What Can a Palm Tree in Pennsylvania Teach You About Social Media Marketing?

Walking through the woods at Valley Forge National Park is an amazing experience. The trees tower above you (some of them probably saw George Washington in camp during the Revolutionary War). There are maples and birches and even a few giant sycamore trees. The smaller plants, like mountain laurel, thrive under this canopy.

If you walk quietly, you may even see the animals that flock to this natural habitat.  There are ruffed grouse, deer, chipmunks, and raccoons to name a few. If you are ever in the area Valley Forge National Park is a place you really should visit.

But for all of the amazing plant and animal life that’s there, there are some things I’ve never seen while strolling through those woods.  For example, I’ve never seen a palm tree growing among the towering birches and maples.  And there is a simple reason; palm trees don’t grow in Pennsylvania. They need a much different environment (like Florida where my dad lives and I visit often).

When you are using content across the world wide web, you actually run into similar rules.  Different environments require different approaches to making an impact with your customers. This is called native advertising.  You have to find the right “ecological” fit to where you are placing your content.

For instance, most of the time you can’t take the same messaging you use on LinkedIn and transfer it to Facebook, and what works on Facebook probably won’t work on Instagram. But if you get the messaging right for each platform, social media marketing is a superb way to engage your audience and get your message out.

There are several things to think about when launching a social media marketing campaign.  Here are five.

#1. Don’t try to master EVERY platform.

For most small businesses mastering one or two platforms (sometimes 3) where you can really begin to generate a following is a much smarter approach than trying to use them all. There are currently the social media Big 7 – Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube to consider. Plus a huge variety of smaller sites.

To start, take a look at your target audience. If you market mostly B2B then LinkedIn is probably a good fit. If you have a very visual product line or a lifestyle product, you may want to consider marketing more on Pinterest and Instagram, which both encourage photo sharing. You can find information about the demographics that each of the big 7 serve by going to Quantcast.com.

Once you have your target market and platform(s) that you want to promote on nailed down, it’s time to move onto the next step.

#2. Look at what people are doing successfully on that site.

Most sites have a section where the most popular videos, pictures, or posts are being shared. These vary from site to site. Before you start putting together your native advertising campaign take a look at what other people are doing that is working.

You don’t need to copy them exactly, but having a good idea of what works will really help you refine your messaging and your strategy.

#3. Experiment and Document

One of the advantages of being a small business is that you can move quickly and respond quickly.  Because social media platforms need fresh content pretty much constantly it gives you the ability to experiment and get real market feedback to tune your message.

One approach I like is to develop 4 similar, but slightly different messages, or pictures, or videos and post them to the site that you are working with. Then let them sit for a few days and see which one did the best.

Use that one as your control and test some more ideas. This constant refinement based on real customer feedback will make your marketing much, much more effective.

And remember that content on social media sites doesn’t have to be slick to be effective. In fact, sincere or funny often work better than slick.

#4. Consider using tools to speed up the process

All this social media updating can be time consuming (which is why I recommend that you choose 1 to 3 platforms to start). But thankfully, there are a bunch of companies springing up that help you streamline the process. Contently and Percolate help with content creation and Sharethrough can help with Placements.  And those are just a few of what’s available.

So if you’re getting overwhelmed, go ahead and take a look at some of these companies. They may be able to help.

#5. Create a customer led campaign

This is one of my personal favorite ways to use social media. Because social media is social, when you can get your customers to endorse you or advertise for you, you leverage the power even more.

There is a ski resort in northern Vermont that does exactly this. Jay Peak asks skiers to tag Instagram shots that they believe show exactly what they love about the mountain and skiing there with a “Raised Jay” hashtag.  It gives people who are considering visiting a look at the mountain from the customers eyes and opens up a lot of conversations that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.

When you are launching a content campaign (native advertising) on a social media site, remember to keep it relevant to what that site is about.  If your content is engaging and relevant, then it will bring you clients and keep money flowing into your business.


Brian T. Edmondson
Brian T. Edmondson

Brian T. Edmondson is an author, speaker, and online business expert who helps you get more traffic, build your audience, and increase sales online.