Key learning outcomes:
- Learn that an effective social media strategy will require detailed research on your target audience.
- Develop online content that will win over your potential clients.
- Identify tools for monitoring the success of your social media campaign.
- Recognise that an investment in advertising on social media sites may boost the impact of your contributions.
Recent studies show that 74% of adult internet users also use some form of social media. So it is now more important than ever to devise a strategic social media plan for your business. In this article we will answer some of the most common questions we receive about social media, and give you some tips and tools that you can use to ensure you are making an impact by building a more engaged audience.
Which channel should I use?
It is important to use the channel that is most appropriate to your business. In terms of usage, Facebook is by far the most popular with 71% of online adults signed up. The other social sites, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn, all have reported usage rates of between 23 and 28%. This does not mean that they will be less effective than Facebook; it really comes down to knowing who your target audience is and what channel they are most likely to use.
The better you understand your target audience, the more effective your social media strategy will be. Surveying your current customers to find out where they spend time online is one way to find out where new potential followers are most likely to spend their social media time. Another tip is to look at some of your competitors or businesses that have a similar target audience and are running successful social media campaigns. If they seem to have a high level of impact on a particular site then this would be a good place for you to start.
It is also important to look at the type of message you are going to send. Instagram and Pinterest, for example, offer a platform to showcase your products through images, whereas Facebook and LinkedIn offer an opportunity to communicate more detailed messages.[wlm_ismember]
What should I post?
The key to success in social media is your content. It is essential to make posts that add value to the relationship you are trying to build with your target audience. Here are a couple of fundamental things to remember:
- Great images grab attention – You will have a limited opportunity to attract your followers’ attention. An eye-catching or funny image may influence someone to stop and take a longer look.
- It should not all be about you – If all of your posts are asking for business, you will find that people soon switch off. You need to provide information that will add some value. For example, a kitchen store might provide great recipes, inspirational kitchen images and useful tips mixed in with promotions for products and services.
- Short is sweet in social media – Once again you have a limited time to capture your audience’s attention, and you need to do it with a short and sharp message. If you are posting a longer article, provide it as a link or download as this will give your followers the option of reading it later when they have the time.
- Keep it positive – You will find that positive messages will always get the best response. It makes sense that if you can make people feel good, they will also feel good about your business.
- Vary the content – If you are posting across various social media sites, you should vary the content to suit the audience. You might need to experiment with different types of posts to figure out what works best for each site.
- Set the tone – You need to be consistent with the tone and language in your posts to ensure that they accurately reflect the brand message you want to portray.
How often should I post?
There is no right or wrong answer here. You might need to experiment a little to see what works for you, your followers and your business. The following tips may be helpful:
- You need to be consistent – It is important to devise a schedule and then stick to it for at least a few weeks so you can gauge how your audience is reacting. If you post inconsistently, you may give the impression that you are disorganised and inconsistent.
- Keep up to date – On social media people are expecting to see current content. If they go to your Facebook page and your most recent post is several months old, it is unlikely they are going to hit the “like page” button.
- You can post too frequently – If you make too many posts, your audience is likely to shut down, as you will appear to be spamming their news feed.
Try to experiment with different posting schedules to see what works best for you. Once again, you might find that the frequency needs to vary depending on which channel you are using. For example, you might find that posting three or four messages per day on Facebook or Twitter creates more engagement with your audience, yet on LinkedIn you get a better response from less frequent posts.
How do I know it is working?
The great thing about social media sites it that they make it very easy for you to monitor the success of your online media strategy. It is easy to see how many people are looking at your posts and engaging with them. In very simple terms, the more engaged your audience, the more successful your social media campaign.
In social media, like likes like. This means if people like what you are posting then they will see more of it in their news feeds. The only way Facebook or any social media site can tell if someone likes what you are posting is if they engage with it by way of likes, comments or shares. The more people do this, the more valuable your page. Therefore, it is essential that you monitor your engagement levels and fine-tune your content once you know what works best for you.
The biggest mistake many businesses make with social media is that they equate the number of followers with success. Though, of course, having a healthy following demonstrates to customers that others like you and we know that this is an important factor when looking to influence others. To learn more about this, read our article “Six principals of influence”. However, a successful social media campaign should also have a high level of engagement. This means that not only are you posting content that appeals to your audience, you are targeting the right people.
Engagement is measured by dividing the number of people who have commented, shared or liked your posts by the total number of followers. Facebook allows you to measure your engagement in comparison to other pages that you follow through its “insights” tab. This is an excellent way for you to benchmark your page against your competition or other similar pages.
Do I have to spend money?
For many businesses social media has become a legitimate and necessary component of their marketing and promotional spend. In today’s technological world, the majority of customers will start their search for a product or service online. When you consider the number of people connected through social media, being active in social media is a smart business decision.
Social media sites are businesses too, so it is inevitable that they have and will continue to build models that are designed to generate income. It is well known that it has become harder and harder for businesses to gain significant organic reach to their followers on social media sites, in particular Facebook. Keeping engagement levels high through posting great content will help, but in many cases some paid advertising might be necessary to give your page or content a boost.
One of the key things to remember if you are going to spend money is to ensure that you identify your target audience. You will increase effectiveness of your promotions if you can aim an advertisement or post to a smaller number of people who are more likely to be interested. Facebook and LinkedIn, for example, gather extensive demographic data and this allows you to target people according to where they live, their age, gender and their interests. It is essential to closely monitor any paid posts to ensure that you are getting value for money.
Key points to remember
- The great thing about social media is that you know very quickly what is working for you and what is not. Do not hesitate to experiment a little with what you post, when you post and how often you post. Take some time to research other social media pages to see what works and what doesn’t work for them. Remember it is about finding what works best for you and your target audience.
- You need to put time into it and be consistent. If you do not have asocial media strategy in place, you might want to get one channel working for you before trying to widen your reach.
- It is essential that you or someone in the business is monitoring your social media pages. You are trying to build a relationship with your followers, so you need to respond to enquiries and comments promptly. You also need to monitor comments and posts to your page. Healthy debate is great and can boost your engagement rate, but never forget it is your page and you are well within your right to remove anything from the page that you find offensive or damaging to your brand.
- Lastly, have a little fun. Social media offers you a unique opportunity to connect with your customers. Do not be afraid to show your business personality and lighter side on occasion.[/wlm_ismember]
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