As communications consultants, we are one of the first to advocate a brand’s adoption of social media, whether for customer service, brand awareness, sales, recruitment, or simply for feedback and innovation. However I strongly believe it has to be approached strategically, in the right way – for those familiar with Stephen Covey’s ’7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, you need to begin with the end in mind.
It’s crucial to establish your objectives well in advance; otherwise having a presence on any social platform will achieve nothing, and no matter what the objectives and social media tactics are, you will need an engaged audience for them to succeed – this is the very essence of any social activity. So how do you ensure your brand is able to engage with those who visit your social media channels?
1. Know your audience
Social media is not a tick box exercise. It is not essential that every brand have a presence on every platform. There are hundreds of different platforms out there, and your presence on these should be determined by your target audience and objectives. If you really know your audience profile, you should be able to very easily work out what channels they prefer (and for what purpose) and what style/language they respond to.
2. Ensure your content appeals to target audience
Put your corporate language style guide to one side for a second and think about what your audience wants to hear and how they want to hear it. If these match then you’re fine, if not then you really need to think about how your tone and style might need to change in order to ensure you engage and resonate with those who see/hear your messages.
Do your research and test to see what works. There are some incredible case studies of brands that have had great success with their social media and have produced some impressive campaigns, but don’t just assume you can replicate these with your brand. The subject matter, as well as the language, has to be appealing and add value to your target audience in order to engage them fully.
3. Maintain variety
In order to sustain an audience’s interest, content has to be fresh, relevant and varied. This can be in terms of the subject matter or the type of content. Ensure to use plenty of images, videos, infographics, expert tips, case studies, examples and guest contributions. Be aware of what is happening locally and globally in order to piggyback on trends, events, and news of interest to your audience.
4. Ensure a clear call to action
It may seem unnecessary, but in the clutter of the social media landscape and multitude of messages being broadcast online, you need to make it very clear what you want your audience to do. This will obviously depend on your strategic objectives. Ideally for engaging content however, you will be looking to inspire, educate, entertain, build a community, sell/promote yourself, or any combination of the above. In any of these instances you need to be directing people to action – whether that is visiting a website, sending an email, making a phone call, paying a visit, joining a mailing list, spreading the word, or purchasing a product/service. You need to clearly tell them to what you want them to do.
5. Proactively seekresponses
Nothing is more flattering to the human ego than feeling like their opinion is valuable and can make a difference. Ask questions of your audience, whether this is in order to solve a particular common problem, seek feedback on a product or service, or as a crowdsourcing exercise for development and innovation. This will make your audience feel important and builds a sense of ownership in the brand, helping to cultivate loyalty and community spirit.
6. Recognise and reward loyalty
As your online community grows, you need to nurture those at the heart of it. Make sure you are investing in online monitoring so that you know who is talking about you and what they are saying. If you are aware of the conversation, you can begin to cultivate unofficial brand ambassadors from those advocates with the most influence to your target audience.
Aside from targeted influencer engagement, you can look to competitions, incentives and events, which are limited to your social media following, as a way of recognising and rewarding brand loyalty. The most engaging way of doing this is by running a contest that encourages the audience to share their own user-generated content – this has extra mileage for future content too.
7. Be a human being!
People relate to people, that’s human nature. Brands need to have a voice and a personality that people can identify with and respond to. Social media platforms by their very nature are traditionally more conversational and ‘social’ so make sure you use your platforms to tell your story and talk with your audience, rather than to broadcast corporate messages and promotions.
8. Be consistent and topical
Integrate your social media activity into the wider marketing mix to ensure content is timely, topical, complementary and consistent. You don’t want people being bombarded with messages they have already seen across other media and feeling ‘spammed’, make sure you’re not sending out exactly the same message across all of your different channels at the same time (if you do this with every post, people wont feel the need to follow you on every platform).
If your content is truly engaging, then it should have the added effect of growing your reach. Once your audience is switched on to your brand, and responding well to the content, they will look to share this with others because they believe it will add value. Once things are working well, and as you continue to develop fresh, new content, don’t forget to invest some time into promoting these social media efforts and proactively growing your following.
If you want to know more about social media, and would like some practical advice and tips of the trade, we’re running a workshop at the end of the month: Social Media 101: What, when & how to post effectively for business. Spaces are limited, so please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to join us!