Have you broken your New Year’s resolution yet? This foggy Monday in New York City feels like it’s brimming with discarded diets and abandoned promises already, but the outlook does not need to be so dismal when it comes to your business. The year is still in its infancy, so start-up companies and well-established ones alike have the opportunity to strike into a profitable first quarter if they capitalize on social media best practices.
We haven’t heard too much from retired CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch, since late 2012, but his business words of wisdom still ring true. “If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.” Further, if you think you have a competitive advantage, think again. Sustaining a long-term competitive advantage based on a trade secret or a gap in competitive technology is very rare in 2014. Instead, companies must focus on the one asset that no competitor can accurately duplicate: the relationship they have with their customers.
No matter where the transactions take place – via ecommerce or brick and mortar establishments – modern businesses engage in relationship-building on the Internet. One third of Americans agree that they regularly check out brands’ social networking pages. That number spikes to nearly half of Americans under 35 years old. Social networking sites and apps, such as Google+, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, represent an enormous opportunity for companies to engage with current and potential customers, as well as critics, without shelling out the exorbitant cost associated with traditional mass marketing.
Time for you to slap up a Facebook Fan Page and start using those newfangled hashtags on the Tweeter, right? WRONG. Social media management is an amateur endeavor no longer. The abundance of entertaining and useful accounts out there doesn’t allow time for consumers to waste on brand profiles focused solely on vapid self-promotion. Here are are some techniques which you can start implementing today to turn your sub-par social networking pages into mutually beneficial forums:
First, ask yourself, “What am I trying to accomplish on social?” Do you have a fandom to use as a source of word-of-mouth marketing? Are you striving to educate your audience or to collect their feedback? Any plan of action for a business needs a clear campaign goal, and mapping out activities on social networking sites is no different.
What is different, however, is the tone that each separate social channel emanates. Recognizing the various nuances of communication on Facebooks versus Twitter or Google+ versus Instagram can significantly increase how relatable your brand appears to consumers. Remember that social listening is a worthwhile investment of resources, because a better understanding of your consumers will surely lead to a better relationship with them.
Tips on Specific Social Networking Channels
- Post often and post images, but stick to the best and most engaging content. Original news is rewarded more handsomely than aggregation, because you are serving as a resource to your followers, rather than a repeater.
- Grow the company network by encouraging co-workers to establish Googe+ profiles and identifying themselves as company employees. The integration of Google Search and Google Authorship will have a positive impact on SEO efforts.
- Explore Local Google and Google Pages to update all business listings. Out-of-date offerings or contact information that is no longer in service discredits the personality of your brand.
- Google Hangouts, in competition with Skype, bring social into real-time. Engagements here are far more powerful than replies and favorites; they are actual conversations. Turn Hangouts into YouTube videos to extend their web longevity.
- Throwing money at a Facebook post based on your gut or heart is not a business-savvy way to conduct marketing. Social media is a science and an art. The science lies in evaluating Insights and adapting your strategy to optimize engagement. The art is revealed by crafting Sponsored Stories that interest consumers but also convert to sales.
- Consider every Facebook post as the potential for a paid ad, and then spend money on content that has legs. In 2014, resolve to pay attention to results and offer content that your audience wants, not simply what is most convenient for your staff.
- Short videos that illustrate brand stories will stand out among the waves of still photos and advertisements, especially because Facebook users have been largely desensitized to posts that do not pertain their interests.
- Instagram is unique in that it offers less of an opportunity to propel your brand directly into the conversations of your audience. Instead, photos must be crafted in a way that is not disruptive to the user experience, or they will be disregarded.
- On the other hand, Instagram also offers a unique opportunity in the form of leveraging influencers. Finding and engaging with accounts that hold authority and reverence in your industry is the best way to establish a relationship in your desired target market. Think of it as having the most popular person at a party introduce you to their friends. Jackpot!
- Take a look at the bio of your business’ Twitter profile. That short sentence or phrase is all a Twitter browser has to evaluate the relationship potential between his or yer account and your own. Take the time to make that bio accurately reflect what you will offer them.
- Aside from using influencers (similar to Instagram) to make the right connections between your audience and what they want to hear, one of the best ways to establish your company’s authority in an industry is participating in Twitter chats. Professionals from your specialty can tune in worldwide, offering new insights to your business, as well as serving as a microphone for your expertise.
For all accounts, remember that relationships are built on two-way communication and mutual trust. Use them as a way to integrate your brand into the daily lives of consumers by offering a personal touch that they can relate to, rather than a superficial repetition of sales promotions. In the words of @carolineNBC from Future Social 2013, “If you’re just using social to post the interesting things you’re doing, you’re doing social wrong.” There is still time. Do social right in 2014.