But for many business owners and brand execs unfamiliar with using social media as a marketing tool, it can appear quite complex and intimidating. You may feel as though you need to become an expert on the intricacies of each platform in order to succeed with your audience online. It can feel very overwhelming, especially if you have limited time and/or budget to get you started.
Fear not! Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be on every social media platform out there in order to get noticed. Choosing the right channel(s) for your brand can lead you to your core audience, help build a rapport with them, and solidify your presence in the world of digital marketing without exhausting all of your resources.
The first step in choosing the right channel is understanding what options you have. Social media is defined by its ability to allow users to share messages, information, ideas, and digital content on an online platform. By that definition alone, there are dozens of sites that come to mind that would be classified as social media. In order to make this process a little easier, let’s focus on six of the most popular websites/apps used today.
One of the best ways to figure out where to start posting is taking a step back to define your “brand.” Depending on the function of your brand, you need to be sure of the message you want to put out into the world: have a concrete idea of what exactly your company stands for as well as what you want any potential customer to do for you.
You also need to be aware of what kind of content you can produce in relation to the product/service you are providing. Is your product visually appealing? Having a gallery of photos and videos stocked up will make it much easier to start with platforms like Instagram and YouTube. Do you have a lot of blog content ready to share? Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are great sites to share and promote links and long-form content. Some advice: having a document such as a visual brand manual allows you to be consistent across any marketing channels.
When considering the variety of social media platforms to choose from, it’s crucial to consider where your target audience is hanging out online. The first step you need to take is mapping out your target personas, or fictional representations of the real-life people you imagine buying your product and consuming your content.
Once you have your target personas, it should be fairly easy to figure out where they’re spending most of their time. You can base a lot of these assumptions on demographics and interests or by using web metrics from services like Google Analytics to better understand where your users are already sharing your content.
Are you a business-to-consumer (B2C) organization? If the answer to that is yes, chances are you would probably like to explore a more creative approach and want your marketing style to distinguish your brand from the competition. One of the best ways to do that is to relate directly to your consumer with content that appeals to them. You can afford to be more relatable and laid back, optimizing appropriate platforms for your target demographic. Showcasing a “human side” instead of coming off as just another business looking for their money is key here, as you want to stand out from the crowd.
Platforms such as TikTok allow you to hop on appropriate trends and show off the fun-loving side of your brand. For example, the popular account @pudgywoke regularly features the user’s chihuahua, Pudgy, and his strange bark. Lovingly referred to as an “owa owa” sound, commenters frequently ask other TikTok accounts for their animal’s version of an “owa owa.” Here we have Aquarium of the Pacific, a California aquarium, responding to one of these comments with a video of their Sea Lion. The video received tens of thousands of likes within one day.
If you’re marketing towards a more mature audience, conduct yourself accordingly online as well. Customize your content and language to appeal to anyone you want.
What if you’re a business-to-business (B2B) company? If you are trying to market yourself to other businesses, you obviously need to be interacting with those businesses online. There seems to be this idea that marketing to other businesses online can’t be fun or inventive. And though LinkedIn is great for networking and putting yourself out there digitally, you are more than welcome to explore other social media sites as well to find other businesses in your field. Remember, even if you’re doing business with other companies, those decision-makers are still people too. There's a high likelihood they also use social media, so why not try to reach them online? For example, you can explore channels that rely on hashtags to target a specific topic or type of business. Find users that may fall into your target demographic, and start the conversation.
Wondering how to interact? Just stick with the basics (social media is meant to be social)!
Social media is a two-way street and, like in any relationship, if you're doing all the talking and none of the listening, you'll find it impossible to maintain an audience.
A great way to figure out the potential for certain social networks is to audit your competitors’. Considering most websites include links to their social media profiles, they shouldn’t be too difficult to track down and follow. If they’re active with their accounts, hopefully it's for a good reason. They're likely seeing a return in interest and deciding to consciously and consistently invest in that channel. This is a helpful indicator to you in your search for appropriate platforms.
