9 Rules for Social Media Engagement
Once you know the target audience you want to reach on social media, what social networks they are active on, and the social networks you will use to reach your target audience, here are 9 social media basics to help you get your social media presence off to a good start.
1. Complete Your Profile
Many of the people who see your business (or personal) profile on a social network are seeing you or your business for the first time.
What they see and read – their first impression – will influence what they think about your business and/or you personally. That first impression will play an important role in determining whether they want to know more about you, or not.
At bare minimum:
- Display a professional profile photo. Also, a cover image where applicable (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
- Complete all of the information fields. Provide as much information about your business (or you) as allowed. Ensure your website address, contact information, other social networks are listed. Each network is different so where you are able to include more information, take advantage of this.
- Create a distinct web address for each social network. Aim for a web address that is the same across all of your business social networks. For example, twitter.com/JoesPlumbing and facebook.com/JoesPlumbing. This will make it easier for you to remember and share with others. It also makes it easier for others to remember and share. Some social networks setup your web address as soon as you create your account. For others, you may need to take specific steps to make this happen. Look for terms like ‘username’ (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.) or ‘public profile URL’ (LinkedIn).
2. Ensure Consistent Branding
Make sure your branding represents your business well and that it is consistent across all your online networks and print materials. Visitors should be able to easily tell that your website, your social networks, and print advertising are the same business (or person). There should be a ‘family resemblance.’ (Think Nike, Apple, McDonald’s.) For more on the importance of branding read this.
Consistent branding also means that your profile picture should be consistent across your various social networks.
If it’s your logo, then your logo should be current and professional looking (sharp and clear, not blurry). If it’s your photo, use the same one across all social networks where your personal photo appears. As with your logo, a professional looking photo.
Remember, you want people to be able to easily recognize your brand (or you) on not just one social network but everywhere your branding or image appears. Including when they meet you or visit your office or store.
3. Share Content Regularly
Share updates to your social networks regularly. ‘Regularly’ means different things for different networks. Social media management tools like Buffer (my favourite!), Hootsuite, and others help make it easy to schedule content so it appears in a timely fashion on your social networks. If you only use a Facebook Page. the Facebook Post Scheduler is an excellent tool for scheduling content in advance.
4. Respond Quickly To Comments & Questions
Respond to any visitor comments and inquiries made on your social media accounts in a timely manner. Again, each network is somewhat different as to what is acceptable but as with most things customer related, faster (within a few hours) is always better.
In an article by Jay Bayer on the topic of social media response times and expectations states, “Among respondents to The Social Habit who have ever attempted to contact a brand, product, or company through social media for customer support, 32% expect a response within 30 minutes. Further, 42% expect a response within 60 minutes.”
5. Share Content Your Customers Value
Share content that customers and potential customers want to see, read, listen to and/or watch. Social media – even social media advertising – is not like traditional advertising. Content shared needs to be seen as interesting, helpful, inspirational and/or valuable to those you are hoping to reach. If it isn’t, those you hope to reach will tune you out. Worse yet, they may unfollow you, mark your messages as spam or block your content from appearing in their newsfeed.
6. Link To Your Website
At least occasionally share content from your website that customers and prospective customers will value. Add an appropriate image or video to the post, where one is not auto-generated, and include a link back to the area where the content is available on your website. This may be a link to:
- a relevant blog article
- a frequently asked question
- an opportunity to download a free resource
- a ‘how to’ training video or informational video
- contest information
- interesting product information and tips
- sales, coupons or special pricing information
- other information that will be interesting, helpful or valuable to your target audience
7. Use Images & Videos
Use images and videos to help get your message across. Images and videos help what you share on social media ‘pop’. Images and videos make the difference between someone seeing or noticing your content or not noticing it at all.
8. Prepare to Pay
To be successful in reaching your audience on social media, be prepared to spend money to promote what you share, at least on networks like Facebook. This will be par for the course in the future. But for now, this is essential for most businesses using Facebook.
Social media may have started out free for business, but it is rapidly becoming less so. In particular, most businesses with Facebook Pages must now pay to reach even their fans in the Facebook newsfeed. The flip side of this is Pages also have the opportunity, by paying, to reach audiences that are not connected with their Page or even their fans. Paying for Facebook actually, opens up new opportunities to target and reach more people.
9. Persevere – Don’t Quit
Real progress or growth with social media is a slow, steady and sometimes painful process. This is especially true when you are just getting started with social media. Like most anything of value, social media requires time, attention and especially perseverance to produce results.
Social media has the potential to help build brand name recognition and amplify word-of-mouth advertising for your business. Both important pieces that can help sales, especially in a local environment.
However, reaching your target audience requires more than setting up your business profile on a few choice social networks.
Not A Quick Or Magical Fix
Having a social media presence won’t magically or quickly:
- Build awareness of your brand or business.
- Drive traffic to your website.
- Generate sales for your business.
Like other types of marketing, to see results, social media requires time, planning, patience, persistence and, more and more, an investment of cash.
Not Living Up To Your Promises Will Hurt Your Business
It also means your products and services need to live up to your brand promises. If they don’t, social media is likely to hurt your business rather than help it … and this is true whether you are active on social media or not.
