Social media engagement and marketing have become important aspects of any business. If your business is new to this type of marketing, here's an overview of what you need to know, including the latest trends. This article covers question and answers session with Matt Bailey, best-selling digital marketing author, keynote speaker, and corporate trainer. 

Are you interested to know more about social media marketing strategies? Check out the Advanced Social Media Marketing Training.

The second in a six-part series, this post centers on Matt's advice on essential social marketing skills and strategies that any business can use. If you'd rather listen instead of reading, this Q&A is also available as a podcast below.

Q. What social media platforms should you focus on as a business? Where do you need a presence?

A: That's a question I don't answer. Every business is different. I get that question a lot, but the problem is I don't know your business; I don't know what you're trying to do; I don't know your audience; I don't know what makes you different. For my own business, I stick to B2B training. So LinkedIn and email are my primary platforms. 

Go with the social media platform that's most relevant to your customers. Where they go, that's where to make yourself seen. Whatever you choose, you have to also then also measure to see what's working. My daughter is a photographer, so Instagram is her social platform of choice. However, I have taught her analytics. And a primary source of customers is through words and even word of mouth. So she focuses not just on Instagram but also email. 

The other day I was talking to someone who is a locksmith, and what was interesting is the realization that no one plans to get locked out of their car or house, so no one's following a locksmith on social media. Search engine optimization and paid search are critical because he has to be found when someone needs him, right now and is impatient and upset and angry. So you know if you've got a business-to-consumer product, Facebook's got right demographics. They've got an audience. They have affordable targeting capabilities. But again, it's different. No one can tell you where you should be without an intimate knowledge of your business, your audience, your product, and your strategy.

I would always tell any company who's considering social media to first go in and look at their Google Analytics and see what's working, think about why it is working and how to leverage that. Most of the time, businesses are completely unaware of their best-performing channels and their least cost per lead or cost per sale. Those types of things are very critical to understanding the decision because what happens is when a new channel comes along or a new platform comes along? If you're going to focus on that platform, you have to pull that money from somewhere else. So your revenue goes down because money doesn't perform the same way it did, but also because you took your money out of your best performing channel. 

I always caution people about looking at their competitors. I'm gonna make this like "Bailey's Law" or something. Your competitor is never performing as well as you think they are. They may look good on the surface, it may seem like they are killing it, but you have never seen their analytics you have never seen their balance sheets. If you see them on Instagram and Pinterest and go there just because you see them, you may simply be following their own bad mistakes and you don't have the data. Just being there doesn't make you money. 

My advice is to first focus on what works best for your business right now, and it may not even be a digital channel. Then explore the different platforms for the right audience and the right platform that allows you to communicate your business and to communicate your personality without changing it to accommodate that platform. I'd look for the platform that supplements your business, but it enhances it rather than you changing your entire marketing strategy to fit the platform.

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Q: Are there any suggestions for creating viral marketing for a business?

A: No! You can't just say, "Go say something controversial" or "We could make a big mistake!" Anytime someone talks to me about viral, my first answer is no, I because my question is, what's your goal? Do you want a viral video that gets a couple of million views or do you want more money from sales? In a way, those two are mutually exclusive. 

Engagement doesn't necessarily mean sales. Do you want sustainable business growth, do you want a successful campaign, or do you want to entertain people? A viral campaign does not equate to revenue. A viral campaign is it used to be like a

lightning strike, and getting struck by lightning and going viral we're about the same odds. I've seen the YouTube videos that got a million, five million, upwards of ten million views. And do you know what it produced for that company in terms of raw revenue? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

That's why I like to ask people what is it that you want do you want? Visits? Links? Awareness? Or do you want profitable, sustainable revenue? The media love to promote the story of quick, instant success, and celebrity. You know, the company that blows up overnight. These are all like fairytale stories that make headlines, and it makes businesses that are getting four to five percent growth a year seem boring. 

For ninety-nine percent of businesses, you're doing great if you have some small sustainable growth and you want to push it up a percentage point or two. That's something we can control and where marketing can make a difference. Evaluate your marketing. Evaluate your processes. Evaluate your branding. Look at all the things that contribute to that revenue — rather than just looking at creating something entertaining. I will say it viral marketing right now is very different than what it used to be ten-fifteen years ago. Even before the age of YouTube, there were videos that went around by email that would just be hosted online, and it would get passed around, and it would go viral. It was very organic in the way that it happened. Viral today is not organic. What goes viral today is the product of hundreds of thousands of dollars of agencies working with influencers. 

