So you have a software as a service that you need to advertise online. And you realize that social media is a big opportunity because it’s where the majority of people socialize and connect with brands. How do you use it effectively to get in front of the right people and convince them to buy your software? This article breaks down how to build an effective social media strategy for SaaS.
While you may be tempted to target every social media platform in the hopes of landing a conversion here and there, the truth is that the spray-and-pray approach that many novice marketers use does not work well. Software companies make many mistakes with social media, treating it as a platform to blast out their message rather than a social atmosphere where they must give value before taking anything.
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Understanding the differences between social media marketing and other marketing
One unique opportunity in social media is the ability to connect with thought leaders and influencers in your space. It’s called influencer marketing, and with the right SaaS influencer marketing strategy, you can put your brand in front of highly qualified audiences quickly at a cheaper cost than going through the social media ad platform.
Another notable difference between social media marketing and other forms of marketing is the highly visual nature of social media. In other forms of marketing, like SEO, words are enough to attract and convince people to buy. However, successful social media strategies combine engaging photos and videos. You want to emphasize engaging video content in particular since algorithms are now prioritizing it.
The days of the business-centric stock photo are giving way to more authentic representations of your brand and employees. In software as a service, the “service” equation matters just as much as the software itself; allowing customers to see the people behind your brand goes a long way in demonstrating your commitment to service.
You really shouldn’t overlook the power of social media in SaaS. According to Social Media Examiner, 85% of marketers used visual content for social media marketing. HubSpot found that 60% of respondents between ages 18 and 24 wanted to see more social images from the brands they support, with 56% of respondents aged between 25 and 34 and 42% of respondents between 35 and 44. As a SaaS marketer, you’ll need to combine visual elements into your social media marketing strategy if you want to achieve optimal results.
Define your target audience
Who’s already on the social channels in which you have interest and expertise? Your customers? Prospects? Vendors? If you want to lead a successful social media strategy for SaaS, you need to understand your audience and why they’re on the channels you’re targeting.
Find your audience, find their purpose, and find a match that creates a win-win value exchange. One of the biggest parts of defining a good audience is choosing the right social media platform.
Choose the right platform
Social media platforms are ubiquitous and come in many forms. And for a while, it was almost impossible to not suffer from “shiny new social network” syndrome. Fortunately, the industry has stabilized, and there is enough data to know which channels are right for a software-as-a-service provider. You probably don’t have enough resources to be omnipresent, so let’s find out where you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck.
At this point, Facebook ads are not new. Companies have been using them for years to generate an effective ROI, and for good reason. According to Social Media Examiner’s 2019 Industry Report, 61% of marketers claim that Facebook is their most important social platform. Facebook ads are used by 72% of marketers, and 59% plan on increasing their use of Facebook ads over the next 12 months.
Facebook ads are reliable, and you get more accurate reporting, targeting, and data than almost anywhere else given the large amount of traffic that Facebook offers. That traffic is also a great source for detailed targeting.
You can find almost anyone you’re looking for on Facebook given how diverse and large the traffic is on there. Your opportunity is to figure out what you can deliver to them that adds the most value and creates the highest conversion rate.
Although Instagram ads are relatively new, they’re very effective. They have all the same advanced targeting capabilities that Facebook ads do.
Based on the same Social Media Examiner report cited earlier, 73% of marketers are using Instagram. It’s the second most important social platform for marketing (behind Facebook) and surpassed LinkedIn. Moreover, 69% of marketers plan on increasing their Instagram organic activities over the next 12 months.
Instagram advertising has proven to lead to two times more engagement than other platforms and 75% stronger brand recall. Zexy, a wedding information service, conducted an ad strategy that resulted in 2.1x app actions, 3.1x more installs, and 4x click-through rate compared to a previous ad strategy. Frankly, Instagram is currently the hottest platform of choice, with one billion users using it every month at least once according to TechCrunch. Instagram story ads are performing the best out of any of the ad formats on there.
However, keep in mind that Instagram users are in a more casual, browsing state of mind. So an Instagram impression may count for less than on other platforms since users are quickly moving through different images and videos without taking too much time to consider what they just saw.
