Updated: Sun, 11/11/2012 - 12:17

Geekend speaker shares tips on how businesses can get most out of social media marketing

Meghan Gargan speaks with geekend attendees after her session.   Adam Van Brimmer/Savannah Morning News
Adam Van Brimmer/Savannah Morning News
Meghan Gargan speaks with geekend attendees after her session.
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The most important tool a business needs to fix its social media content strategy can’t be bought online or found on a blog or in a chat room.

Social media’s all-in-one tool is patience.

“For all the social media obstacles small businesses face, all of them are self-imposed,” said Meghan Gargan, a social media marketing guru. “Small business people get overwhelmed by the idea of social media and it paralyzes them.

“The reality is you can maintain all your social media channels in 10 to 20 minutes a day if you know how.”

Gargan shared tips on developing or improving social media marketing strategies Saturday during the Geekend interactive conference staged at the Savannah College of Art and Design Museum of Art. The annual conference attracted more than 500 attendees in its fourth year and wrapped up Saturday afternoon after three days of lectures, roundtables and activities.

Gargan’s presentation was part of the “better business” track of the conference and attracted entrepreneurs and social media professionals alike. With more than 56 percent of Americans engaged in at least one social media channel, be it Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or otherwise, and 53 percent of businesses using those platforms to reach consumers, social media is the fastest growing tool in marketing.

“As a business, you can’t not be present on social media, and that’s why a lot of social media strategies suck,” Gargan said. “Posting something on Facebook or tweeting is not engaging. Consumers no longer want to be talked at, they want to have a conversation.”

Gargan worked for New York City-based digital branding behemoth Ashe Avenue until recently, when she accepted a social media director position with the Girl Scouts to be closer to her North Carolina home. She worked with brands like AOL, Glamour and The Pampered Chef in her time with Ashe Avenue.

Whether she’s trying to reach customers of a Fortune 500 company or teenage Girls Scouts or scout alumni, she works from the same premise: Define the target audience, develop a strategy to reach that audience, find a voice and tone that will be instantly recognizable to that audience and push content.

“They don’t say content is king in media for nothing,” she said, “and that doesn’t change with social media.”

The approach varies from audience to audience and industry to industry, Gargan said, but there are basic themes to creating engaging social media content. Visuals are important, as many channels (Pinterest, Instagram) and visually based and others, most notably Facebook, will rank content with photos included ahead of everything else in a newsfeed.

Content should also include calls to action, such as encouraging the audience to like the content if it is on Facebook or retweet it on Twitter, and text should be concisely written. Content should also be optimized for the platform on which it appears. Don’t synch Twitter and Facebook so the same posts show up on both platforms.

The timing and frequency of sharing content is also important. As a general rule, businesses should avoid updating their Facebook page more than seven times a week and should limit tweets to 22 a day. Many of those tweets can be part of a conversation or retweets of relevant content.

Consistency is key to social media strategy. Too many businesses get caught up in the return on investment, become inconsistent in their social media marketing and lose engagement.

“Impatience is the greatest downfall,” Gargan said. “People expect to post and get a sale but that’s not how it works. You have to build community and show value before people will buy from you. Like any other form of marketing, it takes time.”

 

CATERING CONTENT

Businesses can engage audiences through social media content in many forms, says social media marketing guru Meghan Gargan. Some of the insights on she shared Saturday at the Geekend interactive conference:

• Tell a story

* Tap into emotions

* Make the audience laugh

* Teach something (share facts in posts)

* Give a voice (posts asking the audience to fill in a blank or answer a trivia question)

* Be relevant (tie content to situations, certain times of year)

* Inspire (through quotes or photos)

* Reward (contests, coupons)

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