November 3, 2015 Aaron Carpenter

How To Engage Social Media Effectively as a Business

The short answer is: use it regularly. Obvious, eh?

Since we know you’re going to want the long answer, we suggest you strap in and work through understanding your audience, providing value up front for free, and taking care to spend your time wisely.

Know your audience

Social media channels are like parties.  There are business parties (LinkedIn), college parties (Instagram), and open houses that attract bizarre mashups of all your social circles (Facebook).  These parties evolve over time. Facebook wasn’t always the strange mashup it is now of nearly everyone and skewing older; instead, Facebook used to be what Instagram is now, the cool place for younger generations to hang out.

No one wants to be the awkward person at the party shouting about things that no one really cares about, right? When folks around you are rolling their eyes, things aren’t good. You’ve forgotten to take into consideration the event, the audience or the people that you potentially want to engage. If you don’t show appreciation, interest or consideration for the people around you, why should they show you any in return? The same thing goes for your company. Know your audience.

Think about which channels your clients hang out on. Are they LinkedIn professionals? Facebook folks? Instagram selfie-takers? Pinterest crafters? We often recommend that our clients draft buyer personas. These are usually just a couple of paragraphs that describe a particular type of client you have.  Usually, you can break your client list up into 3-5 groups of people, painting with a broad brush.  If you can do that, you can start to understand the groups of people you do business with, and also understand how best to approach them in specific situations like through the endless list of social media channels.

Examine their behavior. What are they typically doing on that channel?  You might have the right product or service for them, but if you don’t approach them in an appropriate way, you’re just noise getting in the way of what they want to do on that channel. Approach them by embracing their behavior or what they want to talk about. Do that, and you’ll have their attention. Don’t, and you’re just a swipe or click away from them forgetting all about you and the hard work you put into your content that you shared.

Provide value up front for free

People love free stuff. Further, they like useful free stuff. They also acknowledge that there’s always a catch. What’s the catch with your products or services? Consider dropping it entirely.

The idea is to provide a guide, a list of top ten tips, or some other resource that your clients will find very useful… and not ask for anything in return. Provide this value up front to build credibility and to improve the lives of those you want to do business with. No ask at the end, no hard sell.  Your objective isn’t to increase sales here — it’s to increase credibility and rapport with both your current and potential clients. If you follow this principle in social media, you’ll be the first company or person your audience thinks of when they need your product or service (or know someone who does) because you were there for them when they needed you and you didn’t ask for anything in return.

Besides, let’s be honest, it feels good to help people out without asking for anything back.

Spend your time wisely

It’s not enough to do your research and be helpful. That’s a great start, but where should you really be spending your time? You can split your schedule equally across all of the social media platforms that you think you’ll find your audience using, but inevitably they’re located more densely in one of the platforms you’ve targeted. You’ll naturally be more effective at marketing to one or two platforms than splitting your time, especially when you’re first learning the ins and outs of each channel.

You need to track this effectiveness so that you can adjust where you’re spending your time to spend it most effectively. How can you do that? Pretty simple.  You can try some of the following methods.

  1. Use Google Analytics to track where your website traffic is coming from.  You can look at traffic sources to see how many visits you got from Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, or other channels. If you’re linking back to a blog, you can also track which posts those came from, and how long they spent reading those posts.
  2. Use Google Voice or a similar alternative to create a faux phone number that tracks calls from unique numbers left on each platform. Take a look at your call log at the end of the month and you’ll know exactly how many calls you received from each platform.
  3. Try A/B testing. A/B testing is where you make subtle variations of advertisements or posts and hang them simultaneously to see which one people respond better to. It’s a science experiment.  See which one your audience likes more, and start to learn the rules of engagement of what they like. The more thoroughly you understand these, the better you can engage your audience and the more your audience will like your messages.

Get out there and do it!

That is how you can effectively be a positive presence to your potential clients on social media without being interruptive. Now get out there, do your research, and get social the right way!

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About the Author

Aaron Carpenter My name is Aaron Carpenter and I've been building web applications since 2002. Helping shape internet experiences for people to best match what their users are looking for, and creating web applications that become online tools to help manage businesses is what I love to do most.

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