We all know that social media is an important part of your business marketing strategy and one that can’t be ignored (no matter how much you, as an individual or as business owner, may love or hate social media). But the answer is not as simple as purely having a profile on one or more appropriate social media platforms. The actual way in which you undertake your social media engagement makes an enormous difference to how successful your use of the platform is, both for the exposure of your brand and the growth of your business.
Sometimes it can actually be easier to approach social media for business when you are not already entrenched in social media for personal purposes; the basic rules of etiquette should still apply when using social platforms personally, but when using it for business the goal posts are in a very different position.
Just a quick glance at the social media presence of some of your competitors can illustrate this point. Some are too sterile and removed from the audience in tone. An entirely sales-oriented approach lacks humanity – and this will equate to ultimately less audience engagement and fewer sales. Some business pages are too familiar, reading like a personal profile as opposed to a business page. This creates an impression that is less than professional.
Others, however, will get the balance just right.
There is an array of rules of etiquette to follow when implementing your social media engagement strategy for business purposes; you can’t simply use social media with the same mindset as you do for your personal profile page. By understanding the fundamentals of social media engagement, you can leverage your content and tone to dramatically improve your post quality and to increase your potential customer base.
Here are some of the fundamental dos and don’ts of social media engagement when using the platform for business purposes…
- Complete your social media profile in its entirety. This includes a profile picture (professional photo or brand logo), an easily identifiable name, your mission statement, and a completed “About Us” section. Create the right first impression, as this is what audiences remember.
- Use common sense when posting. Don’t share personal religious or socio-political viewpoints on a business page – unless, of course, your business relates to a religious institution or the political arena. It may attract some followers, but it may also drive others away.
- Understand your target audience. Know who they are, what social platforms they use, and why they need your product or service. Don’t make assumptions about the audience; learn about them from how they interact with you on social media and listen to what they have to say.
- Interact with your target audience. Respond to questions, comments, and private messages in a prompt manner. Think of your social media platform as a channel for customer service.
- Stay true to the tone of your brand in all posts. Consistency and knowing exactly who you are is key. Keep focused and give your target audience and followers what they expect from you, based on your brand and your content from the past. You will quickly learn which content generates most positive engagement; this is what you need to be guided by.
- Post valuable content – including blog links, relevant news updates and light-hearted inspirational or amusing memes. Give credit to your sources.
- Post unique content. Be inspired by others, by all means, but create your own unique content and don’t re-share it over and over. To do so suggests that you as a business owner and page administrator are lazy at best and spammy at worst.
- Post content that is customised for its platform. Compose original messages for each platform, even if you have the same thing to say on each.
- Proofread all content for grammar and spelling. If you’re sharing or posting informative content, reference sources and ensure the accuracy of what you post.
- Be transparent. Sometimes things get messy. If you have an issue (for example, negative feedback in the public forum of your wall), trying to hide the issue will only be more harmful. Don’t delete comments (unless they are offensive), but instead respond politely and without becoming defensive. Resolve the issue to the best of your ability and with transparency. This will imbue your brand ultimately with an aura of trustworthiness.
- Post with consistency – but don’t over-share. Keep Facebook business posts to one per day; the same for LinkedIn. Twitter posts can be a little more frequent, but five to six times daily is ok. Over-sharing simply clogs the news feeds of your followers and many will eventually unfollow as a result.
- Track and analyse the results your content achieves – which of your posts are most successful? Which are least successful?
- Be patient. Like all good things, successful social media engagement and marketing takes time for results to appear.
- Have more than one profile per platform. Keep it clean and simple.
- Never (ever) use profanity on your business profile page – even if your brand is hip and young, even if your audience comments with profanity, never use it yourself on your business page – it reflects poorly on you and your brand.
- Post late at night, or when you are tired, angry, upset or affected by alcohol or any kind of pharmaceuticals. Doing so can only cause drama.
- Use automation unless absolutely necessary. Plan ahead, but don’t automate all posts weeks in advance.
- Only post sales pitches. The most successful social media for marketing profiles will be comprised of a variety of content – and no more than 20 per cent of it should be direct sales pitching.
- Be needy. Asking followers to retweet or share may work briefly, but soon becomes annoying. Genuine shares that are unsolicited because the follower actually wishes to share your content are much more valuable. Don’t like your own posts – it goes without saying that you like them!
- Believe that you need to have a presence on every social media platform. Choose just one or two platforms that best reflect the nature of your brand and the inclination of your target audience.
- Spam. Ever. Do not join a conversation on another profile and push your own sales agenda – it is very poor form, not to mention incredibly annoying. Blatant self-promotion anywhere other than your own page is rude and will only do your brand damage.
- Be a #hashtag #loser. This point could be an article all on its own (and stay tuned, because in future it will be!). Hashtags, while a valuable tool to help your posts be appropriately categorised with similar content based on keyword searches, are perhaps the most misunderstood and abused of all social media trends. Too many people overuse and inappropriately use hashtags – and doing so is not only annoying, it makes you look ridiculous, attention-seeking and even unintelligent.
In a nutshell…
- Focus on people, not money
- Experiment with your strategy
- Personalise your responses
- Aim for ongoing social engagement
- Talk about your audience, not just yourself
- Publish content that is valuable
- Always consider your reputation
- Promote loyalty
- Be professional and conversational
- Post consistently
Social media engagement strategies need to be built from the ground up. To an extent, the process will be trial and error when you first begin, and learning from your mistakes is a valuable and important part of that process. Apply the above mentioned guidelines to your own social media engagement strategy and track what works best for you and your brand. The very best social media marketing strategy will facilitate high levels of audience engagement and generate meaningful, measurable results. Before you know it, you will be a social media pro!
Social media platforms are ever-evolving and changing, so here are some things you can do to stay on top of it: