The SaaS Company’s Guide to Social Media MarketingLeave a Comment
You’re in charge of marketing for a SaaS company, and like any modern company, you’re considering social media as a channel of choice. This is the guide that’s going to make sure you do it right.
Now, I’m not here to tell you that social media marketing is going to be the be-all, end-all marketing strategy for your brand, or that it’ll offer you a billion-fold increase in ROI. Frankly, anyone who tells you social media is an instant win is either lying or has had enormous luck in their past social ventures.
But, if implemented correctly, social media can be a viable channel for improving customer relationships, attracting new clientele, and building your brand image overall. It’s well worth the investment for most companies, but this is especially true for SaaS companies thanks to your digital presence and scalable model.
Throughout this guide, I’ll be going over the basics and the advanced considerations for social media marketing for a SaaS brand. I’ll walk you through an overview of social media marketing, the unique challenges that SaaS brands face, how to provide the right content, and finally, how to build an audience.
Are you ready?
The Benefits of Social Media
If you aren’t convinced that social media marketing is worth the investment of time or money, you’re not alone. Many business owners have outright dismissed the idea as being a fad, or as having no tangible value, but consider the key benefits a strong social presence could hold for a SaaS brand:
- Brand visibility. Posting actively on social media makes your brand more visible, which puts you in front of more potential customers. Simply having a fleshed-out page for social users to find when they search for you can do wonders for your first impressions, and as you grow your audience, you’ll get more and more opportunities to tap new resources for potential software subscribers.
- Brand loyalty. If you want your users to stay loyal to your brand, you need to keep yourself top-of-mind and stay in contact with them. Staying active on social media gives you a route for both of these aspects.
- Inbound traffic. If you’re like most SaaS companies, you rely on your website (or a specific landing page) to secure new customers. Publishing content and spreading links on social media helps you increase the inbound traffic you need to sustain your growth figures. For some companies, organic social traffic is the most effective channel for attracting new visitors (and you can track this in Google Analytics).
- Conversion rates. Building up your consumer’s expectations and showing off your commitment to other users can also help you increase conversion rates. Imagine the difference between a user who clicked on a short, 40 character advertisement to find your landing page versus a customer who saw your engagement with their friend on Twitter—which comes in with a better understanding of your brand?
- Customer service opportunities. Many popular SaaS companies set up separate accounts just for customer service. This is beneficial in a number of ways—it reduces the need for expensive call centers or support roles, it adds more potential modes of communication for users, and it gets in front of possible issues by making your community proactively aware of them.
- Customer insights. Learning how your customers interact, what else they follow, and what type of feedback they provide can help you make a better product and improve your brand. It’s almost like free market research.
- HR and partnerships. You can also build your company by using social media to attract new talent or form partnerships. This is especially helpful for SaaSs due to their technical complexity.
(Image Source: LinkedIn)
- Content and SEO enhancements. Social media is also an important enhancer for both content marketing and SEO strategies. Given a sizable audience, you can greatly increase the visibility for each of your published pieces, and potentially earn more inbound links in the process.
What It Is and Isn’t
I also want to take the opportunity to dispel some misconceptions about what social media marketing actually is. It isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme; it takes time and effort to see results, like with any other strategy. There isn’t a guaranteed formula; there are best practices, but ultimately each company requires a unique approach. It isn’t an advertising platform; if you advertise too heavily, you’ll turn people away rather than attracting them. Instead, it’s a mutually open communication platform where you can build a better relationship with your user base.
A Note on Personal Brands
For the majority of this guide, to keep things simple, I’ll be assuming your social media marketing campaign will be based around a corporate brand. Using personal brands (i.e. individual accounts) to further market your company is highly effective, and is worth consideration. Most of the techniques I list here apply to both, but keep in mind there is a distinction between a “corporate” and “personal” brand on social media—each with their own advantages.
Unique Challenges for SaaS Companies
With the basics out of the way, let’s address some of the unique challenges that SaaS companies face on social media (and how you can compensate for them).
