by David Kirkpatrick
Although many marketers are active in the social media channel, not everyone has taken that leap. This article provides the blueprint of how one marketing team grew its social strategy from 0 to 630,000 Facebook post views in two years.
Money Crashers Personal Finance is a website that offers free educational information on financial issues such as understanding credit scores and how to use a credit card without building up too much debt. The website is 100% free and accessible, and the company generates income through advertising on the site.
Andrew Schrage, co-founder, Money Crashers Personal Finance, said the company did not have a social media presence until recently.
"Two years ago, we had zero Twitter followers and zero Facebook likes. We also had very little experience when it came to the world of social media," he explained. "We knew that we had to quickly jump on the social media bandwagon to gain a much larger presence in the personal finance community and allow our readers to access our content through means other than visiting our site directly."
Read on to learn how Money Crashers went from 0 to over 4,800 Twitter followers and more than 3,000 Facebook likes in two years, and how the company approaches its social platform marketing with a strategy based on community, not revenue.
The target demographic for Money Crashers is the 20- to 35-year-old looking for financial information. Because the audience is young, Schrage understood having an effective social channel strategy was important for the company.
He said, "From my own leadership, we underestimated the value of social media. I just didn’t feel it was a necessary ingredient in the successful website, and only after seeing everyone is getting on board have I come to realize that social media is a very important part of people’s lives."
He added, "It’s one of their key channels to accessing content, and even a first step into making purchases. It’s an area I am very glad we ventured into."
Step #1. Look beyond automated solutions
When Money Crashers started with social media, the team somewhat automated the process, particularly with Twitter. When the company would publish new content
, it would automatically send out links to Twitter and Facebook for the articles or information.
After a couple of months looking at the retweet data and Money Crasher website visits originating from the social channels, Schrage reevaluated and realized automating the process wasn’t a working strategy.
"I started putting myself in their (Money Crasher’s social followers) shoes and saying, ‘If someone was just posting links, I am probably pretty unlikely to click on those links and go to the page," he explained. "After a couple of months, we realized that going the automated route was not the best for our readers or followers."
This insight led to a shift in strategy where the company went beyond simply posting links and began building a true community, what Schrage described as a "true face" behind each social media channel.
Although the company is active on multiple platforms, it focuses on Twitter, Facebook and the company website.
Step #2. Use different tactics for each social platform
Tactics that work best on Facebook might not be the best practices for Twitter. Money Crashers has developed different tactics to take advantage of the differences in the social media platforms.
"I would say Twitter is something that we found in our experience to be great for things going viral and really trying to catch a theme and get in front of people’s eyes quickly," Schrage stated.
He said the negative with Twitter is tweets get pushed down quickly, so it’s harder to have real discussions or conversations that last beyond a few hours.
One tactic Money Crashers does employ on Twitter is hosting weekly hour-long "tweet chats," where its followers can pose questions and everyone can follow the chat via a hashtag. (Note: a Twitter hashtag is a keyword prefaced with the pound -- # -- symbol for easy searching on the platform.)
Schrage said he also mines third-party media and deal-of-the-day sites for links Money Crashers followers might find interesting.
Money Crashers uses Facebook for more involved discussions on topics such as:
- What do you want to see us write about?
- What do you dislike about the website?
- Do our ads bother you?
The company also shares its content on Facebook, but the overall goal is to have an open conversation with its social followers.
Schrage said the main difference between its Facebook and Twitter strategies is Facebook makes it much easier for followers to read all the comments and that the messages don’t get pushed down as quickly on the company’s Facebook wall.
Even Facebook posts with as many as 100 comments keep those comments condensed so the main message stays front and center for much longer than with a rapidly churning Twitter feed.
One tactic Money Crashers uses on Facebook is special promotions. For example, last fall the company created a "best homemade Halloween costume" promotion
where the winner received a $100 Amazon gift card.
Schrage said the idea was to reward the people who "like" Money Crashers on Facebook and are part of the social media community. He added this helps make those followers feel like being an active participant on Facebook is "something above and beyond just the Money Crashers website."
Step #3. Dedicate personnel for the social media channels
After determining that automating the social media channels was not effective, Schrage said the team put together a personnel group to handle the communities.
At Money Crashers, three people make up that team including Schrage.
He said, "There is definitely quite a commitment that we put in, and that anyone has to put in to have a successful social media presence."
One team member is a part-time Money Crashers employee who is solely tasked with contributing on social media marketing. That employee handles the weekly Tweet chat, and monitors all channels to interact with the company’s followers.
Schrage said there is no formal service level agreement in place on who handles what on the social channels, but all three team members have discussed the "voice" the company wants to have on Twitter and Facebook, and all three trust each other to post appropriate content.
For events such as the Tweet chat, one team member is assigned to handle that task, but all three are free to post anything they find that might be interesting for the social media followers. Schrage added the company avoids posting personal details, such as, "I just had a baby," or "I just got back from a walk."
Schrage said the team spends a couple of hours each day in total on social media marketing.
Step #4. Keep the social media channels free of hard sales pitches
Schrage said at Money Crashers, social media marketing is about conversation and interaction, not driving sales. While a goal is to increase website visits where followers will see the ads that drive the company’s revenue, the team doesn’t make getting those clicks an explicit call-to-action.
"I think social media has developed as more of a softer type of marketing," stated Schrage. "I think people who are following, or liking, the Facebook page are looking for more of a community as opposed to being pitched or asked to buy something, or beg a visit to a certain webpage."
He added, "I think with Money Crashers, in our channels there are followers who are kind of looking for a nice place to relax, communicate and be part of a community. For that reason, we try to stay away from any hard pitches or anything a little too aggressive."
Step #5. Put social media calls-to-action in the content
Money Crashers business model is providing content that will produce website visits, ads views and clicks. Instead of pushing its social media followers to the website, it actually adds buttons and links on its website content to push those readers to the social media platforms
To drive interaction on the social channels, the company will include giveaways with its content.
"We will include a little box at the top of the article, or at the end of the article saying, ‘We are giving away so-and-so. If you want to enter and have a chance to win, make your Tweet about it or follow us on Facebook within the next three days to be entered," said Schrage.
For Money Crashers, the goal of its social strategy is to provide a community and information for its followers on Twitter and Facebook without any pressure or hassle.
For the main takeaway, Schrage said, "I think the biggest thing that we have learned from our social media marketing sites is that you have to realize how important these channels are. We underestimated their value for many years until finally forcing ourselves to jump on the bandwagon."
He continued, "These (platforms) offer up ways to build brand familiarity and name recognition, along with traffic."
"Finally, social media is here to stay and it offers huge audiences to draw from. Identifying and targeting those audiences will be a key to your overall long-term business success. It can act as a key way for you to differentiate your business from your competitors."
In the two years Money Crasher has been active with social media marketing, it has achieved these numbers:
- 4,878 Twitter followers
- 3,054 Facebook "likes"
- More than 630,000 Facebook post views
- 15% of referring Money Crashers website traffic comes from social media channels
Useful links related to this article
Money Crashers Personal Finance
- Website content
- Halloween Facebook promotion
- Social media call-to-action on website
Money Crashers Personal Finance’s Facebook pageMeasuring Social Media's Contribution to the Bottom Line: 5 TacticsSocial Media Marketing: Finding and winning hyper-social consumersSpecial Report: Social Media’s Impact on SEO – 5 Trends to Guide an Integrated StrategyEmail Summit: Integrating mobile, social and email marketing channelsSocial Media Marketing: A look at 2012, part 1Social Media Marketing: A look at 2012, part 2Social Media Marketing: Going viral is so easy it’s hard