For better or worse, every brand that wants to flourish in the digital age has to make a commitment to social media. These brand/social-media relationships can be beautiful and bountiful, or they can be strained and awkward. The trick is figuring out how to actually connect with your customers.
Social media has been a mainstay of brand/consumer engagement for over a decade. For most of that time, however, most companies have treated social media as just another promotional channel. It’s been a one-way street; just another way to deliver consumers to advertisers. But building a strong social media presence is about a lot more than just tossing out the occasional picture or link to your website. It’s about engaging with your customers in ways that are meaningful, memorable, positive, and useful.
We’ve put together ten research-backed tips on how to get the most out of your social media channels.
People want real, meaningful interaction with brands. Authenticity, two-way communication is key. When they get a whiff of automation, they’re headed elsewhere. Brands used to go to great pains to mask the people behind their social media accounts, but it turns out that’s the opposite of what audiences want.
Have a personality and make it fun, but take it beyond snark. Customers don’t want to be sold to, they want to be entertained and engaged. Your goal should be to foster a connection and sense of trust between you and your customers. According to a 2018 Sprout Social Report, “When customers feel connected to brands, more than half (57%) will increase their spending with that brand and 76% will buy from them over a competitor.”
Wendy’s is famously good at this. Their sassy Twitter account has over three million followers and has garnered them loads of positive press on tweets gone viral.
Know your audience & where to find them. All the engaging content in the world isn’t going to do you any good if you and your customers aren’t in the same place. According to Forbes, 1 in 4 users are following brands on social media from which they might make a purchase. The first step is finding out which channels your customers use most and beefing up your presence there.
Pick a couple of social media outlets and focus your efforts. You’re better off building a strong presence on your customers’ preferred platform than you are spreading yourself thin trying to have a presence on every channel out there.
Let’s be honest, if your target demographic is in their 50’s, you don’t need to worry about Snapchat. On the other hand, if you’re selling longboards to teenagers, your company LinkedIn account shouldn’t be on your list of priorities.
You know who your target audience is, the question is: Where do you find them?
According to data compiled by Spredfast in their 2018 Social Audience Guide, Instagram is the place to be if you’re courting the teen/young adult market. 53% of teens say Instagram is the best platform to learn about new products.
The Millenial and GenX demographic are most likely to share content on Facebook, which is still the behemoth with over two billion monthly active users. Meanwhile, YouTube, with one billion monthly active users, reaches more 18-49 year olds than any cable network in the U.S.
It’s important not to discount other platforms, however. 80% of millennials say that Pinterest helps them find things they want to buy and 84% of Twitter users say they use the platform to find coupons, deals, reviews, and ideas.
People are tired of straightforward ads, period. According to SurveyMonkey, “Nearly 3 out of every 4 users (74%) think there are too many ads. The number grows to 78% for adults 35+ years old.”
One of the best ways to get users engaged with your brand is to ask questions, ask for feedback, hold Q&A sessions, ask for insight, just ASK! Whether your posting a poll or a game to test their knowledge, people are more likely to interact with your brand if you invite them to participate. The best way to do that is simply to ask.
As Hubspot points out, there is an art to asking questions on social media. “What’s your name?” or “What’s your email?” is just going to come off as creepy, but “What do you think?” - that’s a winner.
Personality quizzes, trivia games, and polls are all great ways to get your customers involved. Invite your followers to participate with your brand. This can be done with a hashtag or media upload contest, but getting your customers personally involved drives the connection home.
We’re right back to engaging with your customer and being human about it. Making the extra effort to personally respond to your customers will not go unnoticed.
A Wunderman study found “that 79% of consumers ages 18-65 in the US say brands must actively demonstrate ‘they understand and care about me’ before they consider purchasing.”
This means reaching out to customers who @ your brand directly. Reply to their funny tweets, answer their odd questions. People will appreciate the human touch and you might even go viral.
Another great way to engage customers is through Q&A sessions. Offering relevant answers and sparking discussion makes you accessible and fosters a sense of trust between you and your followers.
In a sea of stimuli, you’re going to have to find a way to stand out from the crowd if you want to catch your customers’ eye. Incorporate images, videos, gifs, and cinemagraphs that are unique and eye catching. Augmented reality and 3D photos are another great trend to make use of.
Movement in the form of videos, loops, gifs, and cinemagraphs is big right now. According to a WordStream study, making good use of video on social media is critical. The study found that “marketers who use video grow revenue 49% faster than non-video users.” It also reports, 64% of consumers make a purchase after watching branded videos on social media, and social video generates twelve times more shares than text and images combined.
When it comes to your visuals, go for authenticity over high production quality. Are you sensing a theme here?
Save the super-polished, model laden pics for the Superbowl ad spot. When your customers are browsing Instagram they don’t want a sales pitch, they want to connect.
