Social media has become a vital tool for businesses to promote projects, build customer bases and raise brand awareness. Yet with so much learning materials, resources, and individuals like myself on hand as guides through the social labyrinth many businesses still seem unsure how to use social media effectively. From some extensive reading and conversations with fellow professionals the mistakes made are quite commonplace. So if you want to reap the benefits of Twitter, Facebook etc take note of these helpful tips.
Make Sure You Plan
Make Sure You Plan
Too many businesses jump into social media without a clear strategy; they understand the importance of social media but are unsure why. So they end up essentially taking what I have termed as the “Field of Dreams” approach; if you build it they will come. An account is set up and an assumption made that followers will find them. Random hesitant posting results in confused messaging that will deter rather than reach out to your target audience. Planning therefore is key; think about first of all which platform is suitable and choose the right one for you. If your business involves artwork or photography than Pinterest and Instagram are ideal, LinkedIn helps with searching for new recruits. Think about what you want from social media and plan accordingly how to get it.
Lay Off All The Ads
Whilst social media is a useful tool for growing your customer base treating your Twitter account like one big digital advertising billboard will send potential customers to your competitors. Social media by its nature is quite ephemeral so getting and keeping users attention is a challenge but one that can be overcome if you keep your content lively. Avoid anything that comes across as dull, overly promoting or self serving, instead put the focus on the customer. Social media is about engagement so get creative and ever changing. Remember you are speaking to an audience talk to users like real people because after all they are. The best way to keep audience attention is with a healthy mix of content. Sarah Alonze, senior campaigner for PR firm “Babel” offers a 30:60:10 content model; 30% should consist of blog posts and brand news, 60% interesting and useful links, relevant data, and 10 % promotion.
Cross Posting is a No No.
Well strictly not true there are times when certain messages can be posted on more than one platform at the same time. However what works on one platform isn’t necessarily suitable for another. Each one facilitates different media types, and sizes then there is the dreaded word limit — a staple feature of Twitter. If you simply cross post all your content over multiple platforms it comes across as lazy and irrelevant with no time or inclination to craft your message to the audience - it doesn't feel personal. Make sure majority of posts are tailored to suit the platform, with correct use of hashtags and other social media accounts — each of these will differ from one platform to other.
Too Many Platforms.
Whilst many people have more than one account type (I have at least 4) there are plenty that are monogamous when it comes to their social media usage. With this in mind restricting your social media exposure goes against good business practice meaning it is OK to have both a Facebook and Twitter account. However taking on too much can prove problematic, and time consuming, so for example ask yourself do you really need a Pinterest and an Instagram account? By creating accounts through multiple platforms you are spreading yourself thin essentially trying to be in many places at once. Taking into account the cautionary tale on cross posting trying to tailor posts for dozens of social media accounts (and there are dozens out there if you look) creates far too much work and your business growth becomes stifled and sluggish.
Put in the Time
Posting and promoting on social media requires careful planning, consideration and above all time if it is going to work in your business’s best interest. Spending say 10 minutes a day will not give your business the right kind of exposure. Try to rush it and posts will go out with errors and omissions that will harm rather than help your online presence. Yes it can feel like a second full time job and so you might be tempted to hire a social media manager to help craft your message and grow your audience. On the other hand by allowing sufficient time, say an hour each day to focus on your social media content will be far more beneficial - although for best results try two. Too little and it feels rushed and lacking, too much and your business suffers because you have taken your eye off the helm.
Variety is Key
No matter what business you are in it's good to give your social media presence some personality. Remember it is all about engaging your audience of followers. The digital world is fast paced and at times ephemeral so if your content is too serious and sales driven the average follower will move on. Keep your content eye catching and fun with a nice mix of images, video and audio contents, useful and interesting links, and articles but above all don’t be afraid to inject a little humour to keep things light. The first post on the newly created official CIA Twitter account was certainly an eyebrow raiser and had analysts and keyboard warriors alike debating it for weeks. Of course remember to keep it relevant and don’t engage in inappropriate humour or comments. Fun and colourful works wonders but balance is key to continued audience growth
One of the learning curves of businesses entering social media is the direct engagement with its audience. In amongst the regular likes, shares and retweets, your customers will engage directly with your social media platform. It thus transforms the marketing medium of social media into a customer service portal and if your customers are not happy trust me they will let you and all your other followers know about it. Businesses have already learned that it's better to respond to such comments than take the ostrich approach and hope they go away. Should you find your social media accounts attracting a lot of negative comments, be watchful and make sure they are dealt with quickly. By doing so you are showing everyone that you truly care about your customers' happiness.