February 5, 2015 Last updated September 18th, 2018 1,850 Reads share

Social Media: Building an Engaged Community

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Your new small business is up and running smoothly, and you may even have a few customers.  But like any small business, you could always do with more. You’ve heard that social media is a good way to attract customers, so you’ve set up your Facebook and Twitter accounts. Now, it’s time to sit back and watch the clients roll in. After lots of waiting and no clients, you ask yourself: where are my clients, and what am I doing wrong on social media?

The truth is, social media is like a relationship: you need to invest time to make it work. Here’s what to do to get the most out of your social media strategy.

Post Regularly

This might seem like a bit of a no-brainer, but many small businesses get lazy with posting. Your followers will want to know what you’ve been up to; they’ve taken the time to follow you, so give them what they want. Tell your followers about what you’ve been doing, including recent news, photos, industry happenings, the people you work with, and anything that will help you engage with your followers.

Be careful about how often you post though– “regularly” doesn’t mean you need to post something on Facebook every hour. In fact, over-posting will have the opposite effect of what you’re aiming for, and your followers will abandon you. How often you post depends on the network and your audience. Ideally, you should post at a time of day that your followers are more likely to be online to ensure that they see what you’re sharing.

When it comes to Facebook, you can publish anywhere between 2 and 4 times a day. Leave enough time between posts, and make sure you publish varying content; publishing the same or very similar posts will see a decline in followers. The golden rule is to post enough to be seen as active and relevant, without being overwhelming.

Twitter has a shorter shelf life than other social networks, so you can afford to be a bit more generous with your sharing. Still, you shouldn’t tweet more than once an hour– you’ll clog your followers’ newsfeeds, they’ll get annoyed, and they could decide to unfollow you.

Be Consistent

Find your voice, and stick with it. Do you want your business to come across as light-hearted, up-and-coming, serious, or informative? Once you’ve decided on how you want to be perceived, be consistent. Don’t be serious and informative one day, and then humorous the next.

It’s important to investigate and define the voice which best represents your brand. Stephanie Schwab, Principal of Crackerjack Marketing, suggests breaking it down into four parts: character/persona, tone, language and purpose. Imagine your brand as a character. Should this character be friendly, inspiring or authoritative? This will help you identify how you want to sound online. Whether it’s honest, humble, serious, or direct, choose one voice and stick with it.

Think about the language you’ll use on social media. If you’re in the scientific field, it’s okay to use technical or specialist language; if you have a restaurant, it’s probably better to cater to a more general audience to reflect your varied clientele.

You need to ask yourself why you’re on social media. Are you there to be entertaining, informative, or to sell?  These questions will help your business define its voice and how you want to be perceived in the online world. When it comes to consistency, if your social media account is going to be handled by more than one person, develop a style guide, and follow it.

Be Social

People often forget the “social” part of social media. Social media is about building relationships and interacting with others. There are many ways to engage with your followers and influencers on social media. The most obvious is to share their content.  To do that, you need to comment on and share what others are posting.

One of the best ways to be social on Twitter is to use the ‘4:1:1 rule’. The rule states that for every self-serving tweet, you should share the content of four others and retweet one other. When you share other people’s original content, give them a mention in your tweet. Try something like ‘Great article about social media from @jimmyc.bcn (that’s me)’, and then add the link. Doing this should get you noticed not only by the people who wrote the article, but also by their followers. The goal is for other people to share your content across their network, much like you’ve shared theirs across yours.

It’s important to set aside a few minutes each day to engage with other users. If you don’t do this, you’re completely missing the point of ‘social’ media.

Connect with Influencers

If social media is all about forming relationships, the most important thing to consider is who you form relationships with. The first step is to identify influencers in your social media circles, then start engaging with them.

Search engines are a great way to find influencers. For example, if you’re looking for influencers in homebrew-making circles, you’d type “Homebrew Blogs” into Google and comb through the top-ranked blogs to see if they’re on social media. If they are, look to see what kind of engagement they have to determine whether they are someone you want to connect with.

Once you’ve found and engaged with your influencers, you need to maintain the relationship. Twitter lists are a great way to keep tabs on your influencers and find out what they’ve been up to.

Analyze

It may sound extreme, but you need to analyze everything you do on social media. What kind of posts resonate with your audience? Which ones don’t? Does posting or tweeting at certain time get better/worse results? Is too much posting driving your audience away? Have you received any negative feedback from your audience?

Don’t take it to heart if you’ve gotten some criticism: it’s all part of the learning experience and can actually be a good thing. If you have access to Google Analytics or any other social media analytics tools, put them to good use and figure out why your posts succeeded or failed.

Taking these steps into consideration will put you on the path to social media success, and before long, you’ll see your business grow and be able to maintain an engaged audience.

Images: ”Social media,social network concept/Shutterstock.com

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James Clifton

James Clifton

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