Effective social media marketing can give your business a leg up on the competition
Over the past ten years, I’ve spent countless hours developing, launching and managing social media accounts for businesses and non-profits. In that time, I could have doubled my annual income had I collected a dollar from everyone who expressed a belief that having a personal account on any given social media site automatically qualified an individual to run a business account on the same site. That’s kind of like saying that having sent an email to a friend qualifies one to oversee an email marketing campaign seen by thousands of people every time it goes out. Unfortunately, like most other things in life, it’s not quite as easy as it seems. There is a steep learning curve, even if you have personal profiles setup on a given social media website. And social media is an ever-evolving animal, too.
Here are a few of the more common faux pas we see made by business accounts on social media:
- Grammar and spelling mistakes
- Posting too often
- Posting too infrequently
- Inconsistent messaging across platforms
- Erratic updates (eg no updates for a long period of time, followed by a torrent of 4-5 in one day)
- Ignoring customers, or offering the “wrong” response
- Posting at the wrong time (yes, there are right and wrong times, more on this below)
- Automatically sending Facebook updates to Twitter (or vice-versa) in order to save time
- Failure to utilize analytics tools such as Facebook Insights
There are a number of things that have to be considered when managing business accounts to avoid representing your business in a way that’s unattractive to customers. Below is a deeper look at some of the intricacies of social media. With the understanding that there are exceptions to every rule, we aim for this post to be used as a general guide for approaching social media as a business entity.
Social media is inexpensive advertising served up to your target audience
Social media is certainly cheaper than paying for traditional advertising. It can be more effective, too! Facebook, Twitter and other social media networks present an opportunity to compose highly targeted content to a large audience. According to a 2014 poll by the PEW Research Center, 74% of online adults use social media. That’s a lot of opportunity to engage with customers and reach new ones! Generate interesting or useful content on social media and your current followers are likely to share it, which generates more traffic to your website and gets your business seen by potential clients. Don’t be afraid to unleash creativity. With very few exceptions, there are industry appropriate, fun and creative ways to get more engagement out of your followers. All it takes is a little creativity!
Knowing when to post is half the battle
With television commercials, advertisers pay a premium to run their ads when the largest number of people are watching. Updating your social media accounts doesn’t cost a thing, though. No matter when you do it! So, in strictly financial terms, it doesn’t matter whether you post during “prime time” or when no one is watching. It’s generally best to post during the early morning or evening hours, but this can vary depending on your audience and the platform you are using. Using Facebook Insights and tracking engagement on other platforms is crucial for getting the most out of your social media presence.
Social media accounts must be maintained
This one is non-negotiable. In fact, if regular updates are not possible, we recommend avoiding appearing on social media altogether. Just like your website, social media accounts need to be maintained and regularly updated. Effective management of social media requires a balance between feast and famine. If you’re posting too often, you’ll annoy followers and customers and they may unfollow (or “unlike”) you. Post too infrequently and visitors to your social media pages won’t see the point in following you to begin with.. so they won’t. For Facebook, we recommend updating two or three times a week, and never more than once a day. For Twitter, our recommendations vary slightly, but not by much.
We also discourage tying your accounts across platforms together in such a way that your Facebook posts automatically go to Twitter, etc. It may work with a post every now and then, but for the most part it does not translate well. Besides that, it just looks sloppy! Also, if your accounts are set up in this manner, it likely means you are not monitoring each account for replies, questions or other engagement coming from followers or fans. More on the importance of engagement below.
Develop a deeper rapport with customers
Social media can help you develop a deeper rapport with your customers, if you use it effectively. Not only should fresh content be offered up on a regular basis, but customers who attempt to engage should not be ignored.
A recent poll shows that customers on social media are ignored 72% of the time, or more! Would you ignore 72% of customers who come into your shop or office, sending you an email or calling your business line? If so, you aren’t going to be in business for very long. Replying to customers in a timely and meaningful way is a must.
Drive virtual traffic to your website and/or foot traffic to your storefront
Social media is the new form of link building. Businesses and individual website owners have always deployed link building tactics (credible and illegitimate) to gain more links to their website and garner higher search engine rankings. Having your content shared across Twitter, Facebook, and other social platforms is a great way to build the number of organic links to your site across the web, and further legitimizes your site in the eyes of Google, which increases your search engine rankings. More website traffic means more chances to sell your product! Be careful, though! Google is always on the lookout for dishonest link building practices and if they catch your company utilizing these tactics, you can receive severe search engine ranking penalties. Do not try to dupe consumers with spammy and non-user friendly link building tactics.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
This one is a little beyond the scope of this post, because we could write an entire novel on SEO and how it is intertwined with social media. However, we want to expand on the topic of link-building above, just slightly. Building a following on social media improves link building, which improves your search engine optimization. Period. Here it is, straight from Google (link will open as a PDF):
Users know good content when they see it and will likely want to direct other users to it. This could be through blog posts, social media services, email, forums, or other means. Organic or word-of-mouth buzz is what helps build your site’s reputation with both users and Google, and it rarely comes without quality content.
Whether you choose to manage your accounts internally or hire outside experts, social media can be a powerful tool for any business (tip: it can be just as powerful for consumers, too). We hope this blog post has served to provide a better understanding of how deeply rooted in your marketing strategy social media should be. Here are a few final tips for using social media in a way that’s attractive to customers:
- Have a consistent tone and message across platforms. This should match the overall tone of your business;
- Be polite and thoughtful, especially when replying directly to a customer, especially a disgruntled one. Do not delete or ignore their comments;
- Don’t be lazy! Avoid sharing links without a description. On Facebook, your link will go largely ignored and it just looks sloppy. On Twitter, your link will go largely ignored and possibly even mistaken as a spam post by your followers;
- It is rarely (if ever) appropriate to post provocative content. You can encourage engagement without inciting a riot;
- Avoid posting content that is completely unrelated to your industry. We see this one more than you would think, and we’re not quite sure why. Save the memes, cute/funny pictures and other unrelated content for your personal page. No matter how big of a story it is, it’s not appropriate for your business page if it’s not related to your business or industry;
- Proofread. Proofread. Proofread.
For examples of great Facebook pages, checkout this list put together by Hubspot. You’ll notice that each page is presented in a clean, professional manner with no images overflowing or blocked by text in the cover photo, the profile picture is cropped correctly. Just as important (if not more important), the messaging and tone on each page is consistent, and updates are posted frequently, but not too frequently!
To learn more about how we can help setup and optimize your social media strategy, please contact us!