- Standing out. Your first obstacle is standing out. SaaS has become a popular model in the past decade or so, thanks in part to its massive scalability and some highly successful role models. Your users have a number of choices when it comes to doing tasks more efficiently, storing media online, or whatever other service you offer. You can’t just mimic one of your competitors’ brands and hope to be successful; you need to add something uniquely valuable to the mix. Building a unique brand is the first step to this process.
- Addressing service concerns. No matter how good your technology is, there will be users who experience problems, and you can bet those users will turn to social media to express their dissatisfaction with your company.
- Incidents like this can be major blows to your brand’s integrity—if you don’t address them the correct way. When you see feedback like this, it’s important to address it immediately and work to resolve the situation as quickly as possible. Remember, these types of complaints will happen on social media regardless of whether you’re present there or not, so just having a presence in the first place can begin to mitigate these effects.
- Building from nothing. Most SaaS platforms are built from scratch, and yours is likely no exception. With little more than a brand name and a beta product, it’s hard to build up a massive following, but don’t worry—it is possible. I’ll address this in my section on building an audience.
- Follower retention. One of the biggest challenges for SaaS companies is user retention. User retention is imperative if you want to continue scaling your model—and the same is true for social media. Chances are, if a user leaves your service platform, they’ll leave your social media page (and sometimes, vice versa). Accordingly, it’s more important for you to focus on keeping the users you have than it is to keep attracting new ones. Keep this in mind for my later discussions on content and reciprocity.
Choosing the Right Platforms
When you get started, you’ll be tempted by two possibilities; either invest everything into a single social media platform, or get involved on every platform you run across. Neither of these is a good idea. You have to be choosy about which platforms you adopt, as not all of them are equal. Just because it “seems” like a good platform doesn’t mean it’s right for your brand, and it’s not worth getting involved on a platform that demands many man-hours per week but doesn’t return much value.
Your first job, therefore, is to choose the right platforms for your social media strategy.
There are three considerations that should dictate your decisions of which platforms to include.
- Demographics. As you’ll see, each social platform is home to a different range of demographics. It pays to get involved on the platforms with the highest probability of offering you new customers, and the ones with the highest potential for growth.
- Functionality. Different platforms offer different functions, both for brands and for individual users. This can help you target your audience properly, share the right kinds of content, or engage your users better in the long run. Not all social features demand active, regular engagement.
(Image Source: Pew Research)
- Finally, consider how much time you’ll need to invest in a platform to make it worth it. For example, do you have to create all new content for it and post it in-the-moment, or can you automate your posts and set the platform on auto-pilot?
With those requirements in mind, let’s take a look at how a SaaS company might utilize some of the most popular social media platforms available.
(Image Source: Sprout Social)
Facebook dominates the market for a reason. It’s simple, it’s easy, it offers lots of functionality, and it doesn’t pigeonhole itself in any one niche. Facebook has more than a billion users, which gives you a crazy big audience to tap into, and because most demographics are pretty evenly represented, no SaaS company should have a problem building a sizable following. You can post regular content, images, videos, and in any format or length you like—plus interacting with others is easy and approachable. The learning curve here is low, and the longevity is high.
Bottom line: Facebook is almost a necessity for your brand.
(Image Source: Sprout Social)
Twitter doesn’t have much in the way of unique functionality, but it does have more than 300 million users. You’re limited in the number of characters you can post here, and its newsfeed moves much faster than that of Facebook; this could be advantageous or disadvantageous. If your brand relies on snappy snippets of messaging and quick-solution responses, this is a good thing. If you require more in-depth interactions to convey the power of your brand, this is restrictive. Its demographics are relatively even, but do skew younger—so keep that in mind if your brand targets a specific age range. The mechanics of Twitter have a bit of a learning curve, but it’s nothing you can’t figure out in a few days.
Bottom line: Twitter isn’t as valuable as Facebook for most SaaS companies, but has a few advantages depending on your brand.