This two-second video from Vans teasing their partnership with Marvel garnered over half a million views.
Sprout suggests going for team photos or videos, customers photos, and behind-the-scenes videos. Quote photos and infographics are also a great standby that are both relatable and highly shareable.
Talk about your topic, not just your brand. Let’s be honest, there’s only so much you can say about your brand before you start sounding like a broken record. And, again, this isn’t the place for a sales pitch.
Users spend a significant amount of their day on social media platforms which means they’re interested in diversity of content. According to Spredfast, Snapchat users open the app an average of 25 times per day. The average Facebook user spends 35 minutes a day on the site.
It also means that users are looking for content that is relevant and useful. 53% of Instagram users follow brands. 75% of Twitter users get their news from tweets. 67% of Pinterest users check the mobile site while they’re physically in stores, actively shopping… And exactly zero of those users are interested in seeing old-fashioned sales pitches or ten posts a day from your brand that just promotes your newest product.
Take Chobani’s Pinterest, for example. They’re doing a great job of churning useful, relevant, and highly pinnable, exceptionally shareable content that relates to their brand without being an outright sales pitch.
Sharing content that is topical and goes beyond your products lets your customers know you’re aiming to be useful and relevant, not just to sell them on something. Offer recipes and informational content, follow fellow businesses, brands and prospects and share others’ content as well. This helps get the discussion moving and increases your exposure as well as delivering content that is useful to your customers.
If you want to succeed on social media, you have to take it seriously and treat the process accordingly. Focus and define your content strategy, then increase your social media budget to match.
Develop social media policies and protocols and keep them current. As Sprout points out, “keep in mind how quickly the news cycle moves, common responses you might have to customer concerns and conversations where you can make the most impact.”
You can’t manage what you can’t measure. Developing and refining your social media policies should be a data driven process. Make use of the metrics and analytics tools provided by each platform.
According to Hootsuite, there are four key customer journey stages, each with their own set of crucial metrics and KPI’s that will shed light on the effectiveness of your social media strategy:
Too many companies make the mistake of assuming that posting on social media is an easy, ancillary job they can assign to an already overworked receptionist whose social media experience consists of commenting on her grandkids’ photos on Facebook. Others think that someone’s sixteen-year-old nephew is the person to head up all social media initiatives during his unpaid, summer internship because he spends half his time on Snapchat.
You aren’t going to get anywhere by retweeting a few memes and @ mentioning a few big names once in a while with no plan or direction. Social media is fun, and while your online persona shouldn’t take itself too seriously, that doesn’t mean your strategy should be to fly by the seat of your pants.
Personalized content and integrated sales and marketing efforts provide your customers with a seamless experience that undeniably makes them more likely to interact with and ultimately patronize your brand.
Greet customers by name when you’re responding to inquiries, use targeted content where appropriate, and share your followers’ content.
Lexus recently did this extraordinarily well with a Facebook campaign called “Beyond Utility.” The company “built hyper-targeted ads for individual users by matching video clips to user details as if they were ingredients. A woman who drives a BMW and likes technology would see one video, while a man who likes technology and drives a Lexus would see another.”
Keep in mind, however, that there’s a fine line to walk here between being relevant and being, well, creepy. A 2017 study by Accenture found that 92% of US consumers believe companies need to safeguard their data but 44% are frustrated when companies don’t deliver a customized and relevant experience. It’s important to be upfront about any data you’re collecting and use it to enhance the customer experience.
This one seems obvious. People like free stuff. Period. Social media is a great place to get offers, incentives, and giveaways in front of your clients.
Exclusive promotions are especially well suited to social media as they increase the sense of both urgency and connection.
Facebook recommends following these best practices (though they’re relevant for any channel):
According to a Sprout study, “Consumers want to learn more about the people behind their favorite brands.” 70% of consumers report feeling more connected when a brand’s CEO is active on social and 72% report feeling similarly when employees share information about a brand online.
Most Fortune 500 CEO’s avoid social media but a few are making great use of it. T-Mobile CEO John Legere has 6.17 million followers on Twitter where he regularly posts and interacts directly with customers.
To put that in perspective, competitor Verizon has just over 1 million followers on their verified company account.
That feeling of connection breeds loyalty and directly impacts a brand’s bottom line. The same study found that 64% of consumers say their loyalty to a brand increases with their sense of connection and 38% are more likely to return to that brand after a bad experience.
Okay, so you know you need unique, engaging content to share on social media, but where do you get it? At Superside, we have teams of top designers and writers ready to help you craft content that is shareable, relevant, and engaging. You’ll be paired with a dedicated account manager who will work with you and your specialist team to match your brand voice and identity to produce the kind of eye-catching content you need to beef up your social media presence and build a strong connection with your customers.
We sat down with Bill Macaitis, former Slack CMO, to chat about what it takes to success with ad design. Hear his tips and more in this Q&A style interview!