On the other hand, if your competitors are not taking advantage of certain platforms, there may be some valuable info for you to uncover. Maybe they tried a channel, but it turned out it wasn't quite right for their brand. Or maybe they haven't tried at all, and you may be able to discover an untapped source of consumers before they do. Either way, you should proceed with caution while understanding the potential challenge/opportunity of a less competitive space.
It’s helpful to think of social media as one part of your overall marketing strategy. You can use it to help accomplish some of your marketing goals by extending your reach to new potential customers. Some of the most common goals for social media are increasing brand awareness, generating sales/leads, increasing community engagement, growing your audience, and increasing web traffic. Being aware of your ultimate goal is going to dictate the way you conduct yourself online and help you decide what strategies to use. These goals can also change over time or vary by social media channel.
Once your team has come to a consensus on the role your social media channels will play, you have to set specific, attainable goals you want each of those channels to achieve. You can set and measure these with key performance indicators (KPI’s). Generally speaking, the most important KPI’s to focus on are reach, engagement, conversions (turning page views into sales), and customer loyalty (returning customers/active followers). Tracking these things will help guide your social media strategy over time. You can always change up your approach to better accomplish your objectives.
The secret to organic social media success is consistency and commitment. It requires a long-term strategy. The objective is to build a lifelong relationship with your users wherein they will continually see and interact with your posts. Caution: be sure to incorporate enough time to plan, design, and execute any content in your social media strategy.
Let’s look at Instagram as an example. One of the best ways to stay consistent with your content is to plan ahead. Content Calendars let you figure out your posts weeks in advance as well as online social scheduling tools like Hootsuite, Sprout, Later, etc. Taking the extra time to plan out your posts is really going to save you some headaches down the road. No one wants to spend Christmas Eve trying to figure out the perfect post to send out the next day.
Crafting a successful social media channel involves several different tasks: content creation, publishing, engagement, and analysis. Finding the right balance performing each of these tasks is crucial. The less time you’re focused on creating daily content, the more your focus can be on engaging with a potential audience, the primary technique in driving attention to your account. Using relevant hashtags, you can seek out posts and accounts to interact with, in hopes of gaining interest in your own account. Consistently liking, commenting, sharing, and following are bound to get you noticed by the right audience. If your published content is a sign meant to advertising and represent your brand, that engagement is the crazy sign spinner on the sidewalk drawing eyes toward your direction!
A word to the wise: it is also important not to spread yourself too thin online. If people can comment or send a message to you, they are going to expect a response. You have to be sure to devote time throughout the day to interact with any engagements on your page, and apps like Facebook penalize pages that don’t respond to messages. That being said, you don’t need to stay online 24/7 or respond within seconds. Making sure to get back to interested parties in a timely manner is a part of social media use, and it often garners a more positive reception. Being available to deal with inappropriate or spam comments is also a responsibility that comes with any comment section. Make sure you only have accounts that you can handle.
Finally, before you decide on your favorite channel, it is imperative that you research how your content is being interpreted and controlled by the site itself. The big goal is to have other people share your content for you. That’s how things spread quickly and far on social media. Immediate engagement-- content receiving an influx of likes and comments as soon as it's published-- really helps start the virality engine. Every social media platform relies on a specific algorithm to help determine which content is presented to which user in what order. Most of the time, social networks are going to prioritize content from a user’s family and friends, so you’re going to have more success if you understand how to get your own content onto their feed. It’s also worth noting that almost every social media platform is guilty of changing up their algorithm every few months or so, often without warning. Staying up to date on the latest changes is going to prevent your content from flopping and give you a leg up on any competitors who aren’t as in the loop.
Now that you’ve figured out your message, your audience, your goals, and your strategy, let’s go over those aforementioned options in order to find the best fit for your brand.
