Written by Alice StevensAlice Stevens is a language enthusiast, loves history, and enjoys traveling. She manages content for BestCompany.com specializing in finance, insurance, and car warranty.
You want to increase brand awareness.
You want to drive traffic to your website.
You want to engage with potential customers.
You need social media.
To get you started on your business’s social media strategy, here are some expert tips on developing, implementing, and evaluating your business’s social media presence.
Social media strategy development
Crafting a thoughtful social media plan will give your social media posts direction and increase your ability to have success.
Steve Pritchard, founder of It Works Media, says, “Thought and planning needs to go into managing any social media presence. When it comes to your business you need to be consistent. Posting regularly and at the right time to reach your audience will give your posts reach and keep your brand in the forefront of people’s minds.
Increasing your engagement and following will come organically over time and will be a reflection of the quality of your posts. Creating something genuinely interesting, relatable, or funny is going to be far more successful than anything overly promotional.”
Here are some things to think about as you develop your social media presence:
- Brand purpose
- Personable brand voice
- Understand your audience
- Crisis management
- Social media advertising
The first step of creating any plan is to set goals and put your purpose in words. This purpose statement will drive the rest of the decisions you make for your brand’s social media presence.
Janil Jean, Head of Overseas Operations at LogoDesign.net, says, “When creating a social media account you’ve got to have a purpose. Ask yourself what you want to achieve, who do you want to target, and how will you measure these goals.
Once that is established, then selecting the channel is easier. For example, Facebook and Twitter are more community oriented while LinkedIn is for professionals and B2Bs, and Pinterest is more targeted towards consumer goods.”
Personable brand voice
The next important step is crafting a social media voice and presence to enhance brand identity and awareness.
Jean says, “Many people start out on social media with the assumption that they can post whatever they feel like on their business accounts. That's the biggest mistake they can make for their business.”
Instead, businesses should focus on their brand.
Jackie Kossoff, social media consultant and marketing strategist, says, “A business's social media presence should reflect the overall personality and values of the brand. Making sure the voice and visuals are consistent with brand messaging is key. One way to do this is to create a brand avatar; there's a lot of talk about creating a client avatar, but it can be incredibly helpful to have one for your brand as well.”
However, being professional and staying true to your brand doesn’t mean losing the “fun” aspects of social media.
“Connect to your audience on a more personal level. Allow your audience to see "behind the mask," so to speak, of your brand and aim to build a relationship with audience members,” says Kossoff.
Afterall, the human connection created by effective social media managers can make the difference between a successful business presence and an unsuccessful presence.
“If you are inconsistent with brand voice, it doesn’t give the audience a clear idea of what the brand is all about and it can create confusion. For instance, if your company is more on the serious side, a random humorous post can seem inappropriate and out of place,” says Laura Wigodner, content marketing manager at Nex Gen Dynamics.
Understand your audience
Understanding your audience will help you plan and create great content that drives the kind of engagement you want.
“Know your prospect persona on a deep level. Understand what they care about and what social media platform they spend time on. Focus your efforts on providing valuable educational content to attract and engage these ideal clients,” says Sandra Long, author of LinkedIn for Personal Branding: The Ultimate Guide and President of Post Road Consulting.
When it comes to choosing your platform, your audience is the deciding factor.
Mandie Brice, makeup artist, writer, and social media expert, says “It's also key to compare your target demographic with the demographic that is using that platform! If you want a younger crowd, you may want to give Snapchat a shot, but an older crowd is more likely to be on Facebook.”
Once you’ve figured out the platforms you’re going to use, it’s essential to learn more about how users engage with that platform. This will help you create highly successful content.
Kimberly Dioszeghy, marketing manager of Reliance Foundry, says, “Different channels on social media are often known for having a particular style or voice. For example, companies on Twitter are often ironic or quippy; Facebook shares tend more towards clickable headlines.”
While adapting to some of the styles and common practices of each platform, it’s important to stick to your brand.
Dioszeghy cautions, “It can be easy to lose the heart of your brand by chasing after these styles and audiences. This makes some companies confusing or inconsistent across their social media accounts. Our top tip is to stay true to your company's brand identity and to your customer base. Don't be distracted by the swirl of voices and styles and get pulled away from your core concerns.”
As careful as you are with your business’s social media presence and reputation, public representation crises come up.
“You must have a crisis management plan in place. It’s important to decide how you’re going to handle negative or controversial comments and messages. It’s not always smart to simply delete negative feedback; in fact, it can sometimes hurt a company to do so. It’s best to respond in a professional manner to assure that people can trust your company,” says Wigodner.
