Even the most social network-savvy people, when opening a business, can hit a snag when trying to handle social media for their company. If you already regularly use Facebook and Pinterest in your personal life, you may feel like you’re already a social media expert! Still, personal accounts and business accounts have very different sets of rules.
While you may be concerned about your online reputation or how many followers you have, the stakes for a business account are much higher and demand a lot more thought than a one-off tweet or vacation pics on Instagram. Never fear-while this can be hard work; it will become second nature if you follow these simple steps.
Provide More Than Just Text
Social media users are often quickly scrolling through their feeds, scanning for relevant or interesting information. You may only have a fraction of a second to grab their attention. Blocks of text don’t stand out on a social media feed, but compelling visuals can draw a consumer into engagement with your post in an instant.
Photographs and Illustrations
Static images like photographs or custom illustrations can provide needed depth to written content and act as a hook for new followers. A beautiful picture, a compelling work of art, or even a funny meme can increase audience engagement with any text-based content connected to the posted visual. Humans of New York is an excellent example of how imagery can connect to an audience.
What started as a simple photography project where creator Brandon Stanton photographed and interviewed random citizens in New York City has grown into a profitable internationally recognized photoblog and spawned 3 New York Times bestselling books. The HONY page now has over 17 million followers, and they were almost universally drawn in by Stanton’s compelling imagery.
If you have a creative streak and a good understanding of design principles (or you’re willing to learn them), consider doing your own unique photography or artwork. Consider your brand personality when creating your images, including any colors associated with your branding.
If you’re adept at drawing gloomy black and white comic panels, you’re going to need to branch out from your usual style to create artwork for a brand that’s built on sweet pastels. You don’t have to keep your social media accounts completely homogenous. Some variety is needed to be engaging, but all of your imagery should somehow tie back to your brand personality.
If you’re not willing or able to create your images, consider hiring a freelance artist or photographer to create social media images for you. Working with the same artist is ideal, as you’re more likely to get a consistent style that can become associated with your brand.
Don’t like being on camera? Too bad! Videos are an essential part of social media marketing these days. You don’t have to be in front of the camera if you don’t want to, but you may want to consider bringing in a family member, friend, or co-worker who is a natural in front of the camera if you don’t plan on appearing yourself.
Videos are an excellent medium for showing your target audience behind-the-scenes peeks at your business, introducing business owners or staff, responding to Q&As, or explore narratives and values tied to your brand identity. Videos can be a real opportunity to form a genuine emotional connection with your key audience, so don’t be shy.
Extra Space Storage, a Utah-based storage unit company, did this exceptionally well in their marketing video Parenting Advice: 10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Having a Baby. Extra Space Storage well crafted this video for their target audience – storage units are overwhelmingly rented by women between 21 and 55 who are statistically likely to be mothers – and gave potential customers a genuine emotional connection with their company. This heartfelt video was viewed over 2 million times on Youtube and went viral on Facebook, organically introducing its company to many potential followers.
Tailor Your Content to Your Unique Audience
Relating to your target audience is essential for effective social media marketing. It doesn’t help your business to have a massive following of people who have no use for or interest in your product or service, so don’t just post whatever you think is funny and hope for the best!
Take any research you’ve done on your target audience into account when creating content. How does your target audience spend their free time? What are their interests? What challenges are they facing? While converting customer engagement to sales is essential, your social media followers don’t want to feel like a mark.
Taking the time to understand your target audience and communicate effectively with them fosters customer engagement, positive word of mouth referrals and builds brand loyalty.
Consider how influential corporations have changed their marketing during the Covid-19 pandemic. Aggressive sales tactics during a global crisis come across as unempathetic and are likely to turn potential customers away. Successful ad campaigns focused on practical tips, public service, and philanthropy.
Banks posted advice for making stimulus checks and unemployment benefits stretch further. Essential businesses like grocery stores focused content on the heroism of their employees. Small companies posted mental-health check-ins where their customers could connect and share positive messages.