(Image Source: Sprout Social)
LinkedIn is a unique animal. In terms of learning curve and functionality, it’s almost identical to Facebook, but it has a much lower user base and a much more specific user base—experienced professionals. If your software only caters to professionals, this could be incredibly advantageous to you. If it doesn’t, LinkedIn will be a crapshoot. There’s one other weakness you have to consider here, and that’s the fact that corporate pages can’t get involved in Groups; instead, you’ll have to rely on personal brands to supplement your corporate brand presence. On the other hand, LinkedIn is perfect if you’re trying to attract new hires.
Bottom line: If you’re after professionals, LinkedIn is perfect. Otherwise, don’t bother.
(Image Source: Sprout Social)
Pinterest is another specialty platform that many believed would be short-lived. Instead, it has a thriving audience, and now offers a sales integration for interested companies. Pinterest is based solely on submitting and sharing images, and its demographics skew heavily toward women (though age distribution is relatively even). It takes time to learn the ins and outs of Pinterest, and you’re unlikely to see a high ROI unless you have really interesting images to show. As a SaaS company, this seems unlikely.
Bottom line: Unless you have lots of interesting images to show off and a vested interest in female users, Pinterest probably isn’t worth your time and effort.
(Image Source: Sprout Social)
Instagram is worth noting for its growth patterns over the past few years alone. Since being acquired by Facebook, its functionality has diversified and become more accessible to new users, and its user growth rate has continually risen. Demographics here skew heavily toward younger users, but engagement rates are high. If you don’t have many pictures to take related to your brand, you’ll experience trouble maintaining an active post schedule, but if you do—Instagram is a hot platform to have.
Bottom line: If you want younger users and have any reason to take pictures regularly, adopt Instagram.
YouTube is arguably less “social” than the other platforms I’ve listed here, but with more than a billion users and consistent growth rates, it would be wrong not to mention it. Video content is becoming more popular (and of course, more important), so don’t be intimidated by the fact that it takes some time to pick up. Creating and uploading videos is pretty straightforward—the biggest challenge you’ll have is managing user interactions. For SaaS companies, this is a key spot to publish your tutorials and case studies.
Bottom line: Be prepared for a learning curve, but otherwise, get active on YouTube.
(Image Source: Sprout Social)
Google+ was once a must-have platform, heralded as the future of social media and a necessary component of SEO. Today, it’s being actively dismantled by Google into components it can use for other features. Is it fair to say Google+ is a dead platform? Maybe not. It’s a decent syndication channel, but its functionality and future growth are limited. Unless you have a specific reason to adopt it, Google+ isn’t necessary.
Bottom line: Pass.
(Image Source: Sprout Social)
SnapChat, like Instagram, has seen a massive growth rate in the past several years, thanks in part to its unique offer of privacy and temporary communication. It’s a hard platform to use for a marketing campaign, but its demographics may make it worth it; the vast majority of users are under the age of 25 and female.
Bottom line: It’s a peripheral platform, so only invest in it if its demographics fit your SaaS targets.
There are other social media platforms than these, and there will likely be several dozen new contenders emerging over the next few years alone. It’s impossible to comprehensively cover all of them, so use the factors I listed at the beginning of this section to make up your mind for each of them.
Now that you know what platforms you want to go after, it’s time to strategize about what type of content you offer. Your content plays a pivotal role in attracting new followers and retaining the ones you have; provide a steady stream of valuable, unique content, and your followers will stick with you indefinitely.
Syndicated onsite content (and guest posts)
Social media serves as a syndication platform for content you’ve written elsewhere (like on your company blog or as guest posts on external publishers). Essentially, the goal here is to get more eyes on the content you spent so much time developing—this increases the value of each piece of content you syndicate, increases its likelihood of earning links, and gives your users in-depth content as a show of value.
There aren’t many rules for what type of content you should syndicate; the better the content, the better results you’ll see, but since this guide isn’t about content quality, I won’t stray too far into the details of what makes good content “good.” For SaaS companies, popular content types include studies, tutorials, and industry-specific news.
