Suppose you wanted to communicate with a good friend. Would you put a billboard in his front yard? Obviously not, but that simple metaphor illustrates why most businesses fail to see results from their social media effort – they shout, they don’t listen and they are ignored.
Social media today is defined by an array of platforms including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google+ and others. Although these platforms are simple, the strategy behind their use by a business can be elusive and problematic.
Unfortunately for you, there is no simple solution to optimizing a social media strategy and generating an immediate result. To use social media effectively, you must understand it and have a well-designed content strategy that you execute over time.
Social media is built on conversations. Those conversations take place one-to-one between your business and a single customer, repeated tens of thousands or millions of times.
Imagine a funnel as a theoretical model for how we journey along a path to buy goods or services. Social media works in the top of this funnel. There are many different iterations but essentially the theory describes the customer’s journey from awareness to interest to desire to action.
Social media works best in generating awareness and interest in your company’s products or services. Although some types of business can drive sales (the bottom end of the funnel) with social media, for most businesses social media will be most effective at the top of the funnel, generating awareness or interest in your business.
How do you approach mastering social media? Here are some questions and answers to guide you:
1. Who is that person on social media and what would “they” want to talk to you about?
If your business is a law firm, it’s unlikely that “that person” is a 22-year-old who wants to talk about Las Vegas nightclubs. However, that 22-year-old’s mother, who owns a dry cleaning store, may be very interested in hearing about tax benefits for the installation of light-emitting diode lights in her business. And if your law firm specializes in tax practice, well, I think you get my point. The conversation must be relevant to the person you are targeting and about a topic that is relevant to your business.
2. Remember who is in charge.
The consumer. Your follower. They have absolute control over the effectiveness of your strategy and your data will prove it. Nobody shares your post? Nobody likes your video? They have just sent you a message: It’s irrelevant to them and they ignored it. With social media, you have the enormous benefit of a data-rich environment. You will know within seconds whether a post worked or not and then what to do next.
The most important social media measure is engagement. Engagement for Facebook for example is the combination of likes, comments and shares. Many companies make the mistake of focusing only on the number of likes. The current thinking is instead to focus on all three. Many leading companies accept fewer likes for higher levels of comments and shares. That makes sense. Would you rather have a customer know about your business or talk about your business?
3. What are you going to say?
The keyword is relevance. Is your post relevant to your targeted consumers and is it something they would find relevant from your business? To my example of the tax law firm sharing content about tax advantages for LED lights, that is relevancy. Is it interesting? Well, to the business owner yes, but to everyone else, probably not. So while you need to share content that is relevant to your audience, it must also be interesting to them. The goal should be to post content that is interesting and relevant to the point that they will comment on it or share it.
Frequency matters. You cannot say something only once and expect engagement. Think of how often you peruse your social media. If you are like most people, you probably check a few times a day. As a business, this means that you need a content strategy that streams your content over time.
A content strategy is a plan of what type of content you will post over a period of time and on which social media platform. Good strategies have defined goals and your content strategy should be no different.
Customer reviews and comments are the most powerful insights any business can have and with the power of information, you can also peer into the insights that customers are sharing about your competition. Remember social media is two-way communication; your customers are speaking, so listen to them.
Social media can be a powerful tool in your marketing tool bag … but only if you understand how it works and have a strategy to use it effectively.
Robert Rippee is CEO of Elysian, a Las Vegas-based business development and consulting firm that helps select brands to pivot their marketing strategy. He has more than 20 years of marketing experience and was senior vice president of marketing for The Venetian and the Palazzo. He is a frequent lecturer at UNLV and has also been on the faculty of the graduate school at the University of Georgia.