It’s been a little while since I’ve talked about Social Media, yet it’s still something I get asked about regularly. So, today,as a special treat, I’m going to provide the blueprint for Brands looking for Social Media Marketing success.

Most importantly, I’m going to share the five secret components that successful Brands leverage when using social media. I share all of this in hopes of saving you time, money, and frustration…especially if you work with clients who expect you to have the answers about social media.

So, let’s start with a question:

what does it mean to have social media marketing success?

Social Media Marketing Success

smiling people standing near table

I would define Social Media Marketing success as any endeavor that utilizes social media technologies to accomplish a desired objective. For Brands, this broadly falls into one of the following two categories:

  • social media makes us money
  • social media saves us money

Sometimes this is straightforward. For example…

  1. Company posts a status update on Facebook with a link to buy product for $100 dollars
  2. 100 people see the status update and 5 people buy the product
  3. Company generates $500 in revenue and after factoring in its costs for labor and materials, the company generates $400 in profit

Sometimes, this is less straightforward. For example…

  1. Company actively audits their C-suite and Board of Directors to ensure a more diverse and representative group of people
  2. Company engages in a year long campaign to promote its blogs and video content on social media highlighting internal diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives
  3. Company sees cost savings through greater retention of existing talent, improved profitability from enhanced innovation by incorporating diverse perspectives, and attracts top talent leading to a reduction in fees paid to external recruiters.

In both scenarios, the company utilized social media, at some level, to accomplish an objective. Sometime the objectives are more specific than the two categories listed above (make or save money) but usually, if you interrogate the goal and go deep enough, it always comes back to those two things.

So, how do companies that succeed on social media do things differently than the rest? I’ll tell you.

Secret #1: Let Brand Guide The Way

The first thing successful companies do is recognize that any benefit derived from social media is born out of Branding.

  • Without a clear understanding of the company’s purpose, beliefs, or position in the market, the social media marketing will be haphazard, destined to ring hollow or be confusing.
  • Without a clear understanding of their values, recruitment campaigns will fall flat or bring in the wrong people.
  • Without a messaging architecture, each campaign, touch-point, or representative may send a conflicting message.

There are multiple reasons for all of this, but the big ones are companies with a strong brand…

  • know who their ideal customer is, so the messaging resonates
  • know who they are and what change they’re out to make in the world, so the ideal customer and team member gravitates toward them
  • have a North Star guiding all of their decisions from the tone of their sales offers, to the feeling of their video content, to the cadence and personality of their day-to-day social media management

Simply put, companies with strong Branding, are better at Social Media because they have certainty about who they are, what they’re out to accomplish, and who they are for, while others chase trends and speak broadly to a vague demographic.

Secret #2: Meet Expectations

In the end, Social Media is good for basically 3.5 things:

  1. Information
  2. Entertainment
  3. Customer Service

…and Infotainment (Information + Entertainment)

Prospects, customers, employees, shareholders, and others only follow or talk to brands for these 3.5 reasons. They either want to learn something, be entertained, or get a problem solved. Everything falls into these categories.

Once you understand that, you can coordinate your social media activities to deliver on what people likely want from you. A company with a strong brand understands their customer and will have done the work to understand what their customer really wants from them on social media.

For example…

If you’re an airline, people want customer service and information. If you can entertain at the same time, super. If not, it’s not that important. However, if my flight is cancelled, or delayed, all I want from the airline on Twitter is a resolution to my issue. All else is unimportant.

If you’re a movie studio, people want entertainment, and perhaps a little information. Release the trailer, put out some teaser behind-the-scenes, and make sure I can find a sexy new iPhone wallpaper of the movie poster.

Companies that succeed at Social Media know exactly what game they’re playing.

Secret #3: Double Down on Responsiveness

The single easiest way to lose at Social Media is to fail at the point of opportunity by not paying attention or being late to respond. I have seen the Facebook messages of companies where customers are begging to buy something, but are met with nothing by an auto-reply. This is the primary reason why you don’t want to take on more social media channels that you are prepared to respond to. No Tik-Tok for you unless you plan to answer comments and DMs.

When customers have questions, comments, concerns, complaints, or customer service issues….answer the call, and do it fast. You are almost never the only option, and the first to “pick up the phone” has the advantage. You can’t be too fast, but you can definitely be too slow.

Secret #4: Consistency

There are two methods for social media success:

  1. Go viral
  2. Keep showing up

Most Brands will not go viral. About 50% of those that do, will go viral for the wrong reasons. You can choose the comparatively risky strategy of taking your time to do something extraordinary and remarkable so that people will talk about you. Alternatively, you can just show up everyday to do the work: the unexciting, but necessary work.

The dirty truth is that virtually no one is waiting around for brands on social media. Social Media has become an activity that we primarily do mindlessly and without joy. We scroll through our phones to waste time, pausing only on rare occasion when a post gives us enough LOLz to make the extra 3 taps to send it to a friend worth it.

No one expects Brands to show up and do something extraordinary day-in and day-out. More than anything, people want predictability.

  • Be informative when it matters.
  • Be entertaining, if that’s your thing.
  • Be responsive with customer service.

But with all of it, do it consistently because that matters more than making a big splash.

Secret #5: Master Expectations

The last thing that I have seen set the winners and the losers apart, are their own internal expectations.

  • I had a client years ago who expected that merely being on Twitter (brand new account btw) would net him whale-sized clients…within 3 months.
  • I’ve seen clients recently scratching their heads when their self-serving, overtly promotional post on Instagram failed to generate new signups.
  • I’ve seen social media managers put through hell because the CEO thought a post on a random Wednesday was uninspired. (Don’t you have anything better to focus on, Bob?)

Social Media is not going to change your life overnight and it may not change your life at all. Your business is probably fine with it or without it. If you do it well, you’ll see value accumulate over time. However, unless you have a sober, level-headed understanding of what to expect, you will be routinely disappointed that the great promise of social media success has eluded you yet again.

We’re past the hype. We can largely dismiss the big bold claims that the once burgeoning industry bombarded everyone with. Social Media is, and perhaps always was, simply another communication channel and opportunity to create a Brand experience. There will be wins, there will be losses, but more often than that, there will be nothing of note…and that’s ok, it’s to be expected.

Bonus Secret: Embrace Efficiency

While many companies spend time and money creating a piece of content, only to move on from it within hours of publishing, the smart company looks to extend the half-life of content longer. Brands that use social media well, know that within each piece of social media content lives multiple variations that can be used on other channels. This is known as content atomization, and you can learn all about it here:

Further, there is no rule against reusing content at a later date. In fact, I’d recommend it. It saves time, it saves money. Presumably, if you liked it enough to post the first time, why not post it again for those who missed it the first time around?

Your next step


Figure out what you want to say.

Think of the myriad ways you can say it.

Commit to being more responsive.

Finally, settle in, there’s a long road ahead, and plenty of opportunities to create positive Brand impressions.

P.S. The Future of Social Media (on this blog)

I wrote a post/page called Proven Social Media Strategies back in 2018. When I wrote it, I promised to share six social media-centric blog posts. I wrote two in 2018, and then another in 2021. This is the fourth entry in the series. That leaves two more. After I’ve written those two posts, I don’t plan to write another post centered on social media on this blog, especially since I wrote a 15,000 word blog post about social media strategy. However, I gave my word that I’d write all six of those posts. So, that’s what I’m going to do.

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