Instagram is the perfect platform for visual content. The photo-sharing app really helps establish a visual aesthetic for your brand and lets you connect with potential followers using hashtags. There are a surprising amount of options to choose from when it comes to customizing your page, so you can experiment with what you think your audience is going to be visually attracted to. Building up a follower base takes time, but once you get it going, it becomes a great way to show off your brand to the world through images, graphics, and short videos. It also has the potential for a lot of “influencer” connections.
Curious to know if Instagram is right for your brand?
TikTok is the hottest new form of social media today amongst members of the GenZ and late Millennial generations. This video-based platform is gaining notoriety all across the online world with users flexing their creative and comedic muscles to produce 15-60 second videos. Unlike other platforms, TikTok users view and interact with videos on their “For You Page.” An algorithm selects videos based on followed accounts, trends, hashtags, and previously liked videos. However, the app is not suitable for every brand as you have to maintain a playful and casual attitude.
Facebook serves as a kind of a catch-all for social media. Users can write longer updates, post photos, and videos, and share content from other pages. The user base here is mainly comprised of women ages 30-50. For the individual user, Facebook is a place to stay up to date with friends, family, and favorite brands. For businesses, you can share almost all of your content with your followers. This is great for updates and rerouting to your website. The Messenger function is a really easy way to answer any questions or inquiries from followers or interested parties in a one-on-one session. It's also worth noting that Facebook owns Instagram and WhatsApp, extending its social media empire to access their user demographics as well.
Twitter started out as a microblogging site. Users had 140 characters or less to express their ideas, tell jokes, share comments, etc. Although the character count has increased and the ability to share media content has improved, Twitter remains the spot for quick thoughts and updates. Brands often use Twitter for business or product updates, link shares, Q&A’s, and trend tracking. Twitter is also one of the top platforms for viral potential. Its “Retweet” function makes Tweets easy to share to followers’ feeds and allows a Tweet to reach an exponential amount of users.
YouTube is a great choice if you have ideas for short and/or long form videos. Product reviews, tutorials, vlogs, and commercials can be posted to YouTube as well as easily shared or embedded in separate websites. The majority of YouTube viewers are men ages 18-30, so it’s a top contender if your target audience aligns with that demographic. Keep in mind if you want to have a strong presence on YouTube, be sure you are going to be able to provide quality videos on a regular basis.
LinkedIn is the spot for professionals looking to connect with other professionals. It’s crucial for B2B as it legitimizes your company in the eyes of the customers, employees, competitors, and partners. It provides a digital phone book in today’s business world. You can use it to search for people that you want to hire, consult, or advertise to. It makes connecting with new businesses easy for partnerships or sales leads. The main feed is very similar to that of Facebook’s and gives users the ability to share many different kinds of content. In attempts to keep up with some of the more popular social media channels, LinkedIn has also added Live and Story features to its interface with an indication of more changes to come. And although its landscape has changed over the past couple of years, LinkedIn still serves as the site where you can connect with the right people.
(Yeah, we're curious about Clubhouse too! Stay tuned for our blog recounting our very first experience on the most exclusive social media app yet.)
So we’ve covered how to match different social media platforms to the needs of your brand... what comes next? Now it’s time to focus on the one or two channels best suited to your needs and prepare your content.
Whichever route do you choose to go down, be specific with how you are going to reach your audience and draw them in. Starting up a new social media account always takes time, so don’t be discouraged when you don’t see a crazy amount of new followers within the first few weeks. Familiarize yourself and your team with the message and image you want to communicate online. Make sure everyone knows the basics of the platform and has access to the same content. Solidify attainable goals given your resources. You can always alter them or change your course of action if you aren’t getting the results you’ve expected. Once you feel you have mastered your first social media platform, then you can try to find the next best fit.
If you find that you still need some help getting started or decide that you personally don’t have the time or man power to devote to your social media accounts, send a message our way! The Steel Croissant team can give you the tools and expertise you need to establish your online presence.
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