According to Wikipedia, social media exists to “introduce substantial and pervasive changes to communication between organizations, communities, and individuals.”
Networks like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn allow even the most introverted of us to make “friends” with like-minded people anywhere in the world. With the click of a mouse or swipe of the finger, you can find your tribe, share common passions, ask for an honest review, and start a movement by giving voice to the disenfranchised.
But as the busy marketer of a teen summer program, social marketing just looks like one more task to add to your hectic day. Where do you start? Which networks are worth your energy? Is anyone even going to notice you?
This is no time to stick your head in the sand, so let’s break it down.
Why Social Media Matters for Summer Programs
In a 2013 keynote address, HubSpot co-founder Dharmesh Shah described how the sales paradigm has shifted from buyer beware to seller beware: “we’ve long since known that the pen is mightier than the sword … I would posit that the tweet is mightier still."
- Families have resources, choices and very loud voices
- Social is a low-cost way to humanize your brand and show your personality
- Spending just 6 hours a week on social networks, marketers can expect an average 74% increase in website traffic
- It’s a public, real-time way to provide customer support
- The more advocates you have, the fewer ads you need to buy
If you want to be known as The Best summer program for your specialty, social networks provide an easy way to start a conversation and gain traction quickly.
How to Build Reach
Leverage existing relationships. It takes time to build a following, but the process can be really rewarding and educational. Start by following feeder schools, educators and thought leaders in your space. If your summer program is affiliated with a university, you’re in the enviable position of being able to hook up with their social media team and collaborate on content within an established network.
Don’t be the jerk nobody wants to talk to. Effective social networking is a two-way conversation, so use the “cocktail party rule” as a reminder to ask questions and share the content of others. As with our tips on content marketing, make sure 80% of what you’re posting is interesting and helpful, and only 20% is promotional.
Mix things up. Post a variety of content including photos, infographics, videos, ebooks, slideshares, blog posts, contests and surveys. If you don’t have the time or resources to create this content yourself, try curating the best stuff you’ve seen and add your own commentary to it.
Customize Content to Each Network
I may sound like a like a broken record lately, but “buyer personas” are absolutely the lifeblood of a good marketing strategy. When it comes to social media, you’ll want to know where your personas are spending their time online, and tailor the context of your content to each network. Some things to keep in mind:
Twitter – a fast moving conversation, full of viral buzz potential. For the best results tweet early and often (for maximum reach Guy Kawasaki repeats a single tweet 8x in a 24 hour period), use the right hashtags, use pictures and video to enhance posts, monitor replies, and thank your retweeters.
Facebook – keep posts under 250 characters, post early in the morning and afternoon (2-3pm), use images, ask questions, do short surveys, make it fun and personal. This is not a place for super serious content.
LinkedIn – post meaty, thought-provoking content to company pages and groups. On this network it’s good practice to post before 8am and after 6pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and encourage your staff to share content to their own networks to reach as many eyeballs as possible.
Google+ – this is the search engine driver no marketer can afford to ignore. Diversify your posts with images, videos, and educational content. “+1” buttons can improve click-through rates and are great for local search optimization.
YouTube – now owned by Google, this is another network with huge SEO impact. Every time you make a video of your summer program is a new opportunity to post it in multiple places: embedded on your website, in a Twitter or Facebook post, and on YouTube itself.
Whichever social networks are most appropriate for reaching your audience, make sure your profiles are throrough, and that your unique personality and value shines through.