Remember, you can syndicate your pieces multiple times to rejuvenate interest and capture portions of your audience you might have missed the first time around.
In addition to syndicated content, you should also post content that’s specific to your chosen platform. On Instagram, that means taking lots of pictures. On Twitter, that means writing short 160-character “tips and tricks” or humorous asides. On Facebook, that might mean an infographic or an announcement:
(Image Source: Facebook)
Learn what types of content are most popular on your demographic of choice, and utilize those in your marketing strategy. Over time, you’ll learn from experience which ones have the highest engagement rates, so focus your efforts on what brings you the best value.
For most platforms, it’s also a good idea to share other people’s content, rather than only supplying your own. This accomplishes several things:
- It shows you’re involved in the community.
- It relieves the burden of creating new content all alone.
- It builds relationships with other content creators (more on this later).
Since it only takes a few minutes to find something interesting and one click to share it to your own users, I highly encourage you to use this strategy often.
Timing and frequency
Some social media experts will tell you that the secret to success is in timing. However, timing has a two-pronged effect. Yes, Facebook posts around noon tend to attract more attention, but because of this, most brands rush to post at noon and end up clogging users’ newsfeeds. It’s better to space your strategy out evenly, and rely on your own performance metrics to dictate when is best to post.
When it comes to frequency, each platform is different. Once a day is more than enough to be considered active on LinkedIn, but on Twitter, even three times a day may be considered slow or inactive. Learn the ropes of each platform, and syndicate accordingly.
The “Social” Factor
If there’s one mistake that holds brands back more than any other, it’s the “social” element of social media. Your brand spends so much time posting and scheduling content that your profile becomes a monologue. If you want to be effective, you have to engage with users—sometimes directly—in a mutual exchange. This is especially important for SaaS companies; if a customer feels that he/she isn’t being listened to, he/she is going to leave.
Here’s how to do it.
Content responses and engagements
Your first job is a simple one, so there’s no reason to neglect it. Simply respond to every customer who reaches out to your brand. Like this:
(Image Source: Twitter)
It really is that simple. A “thank you” or “you’re welcome” or “glad you liked it” can make all the difference. Sometimes even a like is all it takes to communicate a level of acknowledgment. The benefits here are threefold:
- It makes the individual you’re responding to feel personally touched by your brand (increasing brand loyalty).
- It shows other users that your brand listens to its customers (increasing brand authority/reputation).
- It gives your brand a good reason to post (increasing brand visibility).
Long story short? Respond to users any chance you can get.
Sometimes, customers will reach out to you with specific, detailed questions rather than quick comments or feedback. For example, a Twitter user might come to you asking a technical question about your software’s performance. The biggest mistake you can make here is ignoring the inquiry entirely, but there’s one that’s almost as big: directing the user to another platform, like a customer service hotline or an email address. Instead, do your best to answer the question directly. Like in the above section, this affects your reputation in the eyes of the individual as well as other users.
Don’t just wait for users to engage with you; go out and engage with them! Look for conversation threads on popular groups, forums, and pages related to your industry, and jump into the discussion. This shows that you’re active in the community, and serves as good exposure for your brand to users who haven’t met you yet. Plus, you might learn something by seeing what others are talking about.
Building relationships with other influencers (who already have followings of their own) is one of the best ways to increase your reputation (and the size of your audience). Engaging with these influencers, by sharing their content, participating in their conversations, or even reaching out directly, can plant the seed of a relationship. Nurture that seed with more engagements and mutual exchanges, and soon, these influencers will be willing to share your content, mention your brand, or otherwise grant you greater visibility and tap into new audiences.
Building an Audience
Posting content and engaging socially are the two most important elements to retaining an audience, and each holds some value in building an audience as well. But what if you want to step up your audience building efforts, maximizing the quality and quantity of your followers? It’s generally a good idea, as a bigger audience means every post you make has a bigger total effect, but as anyone experienced social marketer will tell you, you can’t build a large audience by simply waiting for it to come.
