With over 3 billion people worldwide using social media networks, it is a low-cost way to reach your audience. But, just how do you use social media for business effectively? Where do you even begin? This is our introduction to social media for business, providing an overview of the subject. In future blogs we will dig deep into these and other areas, providing more details as well as tips, tricks and tools to help you succeed online.
THINK ABOUT WHO YOU’RE SPEAKING TO
Social media isn’t a Pokemon Go game – you don‘t have to catch them all. A trap that we see many businesses fall into is feeling like they have to speak to everyone and all the time. This leads to social media burnout and isn’t practical for any size business. The best chance that you have in reaching your customers is to ensure that you know who they are. You may not know them by name, but you’ll have an idea of what you’re looking for. What are their likes? Their dislikes? What social media platforms are they likely to be on? What value do you bring them, be it physical or emotional? Having a buyer persona can help you identify who you’re targeting in your communication and who your not. Better yet, if you’ve been through any We Do Stories training you’ll have developed our Character Sheets for your business. These will help you identify who you’re speaking to and what it is you are saying to streamline your communication.
By spending some time thinking about your audience, you can ensure that you’ve carefully considered any content that you put out for them. Your audience needs a reason to care about you and what you’re doing. If your social media usage is based on a broadcasting model, people are very quickly going to get tired of it. We all can zone out when someone only speaks about themselves, and this is the same for social media.
KNOW YOUR PLATFORMS
Each of the social media platforms has a different audience, with different ways of speaking. It’s like traditional TV channels – each of them has a different intended audience and a different tone of voice. A BBC programme is very different from a Discovery programme, and that’s the way it should be – both channels are targeting different audiences. There might be some crossover, but in essence, it’s a different experience. It’s the same with social media and particularly when using social media for businesses. Each of your customer personas will have a different way of using social media, and also a different way of expecting to be engaged with.
There’s a LOT of platforms available, but we’re going to focus on the 5 main ones here:
Facebook is for friends and family. Facebook builds community and people expect to be treated like one.
Twitter is generally used for news and updates.
Instagram is image and creativity focused (and interestingly, often an excellent platform for businesses when used well).
LinkedIn focuses on business networking. This is very much a business platform, and so the language used and your profile need to reflect this. Think about the impression that you’d like to make carefully.
The fifth one that deserves mention is Pinterest. This is often overlooked when developing your social media for business. Pinterest is a powerful platform, as the audience is the most sales-ready of any social media channel. They are looking for inspiration for their wedding dress or next haircut. People go there looking to be inspired and converting them to a sale is far easier, when done correctly.
It’s worth starting with one platform and getting to know it well, rather than feeling that you have to burn out trying to be present on all platforms at all times.
Developing effective use of social media for businesses is a process, you don’t need to achieve everything at once.
If you’d like to learn more about the audiences on each of these platforms, we highly recommend Sprout Social’s insightful breakdowns.
IT’S SOCIAL MEDIA FOR BUSINESS
A common mistake that we see is a lack of distinction between the personal use of social media, and social media for businesses. Just because someone is excellent on their own Twitter feed at the weekend, doesn’t mean that the same tone and content is attractive for your potential customers. The expectation on a business profile is different to a personal profile and being popular on one doesn’t necessarily equate to being popular on the other. People you meet on a night out may be less inclined to follow your business profile, and all those friends you connected with on social media when you were at university may think twice when the expectation is you’re trying to sell to them. As with all of your other business communication, there needs to be a consistent tone of voice and brand personality.
For example, if your website has a very corporate tone, and then your business Twitter feed is full of the latest football scores, it’s likely to isolate an intended audience rather than attract it. That’s not saying that chat about football is necessarily wrong, it’s just crucial to make sure that the tone of voice emulates your brand’s purpose and values. If in doubt, keep it out, or, at least check it with a colleague first.
It’s important to note here, that doesn’t mean keep out any personality. A brand needs personality and a distinctive tone of voice to appeal to its customers. Think about what makes your businesses tone appeal to people, and then keep to curated and created content that is in harmony with this. What appeals to your friends and family may not appeal to potential customers.
DON’T SELL ON SOCIAL
As discussed in a previous blog, it’s a bad idea to sell on social media directly regularly. The occasional post that publicises a sale or asks for support can be valid only if the rest of the content that you put out has value for your audience. Although it’s tempting to always sell when using social media for business, the audience expects to be entertained and informed. Not just seen as a cash cow. This point is pertinent for both businesses and charities – no-one likes to be asked for money at the first point of contact. People generally want to build a relationship with you, before they part with their hard-earned cash. By using social media as a pure sales tool, you destroy the whole reason people joined the platform in the first place. Once they no longer get what they came for or feel hassled while there, they leave, which in turn ruins the opportunity you have to connect with them. By bringing them value instead you build a relationship that people want to receive more of, and at the moment they are looking for what you offer, you’re the one they think of.
If you want to find out more about this, we highly recommend Gary Vaynerchuk’s book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World.
KEEP IT SOCIAL
Above all, social media at its heart is social. It’s a conversation. You can’t just project information in the ether and expect people to pay attention. You need to show people that you’re interested in what they’re saying. Think about if you went to a party – you wouldn’t very quickly make friends if you stood in the room and shouted to all and sundry about your latest achievement and what you are doing next. You’ll only really engage with people if you show an interest in them, and find out about them too. Often this comes before they’re happy to give you an opportunity to talk about yourself.
By spending time showing people that you’re interested in them, they’re far more likely to be interested in you. Who is on your chosen platform that you can connect with? There might be key people in your targeted areas that it would be worth connecting with. There is a lot of opportunities when using social media for business to expand your network far beyond your geographical limitations. This is often done most effectively when people feel like you’re interested in them. Engage with their posts. Like their content. The chances are that they might engage with you in return.
Many of the platforms use hashtags to help you to speak to an audience. A hashtag is basically a signpost that says to a broader community that you’re talking about a subject. When used well, hashtags can help you find the right audiences for your business. They help you to connect with existing communities and find new ones.
As with the audience, it’s worth spending some time researching popular hashtags and working out which ones might work the best for your brand. Using hashtags can be a great way of making connections with people that you would never meet in real life. For example, think of hashtags like interest groups. You wouldn’t go to the local photography club if you wanted to sing. You probably wouldn’t try to join a choir if you wanted to wrestle. A hashtag signposts people to areas of interest – it publicly shows people that you’re interested in an area of conversation.
JUST TRY IT
At the end of the day, your use of social media for business will evolve over time. The more that you grow, the more your communication will. There will be times where you just need to try something to find out if there is an audience for it. This is where social media for businesses is an excellent communication tool. You can try different approaches to develop a tone that works well for you, and also know what doesn’t. Don’t be afraid just to try it. To find the most helpful tone and content for your audience, sometimes it can be as much about working out what doesn’t work, as well as what does.
The We Do Stories team have trained organisations around the world in the effective use of social media. If you’d like to know more about our training packages, contact a member of our team today.