Engaging audiences of social media is getting increasingly difficult. Their attention span is getting shorter, while the number of competitors vying for their attention is constantly growing. Average adult internet users have seen enough ads in their lifetime to be able to recognize them from a mile away, as have algorithms of various social media websites.
None of this, however, means that these platforms are losing their value as a promotional channel, it just means that, like with everything else, ‘trying your best’ means something else today than it did yesterday. Going in without a plan rarely resulted in anything but failure even in the Golden Age of social media marketing. Today, you don’t just need a plan, you also need some flair for storytelling. Here’s how to find the inspiration.
What do you Want?
Before posting another thing online, you need to stop and clearly define your goals, both on the overall campaign level, and later, for each individual post. You might say you want to promote your businesses, and while that’s not a false answer, it is definitely a wrong one.
What you do on social networks has the potential to influence prospects in all segments of your marketing funnel.
- You can, for instance, spread brand awareness by making the first contact with new audiences through targeted advertising.
- You can work on customer retention by reminding them of moments from your shared past.
- You could try to publish an extensive research which might set you up as an industry authority and bring your attention from influencers, or even convert some of them into brand evangelists.
- You can try to humanize the brand by sharing parts of your company culture.
There are a number of other purposes you might have for a post, just make sure that it has one. This purpose should from then on guide the rest of your decisions, but you shouldn’t be dogmatic about it. Social media interactions are all about micro-moments, and should an unexpected way to leverage one crop up, don’t hesitate to do so.
One of the most important things to remember in all of this is that you cannot let your current goals determine who you are as a company. Your message across all your social media channels needs to be cohesive or your brand will seem undefined, unreliable and possibly even hypocritical.
Who are you Talking to?
Now you know what you want from your audience, it might be high time to actually meet them. You have probably already had to define your ideal buyer persona, but the kind of familiarity with your prospects that you need transcends weak generalizations based on age or location.
Apart from different contests and other ways for them to win something, the only thing that is likely to draw the attention of your audience is engaging their emotions. In order for you to be able to actually provoke a reaction, you need to know the mentality of the people you are trying to reach, what do they find funny, what frustrates them and what are some of their core beliefs.
While this familiarization is an ongoing process which should last for as long as you’re promoting your business, you can jump-start it by taking a look at the way your competitors are handling social media. See how their audiences are responding to their posts, what might have been done differently and where they excelled. Have a look at their most engaged customers – what are their other interests, when are they the likeliest to post, which kind of posts do they respond to, how do they like to be treated, etc. When done for long enough, first with other people’s audiences, then with your own, you’ll start instantly recognizing certain archetypes, identifying goals they might help you meet and knowing how to approach them straight off the bat.
Where’s the Stage?
Knowing your audience means knowing where they hang out, and how do they use which platform. Likewise, you’ll know that your long-form articles should be published on LinkedIn, team building outing photos on Instagram, and debate-starting snippets of info on Twitter. Naturally, this can lead to issues, but also creates amazing opportunities.
For instance, the audience member you are after is constantly on Twitter, but you want to hook them as a brand evangelist by demonstrating your expertise. You’ve just published a whitepaper clearly illustrating the depth of your insight, but this is just not suitable content for Twitter. This is where you stop, think, and maybe decide to make a game of publishing your findings, by posting a short question answered in the whitepaper, offering a couple of options, waiting for audience participation and publishing the correct answer.
Maybe you create a short video explaining the main points of the paper. Maybe you make it into an infographic. And maybe you think of something completely different, something that would never cross your mind if you weren’t faced with the goal/platform discrepancy. Even if your execution isn’t immaculate, this kind of an idea is bound to make an impact, just by the virtue of its originality.
Naturally, remember that user habits change, as do their platforms of choice. Right now, the go-to social media platform of choice for the majority seems to be Instagram, particularly Instagram Stories. These snippets of video allow you to create amazing narratives, and because of their transient nature seem to be able to provoke more intense reactions in people.
What do you Have to Say?
Also known as ‘the tricky part’. Humans have been craving and crafting stories since we developed the power to speak, but even outside of the context of marketing, storytelling is a delicate skill, one that doesn’t lend itself easily to conforming with our goals or the tastes of our audience. In other words, telling an engaging story is difficult enough on its own and doesn’t get any easier when you are also trying to sell something.
Again, you might take note from the others who are doing it. Aside from analyzing your competitors like we mentioned, spend some time looking at various reputable content marketing agencies, and how they handle their posts. You might notice some trends.
First of all, you’ll notice they’re not constantly writing about themselves. While there are no prescribed recipes for modesty, the accepted norm boils down to the 5:3:2 rule. Basically, you should publish 5 posts with curated relevant content from other sources; 3 posts with your own, industry-related content; and 2 humanizing posts about your brand of a more casual nature. Naturally, deviations are allowed, and experimenting with these ratios can only help you learn more about your audience.
Secondly, you’ll see a lot of repurposed content. Research is expensive and audiences fickle, so once you stumble upon something they actually like, you don’t go off wasting money trying to create something else, you dig in and continue collecting the fruits of your labor for as long as they are willing to keep falling into your lap. So you have a great article – convert it into an infographic, then animate it and offer it as a video, and so on. Of course, you need to make sure you don’t overdo it.
We can’t tell you which topics to focus on or how to approach them. That is something that you’ll find out if you follow the steps outlined in this article, and get to know your audience and their preferences.
Promoting your business on social media is not likely to help you too much if you don’t put in the necessary effort. Apart from getting to know your audience and the individual social networks, you also need defined goals and a fair bit of creativity in coming up with the content. While balancing all these elements may seem difficult, remember that you are not the first one attempting this, and learn from the mistakes and triumphs of those before you.
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