5 questions that nag social media marketers

They want to know which tools and tactics will work best for them, how to create a strategy, and how to measure results. The answers are nuanced.

Marketers are high on using social media—they’re just a little foggy about how, exactly, to do so.

The fifth annual Social Media Marketing Industry Report from Social Media Examiner was released last month and the results weren’t overwhelmingly surprising.

More than 3,000 marketers were surveyed and, although the report finds they place very high value on social media, the increase is only 3 percentage points over last year. That said, the percentage—86 percent—is pretty high.

In other words, more than 2,500 marketers place a very high value on social media.

That’s great—but what concerns me is where they want to focus:

• Tactics and engagement
• YouTube
• Blogging
• Podcasting
• Measurement
• Increased exposure

It’s 2013, and we’re still trying to figure out how to use social media to engage, how to increase exposure, and what videos, blogging, and podcasting mean to our individual organizations.

This makes me sad.

Just two years ago, the State of the Inbound Marketing study from Hubspot and MarketingProfs showed companies that blog have significantly higher leads than those that do not.

RELATED: Master the can’t-ignore social media tools after Mark Ragan’s one-day social media boot camp.

In the Social Media Examiner report, there were five social media questions marketers want answered that I’d like to address here:

1. What social media tactics are most effective? It depends on where your customers and prospects are participating online. If you don’t know that, you can run in circles until you’re dizzy, and you still won’t have the answer. Figure out where the people you want to reach are hanging out online and go there. If they move, move with them. This is not “Field of Dreams.” If you build it, they will not necessarily come.

2. What are the best ways to engage my audience with social media? There are a few ways: Stop talking about only work, don’t be self-promotional, have conversations with people, allow your personalities and your culture to shine through, remember human beings are multi-dimensional, and give up the idea that you can control this. Mistakes will happen. People will say things you don’t like. There will be complaints. It’s in how you handle those things that becomes a win.

3. How do I measure the return on my social media investment? You already know this one makes me nuts. We have to stop thinking about social media as a tactic on its own. You’re going to measure the return of your marketing investment, of which social media is a part. If you use social media to motivate people to visit your site and then the content on your site encourages them to stay there, and then your product or service is so overwhelming they buy, your return-on-investment is pretty darn clear. If you’re looking at social as more Facebook fans and Twitter followers, though, you’ll lose.

4. What are the best social management tools? Again, it depends. There is not one size that fits all. The only way to find out is to use the tools. You’ll find what works best for you individually and best for your organization.

5. How do I create a social strategy? You don’t. Again, you create a marketing strategy, of which social media is a part. As Susan Murphy wrote yesterday, you don’t want to be a social media expert. There is no such thing as a social media strategy. That’s akin to saying you have a telephone strategy or a typewriter strategy.

Social media isn’t about getting really good at Facebook and Twitter and YouTube and LinkedIn. It is about doing the job you’ve always done with the new tools available for you.

Gini Dietrich is founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, Inc. and blogs at Spin Sucks, where a version of this article originally appeared.

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