Seeding an Audience
Audiences tend to self-perpetuate once they hit a certain threshold; if you’re posting good content regularly with 10,000 followers, those followers will likely share your work and help your audience grow even further. However, if you only have 10 followers, that self-perpetuation can’t take hold. Accordingly, in the early stages of your development, you’ll need to “seed” an initial audience.
You can do this by asking your friends, family members, employees, and acquaintances to follow your brand, but be careful—remember that quality is more important to an audience than quantity. This is merely to help you build momentum. From there, once you’re posting regularly, you can reach out to individuals and follow them; a percentage of those individuals will follow you back, and in time, you’ll build a foundation that can lead you to a fuller growth phase.
After you’ve built a foundation, you can enter a phase of high growth. In addition to posting good content and engaging with other users, there are several key principles you’ll have to adhere to:
- Without a consistent brand voice or posting schedule, your users won’t have a foundation to grow accustomed to. Consistency makes you memorable, and demonstrates your professionalism.
- People don’t trust corporations; they trust other people. You have to show off your personality if you want to forge a social connection, so speak casually, add humor, and don’t be afraid to express an opinion.
- Everything you post should be valuable; valuable posts get shared and spark interest. Non-valuable posts get ignored.
- Cross-Pollination. Social media doesn’t exist in a vacuum; integrate it with as many other marketing channels as you can. For example, use it in fluid harmony with your SEO and content marketing campaigns, and include your social icons on every webpage you build and email you send out.
- Hashtags. Hashtags are a powerful way to get your content seen by new people. However, there are two important rules to follow; one, never use a hashtag unless you’ve done your research and you’re positive you’re using it correctly, and never stuff your posts full of hashtags for their own sake.
(Image Source: BuzzFeed)
- Give your users more reasons to engage with your brand, such as by offering discounts, promotions, contests, and giveaways. It’s like bribing your users to invest more in your brand (but more respectable).
- No strategy starts out effective; it takes tinkering, tweaking, and sometimes drastic overhauls to find out what really works. Don’t be afraid to evolve.
Incorporate these principles reliably into your campaign, and I can guarantee you’ll see growth in both the size and engagement of your audience.
Okay, so I’ve practically guaranteed you a level of social media growth, but how fast can you hope to achieve it?
Social audience building tends to function on a logarithmic scale. Earning 100 followers is hard when you have 0 to start with, but ridiculously easy if you already have 10,000 followers. Additionally, in my experience there seems to be a threshold of exponential growth for most SaaS companies; you’ll hit a limit, maybe 5,000, maybe 100,000, where it seems to become more difficult to gain more traction. Let’s call this the “sophomore plateau.”
The foundation could take days or months to build. Depending on how much effort you’re putting in, once you’ve built a foundation, it should only take a few weeks to double your number of users. Assuming you scale your efforts accordingly, it should take that same amount of time to double them again, and again, and again, until you hit your sophomore plateau. At this point, your growth rates should level out.
I’ve laid this plan out very nice and neat, but as you can imagine, things won’t always go this way. Chances are, you’ll hit premature plateaus or lose users, and you’ll have no idea why. It’s important to recognize these stopgaps and work proactively to fix them. Generally, a problem can be traced back to a failure to follow one of the best practices that I’ve previously outlined; use these as checklists to evaluate your performance, and bring in a third party if you want a more neutral set of eyes to review your work.
If you haven’t missed anything, don’t panic. You know something’s wrong, and you don’t know what, so there’s only one approach to take; change something, see if it fixes the problem, and if it doesn’t, change something else. Repeat ad infinitum until you start to see better growth rates.
Social media marketing isn’t straightforward or easy, but it is highly valuable if you know how to invest in it. As your SaaS company begins to accumulate more followers, you’ll gain a better understanding of what makes your users tick, and will be able to incorporate that data into your future efforts. This recursive style of improvement is critical for maintaining a long-term growth pattern, so never remain stagnant with one strategy for too long. Your customers are always growing, and if you want to maintain your connection, you have to grow with them.