Social media budget
If one of your goals on social media is to generate revenue, then social media ads should be a part of your strategy.
Bret Bonnet, Co-founder and President of Quality Logo Products, says, “Short of being there just to be there, an organic business presence on social media really won’t move the needle. You can offer free lifetime passes to Disney World to everyone who views your page, but unless you pay to promote your post, you can forget about reaching your own followers let alone attracting new ones. My best advice is to be prepared to pay to play.
In addition, install the tracking pixel on your website now so the social networks can begin to assemble the audiences you’ll need and want. Start by marketing to people who have visited your website, and once that’s gotten enough impressions and volume, expand your campaign to target lookalike audiences.”
It goes without saying that the first step of creating a successful social media presence is increasing followers and encouraging engagement with your content.
Nate Masterson, CMO of Maple Holistics, says, “When managing your social media presence, there are two things a business should consider: the content they post and the way they engage with clients.”
The following expert tips will help you understand the best practices for driving engagement and interacting with potential customers and competitors via social media:
- Content choices
- Posting schedule
- Increase visibility
- Interact with people and other brands
“In order to increase engagement, you need to create content that people want to consume. Sounds simple but many struggle with this concept. Experiment. Test the waters with various ideas until something sticks, then reiterate. Additionally, use Stories and Live features! The reach of these features is greater than the feed,” Luke Wester, Digital Marketing Analyst at Miva, Inc, says.
If you don’t have data from past social media posts or much experience in social media, there are some general trends to consider.
Nedelina Payaneva, Digital Marketing Specialist at Asian Absolute, says, “Start with great visuals and relevant, informative text. When your content is simple, relevant, engaging, and makes your customers purchase your products or services, then it is a content that conquers.”
“Video far outperforms all other types of content on the web, including social media. So get going with your video content. Put your effort into creating a repeatable and engaging video content strategy,” adds Wester.
Another good place to start is by looking at the kinds of things people post on the social media platforms you’re going to use.
Kristen Dea, Social Media and Graphic Design Specialist at SEO.com, says, “Remember to tailor your content to each network for the best engagement. Instagram is best for photos, Facebook is best for links and video, and Twitter is great for conversations and industry news.”
Use what you know of your goals, brand voice, and target audience to create your posts.
Dewayne Hamilton, Director of Web Cosmo Forums, says, “An incorrectly crafted message will not come up with any responses, and in time it can only harm the brand and lead to unplanned costs as a result of a failed investment in digital marketing.”
As you continue to experiment and try new things, it’s important to keep track of how engagement changes.
Widgoner says, “Keep track of what types of posts do well and which platforms are doing the best, along with the times and days you are posting. You can use these analytics and statistics to constantly improve as you plan monthly social media strategies.”
Having a posting schedule and using scheduling tools can help you more effectively plan. It also frees up more time for the business to interact with other posts.
Ollie Smith, CEO of ExpertSure, says, “I highly recommend establishing a social media calendar — especially if your business runs multiple social media accounts. Keeping a busy social media schedule on track is almost impossible without a calendar. A social media calendar will enable a business to plan ahead saving valuable time, help keep your team accountable for critical deadlines, and most importantly it allows for more strategic posting.”
However, don’t be too attached to your schedule. It’s important to have some flexibility and be dialed into what’s going on in the world.
“I strongly recommend pre-scheduling social media content, but keeping an eye on the news, for two reasons. One, is that if there are any relevant trending topics, you can take advantage of it to get more views and engagement. The second reason is not as lovely to think about, but it can be important to put normal marketing messages on pause in the event of tragedies to make sure that your company does not seem insensitive,” Brice says.
Increasing visibility will help your content be seen by more people. The easiest way to do this is through hashtags and tagging people.
Long says, “Add # hashtags to every social media post for greater visibility. People searching for a particular topic will find your content more easily with the tag. It’s like putting your post in a special digital folder dedicated to the topic.
The @mention recognizes people who are featured in your post or simply draws attention to the content. This will specifically alert the person you have tagged about your post and highlight your content to their network.”
Another way is to grow your followers. However, you should approach this process strategically.
“Before thinking about increasing your follower count, you first need to know where your existing engagement is coming from. Using analytics tools such as Google Analytics is helpful in monitoring levels of engagement on social media and websites. Obtaining this rich data will enable you to initiate campaign changes and improvements so your message reaches your desired audience,” says Smith.
Simply growing your followers doesn’t always bring the benefits you want.
Payaneva says, “Followers who share your posts, comment, and react on your content, get involved and participate constantly — even if there’s only a thousand of them — are more valuable than hundreds of thousands more who don’t do anything.
