This post has been modified to reflect new information since its original publication.
With more and more people engaging with businesses on social media networks, companies that understand the best ways to use these channels have a definite advantage over the competition.
This is because a strong social media presence can help you:
- Raise brand awareness
- Increase consumer loyalty
- Gather customer feedback
- Attract more traffic to your website
- Recruit quality employees
But, to achieve all these benefits, you need to know how to use social media correctly. Here are some tips on how to get the most out of these powerful marketing channels.
Know your target audience
There’s nothing worse than wasting time and resources on the wrong audience. As such, it’s worthwhile to spend time figuring out who your target demographic is and where these people spend most of their time online.
For example, if your customers are mostly single people under 30, you’ll get a better return on your investment by focusing your social campaigns on TikTok, Instagram, and SnapChat. However, if you are a B2B company, then you’ll be better off targeting business leaders on LinkedIn.
There’s also value in considering which social platform will give you the most return on investment when it comes to earned media. Most journalists, for instance, rely on Twitter to promote their articles.
“If businesses are interested in earning media coverage, I advise them to ensure their social feeds – especially Twitter – are up-to-date … because that’s where the journalists are.”—Michelle Garrett, head of Garrett Public Relations
See what your competitors are doing
An often-underutilized benefit of social media is that it shows you what your competition is doing and how those companies’ customers feel about them. For example, by following competitor profiles, as well as popular hashtags related to your industry—especially ones involving reviews or consumer complaints—you can discover unmet customer needs or pain points that you could satisfy instead and thus draw customers away from your competitors to grow your client base.
Make a plan
Without a clear plan, you have no stated goals for what you’re trying to achieve. This makes it impossible to track your progress and know whether your efforts are working.
A good plan will consist of the goals you want to achieve—broken down into smaller steps, a timeline for achieving each step, and ways to measure success at each milestone. A good tool for creating measurable objectives is the SMART strategy.
In your plan, be sure to include procedures that keep your social activities (posting, engaging, and listening) running smoothly in an emergency.
“Write down your social media processes in case of emergency and make them available in a shared space. Not only does this help if there is an emergency and someone who is not your social person or their backup needs to make a post, but it also solidifies your process and gives your social person a roadmap to show others what goes into creating social content & managing the pages.”—Corrie Oberdin, head of Oberdin Constulting
Post content your audience wants
People gravitate to a social platform because they are looking for a specific type of content. So, you should create the type of content that will perform best on the channels your customers prefer.
For example, you’d use quotes to get traction on Instagram, short videos for TikTok, and long-form, thought-leadership pieces for LinkedIn.
“First, decide what type of content is best for you or your business. Written, photography, or video etc. Then, go all out on the platform that features that type of content.”—Amanda Ricks, social media marketing specialist at Amanda Ricks Media
This way, you can tailor your messages to what consumers expect and appreciate on each platform.
People want to buy from brands they know. Failing to maintain consistency in the look and feel, schedule, or subject matter of your posts across multiple social platforms will make it harder for consumers to recognize your content. This means you can’t leverage your relationship with them to win their trust and their business.
A good way to achieve consistency is to create a brand style guide that lists acceptable colors, logos, font(s), and icons, as well as any design and formatting rules. This guide should also instruct social media creators to keep posts focused on subjects that reflect your company’s mission and values.
Similarly, you should publish your social updates on a reliable schedule, so people know when to look for new content from your brand.
Engage to build relationships
Consumers don’t like being sold to. Moreover, they can easily spot a marketing pitch, no matter how hard you try to disguise it.
What they do like are brands that talk “with” them—as opposed to “at” them. As such, it’s important to make the effort to engage your audience in human conversations.
“Act as a friend rather than a business on social as much as possible; engage!!”—Julia Bramble, business consultant
Don’t just broadcast messages about your company. Show people that you care about them by “liking” and commenting on other individuals’ and brands’ posts to spark conversations. You can also have your employees share their stories on social media to further humanize your brand.
