As a business owner, a brand or a marketer, you need to be able to listen to consumers and adapt your social media strategies to comply with a fast-paced focus on interaction and engagement with your followers. This will allow you to elicit and respond to online conversations about your brand, services, products and industry trends, as well as the activities of your competition. In turn, you will solidify positive customer relationships and facilitate connections to grow your brand in a highly competitive global marketplace.
Social media might currently be the optimal tool for connecting with consumers – though it does not entirely replace traditional marketing practices. It allows you to potentially expand the reach of your business exponentially and without a targeted social media marketing strategy in place, you are likely playing Russian roulette with your ability to reach and even surpass your ultimate business goals.
So how do you guarantee that you succeed as a social media professional?
- Have goals that are realistic
Social media is ever growing and changing, and is still a relatively new medium. Its greatest power is to enhance customer relationships. With any of the array of social media strategies, it takes time and patience to see results and for these to translate into the growth of your business and its profitability.
Not every brand and business is ideally suited for social media. Those businesses and business owners that will thrive on a social platform are willing to share their knowledge, are open and they value two-way communication. They are comfortable to reveal their personality online and to always be authentic. They welcome healthy competition and rather than micro-management and control, they value the empowerment and support of followers.
- Have a plan
You need to start with a plan. As many as 25 per cent of small businesses have no social media marketing strategy and this is to their detriment.
Planning begins before you even start social media marketing and should continue as your presence grows. Ask yourself: What are my goals? There are many social media platforms, each having its own audience demographic and strengths and weaknesses. For example,
- Almost 70 per cent of people online use Facebook and the majority of Facebook users are female.
- Instagram users are more likely to be aged between 18-30.
- Pinterest attracts almost exclusively women, the majority of whom are highly educated and tend to have a higher income.
- The average Twitter user is a woman aged under 30 years.
You need to identify your target audience and target customer, and plan your social media strategy accordingly.
- Establish benchmarks
How are you going to measure the success of your social media campaign? All the likes, shares and retweets in the world mean nothing in the big picture if your social campaign doesn’t ultimately deliver sales and profits.
- Create high-quality content – and update it regularly
High-quality content is crucial to engage your audience and encourage and reel in interest for your brand and your product or service. Great content will be seen by the audience as being valuable and as such will be shared elsewhere online, showcasing your business to a much wider audience.
What makes content high quality? It is:
Content shared on social media should include posts that are amusing, inspiring and knowledgeable, and that reflect expertise on the part of the poster. No more than 20 per cent of social media posts should be direct selling or sales pitches.
By setting yourself up as an expert in your field, you will create a persona that is trusted and seen by the audience as worth following and sharing. A regular blog that links back to your business website is a great way to share dynamic content that not only grows your following, but is indexed by Google to increase your organic rankings.
Having a social media campaign is a long-term commitment and requires planned content. Content must be on topic as much as possible, offering news, human interest pieces and other valuable information as well as inviting comment. Regular posting is also key; a brand whose social page suddenly goes quiet does not create a good and lasting impression. It’s important as a marketer to create a stockpile of content in advance, and to arrange it for publication. Post a new and unique blog once a week and no less than once a fortnight.
Ideally, you will post once (and no more than twice) a day on weekdays and perhaps once on the weekend – keeping weekend posts more lighthearted. Too many posts will clog the feeds of your followers and some will respond by unfollowing.
Want to know why inspirational and funny posts work? Check this out.
The most successful brands on social media are those focused on informing and supporting others rather than on self-promotion. Social media is not the platform for dictating and hard selling, or for focusing on return on investment only.
- Reflect the core values of your brand
Be personable and be authentic, presenting a positive and complementary reflection of the brand and business you represent. Great social media professionals have great interpersonal skills, and these are applied to the brand and the content posted. In short, say what you mean and mean what you say. Make every work count and only post what you really believe and believe in. Identify yourself as a brand ambassador for your business and post accordingly.
- Images are key
Social media is a very visual medium and it is estimated that more than 70 per cent of Facebook activities are image centric. Some platforms, including Pinterest, Instagram, Vine and Tumblr are entirely image driven. Incorporating images into your social media strategy is a ticket to success. Any post featuring an appropriate image is highly visible and more likely to be remembered.
- Action and response
Every page owner on social media seeks likes, shares and comments. Those followers expect the same in kind – and the most responsive brands will enjoy the most public support. Timeliness of response is also critical. As a social media marketer, you need to be online every day. Personalise responses and let your followers know they are interacting with a human and not an automated response system.
- Ignore online trolls and bullies
Social media comes with a lot of background “noise”. Some people will love what you do, others will not – and they will be vocal about it. As long as your customers are happy, keep doing what you are doing and don’t engage with social media bullies and trolls. If you ignore them rather than engaging with the negativity, they will get bored and move on.
- Metrics matter
Measuring metrics is the way to analyse the success of a social media campaign. This identifies sales levels as well as brand awareness growth. Metrics to keep abreast of include shares (across all social media platforms); conversion rates; click-through rates; and traffic directly to the business website from your social media pages. It’s also wise to identify what kind of content is most popular so processes can be tweaked in the future.
- Be patient
Social media marketing strategies take time to deliver results. They need to be used in collaboration with a great product, superior customer service and an appealing brand identity. By listening to your consumer, creating content, engaging with your audience and fostering an open narrative, you can make social media a successful tool in your overall business plan. Just be patient and embrace the journey.
Your next steps:
Social media is an ever-changing environment so here are three things you can do to arm yourself as we head into the new year.
- Learn more about the social media trends in 2016 and get ahead of the pack.
- Take a look around your competitors social profiles, note what they are doing well and not so well (a good reminder not to make the same mistakes).
- We’ve got a free LinkedIn eCourse to help you get the most out of the platform for your business if LinkedIn is your preferred social media channel.