According to the same Social Media Examiner report, 80% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn, And 14% of marketers believe that LinkedIn is the most important social media platform. LinkedIn is the professional network of choice if you want to get in front of decision-makers and sell a higher ticket software as a service, which is often the case for the B2B industry. If you’re looking for a large network of engaged people who are career and business-oriented, then this is the place to be.
Lead ads are especially successful for the B2B industry on LinkedIn. Lead ads are best for prospecting to a cold audience. That said, prepare to pay more than you would on Facebook ads for every click, conversion, and impression. That’s because LinkedIn doesn’t offer the sheer volume of traffic that Facebook has. So be sure to save your remarketing budget for other platforms and channels.
Social media platforms to avoid
When building your strategic plan for social media marketing, it’s just as important to decide where you should avoid spending your time because you, like other marketers, likely have limited resources. Based on our own testing at WebMechanix, we suggest that you put these social media platforms on the bottom of your list when you’re prioritizing which ones to test first:
One of the first major social media platforms to make waves, Twitter is still alive and kicking. There’s a fairly strong engaged audience on there, but also a lot of spam and dead accounts. We haven’t seen much success with lead conversion from Twitter, so I’d avoid prioritizing it for lead generation strategies. It’s far more successful for generating brand awareness, which we know is generally lower on the list of priorities with software-as-a-service companies who must optimize their marketing spend for ROI.
This platform isn’t usually well suited to social media marketing for software unless you’re in very specific industries, like weddings or cooking. Pinterest can be a great way for a SaaS to organize complex online information for their audiences.
Unless you have affordable B2C software, Snapchat probably won’t work for you. You can get a bargain on the impressions you pay for. But the platform is light and fun with a culture that isn’t inclined to make purchases unless you have a low-resistance product that they might consider buying on impulse.
Snapchat also has limited ad targeting capabilities and is probably better for brand awareness. Since you can only use Snapchat on your phone, and the demographic is made up of young students, you need content suited to the audience and platform. That means you’ll need a mobile-responsive landing page and content native to the culture.
Social media platforms to explore and test
If you’re looking to try something new that may or may not knock it out of the park, here’s what you should test, in this rough order of priority:
When you think of video, you think of YouTube—it’s the number-one video channel in the world. According to the aforementioned Social Media Examiner report, 71% of marketers plan on increasing their use of YouTube video, and 75% want to learn more about marketing on the platform.
YouTube ads are part of the display network in your Google Ads interface. They’re the video ads that play before, after, and/or in the middle of YouTube videos. YouTube is a giant in the video search category, comprising the bulk of free video entertainment online and ranking as the second largest search engine in the world. You have a massive amount of traffic that you can tap into with Google’s robust, detailed targeting: interest groups, topics, keywords, or even specific YouTube channels.
Do you remember Yahoo Answers? If so, Quora is the new and improved version that ranks for tons of keywords in search engines. If you’re not familiar, Quora is a community-led question-and-answer platform, with an upvote/downvote system. Since you can find questions for almost any topic you can think of, Quora is quickly becoming one of the most visited sites on the Internet, so don’t underestimate the traffic you can get on there. This platform is more information-based, so expect to find more opportunities to educate them than entertain them on here.
Reddit is one of the most visited websites on the Internet, clocking in at #16. Users frequent the site to find the latest news or share stories, information, or entertainment in a specific community of interest, like photography, gaming, and many others. Reddit advertising is a new way of getting in front of a male, tech-focused demographic. Just be sure to make your advertisements native to the platform and actively contribute quality content to the community. You want to build up your karma—Reddit’s reputation system—so users are more inclined to view your content. Reddit is known for being the most vicious and skeptical toward anyone who tries to promote their content or solution for their own gain.
Based on Edison Research, a world-renowned research company, podcast listeners are statistically some of the most educated, informed, engaged, and highest-earning professionals of any social network out there. These people can listen to an episode for 30 minutes or more at a time.
