Building an Engaged Audience Through Social Media – Looking at your social media strategy for 2021.
by Nicola Webster of NJ Webster Consulting
2020 was the stuff of nightmares for marketing teams. As the pandemic saw everything grind to a halt, plans were pulled and ideas shelved. Yet social media kept going, and arguably became more important, given the instantaneous and responsive nature of social media platforms.
The clear winners of the social media game in 2020 have been those businesses who kept their audience engaged, and used this to grow their business. But what does this mean?
Social media is one of the most powerful marketing tools businesses have ever seen. Everyday, over 500 million tweets are sent, more than 500 million stories are shared to Instagram and the average user spends 20 minutes per day on Facebook.
Many small businesses know they should be using social media, so they set up accounts, post sporadically and get frustrated. But if you put in the right effort, and use it to build an engaged audience then it will help you achieve your business goals.
But what is “an engaged audience”?
In social media terms, engagement refers to the interaction between the account holder and the users (also referred to as consumers, customers or clients). No-one gets married, but it’s a good analogy….
You wouldn’t meet someone in the street and then marry them instantly (well most of us wouldn’t!) so why should you see one post on social media and then instantly buy that product or service?
After seeing a few posts, you’re interested. You’ve hit follow and are now liking posts that appear in your feed. Commenting is the next stage, perhaps sharing a favourite post or sending to friends. By now you’re committing to that brand. And as this becomes a two way thing, with replies to comments, likes etc, you become engaged. Think of the marriage as when the engaged user converts into a customer. And if they are a repeat customer, well that’s a bonus of married life!!
So how do you get to that stage?
The simple answer is to have a social media strategy. Don’t rely on winging it. Set yourself social media goals and use these to build an engaged audience.
Think about what you want to achieve and plan out how to do this on social media. Having a plan doesn’t mean sitting down and writing every social media post. It means knowing the themes and areas you want to cover. You can craft the individual posts afterwards, perhaps adding in the wording close to the time of posting so you can respond to trends and events accordingly.
If you’ve never written a social media strategy before, here are some things to think about:
- What do you want to achieve – for example brand awareness or driving web traffic?
- Check that you are on the right platforms. You might love Instagram, but is it where your customers hangout?
- Use your brand guidelines to set your social media guidelines. Think about your tone of voice and your purpose – What are you there to do – sell, educate, inform, entertain?
- The know, like, trust mantra is true on social too. Don’t just sell or push your services. Think about all the subjects you want to talk about, and set out to cover them appropriately every month.
- Decide how you want to measure results (eg. link clicks, enquiries, orders)
Once you have a strategy, you’ll find it much easier to create content. And with good content comes engagement. If you constantly post content that is interesting or informative to your audience, they will respond. And the more they respond, the more you’ll grow your social media following.
What makes content engaging?
- Ask questions. Including a call to action in posts will encourage comments. Always respond to comments, and build up a rapport with your audience.
- Use the features available. For example include locations in your posts, add in hashtags, mention other users which will encourage them to share your posts.
- Create useful posts that your audience will want to share – how to guides, recommendations etc
- Be personal, don’t hide on social media. Show yourself and/ or your team. Tell your story, and talk about the highs and lows.
So you’ve got the engaging content but what next?
Think back to those goals. What do you want your social media followers to do – once they have clicked follow and are engaged, what next?
If you want them to shop, have you set up shops on Facebook or Instagram?
If you want them to buy from your website, are your links up to date?
You need to consider the full customer experience, social media is just one touch point for a brand and you need to make sure that your customer can seamlessly move from one to the other.
Experiment with the different features on each social media platform. Have a go at going live, or posting video content. Behind the scenes content always works well, so think outside the box on how you could do this.
Be brave. Remember the lifespan of social media posts is short – for example on twitter a the lifespan of a tweet is just 18 minutes! Experiment with content and see what works. You might be surprised at which posts perform well!
Social Media is one part of your marketing strategy. Do you remember the board game Mouse Trap? You spend all that time building the elements and it comes down to that final spin to see if you win. Think of social media as that final spin. When everything else is in place, a successful social media strategy will bring a win for your business.