Giorgio Taverniti, owner of Frank's Pizza House in Toronto, was savvy about social media but had limited use for it in his business; it's hard to write clever tweets when your hands are busy stretching dough and sprinkling mozzarella.
Then, in March, Taverniti, a devotee of marketing guru Gary Vaynerchuk, heard about Meerkat, the new Vaynerchuk-backed app for streaming live video from smartphones. He downloaded it, mounted his iPhone on a tripod, and, on a Friday evening, broadcast a stream of himself making pies and answering questions. That night, the dining room at Frank's was unusually packed. It wasn't long before Taverniti made the connection.
"Four people came up to the counter and said, 'We were watching you on Meerkat and we had to come in for pizza,'" he says. "I'm actually seeing dollar signs from this."
Understanding how to reach your target customers on Facebook and Twitter can be confusing enough, never mind the new platforms that are constantly coming along. Sometimes, as Taverniti's experience shows, its enough to just dive right in, especially on new services that have yet to be overrun. Where a more studied approach is called for, here are a few rules to keep in mind.
Swim with the current
"Every platform has its own use case," says Marcus Collins, executive director of social engagement at marketing agency Translation. People go on Facebook to keep up with their friends, Twitter to see what's happening in the world, LinkedIn to gather professional intelligence, and so on. Marketing that doesn't reflect what users are there for comes off as irrelevant or annoying. But pay attention to those intentions and the possibilities open up.
Pinterest, for instance, is all about planning for future projects, most often involving fashion, food, or home décor. Technology isn't an especially popular category there, so when the maker of a smart thermostat hired HelloSociety to promote its product to pinners, the marketing agency asked influential interior designers to come up with stylish frames for the device. The thermostat frame pins drove more than 17,000 website visits and generated 5,200 repins in the 11 days of the campaign, according to Kyla Brennan, HelloSociety's founder.
"Obviously, there are some categories where you have to reach a little further," she says, but with enough creativity, almost any product can be rendered Pinterest-ready.
One of the best ways to attract interest in what you're doing is to put up a velvet rope. Snapchat's mix of features, which include self-deleting messages and the ability to limit conversations to small groups, makes it a useful way to create exclusivity.
Ben Benalloul, co-founder of the New York City real estate firm RltyNYC, has more than 17,000 followers on Snapchat. He discreetly alerts buyers to off-market properties through direct messages while using the public Stories feature to give clients a taste of his lifestyle.
"If I'm trusting someone to sell my home for $1 million," he says, "I want to know who that guy is."
Go broadly narrow
If the social media content you use could appeal to just about anyone, you're doing it wrong. On Facebook, with 1.4 billion active users and ad tools that let you hypertarget your message, you can reach your customer base with a level of precision not possible on other platforms. Targeted messages always perform better, says Vaynerchuk.
"If you want to reach 27-year-old women who have 2-year-old children, who like baking, and who are into Scandal, Facebook has that capability," he says. Hypertargeted ads with specific messaging cut through the clutter. It's like casting lots of small nets instead of one big one.