Social media is megaphone loud enough for more than just your audience to hear. Unlike sending email messages to specific lists of people, anyone can visit your social platforms.
Because social media is public, however, mistakes can significantly harm a brand’s reputation.
[RELATED: Here are a few of the most common social media blunders with real-life #oopsies by major brands.]
But, have no fear! With a proper social media strategy in place, you can avoid those blunders and see a beneficial impact on your business.
A proper strategy means you won’t just be posting random content to every social platform available. That’s not a good use of time. Creating your own social media strategy has many benefits. It gives you the opportunity to:
1. Target your desired audience
There’s no question that your audience is on social media. In fact, Pew Research reports that 7 in 10 of all Americans use social media, and the number grows each year, expanding to new demographics.
If your business has defined buyer personas, research to learn what platforms they use. Then, create a strategy for each platform to effectively reach the right personas.
For example, if your personas are older in age, Pew Research reports that about “62% of online adults ages 65 and older now use Facebook, a 14-point increase from the 48% who reported doing so in 2015.” This means (depending on your product and service), it’s a good idea to post on Facebook to reach this older audience.
If your company has more than one persona, each one could be on different social channels. Use your personas as a guide to decide what channels to post to and what content would be most valuable for those unique characteristics.
Content Marketing Institute writes that you don’t need to post to every social platform. They call that “a channel pipe bomb: It might spray content shrapnel as far as possible, but it has no regard for whom it strikes, how they might be impacted, or how that impact might reflect on the business.”
With so many people on social media, it may feel like your content just adds to the noise. But by defining a targeted audience in your strategy, you’ll better understand what content they find valuable. As a result, you’re more likely to achieve your strategy goals.
Pro tip: Audience targeting for paid Facebook and LinkedIn posts gets very detailed. Take advantage of these capabilities by incorporating a paid promotion component in the strategy and get your content in front of more people that fit your personas.
2. Have direct conversations with your followers
One of the most profound ways social media has changed business for brands is that consumers have easier access to give feedback and interact with a brand.
There’s always been the opportunity to call the customer service line or send a letter, but it could take some patience to wait for a response.
With just a click of an app, consumers can converse with a brand. Large brands often have designated customer service reps who only handle feedback from social media. They may use a “cheat sheet” of responses to scenarios and specific complaints.
A guide with pre-written responses ensures brand continuity, but it can also seem too robotic. Social users want to be social! They want to talk to actual humans, not to a PR script. And they want these conversations to happen at a rapid rate.
Jay Bauer reports that “24% of American internet users 12+ who have contacted a brand on social media, expect a reply within 30 minutes, regardless of when the contact was made.”
Another study shows that 51% of users felt a “somewhat more” or “much more” favorable view of the brand after receiving a response.
Even if your brand doesn’t receive a high volume of social media comments, it’s crucial to have a plan for who on your team will respond, what times this will occur and what will be said. Set these expectations before receiving a flood of notifications to leave a favorable impression on your audience.
Pro Tip: Let your followers do the work for you! User-generated content not only gives you insight into what works about your product or service, but you can share the content they post about your brand. Re-tweet positive comments or share a blog on Facebook of a fan using your product.
3. Extend your brand reputation and loyalty
Personal social media feeds are often referred to as a “highlight reel.” We love showcasing the best moments in our lives with family and friends — but, most people can probably admit that they like showing off, too.
So, go ahead! Use your social media to show off your brand and create a “highlight reel.” Imagine your prospects, business partners and job candidates browsing your social media sites. As they scroll from top to bottom, what do you want them to see? What kind of impression do you want them to have about your brand?
Your answer will change for each platform, taking into consideration the varying audiences and unique characteristics of each.
On Instagram, you may want to highlight visuals that your company does well and focus on the beauty of your product. On Facebook, you may want to highlight listicles and short videos that users are likely to share.
Social media users want to share content and interact with brands. Nielsen reported that, “In nearly every instance, heavy social media users are more likely to perform social activities that are gateways to a brand. For instance, nearly 30% of heavy social media users thought it was very or somewhat important to engage with social media in order to show support of their favorite companies or brands.”