Many of those influencers you don't even know because they are you know other people with a lot of pull in different networks. You know if they've got a million followers, you're going to pay them money to like this video or push it. Viral today is a very non-organic and agency controlled. I hate to be this killjoy, but seeing how some of these campaigns come together, they're anything but organic. It's done by companies that have the money to spend to get the attention.

Q: Let's talk a bit about influencer marketing. You recently led an entire webinar on influencer marketing. Is influencer marketing still important for businesses?

A: I just saw an article about what to do before the influencer marketing bubble bursts. I do find it interesting that they're already talking about the influencer marketing bubble. I don't want to be too contrarian about influencer marketing. Influencer marketing has always been around. Ever since there was advertising, there has been influencer marketing. It's getting a celebrity or someone that people know in using them to promote your message, directly or indirectly. 

What's new is this idea of "influencers" and people thinking they're influencers. We've seen some crazy examples. I would never call myself an influencer, but I have companies contacting me regularly to get feedback on their new SEO toolset and asking that I pitch it. My response to that, I don't represent anyone but myself, nor do I want my opinion to be tainted by money. Because people trust my advice, they trust what I say. I don't want to tarnish my reputation of being vendor-agnostic by receiving any compensation. So that's been my policy.

On the other hand, the question of influencer marketing gets to some of the best advice. In another interview, I was asked about my keyword secrets. I talked about Wordtracker. I don't get money from Wordtracker, but I would pitch them, and I would recommend them even if I don't get anything — and that is the best advice I've ever heard about influencer marketing. Use an influencer who would pitch your product for free, because that means they like you, they trust you, they love your product and they love what you do. If they're willing to pitch you for free, then maybe work with them and do something. 

If they're not willing to do it for free, then it's going to come off as inauthentic. Plus, their audience will know it's inauthentic, and it will affect not only their reputation but yours as a brand. It looks bad that you're willing to pay anything for someone to say something. 

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Q: Do you recommend using nano influencers or macro-influencers?

A: Let's look at it strategically. I'm going to want to reach as many followers as I can.  Think of the last season of Game of Thrones. It had 10 million viewers. Some of your big finale seasons are up around the 10 million 20 million mark. But then you go look at some of these YouTube influencers, and they've got 50 to 60 to 80 million followers. So if I'm a large consumer product company,  I could say, "Well I can advertise during that show, or I can advertise with this macro influencer and I'm going to hit a larger audience, for less cost per impression than advertising during the Superbowl." 

If you want to advertise to the maximum amount of people for a good cost per impression, it might make sense. But for your average company, you've got to find a bit more of a strategic approach. I will say this: I've worked now with a couple of worldwide enterprise brands, and it is their policy not to use influencers. They've seen too much go South, and that affects the brand, and they don't even want to mess with it. 

Or let's say you've got an outfitter company and you have a customer who's got a pretty good following within a certain niche. They like your stuff. Back in the day, we called that a "strategic partner" because if they fit your style, your personality, and you work well together, you just help each other build each other's business. Then that could be a nano influencer. 

Right now, the worst thing you can do is work with some of these self-proclaimed influencers who want something for nothing, like offering to do a shout-out or mentions to followers. That's not influence. That's not acceptable compensation, and in my opinion, it's just lazy. If there's a relationship, there's a relationship.

Here's my advice: Find an influencer who would use your product and recommend it to others for free. And then see what the best way to work together would be. Then the chances are when they do pitch you; it won't surprise that influencer's audience. It will make sense because it's what they do. So you know you're back to just building relationships with people in the industry who you work together well. That way it's less likely to go South. Then they won't change their mind if the check is late. 

I do think the bubble has burst on influencer marketing already. A lot of money was thrown at it. You could list the amount of digital stuff that has happened where people or brands throw a lot of money, and there wasn't any return. 

Want to test your knowledge of social media marketing? Try these Advanced Social Media Practice Test Questions and find out now.

Learn more about social media marketing  and even get certified

Upskill yourself or your team with Simplilearn's social marketing online course. You can also tap into more of Matt's great advice on best practices for digital marketing, email marketing, mobile marketing, and the current top trends by checking out our complete Simplilearn podcast channel, also available on Spotify, Google Podcast and iTunes.

Matt Bailey is a best-selling author, marketing expert, corporate trainer, and professional speaker. He is the founder and president of SiteLogic Marketing. Matt is the Digital Marketing Instructor for the Direct Marketing Association in NYC, a member of the Digital Marketing Faculty for Simplilearn, and an instructor for the OMCP (Online Marketing Certified Professional) Program. He is the author of Internet Marketing: An Hour a Day (2011), Wired to be Wowed (2015), and Teach New Dogs Old Tricks (2017).

Matt excels in combining his marketing background with programming know-how to help companies create comprehensive strategies that improve their online presence and conversions.

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