By Joanne Watkins, Senior Consultant at VMA Group
It is a widely regarded fact in business that failing to engage on social media means shutting the door on valuable stakeholder engagement. In 2014 alone, every 60 seconds saw 3.3 million Facebook posts, 342,000 tweets and 41,000 Instagram posts – a number which is constantly growing. And with so many of your existing or potential customers, employees, shareholders and competition online, can you afford to miss out?
The beauty of social media is not merely that you can reach out and engage with the online world, but that it can be used as a tool to identify and understand your target audience, build strong relationships – or even communities – and establish your business as a thought leader in its field. So how do you do that? Functions such as Facebook’s “Insights” provide information on those accessing or “liking” your posts, which means you can easily categorise your audience by gender, age or even who is most active individually. This information can make a world of difference in streamlining market strategy and knowing how to get attention from prospective clients.
Small gestures, such as posting links to interesting articles on hot topics in your field and focusing on content creation, can generate attention and traffic from a whole number of places. Those discovering your business, either through the platform itself, referrals, or by stumbling upon something interesting posted under your business name, are more likely to remember your posts if they are both insightful and engaging. So investing time in what you send is just as important as actually sending it.
However, attracting business through social media is not always this simple. Unless your brand image is strong and you have established trust in your audience, attempts to entice custom can crumble. So consistency of image is key – whichever mediums you use, be they Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc, they must all work together to personify the brand. They must be reactive and engage with those who reach out and not sit dormant for hours or even days as this could give the impression that the business as a whole is slow, disorganised or not contactable. It is equally important to remember that social media is managed by people, and that their voices must harmonise – this means consistency in tone, character, language, content and purpose (although tailoring each post to the tone of the social media channel is also advised). The consequences of a disunited brand voice all reflect back onto the organisation itself and can betray a confused company strategy – not very impressive to stakeholders.
As social media evolves from these broadcast platforms, and the digitalisation of thousands of businesses takes place, there is a new generation of business etiquette emerging. Different mediums are used for different purposes, and it is important to identify which one would be correct for you; a communications organisation using Instagram for its main marketing output could be shutting the door on a huge amount of business if it does not also take advantage of Pinterest. When it comes to engaging people online, businesses that choose to reach out to people publically through Twitter are taking a much softer approach than a more “professional” platform, such as LinkedIn. It’s best to be sure of who exactly you want to be connecting with before you hit “send” – each channel has its niche and navigating them could make all the difference in implementing a successful social media strategy.
So what are the most important points to bear in mind when considering integrating social media into your business? See every post as a representation of your organisation, stay relevant, engaged and reactive, use analytics to get a better idea of your target audience and tailor your posts to the different mediums that you choose. A combination of all of these factors could take your business to the next level.