By Andrew Poulsen, PR Technician
While companies big and small have utilized social media to engage with customers for a decade, it wasn’t until maybe five or six years ago that we saw a paradigm shift in how brands used their voices online. Instead of using social media as just another way to talk to the consumer, many chain restaurants, sports teams, and other national brands now choose to talk with the customer by using Twitter, Instagram and Facebook the same way we do. They do this by sharing the latest meme, riffing on a recent news headline or crafting a snarky reply to an overly hostile internet troll. By choosing to be funny and relatable online, brands that were once considered drab and unexciting (i.e. Denny’s, Wendy’s, Moon Pie, etc.), are going viral with their daily posts and have amassed millions of followers, countless news headlines and the attention of that highly coveted 18-24 demographic.
But is social media really just a free publicity gold rush that turns any company that puts up a few cat photos and clever hashtags into an overnight viral sensation? Well, not exactly. For newer companies trying to break into social media, immediately measuring your success against huge, established brands isn’t going to do you any good. If you’re a manufacturer of linear actuators or ball bearings trying to capture the hearts and minds of millennials, do you really think you can compete with the Baconator or a Grand Slam breakfast special?
Like any other marketing tactic, the ingredients for a successful social media campaign involve patience, research and setting realistic goals for your company. In order to prevent you from becoming discouraged in your social media efforts, here are just a few things to consider.
Do Your Homework
When creating a social media strategy, instead of obsessing over your competitors’ numbers in terms of followers, focus on their content. What are the types of posts that bring in the most engagement from their audience? How can you adapt those styles of posts to what you do? How can you do a better job of making that kind of content? While racking up “likes” may seem like the end goal, engagement is where companies really start to see results. An audience of 100 people who constantly share, comment and interact with your posts will mean much more to your overall reach and bottom line than 1,000 people who just like your page and never engage with your content. And fortunately, there are a ton of great social media analytic tools that can help you find the people that are most likely to be interested in the content you put out there. With free tools such as Facebook Business, you can see which posts are getting the most interaction and adjust your strategy to create more of that type of content.
Create a Social Media Calendar
With so much information flooding our social media timelines, the only way to stay relevant is to post with regularity. One way to stay on top of the conversation is to make a flexible content calendar to remind yourself to post however many times a week you establish is best. Track your engagement and add or subtract the number of posts at your own discretion. Plan ahead to remember to make posts that commemorate things like holidays, company milestones, anniversaries and other events and that aren’t necessarily product related, but might lead to better engagement.
Create Realistic Goals
Unless you come into some kind of fortunate, unexpected buzz, most companies are only going to see modest returns in the first year of their social media campaign. When setting your goals for what you’d like to achieve in terms of followers, start small. This could mean 50 followers a week, or 50 followers a month for the first year. Hitting these smaller goals will encourage you to move forward, but also won’t be soul-crushing if they aren’t met. Before getting discouraged, remember that your focus should be on making content that best reflects your brand and serving those followers online who truly care and want to engage. If you put your best efforts into those two things, the likes will eventually follow.
We all crave quick wins in marketing, but it’s never that simple. But with a solid plan and a clear understanding of your target audience, you may be surprised by how much you can achieve in a short time frame.