How can my business get good results from social media?
Recently a number of business owners have come to us confused about social media and its benefits to their business. On the one hand, social media is appealing – it requires very little cost to set up a profile and ‘everyone seems to be using social media, don’t they?’
What to expect
The challenge then arises that, there are lots of different social networks and each one is slightly different in its followers and how they like to engage with it.
Another challenge is that your social media profile is a bit like a child – invariably hungry (for content), wanting immediate attention and favouring engaging and interesting interactions. This requires a time commitment and responsiveness which businesses sometimes underestimate and then struggle to accommodate.
It also requires careful planning so the content will indeed stimulate engagement and present the business and its products/services in a favourable light. Social media followers are more interested in stories and fun and interesting content, rather than being sold too. Businesses sometimes struggle to meet that demand and generate engagement on their company pages.
And with lots of social media channels and people broadcasting on them, it’s getting harder to stand out and build a following.
But if you do get it right, social media can indeed help you build a loyal band of followers. If you’ve selected a channel that’s frequented heavily by people who fit your customer profile, this can also help to motivate them to buy your products and services.
Integrated with other elements of your marketing toolkit, such as promotions, events, guides, articles, corporate social responsibility etc social media can give your profile an impressive boost. It can enable you to become visible to a much broader audience and generate positive noise about your company and its offering.
It can also help with your website’s search engine optimisation to create more links, shares and traffic to help it impress search engines with their rankings.
Another plus point is that you can track what engagement you receive through the analytics that are available with each network.
But will all this bring a good return on the time invested? Well, it depends.
How to generate a good return from social media
It depends on what you want social media to contribute to your business and that’s why having clear objectives in the first place is vital. These will guide you on what your involvement with social media should be and enable you to measure its effectiveness more easily over time.
Here are some examples of social media objectives, we’ve seen businesses formulate:
- Attracting new customers (which meet a certain profile).
- Raising interest and enquiry volumes and quality for a particular product/service
- Raising awareness of, and engagement with a specific key message, event, promotion etc.
10 ways to create an effective social media presence for your business
Once you have set your objectives, and to ensure your social media approach has a real chance of achieving them, it is essential to:
1. Be clear about the profile of the people you want to engage with – these may be your existing customers, they may be target customers, they may be other stakeholders. Whoever they are you need to understand their ‘social media’ preferences – both in terms of which networks they frequent but also content they like to engage with.
2. Plan what content will most engage their interests. Remember that people don’t want to be sold to 24/7 but will engage with content that adds value in some way or is interesting and appealing to them. See what your current customers engage with on their social networks
3. Integrate the social media with other marketing activities you are doing
4. Be responsive to comments and feedback you get, as quickly as possible. If people think you’re only broadcasting and not listening they may vent their frustration. Ensure the alerts for your social media notifications come into someone who can respond quickly … and appropriately.
5. Use the right tone of voice and content for the social media channel you are focusing on and your brand (a business tone for LinkedIn and a more social tone for Facebook, Instagram etc)
6. Use the analytics that comes with the social media channel to find out which updates created the most positive engagement and develop more of these in content, style and timing.
7. As well as quantity of followers, comments, likes etc – also assess the quality. Are you getting engagement from the types of people/customers you want?
8. Understand how your competitors use social media – you want to distinguish from them where possible and create a superior and more engaging presence.
9. Track engagement beyond the social media’s analytics into enquiries and sales. This will help you to get a fuller picture of how social media is performing. In your sales process, capture details of how people heard of you. Track social media traffic into your website.
10. If a channel is working really well for you, think about the advertising options it offers – in order to reach a larger audience. Make the most of the profiling criteria most ad selections give to ensure your ads are presented to the people you want, and you don’t waste money on an audience which isn’t suitable. Do a test campaign and evaluate the results.
Some final pointers
A couple of final points to emphasise are that it’s unlikely social media alone will bring in new business. Many people now canvass a number of different channels before deciding to purchase a product/ service and this typically involves:
- search (on the likes of Google) so it’s important your website is optimised well for key phrases they’ll type in,
- review sites/recommendations
- word of mouth opinions from acquaintances
Another thing to bear in mind is that, as people become information-overloaded, pictures and videos are being favoured over words. If you can build good quality engaging images and videos into your social media content, you will help to generate greater impact.
So whilst social media may at first appeal as a ‘cheap’ marketing option, to get a decent return it needs time and an investment in good quality interesting content that will attract and impress the followers you want. Like other elements of the marketing toolkit, it requires careful planning and dedicated resources. Done well it can really help a business to compete well and drive more interest and enquiries to its offering.
The question is, are you prepared to invest? Can you afford not to?
This article was first published in 2016 but has been updated for current times.