Last week I discovered a social media platform called Amino. I had never heard of it, and that made me wonder what other social media apps were out there that I’d never heard of. So, I decided to Google “Social Media Platforms.” I stopped counting at 50. Seriously, the number of social media platforms seems to be growing every day, and it’s enough to make an entrepreneur dizzy. You see, there’s this view that if you’re in business in 2019, you have to be on social media and you have to be posting regularly. Not just quotes here and there, but a mind-blowing multiple posts a day, every day.
I’m not a fan of anything that demands time from my already busy schedule, but social media offers an opportunity that can’t be ignored: interaction with existing and potential customers at little to no financial cost. The trouble is that most small business owners don’t understand how to leverage that opportunity, and end up frustrating themselves and their customers in the process. So here are three things you can do to maximize your social media benefits.
1. Know what each platform is best used for.
Two key components of every marketing strategy are understanding your customers and knowing how you’d like to engage with them. You need to know their habits and behaviors, where they go and what they do so that you could effectively engage them. You also need to decide if they respond better to videos, articles, or personal sharing. It’s not enough being on Facebook writing posts, for example, if your crowd is young and into videos, images, and GIFs. Instagram and Snapchat might work out better for you. If you’re after professionals and intellectuals, then LinkedIn is the platform you need to put your effort into. The types of articles ideal for linked in are more scholarly articles than the casual interaction of the other platforms mentioned. Knowing the value in each of the more popular platforms means you can tailor your message accordingly.
Take YouTube, for example. The popularity of video content has skyrocketed to a point where many people use YouTube as a search engine much the same way they use Google. Instead of doing a search for content such as articles and blogs, a growing number of people head straight to YouTube and look for tutorials and professional opinions. The situation has exploded to the point where it’s possible to have a full-time job as a YouTube Influencer, sharing videos about opinions on just about anything. But YouTube is far bigger than this, and should not be underestimated as a vehicle for generating traffic to your business.
Now I’m not saying that you need to have a presence in every platform, but you should consider your customers and the type of engagement they would appreciate. Think about the best ways to reach them, get their interest, and keep dialogue open all the way to closing a sale.
2. Share value beyond what your products or services provide.
This is a huge one. I can’t emphasize enough how important this is. Nobody wants to visit a Facebook page that only has advertisements. Nobody wants to follow an Instagram account if all they’re getting in every post is “buy my product”. Constantly pushing your products to customers puts them off, but when you give them information they find useful, they’ll tune in. So share advice, guidelines, and even a joke here and there.
Think of it like going to visit an aunt or an uncle. If your visits always end up on “When are you getting a real job?” or “You need to lose some weight” or they tell you every single time about the same arthritis in the left knee or the pension check that’s perpetually late. How often would you voluntarily visit those relatives? If you’re like me, you’ll probably avoid them even when you’re supposed to visit. But what if every time you see your aunt she asks how you’re going, makes something delicious for you, tells you about her day and makes you laugh? And what if your uncle, instead of always telling you what’s wrong with you or him or society, actually just shares some pretty cool stuff and it feels like you’re learning without being pressured? I would visit them more often, and I suspect you would too.
You see, adding value is about more than a list of guidelines and advice. It’s about being relatable and offering a more complete persona. You’re a real person with interests that overlap with your customers, so they could have a conversation with you. People like to be where they feel wanted, where they feel like someone knows what they’re about, where others share their values. People like to feel validated and supported. So, create content that reaches out to more than your customers’ purses or feeds on their insecurities. Create content that empowers them, makes them laugh, and touches their humanity.
3. Include a call to action.
Whether it’s a suggestion to like your page, leave a comment, or a review, ask your customers to do something. A ‘call to action’ is simply an invitation for your audience to take a particular action. It’s like advice on what they could do next. If you don’t tell them what to do next, you could be missing out on opportunities to lead customers to your brand. There are so many other things competing for a customer’s attention on social media that even if they have the best intention to like your page, comment, or visit your website, they may simply get distracted and move on without engaging with you.
Don’t be shy about asking your audience to leave a comment or share the post. One of the most effective ways to engage your audience is by making them feel like they’re part of your page or your account. Start conversations and invite them to share their views. People want to know that they’re being heard. Post a comment and invite their opinions, then respond to their opinion to keep the conversation going. People like to know you are paying attention to them. They’re more likely to respond if you make a comment rather than just sharing a forward, so tell them why you’re sharing and invite them to do the same.
So here’s what you do, prompt a response by including a statement about what you want viewers to do next. Of course, this means you need to know what you want them to do. Do you want subscriptions? Do you want people to share? Figure out exactly what you want viewers to do, then be clear about that final instruction. I’m sure you’ve seen statements like “Want to read more articles like this one? Subscribe to our newsletter.” Or, “Follow us on Instagram for great content every day.”
In statements like those, you’re being clear about what action to take and giving the benefits of taking the action. The information you provide engages the customer, and the call to action tells them what to do next and the value they will receive. At the back of their minds, customers always ask “why should I do that?” so when you ask them to do something, tell them why.
Your activities on social media have a purpose. Understanding that purpose helps you communicate better with your audience because you know what you’re doing and why. Your posts and comments shouldn’t be seen as random, isolated activities, but as one component of a strategy that ultimately leads to an increase in revenue. And the best way to do that is to meaningfully engage your audience. Engagement depends on your audience and their needs, but it also depends on you.
This discussion is the tip of the iceberg with social media, but for those of you feeling a little intimidated by the vastness of it all, it’s a great place to start. It’s true that there’s a lot to consider, but you don’t have to worry about how many posts you need to have every day. At least not yet. Reduce the overwhelm by understanding what each platform offers. Give your audience value beyond your products and services. With each post, tell them what to do next. And don’t forget to enjoy the process. After all, smiles have a way of making us feel better, even if it’s an emoji.
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Shelley-Ann Edwards-Barran is a writer, editor, writing coach, speaker, and advocate for better writing instruction. She is the CEO of WERD Coach Ltd., a company dedicated to helping writers at many levels – children, academics, authors.