Yes, it’s an exciting thing to get lots and lots of fans and followers, but if they’re the kind who are inactive and don’t do anything with your content, then you’re simply keeping a hollow follower base. Also, avoid purchasing instant likes and follows (insta-like/insta-follow). They will not bring any real value or benefit to you and your business.”
It’s also important to get your current customers to follow and interact with you on social media.
Katherine Rowland, Digital Marketing Executive at YourParkingSpace, says, “It is important to promote your Social Media channels. Don’t expect customers to know about all your Social Media platforms and go searching for them themselves. Make it easy for customers to follow or like your Social Media profiles, and they’ll be more willing to take action.”
Be a thought leader
Dea says, “Increase engagement by increasing your own engagement with the community. Follow relevant accounts in your industry, like and leave thoughtful comments, post consistently, and encourage conversation.”
Respond to customers
Masterson says, “Companies should not take customers for granted and should interact and engage with people who comment on their posts. Doing this makes customers feel appreciated, and it consequently boosts their tendency to be active on a company’s page.”
Rowland says, “Social Media is now developing into the new platform for customer service, and with consumers wanting everything here and now, they are turning to social media to have their comments heard. So, by interacting with customers and responding to their messages as soon and often as possible, both sides can benefit with your brand looking very favourable to the public.”
Melissa Ong, founder of M&P International Freights, says, “Create an Instagram story highlight or a photo album on Facebook to feature any customers who have posted a photo with your product. By doing that, you are encouraging them to review your product, which will offer you free promotion to their friends.
This will also help to gather useful feedback of your product that you can showcase to potential customers who are following you on social media but are on the fence of whether to make the purchase. Not only does this increase your engagement, it is also likely to increase sales as these customers were not paid to say nice things.”
Bernice Quek, Content Marketing Specialist at Fixwerks, says, “Hosting giveaways will help to bring eyeballs and raise awareness of your brand and products. This can be held seasonally (for example, during Christmas, Valentine's Day, etc.) or whenever you are launching a new product or service.
By giving away your items to a relevant target audience for free, they will be enticed to actively participate and share the giveaway with their friends. If the giveaway winners like your product, it is only natural that they will spread the word to their friends — that way, you would be gaining free word-of-mouth advertising for your brand.”
“Success is hard to measure on social media, and this can be very frustrating for businesses. While you can look at followers and retweets, the ultimate end goal of social media is to increase sales. Unless there is a huge spike in sales when your brand takes off, it’s difficult to know how well your social media presence is doing.
For this reason, many businesses invest less in marketing their brand on social media, which can be potentially damaging for your company’s online presence. As a free marketing platform and a great way to directly engage with your audience, social media is worth investing in even if it’s difficult to quantify its success,” Pritchard says.
When you’re evaluating your social media performance, it’s important to center your evaluation on your goals.
Wester says, “Social media success is a subjective term. It depends on your goals. Social media can drive sales or be used as a brand awareness tactic — it’s up to you. The cookie cutter answer is likes, comments, and shares can help measure success but your goals will dictate the KPIs you should focus on.”
While determining social media effectiveness can be challenging and vary based on your goals, there are a few elements that business should be actively tracking.
Stacy Caprio, Founder of Growth Marketing, says, “Businesses should measure success on social media by looking at both engagement on posts and by looking at traffic and conversions on their site.”
As you set Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and measure changes over time, you’ll be able to stop practices that aren’t working well and try new ones.
“If your goal is engagement, look for how many likes, comments, and shares you're getting. Measure that growth over time using either the network's insights or a third party app,” Dea says.
“Monitoring audience growth with volume — how many people are talking about your business, your reach — or how many people have seen your content and building influence with your audience are all great measures of social media success,” says Smith.
Tracking website traffic
Donna Chambers, Founder and CEO of SensaCalm, says, “One of the biggest advantages of social media, besides engagement, is boosting your site's SEO by generating more web traffic. We create a report using Google Analytics every month to track how many clicks went to the site through each of our social channels and compare it to the previous month. Then we tweak our strategy accordingly.”
“Measure every time your company can convert an online connection, like, or comment into a real-life sales conversation. This may mean asking each new prospect or client how they found your company and then recording it into your CRM system,” says Long.
Having a clear sense of your brand’s voice and purpose on social media will keep you focused. Carefully creating content and crafting posts will help you increase your followers and drive traffic to your website. As you try out new things to increase engagement, it’s important to track results to understand what works well and what doesn’t.
Read about social media pitfalls to avoid.