For many early-stage brands, growing their social media following is marketing priority #1. A strong, active social media presence allows brands to directly interact with and influence their following, driving additional traffic to their site and increasing sales. Social media is no longer a tool for simply getting your name out there; it’s a monetizable pipeline that can directly impact cash flow.
Compelling research has forced even those most skeptical about the actual impact of social media marketing on sales to reassess their thinking. In 2011, 68% of Americans who used social networks claimed that none of those networks had a considerable impact on their purchasing decisions. In 2012, that number shrank to just 36%. Moreover, the number of respondents who felt that Facebook had the greatest influence on purchasing behavior increased from 24% to a fairly incredible 47%. Clearly, the impact of social media on buying preferences is only increasing.
Social media is a powerful tool in the content marketer’s arsenal, but it can be a difficult one to harness. While 67% of all internet users use a social media site, only a third of all Americans have ever followed a brand on social media. This indicates that most brands aren’t effectively connecting with their audience, and most have considerable room for improvement. By using these 12 hacks for quick social media growth, you can ensure that your brand is getting the most out of its social media presence! Using great content writers to produce social content can help drive your business’s sales as well.
1. Make sure all your profiles are fully optimized
Profile optimization is the first step to conquering social media. Be sure that your various profiles are fully fleshed out and include all of the basic necessary elements. This includes:
- A Clear Company Bio: Whether for Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or LinkedIn, the company bio is going to be the first real source of information your followers look for. Make sure that the company bio is fully fleshed out, represents your brand appropriately, and appeals to the demographic most served by that platform. When possible, inject a few personal touches to start the process of humanizing your brand.
Brian Clark’s twitter is as personal as it gets. At first glance, who can tell whether this is a person or a brand?
- A Great Picture: Never, ever allow your social media profile to be the default picture for that site. A low-quality image that doesn’t represent your brand is often just as bad, so use a high-quality brand logo or professionally taken photograph whenever possible.
- Keyword-Rich Posts: This sounds much more intimidating than writing a clear bio or getting a good picture taken, but it’s really quite simple and intuitive. Remember that external and internal search engines scan your page for keywords that they find particularly relevant. When posting your great content, do your best to include identifiable keywords that both followers and search engines will pick up on. For an article like this, those keywords might be “social media,” “content marketing,” or “search engine optimization.”
2. Connect with your audience naturally
We’ve written about this topic previously at Ebyline, particularly in the article on Finding Passionate Customers Through Content and Community, and it holds just as true here as it does when developing your overall customer experience. As a general rule, equals are better than customers. If you approach your customers like they’re actual people with individual experiences rather than a faceless mob, your success rate will increase dramatically.
Connecting with your audience naturally humanizes your brand. Obviously it’s important to maintain a certain level of formality and decorum in your customer communications, but keep in mind that they’re people too. Understand that your customers are not passive participants in marketing, and deeply affect the overall direction of your brand. Humanize your communications by giving your social media posts a personal touch and introducing the people behind your brand when possible.
3. Maintain an active and open dialogue with your audience
I’m going to pull out this next part, because it’s just that important:
At the end of the day, you serve your audience“
It’s an incredibly simple statement, and should be almost inherently obvious. But so many brands lose sight of this fact, and build marketing plans that are ultimately about delivering value to them rather than to the customer.
If you’re in the business of giving your audience what they really want, then the next logical step is to go right to the source. By maintaining clear lines of communication with your audience, and having an open dialogue, you’ll be able to understand their needs more deeply and serve them with content that’s truly appealing.
4. Provide REGULAR content that is related to what you have to offer
There are two keys here: regular and related. They’re both critical elements of an effective content strategy, and are a place where many brands fall very short.
The first step is to set a schedule and stick to it. Your followers need to know where and when they should expect to find new content from you, and rely on you to produce that material consistently. Failing to do so on a regular basis will absolutely have a negative impact on your results, as you will be unable to carve out a clear space in your customers’ busy weeks.
Developing content clearly in line with and related to your brand identity is another place where some brands fail to be consistent. Many brands fall into the trap of analyzing social media trends and following them religiously regardless of their application to your industry. Just because people like funny pictures of cats doesn’t mean that your Facebook should be full of them. Shares and likes are great, but keep in mind that the ultimate purpose of your social media content is to affect awareness and ultimately drive sales. Now, if you can post a funny cat picture that also includes your brand in some intuitive way, maybe you’re on to something.
5. Tailor your content to your followers and audience
Just as important as developing content that relates to your brand is building a library of content that is targeted at your exact audience. Understanding the demographics of your brand appeal is incredibly important when designing a content marketing program.
The first step is to do some research. Facebook analytics are a good place to start, as they’ll give you some basic information on who’s interacting with your posts. Consider using a survey site like UserReport that will allow you to get information on what your customers are looking for directly from the source. Ask the following initial questions about your users, and use that information to target your marketing more effectively:
- Are they men or women?
- How old are they?