If you aren’t consistently active on social media or don’t post relevant content, users won’t be as encouraged to support your brand on social media.
Social media is an excellent tool to strengthen brand loyalty. Even if a user hasn’t made a purchase from your company, they may enjoy your social content enough to “follow” your updates. After some lead nurturing, they could soon become a customer.
Brands also have the opportunity to strengthen their reputation by connecting with key social media influencers.
Influencers are social media users with large followings that focus on one topic such as baking, comedy, makeup, etc., and become authorities in that field. Their followers already trust them, so brands leverage this relationship to show that their brand can be trusted, too.
For the endorsement to be effective, find an influencer that is popular in a relevant industry. A clothing store would want to pair with a style Instagrammer. A bookstore will want to pair with a book review blogger.
Influencer marketing is a hot trend and has even become a service offering at many marketing and PR companies.
Pro tip: Most social media feeds display content chronologically. Plan for a balance in your content distribution so users get a full picture of your brand. This may look something like: 10 percent employee branding, 30 percent product, 30 percent blog content, 20 percent user generated and 10 percent sharing other content.
4. Get creative and stand out from competitors
Social media is fun! Because the user experience and design is already built in to each social media platform, all you need to focus on is the content. That’s where the magic happens.
There are endless campaigns, ideas, visuals and stories to post on social media. And with a proper strategy in place, you can use social as a tactic to stand out from competitors.
First, do your research. What platforms are your competitors posting to? What type of content are they posting, and how often? How do they interact with users? What is their main message that they’re broadcasting on social media?
After auditing competitors, determine what you could post that your competitors aren’t. Perhaps there’s a lack of podcasts in your industry. This is something you can make into a series and post regularly.
If you’re having trouble identifying new opportunities, focus on creating the most engaging content that people crave. Meet with your team for a fun and creative brainstorming session. Consumers love when brands are original and genuine.
Just don’t forget about your personas. If you’re an insurance company, you wouldn’t develop a video demonstrating how to make cinnamon rolls. Sure, it could get a ton of engagement, but you won’t reach your ideal audience, nor does it support the brand’s values.
Rather, a campaign such as American Family Insurance’s “Signs of Support” is more true to its brand while connecting with consumers on a personal level.
Prioritizing your brand’s mission, values and paying attention to your personas will keep your strategy tight and focused. Marketer Jay Baer states, “If you try to accomplish everything on social media, you’ll accomplish nothing.”
B2B companies have a bigger challenge when creating content for social — it feels more restrictive, but it doesn’t mean that your ideas should also be limited. TopRank Marketing outlines a few social media lessons that B2B organizations can take from B2C campaigns. A few of the highlights include celebrating individuals who use your product or service, providing useful content, creating anticipation and more.
5. Support business objectives and see results
Consumers who include social media as part of their shopping process are four times more likely to spend more money on purchases. They’re also 29 percent more likely to make a purchase on the same day when using social media.
However, their influence from social media doesn’t come from brands, it comes from their personal networks. Friends may give shout-outs about one of their new favorite products, or give recommendations when prompted.
A Hubspot study showed that the best place for businesses to teach consumers about a new product or service is through email marketing. Instead, social media should be used to share enriching and original content.
When consumers feel connected with a brand, they’ll become brand ambassadors and spread the word. Social media is a crucial component to strengthen this relationship and to encourage this type of action.
To measure the success of your social media campaigns, first define your specific goals, which could include growing your number of followers, increasing the number of engagements (comments, shares, likes), or increasing conversions of content downloads or site visits.
Then decide on how to measure it. Jay Baer states that “just because everything is measurable doesn’t mean you should measure everything.” Only spend time on the metrics that are most meaningful to your goals and success.
On social media, your brand has the opportunity to connect with users on a more intimate level. With a social strategy in place, you’ll be able to regularly post and measure content to determine what resonates best with your audience. It’s another resource that people already love to show off your brand, get creative and support business objectives.