Loyal customers who lack emotional bonds with the seller do not offer unsolicited praise, or reviews about you to others despite their enduring relationships with you, or…

…they may offer recommendations on a rational basis free of emotional attachment.


Why is it important

In a study of factors leading to word-of-mouth communication, emotional bonds were the deciding factor.

At the same time logical reasoning was not related to word-of-mouth communication. (Harrison-Walker, 2001).

This suggests that delighted customers talk about the delight to others but loyal customers are less likely to do so.

But how does one go about developing emotional bonds with the customers?

The following tactics might show the way.


Drive more conversations

The volume of conversations is directly related with sales.


And, according to the newsfeed algorithm this will help you spread the words as well. Read more


Also, the “pull-effect” created through social media conversations is more long-lasting. (Armelini, G., & Villanueva, J. (2011), pp 5)

drive social media conversations

Get Word-Of-Mouth going

Yes, I know I have covered this in step 1. But some tactics work for more than one step which is why they get mentioned again.

Advocacy is the eventual result we are aiming for, and it doesn’t hurt to seed it in the initial stages. We have seen howFord planned its re-entry into compact SUV market in the US in step 1.

The same logic applies here. Let’s take another example.



Based on movie releases, researchers carried out a study to measure the impact – and inter-relationships – of three key variables on movie success:

  • advertising investment
  • publicity (i.e., media presence without prior payment) and
  • the conversations generated among potential and actual spectators.

One of the conclusions was that WOM about a movie always has a positive impact on box-office revenue.

The impact turns out to be independent of advertising investment.(Armelini, G., & Villanueva, J. (2011), pp 2)

Advertising in conventional media

has high and massive reach. Traditional WOM based on one-to-one communication is limited by nature.

Yet, the rise of social networks is transforming the pattern of interactions and recommendations.

Recommendations are no longer limited to one-to-one interactions between personal acquaintances.

Now, hundreds of people can conspire to put a company’s reputation on a pedestal or drag it through the dirt. (Armelini, G., & Villanueva, J. (2011), pp 4)

Leverage Media Sharing

ike Youtube – Flickr, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. are great for sharing informational content like corporate videos, infographics, etc.

This lends very well to visual messages like explainer video, presentations, etc.

And, if they are share-worthy there’s a chance they would get shared around. Thus snowballing into virality.

social media sharing

Use of Forums

Forum users are generally net savvy and open to making online purchases. Many forum users are also respected experts and bloggers in the specific topics.

Forum marketing is a high ROI strategy. Making a good impression among this savvy and influential audience can help your message spread far and wide.


forum marketing

There are specific forums for specific industries. It’ll help to feature in some of them belonging to your industry.

We already know prospects trust other customers more than press reviews, advertising and company websites.

Forum posts can be used to change the general perception in the market about the product or brand.

Your brand can appear more caring and friendly. Use forums to explain the philosophy behind the brand and the importance of user opinion.

This will help develop emotional ties with your prospects.


Blogs shape opinions

Blogs influence one in five readers at decision stages… according to Buzz Logic and Jupiter Research’s “Harnessing the Power of Blogs” report.

Blog marketing

From a direct marketing perspective, these findings make sense. Blogs attract users who have similar demographic, psychographic, and behavioral traits.

Research says, readers trust blog content more than social media sites for shopping. (Saravanakumar, M., & SuganthaLakshmi, T., 2012)

By their nature, blogs reduce the burden of post-purchase support and customer service.

This helps in establishing emotional bonds with the customers and building trust. (Saravanakumar, M., & SuganthaLakshmi, T., 2012)

Social Bookmarking & Voting

Social bookmarking sites are a popular way to store, classify, share and search links.

It is a technique of organizing and maintaining resourceful bookmarks online.

The method began in April 1996 when the website itList launched. It gave users the capability of having public or private bookmarks.


Tagging is Introduced

In 2003, Delicious was formed and pioneered a term called ‘tagging’ which allowed users to search for bookmarked items by a
keyword, Delicious also coined the phrase ‘Social Bookmarking’.

Social bookmarking is a very useful way to access a compiled list of bookmarks from a variety of computers.

You can manage a large amount of bookmarks and share the bookmarks with contacts. Many bookmarking sites have implemented a voting system.

Here users are encouraged to state bookmarks that they found to be interesting or of use. As a bookmark receives votes its visibility increases on the website which in turn generates more and more votes.

One more point to note is that users seek to reach a broad audience, so channels with social-bookmarking capabilities or blog-rolls provide an increased probability of being found and heard.

Their influence andtheir may become directly proportional to the degree of interaction they have both with organizations and with each other.


How this helps

In this way they make their worldview public. There’s a significant psychological principle involved here. It states that once a person makes his/her worldview public, it’s very difficult for them to change it.

In our case, once someone likes your bookmark it’s the same as announcing that preference to the world. And from here on they go on to justify their behavior by convincing themselves that they like your brand.

This cause emotional involvement to develop and thus advocacy.


Leverage Review sites

Social networks provide the ultimate technology to seed positive word-of-mouth with ease.

Product review sites may be supported by providing affiliate links to sell the reviewed items.

With the growing popularity of affiliate programs, a new sort of review site has emerged. These are affiliate product review site.

One of the heuristics that people use are the number of user reviews received by a particular product.

It serves as an indicator of the intensity of the word-of-mouth effect and increases awareness.



2007 saw a unique trend among big companies like Best Buy and even Walmart. These companies had started mentioning the online
review numbers in their television advertisements and on the receipts.

Reviews provide value in the form of social proof and collective intelligence.

It allows consumers to voice their own views in the form of customer reviews, ideas, and opinions.

They see other voices that may provide them with more information.


Display charity affiliations

If your brand is associated with any charity it would be wise to make that known through social media.

This can earn you some brownie points. As you can see social media marketing has a CSR angle as well.


Additional Social Media Marketing Resources:

- How to build trust in 14 steps - Paul Brunson
- The Real Reason you Are Not Any Making Money From Your Blog - Alexander James
- 10 powerful tips to increase fan engagement on facebook - Jeff Bullas
- How to blog differently in three easy steps - Peg Fitzpatrick
- Make Money Blogging: How This Blog Makes $100K per month - Jon Morrow
- 9 ways to utilize social media for story telling - Brian Fanzo
- Top 6 ways video sharing is transforming the IT industry - Lisa Samples



If you’ve read my other articles, you know that I enjoy making them as comprehensive as possible. And, this article was no different.

Social Media Marketing is a fascinating field- yet it’s not an exact science. What works for one organization might not work for others. But I’m hoping to set you off in the right direction.

Now and again I envision all my readers successfully reading this complete article because they feel the need to master the subject.

Imagine, what would it be like if you were to put in place what you read in this article?

You don’t have to use the entire list of tactics you find in this article. You can pick and choose which ones you are comfortable with.


Remember…it’ll always be an art.

Yet, I have attempted to present you with a comprehensive strategic approach – the science part. You get to decide the tactics to use – that’s an art.

With social interactions involving living, breathing people, no strict rules will ever exist. You will need a dynamic approach. You’ll always need creativity. Social Media Marketing will always be an art form.

But I hope that you learned some useful insights, nonetheless. If you want to stay up-to-date on my new articles, you could subscribe to my blog. I’ll try to make each article worth your time.

o stay up-to-date on my new articles, you could subscribe to my blog. I’ll try to make each article worth your time.

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