Social media is more than just an option to consider for businesses of all sizes: it’s an essential way to promote your brand and build credibility in an increasingly digital world. There are many different social media platforms out there, and while your business doesn’t have to be on each one, it’s important to have some kind of presence that shows up on the search engines.
Social media allows you to connect with your customers, clients and peers in a way that was impossible a decade ago. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn and Snapchat have radically changed the way we interact, think about ourselves, learn about the world, and do business. But just having a presence isn’t enough. For your business to really use social media to full advantage, you need to have a winning strategy. The alternative isn’t just being left behind: if you use social media wrongly, the impact on your brand could be disastrous.
Choose the right platform
By immediately launching across every social media platform you can think of, you’re likely to end up spreading yourself too thinly. Consider your target market’s demographic: which platform are they most likely to favor? If you’re thinking about business to business communication, then LinkedIn and Twitter are the ones to go for. Instagram and Snapchat appeal to a younger, more switched-on audience. Facebook is used almost universally and is a good middle of the road option.
Tailor your content to the medium
Different kinds of content do better on different platforms too. Cross posting the exact same posts on several different platforms is a common error; you’ll appeal to more people if you play to the strengths of each format and create different content for different channels. One of the best social media campaigns of 2016 was by Barkbox, with their ‘Congratulations! You’re a dog person!’ videos. As the company’s customers are indeed dog people they naturally wanted to look at cute dogs, and the company chose YouTube and Instagram because they recognized the popularity of cute dog videos on those platforms.
Don’t just give it the hard sell
The key to using social media is to keep it social. Just constantly pushing your brand or your product can be a turn-off. Instead, consider your audience’s interests and post content that you’ll hope they’ll find entertaining and useful. Miami-based real estate developer Axel Preuss-Kuhne uses his Twitter and Medium accounts to post links and articles on a wide range of subjects that his followers will find interesting, from local sports to health, fitness and world politics. As a businessman with strong links to Central America, Kuhne also posts in English and Spanish, again taking his target market very much into account and going that extra mile to reach out to them.
Engage with your community
On a similar note, remember that most social media are a two-way street. The more that you can engage with your followers the stronger their sense of connection with your brand will become. Ask questions, create polls and reply to comments- even negative ones. Showing that you can take criticism and act upon it will earn you respect and trust. Look to your wider community as well, by liking and sharing the posts of others. Commenting respectfully on others’ feeds will widen awareness of your brand and can help cross-promotion. Getting to know your customer base better via social media is also invaluable and cost-effective market research.
Be human- but be careful
Your content should be brand appropriate, but it’s also good to show a human face and even cultivate a somewhat quirky image if that’s appropriate. You want to stand out from the crowd, and you don’t
achieve that by being bland and playing safe. That said, you should always maintain strict boundaries of good taste. One of the worst social media fails of 2016 was a video by San Antonio’s Miracle Mattresses, advertising a ‘Twin Towers’ sale on the anniversary of 9/11. This showed employees screaming and falling backwards onto two stacks of mattresses. Predictably this sparked outrage when shown on the company’s Facebook account, and prompted its swift withdrawal and a full apology.
A social media account gives your business authority and legitimacy. Just remember to keep it up to date to show that you’re still a going concern, and to always ask yourself these questions: Is it entertaining? Is it useful? Is it in good taste? And does it appeal to the target audience? By following these guidelines and engaging with your community as much as possible, social media can be a big winner for your business.