“Join the conversation. Local groups, community pages, and networking groups are great places to show people your brand’s personality and earn their trust.”—Erin Jones, local SEO analyst and account manager at Sterling Sky
Listen to what your customers are saying
Staying on top of consumer complaints and trending topics that involve your brand helps you quickly respond to customer pain points. This not only increases customer loyalty, but it also shows potential customers your commitment to customer satisfaction.
An added bonus of social listening is that it highlights broken business processes that you can fix to prevent future customers from disparaging your brand online. It also lets you proactively address growing negative sentiments around your brand, giving you time to post your own content and steer the online conversation in a more positive direction.
Use the appropriate hashtags
Social media users search hashtags to find content on a particular topic. So, if you’re not using hashtags in your content, you are missing out on an effective way to reach a larger audience.
Don’t overdo it though, because using too many hashtags can look spammy. It’s better to stick to one or two hashtags per post.
Another way to use hashtags is to search on them to identify conversations you can join to raise awareness of your brand and boost your credibility.
“Figure out the keywords that you want to be known for and create content around them. Then use them to search out other posts you can make comments on to help you get noticed.”—Shannon Peel, head of MarketAPeel, a digital brand storytelling agency
Don’t forget SEO
The higher your content ranks in search engine results, the more likely it is that people will find it. This translates to more visits to your website and social profiles—and more sales.
To get search engines to rank your content higher in the search results for certain topics, you need to include relevant keywords in your profiles. The same is true for adding alt text to the images you post.
“Often with small sites and small brands, it can be much easier to get a YouTube video, Tweet, LinkedIn post or Facebook post to rank than it is to rank a blog post on your site. Also, those rankings are usually bigger & prettier in the search results.”—Cindy Krum, founder of MobileMoxie, a mobile marketing firm
Share user-generated content
“Today’s consumers seek authenticity, and a super polished or overly stylized piece of content isn’t it. A produced video is essentially your opinion—and consumers aren’t interested in your opinion. They want to hear what other people think of your brand and/or product. Who better to serve as brand ambassadors than people who love your brand so much that they create content for their personal channels bragging about you?”—Jenny Li Fowler, director of social media strategy at MIT
UGC also enables consumers to be an active part of your brand’s success, instead of merely being spectators. Moreover, because UGC stimulates conversations between your brand and consumers, it can also help build an engaged community and drive customer loyalty.
“If someone told you their service was top-notch, that you could trust them to do a great job, you’d take it with a grain of salt, right? But what if a third party, a satisfied customer, told you the same thing about a service provider? It would inspire a lot more trust.“—Mark Armstrong, head of Mark Armstrong Illustration
To take advantage of this boost in authenticity and trust, it makes sense to seek out and publish consumer-created reviews, testimonials, images, podcasts, and videos on your social channels. Just be sure to get the creator’s permission first. Some good ways to ask for content include contests, challenges, and giveaways.
According to the 2022 Sprout Social Index study, 76% of consumers expect businesses to respond to their social media complaints within 24 hours. Failing to meet this standard not only destroys your credibility with established customers, but it also damages your reputation with potential customers, who interpret any missing or tardy responses as neglect.
To avoid tarnishing your online reputation, you need to dedicate resources to monitor all social channels for mentions of your brand—whether they’re positive or negative—and respond in an appropriate and timely manner.
Your efforts to reach out to customers can even lead to recognition by the social platform you’re using. Facebook, for example, bestows a “Very responsive to messages” badge to brand pages that have:
- A response rate of 90% or more
- A response time of less than 15 minutes
Connect with influencers in your industry
Reach out to individuals and organizations with large followings in your industry and comment on and share their posts. This will encourage consumers to associate your name with these influencers’ authority and expertise, thereby boosting your brand credibility.
It will also involve you in conversations that stimulate interest in your business and give you a chance to explain your unique value proposition directly to a highly specific audience.
Protect your online reputation
Now that you know how to grow your business by creating an impressive social media presence, it’s important to fortify it against damaging negative press or other unflattering online content that might undo all your hard work.
ReputationDefender has a variety of reputation management solutions that can help businesses look their best online. To learn more, just give us a call. We are happy to offer a complimentary consultation regarding your unique situation.
You can also check out one of our articles about reputation management: