In 2016, it’s more vital than ever for businesses to have a strong, engaging social media presence. Today’s customers expect to be able to have a conversation with the businesses they patronize. Rapid response to problems, polite answers to questions, and a friendly online image all contribute to a company’s bottom line.
But building and maintaining a social media presence is ongoing, time-consuming, and expensive. Many companies employ staff whose only job is to manage and monitor social media. This can be an expensive proposition, and there are many social media platforms to choose from. So where should a company focus its efforts?
Know Your Strategy
For best results, you won’t want to limit yourself to just one social media platform — experts say you should be active on every platform possible. But you should have a hierarchy in mind. Each platform will appeal to a different market, and each will have its own benefits and obstacles. Before you pick a platform, however, you should consider how you plan to engage with customers and make your presence known. Think about what sort of content generation strategy suits your company best:
- Pithy jokes and short statements (Twitter)
- Compelling, shareable photos and galleries (Instagram)
- Traditional internet advertising or long-form posts (Facebook)
- B2B content (LinkedIn)
- Informational or entertaining video content (Youtube)
What benefits each platform has to offer depends on what your business provides. Almost everyone will get some use out of Twitter and Facebook. For job postings, B2B blog posts, or other content aimed at businesses, focus on LinkedIn. Companies in the lifestyle, design, fashion, food, travel and luxury business should focus on Instagram or Pinterest. Visual appeal is king on these platforms, which were made to share product photos and memorable moments. Obviously, businesses with lots of short video content to share should set their sights on Youtube. Restaurants and stores who stand to benefit from Yelp and Foursquare should place emphasis there.
You’ve Picked a Platform — Now What?
Once you’ve decided where to place your focus, you should give some thought to how, when, and how often you’ll share content. Each platform presents its own unique challenges, so when you’re putting together your content strategy, consider this:
- Twitter: Many newcomers to Twitter get discouraged because they write a few tweets, see nothing happening, and quit in frustration. To grow and thrive on Twitter, participate in conversations. Interact with customers and other businesses. Don’t be afraid to post a lot — Twitter is a never-ending river of conversation, and getting heard takes work.
- Facebook: Facebook has the largest user base of any social media platform, and is unmatched in terms of potential reach. Unfortunately, Facebook’s algorithm requires spending money to get your posts seen, even by people who are already your fans. If you plan to use Facebook as your social media outlet of choice, be prepared to account for it in your ad budget.
- Youtube: Youtube can be a great way to provide informative, entertaining, shareable content with your customers. The optimal length of a Youtube video is 90 seconds or less, and statistics show the first twenty seconds are critical. Don’t expect users to sit through a lengthy ad or long-winded lecture… most will click away long before your message gets across.
- LinkedIn: Of all the social media platforms, LinkedIn is likely to require the least effort. Sharing a post a few times a week, along with building (and maintaining) genuine connections, should be enough to maintain your presence. Obviously, you may not get many new customer conversions from LinkedIn.
- Instagram / Pinterest: Succeeding on these platforms may take time and experimentation. Many users tend to browse during commutes, after work hours, or over the weekend. Sharing your photos on Facebook and cross-posting to Instagram may help you track and exploit your best posting times.
Stay the Course
Most importantly, when you create a social media strategy, stick with it! Don’t post a few times and then get discouraged by lack of results. It can take months for your company to build up enough presence to get noticed — but it will happen if you keep engaging and sharing content.
There are many tools available to help businesses make smart use of their social media time. Tools like Buffer let you bank a day’s worth of Twitter posts. Iconosquare will track your Instagram stats, and Google’s URL shortener can provide metrics for the links you post.
It may seem like a lot of work to cultivate a social media presence — and it is. But it’s not that different from other methods of promotion — getting out there and communicating with your customers is key.