Okay, you’ve given this social media thing a fair chance. You’ve been tweeting, sharing your photos on Facebook, and you even have a product catalog on Pinterest. But after all your hard work you’re not seeing the results. People just aren’t commenting, liking, and retweeting. You’ve got only a handful of followers and none of them seem to be clicking through to your website.
To make things even more frustrating, you keep reading these annoying stats about how awesome social media can be for businesses like yours. Your industry leaders are showing you the case studies. What gives?
The tricky thing about including social media in your business’s marketing strategy is that it’s deceptively simple. It’s free and easy to use, but getting results will take time, practice, and a little experimentation. Becoming a rockstar on social media is about developing your brand’s presence, really listening to your followers, and engaging users with unique content.
But you probably already knew that’s what you had to do. What you’re missing is the how. Here’s some common mistakes you might be making and the best ways to fix them:
#1 You’re talking to the wrong crowd.
It’s really important to recognize that different social media networks tend to attract different types of people. They tend to be used for different purposes, and each has its own form of etiquette. Before embarking into any new social media territory, or if you’re not receiving the response you expected on a particular network, you may want to evaluate the following questions:
- What does this site’s demographic look like? Is it used more by men or women? What age groups are best represented? This information is readily available for most networks. Try this report, or this one.
- Why do users come to this website? Is its use mostly for social entertainment, or are people instead there to learn something? Are there opportunities for professional networking? Surveys of user intent are pretty common. Start with this study about Facebook users, or try this one for Twitter.
- What are the norms for this community? Have you learned how to use hashtags properly on Twitter? What’s the best way to credit the source of your information? Meshing with the group makes it easier for people to see, understand, and respond to your content. There are plenty of site-specific guides, like this one for Twitter or this one for Pinterest.
Understanding your audience allows you to craft messages that peak the interests and serve the needs of your community.
#2 You’re not creating unique content.
The most essential function of a brand on social media is to provide value to its community of customers, clients, members, and supporters. As an expert in a particular field or industry this often means curating content- filtering through the web’s noise and delivering the best, most relevant, and useful information. It also means that you should contribute original content too. It could be as formal as articles and white papers, or as casual as blog posts and video tutorials. The content you create plus the content you curate (as well as your tone) gives your brand a unique footprint on the web that cannot be duplicated.
#3 You’re not listening.
Perhaps one of the most important distinctions between social media and traditional media, such as television and radio, is that social allows for your audience to respond to your messaging. Brands that try to do all the talking will quickly lose their followers’ interest. Focus on having more personal interactions with your followers by responding to them as individuals and having normal, non-sales pitchy conversations with them. Here’s a few ways to really listen to your followers, and to let them know their input is appreciated:
- Give timely feedback. Not only is there an expectation on social media that you’re listening, but there’s an expectation that you’re listening right now. Brands that really rock at social media prioritize responding to messages, tweets, and comments as soon as possible. If you have the resources for it, responding within 12 hours is pretty admirable. If you can’t dedicate that kind of time, or if there are holes in your response times (such as weekends) let people know with a note in your profile.
- Value their input. In many ways, by making your brand a part of an online community where people are often very forthcoming about their opinions you can freely test new products, programs, and ideas. You can also evaluate where your products or services need improvement. You can even use your community to help generate ideas for future development. Asking for opinions, or just keeping track of the feedback your followers give over time, allows you to smartly direct your time and resources towards the developments that will be most successful.
- Show your appreciation. It can be as simple as posting your thanks for their support, or as elaborate as giving away fabulous prizes, but showing your appreciation can make a significant impression on your fans. The best demonstrations are spontaneous, genuine, and have no strings attached.
#4 You haven’t established your brand.
Branding yourself on social media is about creating an impression of who you are, what you do, and how you do it. It’s also about following through so that first impressions become grounded in real examples and experiences. If users find that you become inconsistent with the image that first inspired them to follow you, they may become disengaged. Here’s a few ways to develop and maintain your image:
- Think about your tone. How would you wish customers and clients to describe your brand’s personality on social media? Are you reserved and practical, or professional yet fun? Think about the best ways to communicate this through language and imagery. (For more help developing your brand’s personality try this article).
- Choose graphics wisely. Have you thoughtfully designed your profile? Choose background, profile, and cover photos that synch with the rest of your brand’s online social presence. Don’t forget that your imagery should also serve your objectives and communicate your brand’s tone.
- Focus your content. Unlike a personal profile where posting anything goes, a brand’s presence on social media should have more consistency and focus. Choose a few topics related to your brand’s mission and specialize.
By developing your brand on social media people will be inspired to follow you, because what they get from following you will be clearly articulated.
#5 You’re raining on the parade.
Nobody wants to listen to a Negative Nancy (there are even studies to prove this). Focus instead on messages that are positive and empowering. This is especially critical for organizations that have a strong political or social mission. It’s good to address the world’s problems, but avoid tactics that are divisive, pessimistic, or that make people feel guilty.
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