Successful use of social media requires a two-way conversation; the entire point of the platform is to connect and converse. This is true for personal social accounts, but even more so for business accounts, which are used as part of a successful social media marketing strategy.
Social media is arguably the farthest-reaching element to arise from the internet revolution, with as many as 75 per cent of all online adult users participating in at least one social media platform. Facebook alone has more than one billion users worldwide. As such, the reach of social media as a marketing strategy is potentially astronomical and both marketers and advertisers are recognising that social media far outpaces the access of other avenues (such as television and print marketing) to the general public.
Whether one uses Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, or any other of the myriad social media platforms, social media connects people from all over the world instantaneously. It is one of the modern world’s most effective marketing tools, with relatively cheap advertising. It does, however, need to be utilised properly to attain the full potential effect of any social media marketing strategy.
Research studies into the uses and effects of social media have consistently demonstrated that people respond emotionally to material on social media, and both positive and negative emotions and experiences are shared on a massive scale. The use of social media is, for most people, recreational, and this is the perfect time to connect: when the target audience is relaxed and receptive. These emotional reactions can be manipulated by savvy marketers, and they can also be transferred to others in the most subtle of ways.
Basic advertising on social media is not generally particularly successful. Most social media users find blatant advertising to be annoying, unless something they are specifically interested in pops up into their feed. So how can clever marketers exploit social media platforms to the greatest advantage to build and grow business enterprises?
It is all about facilitating a two-way conversation.
Conversations on social media are the driver for marketing that is word-of-mouth. When a conversation begins on social media, with comments, likes, retweets and shares, the attention of an unlimited audience can be grasped and maintained. Ideas are spread exponentially. Imagine if that idea related to your own brand or product?
Unfortunately, many business owners go about the process in the wrong way – simply by failing to participate properly in the conversations they trigger.
While more and more businesses invest and participate in social media as a critical factor in their marketing activities and SEO campaigns, not all are effectively responding to their followers in the most timely and appropriate way.
Social media, unlike traditional marketing channels, requires more effort on the part of the business owner insofar as response and connection. Consider that traditional marketing practices are “one way”; they broadcast to consumers yet encourage no real feedback beyond the consumer taking the final, end-game action of purchasing what the business is selling.
Social media works in an entirely different way. Spreading the word via word of mouth, as per social media, requires engagement: Social engagement requires the business owner not to just “broadcast”, but also to listen and respond accordingly.
Facilitating and driving word-of-mouth marketing is the primary goal of any social media marketing strategy. Triggering a conversation about your brand or product within your social community and beyond is the entire goal of posting content on a platform. You are not only the catalyst of this conversation, but the responsibility for its continuation also lies with you.
How to facilitate a two-way conversation
- Balanced approach: It requires a delicate balance of give and take; both talking and listening. When any social media follower engages with your page in any way, there is an accompanying expectation that there will be reciprocal engagement by you as page owner.
- Put yourself in the position of a consumer: You have your own personal social media account. You post updates, photographs and share funny memes, and other material that appeals to you in some way. Yet nobody among your friends or followers responds in any way to anything you have to say. How do you feel? Probably invisible at the very least. The same scenario applies if you are a consumer. When you visit a business’s page that you find appealing, you regularly like and comment on their material.
You share some of their posts on your own personal page. At some point you ask a question of the page owner, possibly relating to a product or service they offer. However your comment or question does not receive any response. What do you do? Eventually, you move on and even potentially “unlike” or unfollow the page. They have just lost a customer.
- Be engaging: Of all the social media tips and tricks we can offer, there is one that stands above all of the rest: Social media carries with it the expectation of engagement on both sides. Without that mutual engagement, there is no point. As a business owner, social engagement equates to a powerful form of customer service.
The number of messages received by businesses via social media platforms has increased by more than 75 per cent in the past year alone. It is appalling from a business perspective that fewer than 20 per cent of these messages elicited a response from the page owners. From a customer service perspective, this is damaging to a business.
Social media is a powerful and easy way for dialogue between business and consumer to take place, and customers are turning to social media in vastly increasing numbers as their first point of contact with a business or brand – to ask questions, provide feedback, or lodge complaints. All of this happens in a very public arena – so you want what appears on your page to be positive.
- Provide value: Other important and valuable social media tips and tricks to use to augment your business via these platforms are to ensure your posts are valuable to the audience or fun in some way. Make sure that posts are planned and gain content inspiration from trends, news, blog material, amusing memes and inspirational material.
Make your “voice” unique and your tone fitting for your brand. Earn your audience’s attention by posting content that is widely relevant, appealing to enhance sharing activity, and not simply about selling. While it is good to showcase your products and services, too much of the hard sell on your social platform will be more inclined to drive potential customers away.
Social media allows a business owner to engage with consumers to build a relationship with followers and to create a wide network, providing a personalised customer service through a public gateway, and to also share news and offer special deals.
SIDE READ: 9 ways to make social media work for your business
This enhances the development of the brand, allowing it to thrive with new brand advocates; and to further offer the business another level of authenticity, giving it a personality and a “face”. Business owners who choose to use social media for marketing purposes need to direct their attention and efforts to emotionally connecting with their audience of followers.
To successfully build a brand, you need to not only present the facts about your product or service; you need to make that product or service come alive so that the audience understands what its value is to them. Part of this is making your business and your brand itself come alive – and what better way is there to do this than triggering and participating in a conversation?
Failure on the part of a social media page owner to affect this will most likely translate to a failure of the social media marketing strategy – it’s just not worth the risk.
Take your business to the next level by keeping up with the latest social media trends. It will be one of the best investment you make.
Social media a great tool for raising awareness, generating leads and boosting your bottom line. If LinkedIn is your preferred social media channel, check out our free LinkedIn eCourse to help you get the most out of the platform for your business.