Is your business using social media effectively?

If you're not using social media to sell your brand, I've got a telephone call for you from 2003 – it wants its company back. An educated, structured and exciting use of social media can serve many purposes, and anyone can be part of the journey from the social media expert to the newbie who knows the brand like the back of their hand. Through social media a brand can show its knowledge, promote technology jobs, showcase trending content or answer queries.

If we do imagine that you've never used social media before, or have limited reach – and 71% of businesses plan to increase their digital marketing budgets throughout this year – then the first step is to look at your brand. Look at its aims, its target audience personas, its products, and from that think about what you wish to achieve through social media. Do you want to build up a following? Do you want to create a 'personality' for your brand? What will be your KPI – 'likes', web hits, or sales conversions perhaps?

Social media (PD)

Social media platforms are used differently by different people. There are many social networks available, but the easiest to manage are probably Facebook and Twitter. Take a look at similar companies and competitors and see what they're doing, and who follows them.

Let's say you're a small shop selling crafts. Your tone should reflect this and your choice of social media platform should target an audience. Your big selling point is the aesthetic appeal of the cushions, cuddly toys, furniture, jewellery, stationery, or other gifts. Therefore, Facebook and Twitter should be joined by Pinterest (a very visually rich social media network enjoyed by fans of crafts) and perhaps even Snapchat.

Your tone is enthusiastic and homely, inviting guests to enjoy the items you are selling. All responses to queries will be dealt with in the voice of a friend, with warmth. The content you place on your social media is intended to be shared from your followers to a wider net of fellow craft-lovers, bringing them into your circle of supporters.

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You'll mention upcoming events and links to relevant industry news, or perhaps mentions on local newspaper websites. Often it will direct people to your website where it will show off your knowledge of trends, and ultimately lead to sales.

Imagine if you posted irrelevant content, or responded in a harsh, sarcastic manner. The tone of your brand would be skewed and awkward, and it would not flourish. So your social media persona should reflect on you, as a person and a brand. Connecting with similar influencers by following them, mentioning them, tagging them or tweeting to them could pay dividends; better yet if you can get them to follow you.

Huge multi-million or billion dollar brands plan their social media campaigns to coincide with events such as Christmas, Halloween, elections and other dates in the diary. However, the really brave companies entrust their social media teams or external agencies to fly with an idea. Hence Oreo's stroke of genius during Super Bowl 2013, when the lights went out during the final. While the world waited for technicians to fix the problem, Oreo's messages of 'you can still dunk in the dark' gained a massive response that was perhaps even better than its adverts. Try to capture moods or short-term trends and you might gain surprisingly impressive results.

Promoting a brand is not easy. You'll make mistakes, as even the giants of branding do so. But it's a free way of promoting yourself and accruing new customers – give it the time it deserves.

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