Engagement, engagement, engagement. That seems to be the popular buzzword in the social media industry these days.
While engagement isn’t exactly the purpose of social media, it’s certainly an important ingredient for achieving results and impacting the bottom line.
With so many people and businesses flooding social media with their messages, breaking through the noise and getting people to genuinely engage you in conversation can be a daunting task.
It doesn’t have to be though!
Below are five key steps to engaging people with social media and expanding the scope of your business.
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1. Know Your Audience
Imagine you were offered a speaking opportunity at a national convention, but the person who extended this offer didn’t give you any information about the people attending. How could you deliver an effective presentation to a crowd you know absolutely nothing about? You’d be on stage yapping about topics that apply to the restaurant industry and it turns out your audience is composed of people in the medical and healthcare industry. That’s a big waste of everyone’s time.
Pinpointing your audience well is perhaps the most important step to any marketing effort, yet so many people seem to skip this part of the process. To engage your audience you must first know who they are for the simple reason that your approach should evolve based on who your message is intended to reach.
Obviously, demographics are important, but taking this a step further: what are the psychographics of your target audience?
- What beliefs and values are held by your audience?
- Do they fall into a specific social class?
- How would you characterize their buying habits?
- What are their perceptions of your brand relative to your competitors’ brands?
- Who do they go to for recommendations or approval in the process of making a purchase?
That’s just a start! If you haven’t created a customer profile — a clear picture of your customer based on demographics and psychographics — for your business, it’s better that you do so before jumping into social media.
2. Maintain Brand Consistency
At the end of the day, branding comes down to each and every minor experience a customer has with your business — every advertisement, every customer service interaction, every visit to your store, and so on. You obviously want those experiences to be positive, because that leads to brand loyalty, which greatly contributes to brand equity (the key to customer retention and word-of-mouth referrals).
Consistency is just as imperative on social media as it is offline. Obviously, you’ll want to make sure your social media accounts are branded with recognizable logos and information so people can easily verify they’re official. Beyond that, your offline and online messages should be aligned, because there are few things worse than being unable to honor something a customer claims they saw online.
3. Narrow Your Focus
There are tons of social media channels available and trying to choose which networks your company should tackle can be overwhelming. The most important consideration you can make takes us back to #1 above — know your audience. If your audience isn’t on Pinterest or Instagram, then there’s no reason for you to be there.
I would recommend you stick with two to three to avoid spreading yourself too thin. You’re much better off having a very active, strong presence on few social channels rather than a mediocre presence on five or six.
4. Encourage and Participate in Conversations
You can broadcast on social media until you’re blue in the face, but it’s extremely unlikely to bring the results you want. Effective social media marketing requires conversing and conversing requires a balance between talking and listening.
Engaging your audience is all about creating conversations, as well as getting involved in the conversations already taking place. Create conversations by positioning yourself as an authority within your niche or industry, then start producing unique, helpful content for others.
If you don’t have the time or resources to create conversations using content marketing, getting involved in conversations that are already happening is a worthy effort. Seek out popular Twitter chats in your niche, get involved with group Pinterest boards, find active LinkedIn and Facebook groups, regularly leave great comments on popular blogs, and reach out to social media influencers in your industry via Twitter or Google+.
Reciprocation is vital in social media, but that doesn’t necessarily mean reciprocating is always appropriate. You don’t have to follow every single person who interacts with you on Twitter or Pinterest (I would recommend you don’t), but you should make an effort to follow other users who complement your business or would help grow your network. Social media is about give and take, but other users will figure out quickly if you’re participating only as a taker.
Patience, Consistency, and Focus
If you’re business has only recently incorporated social media into the overall marketing plan, things can seem a little clunky at first. Give yourself time to get into the swing of things. Learn the etiquette of each venue to ensure you don’t turn off potential customers. As you go along, make time to learn from other small businesses that have found success with social media marketing by following a few in your field.
Your social media marketing efforts will produce steady results when performed with consistency and with an eye on your audience. Social media comes with a huge learning curve, but approach that as an opportunity rather than a detriment, and take advantage of every learning opportunity to enjoy the best possible results for your marketing efforts.