With the right fundamentals and strategy, defense contractors can use social media to attract business opportunities, close contracts and reinforce customer relationships.
In the first-ever analysis of social media attitudes and usage by defense contractors by DefenceIQ, a majority (61%) of respondents indicated that it is "essential" or "very important" to improve their online and social media presence over the next 5 years.
So as a defense contractor, if you have decided to step up your social media marketing, you're heading in the right direction.
Well, keep in mind the overall purpose of using social media: to build reach. You want to increase the number of the right people who get to know and engage with your company. Your social media accounts are only as valuable as your content, the number of followers and their level of engagement with you.
To make your social media triumphant AND profitable, here's your checklist:
1. Use Visual Content - The human brain process visual information much faster than text. This is why social media is increasingly catering to the visual. Further, social media networks are giving more preference to visual content. Facebook, for instance, gives higher Edgerank scores to visual content. (EdgeRank is an algorithm developed by Facebook to govern what is displayed—and how high—on the News Feed.)
2. Be Social - Unfortunately, some defense contractors still use their social media as a one-way broadcast mechanism rather than as a means to a conversation. Social media marketing expert Jay Baer recommends "Worry more about being social, and worry less about doing social media." In social media, ask questions, respond to comments and engage with your followers. If your followers get some interaction with your company on social media they will tend to go from followers to fans.
3. Party - Have you ever been to a cocktail party and met that guy who won't stop talking about himself? Don't be that guy. Instead use the "cocktail party rule." Treat your social media interactions as if you're at a nice cocktail party meeting new people. Show interest in your conversation partners (your followers), speak well of others (promote some content not necessarily your own), and don't just talk about yourself.
4. Include Keywords - While social media sharing of your content can boost your search engine results, there's another benefit. Public social media networks like Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+ are crawled by search engines, which can further help with rankings that lead visitors to your website.
5. Include Links - Whatever network you're using and content you're sharing, always include a link in the message that goes to the original content (even if it's not your content). When the link goes to your content, you can track the effectiveness of your social media. This is especially important for generating leads.
6. Post Frequently and Consistently - If you cannot commit to frequent and consistent posting, don't start. The amount of posting could be 20-30 updates per week, but it varies by industry, your buyer personas, etc. Also, if most of your followers aren't following a large number, you need to be careful not to post too much or you risk overwhelming your followers' social media stream.
7. Be Helpful - Before posting anything, make sure it's valuable to your buyer personas. If the information is irrelevant to them, their engagement will plummet. Before posting, ask yourself if your buyer persona would thank you for the information.
8. Post a Variety of Content - The more ingredients in your social media content stew, the tastier it is for your followers. The best strategy is to layer up your social media variety while being mindful that different types of content are better suited to some social media networks than others.
- Links to New Content - Whenever you have a new blog post or content, send it out via social media with a link back to it.
- Links to Others' Educational Content - While this may seem counterintuitive, sending your followers to other useful or educational content boosts your trustworthiness. Remember, to be effective, your social media can't be all about you.
- Lead Generation Offers - You do need more leads, right? If you're offering valuable premium content that requires registration, that's OK. Make sure to tailor your offers to the particular network on which you're sharing them.
- Contests and Promotions - This can help make your social media more fun and help boost your number of followers. However, be careful to link the prizes to your brand and something that will be of value to your buyer persona. Otherwise, you risk gaining a lot of the wrong kind of followers who swoop in long enough to enter your contest and then leave or never engage with you afterward.
- Breaking Industry News - Sharing news that is happening in your industry helps establish you as a thought leader who stays up to date with the latest information. It also underscores your company as a helpful resource.
- Funny Content - If you can be entertaining within the bounds of good taste and professionalism, your follower engagement can soar. Here's an example of some funny content from the Norwegian Army during the mercifully brief Harlem Shake craze:
- Visual Content - Visual content tends to garner more engagement, especially on those networks where it is a fit like Facebook, Pinterest and Google+. Aside from great photography, use memes, infographics and visual representations of points made in blog posts.
- Answer Questions - This is a great way to tie in your company's customer service element with your social media. If a customer asks a question, respond. Help them. You'd answer the phone, wouldn't you? More importantly, your followers can see how well you are taking care of your customers.
9. Measure - Before using social media, establish goals. Examples include increased traffic, leads or customers. Perhaps all three. By measuring the effectiveness of your social media you'll then be able to do more of what's working and less of what's not working. Looking at data is the best way to make those determinations. For instance, you can see which networks are driving the most traffic, the highest conversion rates, etc. In social media marketing, those metrics are not always one in the same. LinkedIn is an example: It may not be driving the most traffic but the traffic it is generating might have the highest conversion rate (i.e. best quality traffic).