- Are they in a particular industry?
- What’s their average education level?
- What’s their income range?
6. Respond and engage
When building a social media strategy, it’s critical to continuously return to this central point: the purpose of your social media platforms is to build awareness of your brand, provide your audience with value in exchange for their time, and ultimately improve your bottom line.
Approaching social media with those three elements in mind leads to some natural conclusions. It’s great to have a lot of likes or follows, but what’s even more important is an engaged audience. Likes and follows are just one way of keeping score, in a vacuum they don’t mean anything. Just having an additional individual like your brand leads to no real value for you, what you want is for that person to interact with your brand or be reminded of your brand whenever they log on.
This means that a central part of any effective social strategy will include engaging your audience and responding to them whenever possible. Encourage people to share and interact with your comment by being responsive to people who do share and comment. Answer any questions you receive through your social outlets, and feel free to interact with your following directly in the comment thread on your posts. Ask your followers questions, and create posts that are thought-provoking and invite conversation. If a follower comes up with a particularly great idea, turn it into another piece of content and give them some of the credit!
If a follower has a complaint, a personal response and a little humor can go a long way.
7. Inject your brand tastefully – and be candid about it
In the world of social marketing, nothing is more of a turn off than a brand that relentlessly promotes itself. When developing any social material, always return to that central question: does this serve my audience? Does it give them something that they want or need, and will they appreciate my effort to make their life better?
Of course, your brand needs to get something out of that equation as well, which is why it’s so important to inject your brand in a tasteful manner. Weave your brand identity into activities that are already social and fun. Never underestimate the intelligence of your audience, they really understand what’s going on, and it’s more than appropriate to be clear about the promotion that you’re doing. If anything, they’ll appreciate the honesty and be more willing to tolerate periodic bouts of purely promotional material.
This is what tasteful brand promotion looks like!
8. Test and record your strategies
Marking isn’t a fixed process, it’s one that’s constantly evolving. Any good program will change with trial and error, so it’s important to approach your content marketing like a scientist. Create an initial plan and execute it clearly, but don’t stick with it just because that’s what you’ve always done in the past. Test and record your different strategies to learn what’s working and what isn’t.
Monitor what other top brands are doing on social media to get new ideas and learn from their successes and failures. Try new things out, and keep a close eye on what seems to get the best response from your following.
9. Repeat strategies that work and trash those that don’t
Once you’ve tested and recorded the results of your various social media marketing tactics, you’ll start to develop a reliable data set that will indicate what’s working and what isn’t. Trust your data, and make changes based on it!
Remember, your core job as a brand on social media is to serve your audience, so there’s simply no point in providing them with things that they don’t particularly care about. You may love that one regular blog topic or cool promotional piece, but if your followers aren’t responding to it then it’s time to leave your pet project behind and move on to something that’s generating more active results. Social media marketing is a process of constant iteration, and being relentlessly results-oriented is a sure way to put your brand in the best possible position to succeed.
10. Consider having your Social Media content written professionally
As an entrepreneur, it’s important to understand your individual strengths and weaknesses. There are ten thousand draws on your time, and only so many hours in the day to do the critical work of your business. Maybe you’re great at coming up with content, but aren’t as familiar with the best ways to position that content socially. Perhaps you’re an excellent writer, but simply have other things that need your attention.
Regardless of the reason, hiring a social media expert or professional content writer to create your social media posts for you can be an effective investment.
11. Don’t underestimate the value of a promoted Facebook post or tweet
Promoted posts are in general an underleveraged tool in the social media marketer’s arsenal. Promoted posts and tweets are posts that a company has paid to make more visible to users in the most straightforward way possible, by appearing directly in their newsfeed. Promoted posts are particularly powerful when it comes to attracting mobile users, as they appear on the mobile Facebook site while Facebook Ads often fail to do so due to formatting issues. Promoting your posts can expose your brand to a wide audience in its initial stages, reducing start-up times and snowballing your following much more rapidly.
Remember, social media is like using a megaphone. Promoted posts let you borrow a bigger one!
This gets to a larger point. When posting, be sure that you have a clear target audience in mind and curate your material towards that audience. If you promote a post or tweet it’s going to be particularly relevant for the mobile audience, so target those users with content or offers that will really interest them!
12. Don’t underestimate the draw of purely social networks (like Pinterest or Instagram)
It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in the “value chain” of social media: make a profile, draw people to that profile, funnel them into my various product offerings. With this kind of two dimensional view, social networks that don’t allow much in the way of clear selling seem to take on less importance. On the contrary, purely social networks like Pinterest and Instagram offer a great place to connect with your following on a more personal level.
This checklist has worked for me. Do you have anything to add? Let us know below.
About the Author: Forrest Hanson is the founder of Lighthouse Strategic Communications, a boutique communications firm that provides affordable public relations and business development services to emerging businesses, based in San Francisco, CA. He specializes in marketing, content creation, brand positioning, and creative problem solving.