How to boost your business’s social media

In today’s digital world it is difficult to avoid social media, and doing so might even be dangerous for your business. Even though social media is constantly changing, and therefore there is no set ‘formula’ for what works, there are some ‘ground rules’ you need to follow in order to earn your social media colours.

Moneybags journalist, Ashleigh Brown, speaks to social media experts to find out how you can boost the social media standing for your business, and what you need to know before diving into the world of social media.

It is almost a given these days, that some of your customers are going to be online, and might even search for your business before visiting the store. Being on social media is becoming increasingly important, but, if done wrong it can hinder you more than it help.

Do you know what you want?

Before you get started on your social media mission, make sure you know what you want, and what you want to achieve.

Melanie Boender the co-owner of Smart Octopus, an online platform management agency, says that each social media platform you use requires time, a well thought out strategy and enough fresh, unique content to feed the strategy. In other words, you can’t just set up a Twitter page and hope it runs itself.

“A common mistake is that some organisations choose to embark on a social media strategy because everyone else is doing it,” says Ronel Gerber, social media manager at Black Snow Digital.

Adding to that, you do not need to have an account with every social media option out there. “Not every social media platform is necessary or right for you. Don’t open a Facebook page because ‘everyone has a Facebook page’,” says Wendy Tayler, the digital account director at FleishmanHillard South Africa.

Boender says that is better to rather choose fewer platforms and do them properly, than spread yourself thin trying to be everywhere.

A conversation in the crowd

Even though social media allows you to build a community, not everyone in that group is going to be exactly the same. Just like going to a concert, we all have different tastes, styles, and lives, but that one common element has brought us all together. You, as the brand, are that common element.

Now, all you have to do, is try and have a one-on-one conversation with everyone. It isn’t going to be easy, and you will most likely lose some people along the way, but people want to feel like you are talking to them, and not just shouting into the ether.

And don’t worry if you lose some followers along the way. This isn’t a bad thing, as long as those who are left are engaging with you. Tayler says that a true measure of how well you’re doing can be found in the quality of those people and your engagement with them.

“If they are not engaging, they’re not hearing you,” she says. But this does not mean you should just shout a little louder, and hope someone shouts back. “It is also important to use insights to optimise your social platforms. When are your followers online? What content do they respond to best? What interests overlap your brand and your audience?”

Remember that social media is a two-way conversation. “Social media has made it possible for consumers to interact with brands more closely and organisations wishing to use social media must realise that they need to be completely transparent and ready to handle both positive and negative engagement,” says Gerber.

Engagement is key

“Having a lot of followers or likes showcases the size of your community and how many people want to interact with you, but a better measure is how your content is being shared,” says Gerber.

Boender says that before posting something you need to ask yourself: “Would I like, share, or comment on this post?” If not, then you need to go back and work on it. The content needs to be fresh, engaging, and relevant to your audience.

Tayler agrees saying that a true measure of how your social media is doing can be found in the quality of your followers and your engagement with them.

“I’d rather be followed by 10 powerful leaders, than a million trolls. Wouldn’t you?” questions Tayler.

However, you do actually need some people to talk to. “You need to have a decent size community, and that takes a lot of effort and a lot of time. You need to fill your bucket with the right people,” says Nick Bedford, Social@Ogilvy Business Director.

Take the time to grow your following with people who are going to engage with your brand.

“Once you have engaged [people on social media] from a content point of view, then people liking or following you is much more likely. The benefit of that is that people are engaging with you for the right reasons,” says Bedford.

Say cheese!

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and in the online world, truer words have never been spoken.

According to Facebook, says Tayler, 65% of people are visual learners (though she would argue that there are actually more). This means, the more visually appealing your content is, the more likely they are to remember it, and thus more likely to interact with it.

But that is not all. Tayler says that when it comes to brand product visuals, Fluid – an e-commerce site – claims that 54% of consumers have decided against a purchase because of the unhelpful product photo.

“It is important to recognise the power of images and social to your bottom line,” says Tayler.

Dean Lederle, head of social media and design at Brandnew Creative Agency says that as far as the hierarchy of content of social media goes, most people will engage with video first, imagery second and then a plain text post last.

“It’s just how we as humans are wired and it shows that the majority of us are stimulated by visuals more than text. Clever video and imagery will most definitely attract more attention in a cluttered Twitter feed,” says Lederle.

Though, there is a time and a place for everything, photos included. Boender says that you shouldn’t attach an image to every tweet, but rather to the ones which need it.

Marion Marais, digital communications manager at Boomtown adds that quality photography is rated highly. She explains that people like pretty things but  adds that they are able to spot a stock photo a mile away if used without any additional design elements.

Some social media mistakes

Lederle says that there are too many mistakes to list, but a couple that spring to mind include:

  • Running competitions simply to gain more engagement for your brand. This may lead to a spike in the engagement with your brand but it is very short-lived and, other than an increase in likes, comments or shares, it does little for your brand in terms of return on investment (ROI).
  • Using your social media platforms to broadcast your brand message repetitively to your audience. This usually results in zero engagement and results in your message turning into wallpaper whereby users just scroll straight past the content without looking twice at it.
  • Not responding to queries soon after they are posted. People expect brands to reply to queries as they are sent and when brands take too long to respond, the audience gets a negative perception about the brand.

Just like starting a business, make sure you have a clear plan of what you want, and what you want to achieve from your social media engagements. Then, you are going to need the time to run it: whether that means hiring someone dedicated to your social media site, or making the time in your day, you have to do what is best for you.

Social media is always changing, and just like in the business world, you have to stay abreast of those changes to stay on top.