The seven mindset shifts you need for successful social media marketing

Is your social media delivering the results your business needs? If not, here are seven mindset shifts you may need to make.

How much time are you spending on social media marketing for your business? According to Hubspot, 43% of small businesses spend six or more hours a week on social media. A further 25% spend 6-10 hours, 11% spend 11-20 and 7% spend more than 21 hours.

And while it’s easy to see that as ‘free’ if you’re doing your social media yourself (rather than paying staff or a freelancer to do it for you), it actually has a very high price.

Why? Because your time is not ‘free’. In fact it’s very expensive – especially if social media is taking you away from other tasks that would help to grow your business.

Or even just keeping you from spending more time with the people you love, or relaxing away from your business.

So you see, the time you spend on social meed marketing isn’t free – it actually needs to repay you with tangible results, some long term, some immediate.

And to help you make sure it does that, here are seven mindset shifts that social media marketing expert Chris Wagner says you need to make.

1) Assess your social media presence appropriately

How much energy are you directing towards the amount of likes and followers you get on social media? These are called ‘vanity metrics’, and it’s important that you don’t let them distract you from the metrics that actually impact your business.

Don’t get me wrong, of course you should be building an audience. Of course you should be aiming for more likes, shares, retweets, etc. In the long run, this can help your audience.

So I’m not saying they’re useless. But consider why you’re using social media marketing in the first place: for your business. 

In other words, you’re not supposed to be marketing on social media because it makes you feel gratified to see people enjoy your content. Your social media marketing is supposed to be churning out traffic for your site, driving sign-ups, and ultimately driving sales.

In the long run, your goals are naturally going to be to expand your social media presence. In the short run, you should also make sure you’re taking a hard look at other metrics.

Metrics like how many of your existing followers are engaging with your content. And even if they’re engaging with your content, how many are going to your site. Or even whether you are on the right social network.

The point isn’t to forget about the vanity metrics, but to make sure you’re keeping them in check. (It’s also why you should never be tempted to buy social media followers.)

It’s easy to get so caught up in the simple goals of amping up your internet points that you neglect bigger and more fundamental questions. It’s easy to spend more time trying to get followers than trying to get followers to engage. 

Addressing these questions, not just at the beginning, but throughout your social media marketing, is a key part of social media strategy – as much as the vanity metrics are.

2) Be holistic in how you approach ROI 

You’re running a business. So you should definitely always consider the return on investment (ROI) of your efforts. But it’s likely that you will need to shift how you measure the ROI for a good deal of your social media marketing. 

I know, I’ve just made the point about properly assessing your social media metrics. But I mean this per effort. Not ALL social media marketing actions need to turn out an immediate ROI. In GENERAL, your marketing on social of course should yield results.

It’s not a fancy way of saying, “Get used to disappointment.” It’s a valid point that social media marketing efforts aren’t necessarily wasted just because they’re not immediately turning out profit.  

While you should pay close attention to the hard pay-offs of your efforts, you also need to consider things from a more genuine angle.

Imagine you’re running a small clothing boutique. Or a local bar. Or a café, or restaurant, and you chat with your customers. Do you then jot it down into a spreadsheet and begin worrying about when that spent time will turn out more purchases for you?

Of course not. In the long run, being genuine with your customers and even just visitors keeps them coming back to your shop or cafe.

Social media marketing is different, but it’s not as different as you’d think. These are social networks, after all, and meant to at least partially mimic real-life social networks.

You have to give value to people repeatedly, and remain genuine in an online world FULL of marketing efforts. It won’t necessarily pay off immediately, but it’s better for building an actual base of traffic and customers.

3) Beware the immediate sales mirage

There’s some overlap between this point and the last one, but it’s worth its own focus.

The immediate sales “mirage,” as I call it, is a tempting image many businesses seem to have as they begin to market on social media.

The typical strand of thought seems to be something along the lines of: “Billions of people are on social media. Once I start tapping into the platforms, even if a tiny fraction of interested people check out, I’ll still be making sales.”

That logic is effectively true, but almost always after some time has passed. And more specifically, after putting in some EFFORT.

The key thing to this mindset is that it’s not the same as having a mindset of patience. Yes, patience is useful, but it’s not about simply waiting. The “immediate” part of this mirage is the idea has as much to do with effort and quality as it does with time.

It’s the mirage that some targeted ads, well-written copy, and interesting images – the basics – are enough to start driving traffic and sales. Social media is a useful tool for marketing. Duh. But it’s not a magical fantasy land. 

You need to be ready to put out stuff that’s actually useful, and interesting, for free, and to continue doing that. 

Once you’ve clearly shown strangers on the internet that you’re useful to them even when free, they can start taking your sales pitch more seriously.

4) Focus on scalability

The scalability of social media is a double-edged sword. You may neglect fundamental components of driving traffic in a quest to achieve quick viral moments.

On the other hand, you might spend months crafting and posting social media content, building an audience slowly but steadily. 

But the size of the internet means that your content can quickly reach scale. And if that happens, will the strategies you’ve been using help you out at a moment’s notice?

In general, of course you need some balance. BUT, it’s still better to be fully prepared to take advantage of scale. 

This applies at the most basic level – even down to how you’re hosting your website. If you’re using a cheap hosting plan for your site, it might handle your typical amount of traffic just fine.

But what happens if your social media marketing pays off? Or if you go viral and start getting thousands more visitors to your site than before? Your site could crash, and you would’ve severely missed the opportunity provided by your marketing efforts.