Pandemic marketing provides us with an excellent opportunity to study how successful businesses could connect with their target audiences by being empathetic, genuine, and aware of social, cultural, and political changes that affect their followers.
When it comes to social media, less is more. Statistics are clear that there’s an inverse trend between social media post length and user engagement. While there are exceptions to this rule when you have a devoted base of followers, it’s a good idea to keep most of your social media posts short – if you plan to post to Twitter, less than 280 characters is a must. Minimalist 40 character posts received the most user engagement on Facebook.
For sharing more in-depth content, provide a short snippet highlighting your key points on social media and add a link to your blog for users who want to dive deeper into the subject.
Call to Action
Calls to action need to be brief, precise, and focused – your followers need to understand what you want them to do accurately. A call to action needs to be high energy and engaging – if an audience member doesn’t follow a call to action immediately, they’re likely to keep scrolling and not double back for it. For a compelling CTA, consider the following:
- Keep it short. Single verbs are your friends here – like, subscribe, share, comment, click, download, order – direct your audience to what you want them to do as clearly and succinctly as possible.
- Make it appealing. If there’s nothing that benefits your audience, why would they subscribe to your newsletter or click a link to your blog? Do you offer discounts for subscribers? Is your blog full of helpful tips that appeal to your target audience? Make sure you’ve explained why this action should appeal to your audience.
- Create a sense of urgency. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is an excellent motivator. CTA’s that give time-sensitive prompts like “Today only!” or “While Supplies Last!” are more likely to get immediate engagement rather than bookmarked for later (and let’s be realistic, probably forgotten about).
Feedback from your target audience is golden – it’s a free market research opportunity. Actively engaging with positive and negative feedback makes your audience feel seen and understood.
Closely monitoring feedback gives you the chance to diffuse an unhappy customer before negative reviews spread like wildfire, as well as identify loyal customers who love to talk about and engage with your business. Consider spotlighting loyal customers on your social media page or offering them discounts in exchange for feedback.
Make it easy for your target audience to communicate with you via e-mail, direct message, or social media comments, and respond to their feedback as promptly as possible. Consider posting polls or surveys to get immediate feedback from your customer base. Establishing a reputation for excellent customer service can be the critical difference between a struggling business and a thriving one.
Use Line Breaks
No one wants to read a giant block of text – if this article were written without any line breaks or formatting, you never would have made it this far! Line breaks make text-based posts easier to read, can be used to emphasize key points, and give your social media posts more physical room on your customer’s social media feed, increasing the chance that they’ll see and engage with your post.
Just a tip: it isn’t easy to get clean line breaks on Instagram. The most common method is to use a dash or a period to act as a spacer between caption lines. If this doesn’t work with your brand aesthetic, there are apps you can purchase specifically to format clean captions on Instagram!
Legitimize Your Expertise
You presumably know more about your field of business than the average Joe, so make sure to present yourself as an expert on social media. Network with other experts and influencers in your niche online and consider promoting each other through guest-posting or curated recommendation lists relevant to your niche. Create content that demonstrates how you’re an expert in your niche.
Provide facts and tips about your products or services, showcase videos that show the inner workings of your business, post photos of you engaged deeply with relevant topics. If you own a camping supply store, you want your viewers to see that you’re out hiking trails, white water rafting, and rock climbing. Make sure your content is current – nothing undermines your credibility as fast as posting a “fact” that was debunked three years ago.
If you’re not already using business accounts for all of your business-related correspondence, now is the time to start – having your personal e-mail or phone number listed on your social media accounts undermines your expertise and makes your business look more like a hobby. It’s OK to use Gmail for business purposes, but make sure you have a separate account with a professional handle.
A cross-platform social media presence that consistently produces engaging content can reinforce and humanize your brand, connecting with your target audience in an authentic way. Social media is an effective, low-cost marketing opportunity, and with a little careful planning, social media can be one of your most significant opportunities for business growth.