People share online about their experiences with products and services, whether the businesses representing those products and services are online or not.
A Cost-Effective Marketing Tool
That said, social media is a cost-effective marketing tool for most businesses, small and large alike.
Over time and well executed, social media can help grow brand-name recognition, your reputation and customer loyalty. When your brand is more widely known, with a good reputation, you are more likely to be in the running for new business than those businesses who are not known in your service area.
7 Important Areas When Managing Your Social Networks
If you are new to social media, or you are not seeing the success you would like, here are 7 important areas to pay attention to when managing your social networks:
1. Know your target audience.
- Understand who the target audience is that you want to reach.
- Learn what social networks they are most active on.
2. Choose wisely the social networks you will be active on.
- Don’t try to do it all – unless you have the resources to do so.
- Learn about the social networks you choose to be active on and how they work.
- Choose the right social networks for your business and your available resources.
3. Set up complete social network profiles.
- Create a branded website address for each social network. Ideally, one that is consistent across all of your business networks (e.g. twitter.com/JoesPlumbing, facebook.com/JoesPlumbing).
- Use high quality images for your profile picture, cover image, etc.
- Use your branding elements (fonts, colours, images, tag lines) where at all possible. These allow your business profile to clearly stand out and be recognizable as belonging to your business.
- Complete any about areas and descriptions.
- Include your website address, contact information and the addresses of your other social networks.
4. Share content that appeals to your target audience.
- Share content that your target audience will find helpful, interesting, valuable and/or humorous.
- Post regularly to each social network. Research what works best for each different social network and share accordingly. Monitor and adjust as appropriate.
- Use visuals that are high quality and text that is well-written.
- Use Social Media Management Tools like Hootsuite or Buffer for scheduling in advance content to share. If your only network is Facebook, you can schedule content in advance. Look for the ‘Publishing Tools’ link at the top of your Facebook Page, to the right of ‘Insights.’
- Monitor and track activity on your social media accounts using analytic/insight features provided by the network itself and/or by using a social media management tool like Hootsuite or Buffer.
5. Respond to those who comment on what you share.
- Respond to comments and inquiries in a timely manner. Each social network is different and consumer expectations are high in this area.
- ‘Like’ (Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+) or ‘favourite’ (Twitter) comments, where appropriate.
- Don’t ignore challenging or awkward questions or comments. Handle them with tact and diplomacy and avoid becoming defensive or being seen as rude. Tact and humility will win respect for your brand.
6. Invest time and money to reach your goals.
- Social media may appear to be free but it really isn’t. More and more an investment of cash, in addition to time, is needed to really see results, especially when it comes to Facebook (business) Pages.
- For Facebook, invest cash to get your best content, from your target audience’s perspective, into the newsfeed of your target audience and beyond. If you don’t do this, you may be spinning your wheels and not getting anywhere. To reach fans in their own newsfeed, most businesses will need to pay to promote at least some of their content.
- Consider advertising to expand the reach of your business on social media.
7. Make it easy for people to know where to find you online.
- Add your social networks as clickable links to your email signature.
- Have icons and links to your social networks on your website.
- Show links to your key social networks on each of your different social networks.
- Include your website and social network addresses on your print material (including statements, invoices, quotes, newsletters, flyers, business cards.)
The beauty of social media is that you can share content that is helpful to those you hope to reach, while at the same time building brand name recognition for your business and greater trust with your target audience. This allows your target audience to see you as a resource and makes it much more likely they’ll think of you when they’re ready to buy what you are offering.
All other things being equal, persistence, not quitting and pressing forward, even when we don’t see the results we are hoping for as quickly as we like, is critical for the small business owner working to build their business and brand.
Persistence is needed whether the strategies we use to help build our business and brand name recognition include a website, permission based email marketing, social media, newspaper advertising, mobile ads, networking events or any other kind of marketing strategy.
Time Is Needed To See Results
Most, if not all, marketing initiatives require time to produce results. Rarely do any of these, or even a combination of these, provide magical overnight results.
Without persistence we are likely to jump from one type of marketing strategy to another trying to build our business but never allowing sufficient time for any one strategy to produce results. It’s kind of like planting seeds in a field and then digging the seeds up before they’ve had time to produce a crop. It’s a huge waste of time and resources.
Certainly some marketing strategies we may recognize early on, or even further down the road, as unproductive and needing to be halted. Possibly, an investment of time and money we shouldn’t have made in the first place or one that has been impacted by changes in the marketplace and is outside of our control.
Lack Of Success Often Tied to Unrealistic Expectations & Time Frame
But often, a lack of success may be because our expectations and time frame are unrealistic and we haven’t given the strategy the time or the attention needed to be successful.
Putting an advertisement in one or two issues of a newspaper or on social media, and then ‘pulling the plug’ because ‘we didn’t see any results’ is an example of this.
Frequent Exposure Needed To Gain Awareness
Frequent exposure is usually needed before potential customers even begin to notice an advertisement, let alone consider taking any kind of buying action. This tends to be true for both online and print advertising, unless you are already a highly successful and well known brand and/or you are offering a highly attractive sale or discount on your products or services.
Of course, even a great sale or discount won’t do much for you if the product or service you are selling is not one that people think they want or need, or if your reputation in the marketplace is lacking.