It’s tricky to launch a successful podcast advertising project since it’s hard to get listeners to visit your website from your podcast and convert. And on top of that, you often have to manually pitch each show unless you go through a network. Our tests with podcast advertising have resulted in a very low percentage of listeners who visit the specific trackable link you mention, with little to no conversion.
However, podcasts are still one of the most underrated, overlooked platforms out there, which means that the cost for advertising through them is at bargain levels right now. Our results with podcast advertising may have been different if we had tested with large budgets since we’d get more traffic data.
The first step to any social media advertising marketing strategy
Before you go off targeting cold prospects that have never heard of your software, start with retargeting. This tactic lets you target your website visitors who are already familiar with your brand but haven’t purchased yet.
Retargeting is by far the most impactful, highest returning, affordable advertising method out there. Start with it on Facebook or Google, and branch out to other platforms if you see success.
Planning your organic social media content marketing strategy
Organic social media is challenging for software companies because it’s difficult to build a content forest of information and entertainment that prospects engage with. That said, there are ways to grow an organic following of potential customers effectively. If you can educate them in a digestible way on a particular subtopic related to your field, you can win them over as potential fans, and eventually customers.
Grammarly, a popular spelling and editing software, has done a fantastic job building an organic following across LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram with digestible content on grammar tips. HubSpot, Slack, and Asana have also done a great job by offering video content paired with useful links that drive people back to their sites.
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Post quality content for search engines
Many of these social media platforms have extremely high domain authority and will show up in Google searches. So maintain the content well and sprinkle in desirable keywords that you know people will search.
Build a community
Social media platforms work because they are social… so be social on them! While this behavior seems like common sense, most SaaS companies aren’t being social as much as they are broadcasting on social media. They blast out their message to prospects and customers without responding to or engaging with the replies they get. Not only does this look bad for the brand, but it also suggests that you don’t know what you’re doing on the platform and aren’t participating. As a result, your users will likely think of your service and brand less favorably.
If you’re a small company and don’t have the resources to respond to every comment, at least respond to some of them. There’s a big difference between showing that you care with a couple replies versus ignoring all comments.
If you have little to no following on social media, then you have no excuse for not answering every comment on there, especially when you may only get one comment per week. These are potential customers or people who will help build your following. Each time you ignore someone, you’re shooting yourself in the foot and passing up the opportunity to build a thriving community and audience.
I get it—the internet is a mean place at times, and not all the comments will be nice. But as a business, you need to realize that even your negative comments will give you some market feedback on what you can do better with your branding or your product. Not all the comments will be right, but overall, you can get some valuable data for free by staying on top of your social media feedback.
Don’t just wait for discussions and responses to happen. Ask questions and get the opinions of your following so that you learn more about them and can help them more. This information is vital for product development as well as building goodwill.
If you need a rough benchmark, engage with at least the top three comments on each post so people see that you’re responsive and appreciative of user input. Always respond to negative comments unless they’re inappropriate, in which case you can hide them.
Repost user-generated content
If your audience or customers ever create content online that shows their progress, enjoyment, satisfaction, or before-and-after with your software, that’s a ripe opportunity to ask for permission to post their content to your social media following.
Not only is user-generated content a free and effective marketing method, but it’s also a great way to turn fans into champions of your products. Those users will be proud and honored to be showcased to a large audience; in turn, you’ll get real business results.
Prioritizing the social media platforms on which you should establish a presence is a pivotal part of your social media strategy for SaaS. Otherwise, you’ll be overwhelmed if you chase after every new social platform that pops up. Plus, you’ll be spread too thin to have an impact. If you’re limited by budget or time, reducing the number of social platforms you initially target can get you better results.
Once you know where to spend your resources, pay-per-click best practices are transferable and easy to learn about. Use them well, and you’ll see results.
In general, I’d suggest starting with Facebook ads since you get the largest possible volume and demographic with robust targeting methods. From there, you can easily break into Instagram ads since they’re managed on the same ad interface. Just be sure to make creative content that’s native to each platform, which means vertical images for Instagram to suit mobile. From there, if you have more budget and time, branch out into other platforms, like Google and LinkedIn ads.
I challenge you to draw up a plan today on paper and get to work! What’s your favorite social media platform for software?