But let’s assume your site set-up is solid and ready to scale quickly. That still leaves the business side of things. Would you be able to accommodate an influx of orders? Or consultation requests? 

Maybe not, and that’s not necessarily bad. I’m not saying you have to go broke now so you can meet imaginary demand, or that you should count your chickens before they’ve hatched. But it’s important to have those things in mind. 

So when they do happen, you know how your business can take on additional demand smoothly, how you can alter your marketing strategies, the new online niches you can reach, and so on.

5) How unique is your business?

The answer to this question is key to your mindset shift. And the answer to it is often in two parts:

  1. You’re not unique.
  2. You are unique.

Believe it or not, maintaining a balance between those two competing notions is essential to having the proper mindset for social media marketing.

I’ve seen many people set out to market on social media who are not arrogant, but mostly focus on the “My business is unique” angle. And the mistake they make as a result is in believing that a web visitor is as interested in their marketing as they are.

So when they create something – a post, an ad, whatever – they think about all the ways people will like it. And while that’s useful in the creative process, it still needs to be checked. 

Because even though you HAVE to believe there’s something unique about your product or service, you also have to realize that you’re not unique simply by virtue of marketing on social media.

“But I’m promoting a business that gives customers a simulation of first contact with aliens,” you might protest. 

Sure, that’s pretty unique. But people on social media are constantly bombarded with demands for their attention, time, and money. Not just from advertisements, but their own friends’ posts and side projects.

The real key to social media success is working out WHO you are really unique for. Who genuinely needs what you do? Cares deeply about what you’re talking about? Or has most to lose by not engaging with you?

However unique you may think what you offer is, it’s only special to a specific group of people. And you need to find and talk to them.

6) Be cautious with how you use public social media data

I know, I know: you’re not a huge corporation. It’s not likely that you’re the one mining lots of social media data. Most of the data that you use in your marketing is probably public social media data, which means that people have, for the most part, allowed such data to be public.

But, there’s a fair chance that some of your social media marketing efforts involve paying for ads and harnessing certain amounts of data to target your content.

It’s worth reading this research paper from the Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, entitled “Social media marketing: Who is watching the watchers?”

Although you should be cautious of the paper’s limitations – a smaller sample size, the lack of focus on how this differs between specific social media platforms – it raises an important point:

Most social media users are NOT comfortable if they see that even their already-public social media data is used in marketing efforts.

Here’s an excerpt from the paper:

If you look at the bottom three rows, you’ll find that a total of 53% are AT LEAST slightly uncomfortable with targeted ads, and 36.5% are at least moderately uncomfortable with them. 

There is some good news, though. Targeted advertising far and away brings out the most discomfort in social media users. So if you’re not using targeted advertisements, you’re less likely to turn people away.

So what’s the point? 

I’m not saying you must never purchase a Facebook ad, or that you can’t use data. I’m just saying, consumers won’t consume if they’re not comfortable, and you may not get traffic or customers if you’re overzealous in your marketing.

So it’s important to have the mindset of typical social media users – a solid chunk of whom are uncomfortable with how social media advertising uses data – and ensure your marketing adds direct value and seems genuine accordingly.

7) Understand the role of the middle men (or women)

I saved this one for the end because it’s one of the points you’re unlikely to get elsewhere. 

Mostly because it has some actual, hard research (like the last point). And I invite you to take a look at it yourself, because you may get some more insights out of it than just my point here.

So, here’s the paper. And here’s the title of the paper:

Branding in the era of digital (dis)intermediation.”

What does that mean? Intermediation basically means having middlemen, or intermediaries. Disintermediation means the reduction of intermediaries between producers and consumers. In other words, the cutting out of middle men.

You’re already familiar with this. Amazon is one of the biggest examples of it: 

As the image describes, Amazon has cut out plenty of the middle men, and has brought customers as fully into its ecosystem as a company can. I’m not saying you can replicate this, as Amazon is a behemoth, but it’s worth keeping in mind.

Amazon may be one of the biggest engines of disintermediation, but it’s far from the only one. Ecommerce is increasingly cutting out middlemen, and services like AirBNB or Uber are cutting out middlemen as well.

The paper I shared above goes in depth into this phenomenon, and a lot of what it has to say is outside the scope of this article. But there are some useful points.

And the most important one is to consider the industry you’re in, as the nature of disintermediation varies by industry. 

In other words, if your social media marketing is connected to a consumer retail business, you’re dealing with a different context than if the marketing is for a B2B business. 

But with your understanding of your industry, what intermediaries are you inadvertently sitting behind? What services, even the minor ones, cost an extra step or even extra amount of money for your customers and potential customers?

And once you’ve worked out all the different services and platforms involved in the transition a social media user takes to your site and then to your checkout page or form submission, consider whether your competitors have the same intermediary services, or whether they’ve figured out a more streamlined approach that connects directly to people online.

Are you ready to make the mindset shifts that will improve your social media marketing?

So, with all these mindset shifts, do you feel ready to dive deep into social media marketing? Don’t worry if it seems like a lot to digest. Many of these shifts will become natural with time and practice. And there are common elements, too.

For example, having empathy for the typical social media user relates to a lot of these mindset shifts. Tempering your ego and managing your sense of urgency are also related to these.

The short version? Remember that you’re dealing with humans, not statistics. Happy marketing!

Chris Wagner is Head of Content at HostingPill. He regularly writes about hosting, web servers, and WordPress. He has more than nine years of industry experience and can help you to find the best web hosting for your needs.

Photo by Tim Mossholder