Not Leveraging Social Media? Your Growth Hacking Efforts Won’t Succeed

Opinion: It can target a brand’s ideal audience

The age of social media growth hacking isn’t over

Did you take a trip to the International House of Burgers in June? Brands and users alike roasted IHOP for its social media play (temporarily changing its name to IHOb to promote its new burger line), but the joke was on them—for a minute, IHOP became the biggest name on the web.

How? Because the pancake house recognized the value of leveraging social media, especially when it comes to marketing a brand successfully. And current figures back up the company’s method: Actively, close to 50 percent of marketers are interested in increasing brand awareness through social media efforts, and 71 percent of consumers are more likely to recommend brands if social media experiences are positive.

Another brand that consistently leverages social media (and one that’s been active and successful far longer than IHOP) is Wendy’s. The fast-food restaurant’s Twitter account took the internet by storm a few years back when its responses to followers were, as some have described, downright savage. The franchise continues with its salty tweets to this day, firing shots at anything from McDonald’s burger patties to IHOP, and consumers can’t get enough.

“Social media is an opportunity to level the playing field and talk about what sets our food and brand apart,” Wendy’s chief marketing officer Kurt Kane said. The restaurant chain boasts 2.7 million Twitter followers to date.

It’s clear that social media does what traditional outbound marketing can’t: Chiefly, it can target a brand’s ideal audience specifically, instead of shooting fish in a barrel by bombarding broad audiences with its message. In traditional marketing, telemarketers and cold emails might land a few customers, but intrusive sales pitches don’t resonate. For companies to succeed, they need the power of social media fueling their growth.

Social media: the all-in-one marketing tool

Smart brands leverage the power of social media to help potential customers discover their products through relevant content. Like blogging and search-engine optimization, social media allows brands to share valuable, relevant content, but it also helps brands develop a lasting relationship with audience members, wherever they may be.

Last year, Ladder shared a blog post about why “hand-to-hand combat” will help you land early customers. But when you can’t meet your prospects in person, social media communities are the next best thing.

Social media is more than an acquisition channel: It’s a customer-support forum, a brand promotion vehicle and a marketing tool all in one. And the proof is in the pudding: Hootsuite found that 28 percent of Americans would rather engage with brands online, and 59 percent believe social media makes it easier to get their questions answered.

Picking a platform

Not all platforms are created equal, though. According to Pew Research Center, 78 percent of Snapchat users are between 18 and 24. The same study found that 41 percent of women use Pinterest, but only 16 percent of men do. Different platforms speak to different audiences, so brands must pick their battlegrounds carefully.

Facebook is the biggest platform in the U.S. (68 percent of adults are on it, per Pew), but marketers can’t limit their focus to Facebook alone. Business-to-business brands might balance their time between Facebook and LinkedIn, while brands targeting young women would do better on Instagram and Pinterest.

To determine the best social media platform for your business, define the goal of your strategy: Do you want more brand awareness, more leads or more user-generated content? Then, determine where your target audience members reside online. If they prefer LinkedIn, don’t chase them on Reddit.

Look at where your competitors invest their time. Chances are good they’re after the same audience. Use tools like BuzzSumo or SEMrush’s Social Media Tracker to collect information about your competitors’ social media activity.

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