‘Like it’ or not, social media has become a key player when it comes to promoting business. Amazingly, a recent study carried out by the Internet Advertising Bureau UK indicated that almost 80% of consumers would be influenced by a brand’s presence on social media and would be more inclined to buy more in the future from a brand known to be on social media networks. From this, it is clear that customers expect to find businesses and brands on social media and will make purchasing decisions accordingly. However, it is not simply a question of broadcasting advertisements on social media sites. This is not sufficient to engage followers. What is required is time and effort, as well as an understanding of the platforms available. Here are some tips from experts that will be useful, especially to the smaller business not yet in a position to afford social media specialists.
FINDING THE RIGHT PLATFORM
It is important to pick the platform that best suits your demographic. Used Linkedin to market to businesses. If you are pitching to consumers, Twitter or Facebook are good channels. This is a very important step, because if you are using the wrong type of platform, the best posts in the world will do you no good, as they will not be read.
BUILDING SOLID RELATIONSHIPS
Just like relationships in real life, social media relationships take time and trouble to develop. What SMBs (Small and Medium Sized Businesses) should be aiming for is loyalty. Don’t try to gain a huge band of followers, but do try to build up a smaller group of loyal followers. Create a community – encourage followers to talk to each other about your business. Interactive content such as quizzes or live Q&A or even competitions will help to get your followers buzzing and get you noticed. Once you’ve developed good solid relationships, these can be turned into sales by including special offers to generate sales. Beware, however, of doing this too soon or too often. It is generally considered that 80% interesting and topical content can be balanced by no more than 20% advertising content. If you can devise ways to effectively direct your followers into your own on-line marketing programme, you may not need to promote directly on social media, whilst still gaining new customers on your own sites.
It is important to maintain a regular posting schedule. Experts advise a minimum of two posts per day. Of course, that means thinking of something to say that will appeal to your target audience. You can get inspiration from the calendar. Plan around national holidays such as Christmas, Easter, etc. Find out the dates of niche days that are relevant to your company and/or products. A beverage retailer could make good copy out of Hot Tea Month, whilst someone selling beauty products might comment on Bubble Bath Day. Have a look on-line for special days and have some fun with this.
Of course, positive feedback is what you are after but it is inevitable that sometimes there will be feedback of the negative variety. It is essential to respond to such comments quickly and thoroughly. Such a comment can even be considered a good thing, as if people are taking the time to give negative feedback, it means at least that they have an interest and it can become an excellent opportunity for you to show that you pay close attention to good customer service and are willing to make changes for the better as required.
When you post interesting comments and answer queries thoroughly and knowledgeably, you are effectively demonstrating that you are an expert in your field. If your contributions show insight and convey valuable information, your readers will feel they can trust what you are promoting. If, for example, a garden centre shows it knows its delphiniums from its dahlias and offers useful tips on caring for both, your followers will feel confident in purchasing from your on-line or off-line site.
KEEPING UP TO DATE
You should avoid using any of your existing usual marketing material on a social media site. What you need to do is think up new ways to promote your wares. Keep it current and up to date and targeted specifically at the particular audience you are aiming for on each social media site.
MAKING SURE YOU ARE KNOWN
You can have the finest posts on social media, but they won’t do you any good if no one knows you are there. Make sure you take advantage of every opportunity to make your social media presence known by including social media addresses in all your communications, including media advertisements. It is a marketing maxim that no one goes to an event that they didn’t know was happening.
CHANGING IT UP
It’s an easy trap to fall into – posting the same type of content time and time again. This will have a negative effect on your followers, who will soon perceive you, and consequently your brand, as out of touch with the times, boring and uncreative.
Whether you are the person solely responsible for posting content to sites or if, as is often the case with medium to large outfits, other members of staff are also involved, it is important to be consistent in both use and messaging. The best way to ensure this is to devise, and stick to, a strategy that includes guidance aimed at achieving a consistent voice. Your strategy should include a posting schedule, guidelines on responding to negative feedback and a collection of brand-related images ready for use. It is also useful to prepare a document outlining responses to frequently asked questions. A word of caution, however – avoid presenting uniform, ‘one size fits all’ replies. Your followers want to feel they are dealing with a real live person, not an automaton. It is vital that all responses, particularly to negative comments, remain personalised and fresh, dealing thoughtfully with each individual.
MAKING SOCIAL MEDIA WORK FOR YOU
As we have seen, social media has become a very important tool for promoting all sorts of businesses and enterprises. Included above are some tips which will help to make the best possible use of the various platforms available. Remember to choose ones which best suit your brand and target audience. Avoid the temptation to post on a host of networks – choose, say, two or three and keep up a regular and lively posting schedule on those. It takes a lot of time and effort, but in the long term the results can be significant. And most importantly, if you treat your social media followers the same way you treat your customers or clients on-line and in-store, you will reap the rewards.