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Inbound Marketing Step 4: Online Location and Social Media Channels

In Building a Brand by Distility0 Comments

Be an Inbound Marketing Hero

Inbound marketing is a brand marketing strategy that focuses on having customers and potential customers find you. The heart of inbound marketing is online publishing of highly valued content that is magnetic to your target audience and that helps your audience decide whether to buy or recommend your solution.

This blog post is the fourth in our series of posts setting out the steps needed to develop a successful inbound marketing program. The first three posts were:

  1. Inbound Marketing Step 1: Is Your Brand Ready to Start Inbound Marketing?
  2. Inbound Marketing Step 2: Be Clear on Your Audience.
  3. Inbound Marketing Step 3: Create a Content Strategy.

Where Should Your Content Be?

To ensure that your brand’s valuable content can be found by your target audience, you need to consider where it should be. It is essential that your content is located in an online location where your target audience will find it. As set out above, inbound marketing is a brand marketing strategy that focuses on having customers and potential customers find you.

In considering where your content should be, there are two different questions you will be answering.

  1. What should be the primary online location where your content will be housed?
  2. What social media and online channels should you use to share your content and engage with your audience?

Primary Online Location

For most brands, your brand’s website should be your online location where your content is housed and this is the least risky choice. Your website then acts as the hub for your content and you will seek to drive target audience traffic to this online location. Having your website as your primary hub will likely result in focusing on having compelling core website copy, vibrant blog posts and clear resource pages.

The wrinkle is that if you have more than one brand or offering, then you need to decide whether these brands or offerings should share a website or have separate websites. If the answer to this question (which is rooted in brand architecture) is baffling, then you should revisit Inbound Marketing Step 1: Is Your Brand Ready to Start Inbound Marketing? and ensure your brand is ready for deciding on your online location. You will be investing significant resources overtime if you plan to build your brand with inbound marketing, so don’t gloss over your website choice. For most brands (but not necessarily all brands), your brand architecture type will guide this choice as follows:

  • Overbrand – One website in the name of the Overbrand which houses sections for each sub-brand. An example is Apple which includes sections for sub-brands (like iPhone).
  • Masterbrand – One website which houses content related to all your offerings. An example is Rogers which includes sections for its descriptively named offerings (like TV).
  • Freestanding Brand – Separate websites for each freestanding brand. Unless there is an issue with linking brands, there may be links between different brand’s websites and the ultimate parent site will likely include links to each brand’s website. An example is P&G and individual P&G brand websites.
  • Endorser Brand – The endorsing brand website is the main online location and the product brands content is housed on that main endorsing brand website. An example is Nabisco, Nabisco product brand pages and the Nabisco Recipe content which includes multiple product brands.

It is possible that choosing Facebook or another site is a good choice as the primary online location for your content. However, choosing a location other than your brand’s website is a riskier choice and should only undertaken if there are clear and compelling reasons. Migrating content from one online location to another can be expensive and time consuming.

Social Media and Other Online Channels

Having considered your primary content hub, the next consideration is the social media and online channels you will use to promote your content and engage with your audience. There are many many social media channels. Trying to use all channels or even multiple channels is a big commitment, and we recommend that you rank social media channels in terms of importance and use by your target audience. The universe of social media channels is an expanding one. Select social media channels include (but are in no way limited to): Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Tumblr, YouTube and Pinterest.

Research Social Media Channels Used by Your Target Audience

Do some research and thinking based on the profile of an ideal member of your target audience. If this seems like an amorphous question, then you may need to revisit Inbound Marketing Step 2 to make sure you are clear on your target audience.

Your top choices should not about where you want your brand to be. It should be about what social media channels your target audience is already using. If you want to experiment with other social media channels, then you can consider this as part of your inbound marketing budget. To rank social media channels, here are some considerations that you and your team can work through either internally or using an inbound marketing expert.

Some questions to get you started.

  • Ask your audience what social media channels they use. If your budget allows, commission market research or send out a survey to ask a sample of your target audience. If you do this, make sure your approach is audience-centric, respectful and doesn’t come across as spam. You will get the best results if you include both a list of choices and also a bucket “Other” category to collect beyond your assumed list.
  • Do the ideal members of your target audience have an active twitter feed (not just a dormant twitter account)?
  • Do the ideal members of your target audience have LinkedIn profiles? Is there activity on their LinkedIn account – periodic profile updates, posts, comments, etc.?  Are they members of particular industry or other groups?
  • Consider using Rapportive to get a sense of twitter use and other social media use by your audience. Rapportive is a plug which we use in for our Google Apps Premium accounts which allows us to instantly get a social media snapshot of people we are emailing.
  • Think in general terms about your audience and consider if there are other social media channels which are an intuitive fit with what you know about them. You will need to decide if you want to spend resources to use the latest social media channels or wait until a new social media channel achieves critical mass before considering it. For example, Pinterest is a new channel which is getting a lot of brand marketing attention lately, but it only existed in prototype form two years ago.

After you have ranked social media channels, you can consider how many and which ones you will use as part of your budgeting process. In television and print terms, this choice would have been the choice of what network to use to air your commercial or which magazines and newspapers to place your advertisements. Trying to be everywhere may eat up your resources (quickly) and may hinder your efforts by diverting your resources and attention for creating compelling content. Budget and resource considerations will be the subject of an upcoming post in this series.

Remember, social media channels are being added all the time and so the social media channel question can and should be revisited in a systematic way. The frequency of revisiting your ranking will depend on whether your brand is best supported by using tried and true (or bleeding edge) social media channels. However, you should revisit your social media channel rankings at least annually to see if your ranking hold true and whether any channels should be added or removed from your inbound marketing program.