It’s no secret that we’re in the age of social media — and online is everything. Cultivating a solid social community is more than just helpful when it comes to brand recognition. It’s your gateway directly into a potential consumer’s home. It’s there that you can nurture leads — building a tight-knit bond with supporters while winning over new ones. A whopping 71% of consumers who’ve had a good online interaction with a brand are likely to recommend that brand to others. Word of mouth goes a long way.
Unfortunately, as much as users like talking about brands online and utilizing social channels for customer service, about 95% of those users don’t follow the brands they’re discussing. Cultivating a large following is actually pretty difficult, but you can grow your community quickly if you know the right ways to reach consumers. All it takes is a solid strategy that’s optimized for each platform. Here are some tips to get started.
Set Your Marketing Goals
Before you focus on a single social network, the key to a solid overarching social strategy is to know your endgame. You can’t reach the finish line if you don’t know where that finish line is. For this reason, you need to set up marketing goals that align with your business’ objectives. These should be clear objectives rather than simply “I want more followers” or “I want more traffic.” Set a well-defined numeric goal, and make sure every action is in service of that goal.
Conduct A Competitive Analysis
The best way to beat out the competition is to know what the competition is doing. This is where a competitive analysis comes in. Before you create a social media strategy, check out like-minded brands to find out which social media platforms they’re utilizing the most, what kind of content they’re producing, what kind of campaigns they’ve run, and how they’re interacting with their community. Analyze what’s working and what isn’t so you can improve upon where they’ve failed.
Throughout this process, you can use a service like Unbox to help you track your competition’s social media channels and generate real, actionable insights that will help you improve your brand’s performance. If you keep an eye on key metrics, you can adjust your strategy in real-time to increase your chances of success.
Target Your Audience
You can’t reach an audience on social media who isn’t there, which is why it’s important to have the tightest focus on the platforms your target audience prefers. Build your strategy around who you’re trying to reach. For example, if your brand is trying to sway younger consumers, Snapchat may be a better option than Facebook. If you’re looking to reach c-suite professionals or other businesses, you might want to ramp up your LinkedIn strategy.
Most social media platforms — whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat — allow you to create custom audiences when you run an ad. Make sure to utilize this feature to optimize your ad spend. There’s no point in blasting out a message to potential consumers who are not likely to respond.
While targeted ads definitely help grow a following, there’s a fair amount of work you can do without spending a dime, too. Below, we’ll dive deeper into each platform, and how you can maximize your strategy.
Even though it’s no longer the trendiest, Facebook is still the most popular social network in the United States, and just under 75% of users visit the site at least every day. This means it’s basically a win for any demographic, though teens have increasingly dropped the platform in favor of YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat.
They key to quickly growing a community on Facebook is increasing your organic reach. Anyone can pay for ads, but organic reach is an increasingly rare treasure as the market becomes oversaturated. Right now, there’s 30 billion pieces of content published on Facebook every month, which is way more than anyone can realistically see in their newsfeed. Instead, the algorithm tailors visible content to what’s relevant to a user’s individual interests. To increase your chances, you should:
- Make your feed more human: avoid automation and give your posts a human touch. This could mean posting a snap of your team, opening up a dialogue with customers, or sharing other posts from community members.
- Don’t over-promote: most of your updates should be social and not promotional. Facebook users want to be part of your community. They don’t want to tune into a commercial break.
- Utilize Facebook Live: Facebook Live videos generally produce six times as many interactions as regular video — and video is already some of the most-shared content on the platform.
If you’re looking to reach 18 to 24-year-olds, Instagram is key. 75% of people within that demographic use the platform, and it’s a teen favorite, second only to Snapchat. One hack to quickly growing your Instagram community is to end up on the Explore Page, and increasing your engagement makes this way more likely to happen. In order boost your engagement, make sure you:
- Shout out your community members: this means reposting consumer content, which encourages people to continue the brand conversation. Stories are the best way to get people to re-share your post, but grid posts work, too.
- Pay attention to your hashtags: check out what the competition is using, start your own hashtag campaign or contest, and make sure to use hashtags in Stories. Instagram also added the ability to follow hashtags, so use this to your advantage.
- Get on IGTV and go live: like Facebook, video content is exceedingly popular and solicits high engagement.
- Write longer captions: believe it or not, longer captions tend to get more engagement even though Instagram is a largely visual platform. Just make sure captions are insightful and meaningful.
- Post save-able content: you want users to click “save,” so try posting informative graphics that people will want to come back to.
Twitter use among adults is lower than other social networks, but 18 to 49-year-olds are the most popular demographic. What’s key here is that Twitter has a higher reach among college educated professionals who make more than $75,000 a year. It’s also one of the preferred platforms for customer service.
The key to growing a Twitter is fast, timely interactions. It’s all about individual conversations happening in real-time. Plus, a whopping 78% who complain about a brand on Twitter expect a response in an hour.
Twitter should be monitored around the clock, and you should inject yourself into relevant conversations to help cultivate a community feeling. You should also tweet frequently, follow users within your community, and even interact with like-minded businesses. It’s all about expanding a conversation.
With Twitter, hashtags are less important. Research has shown they actually don’t make a difference and tweets without hashtags typically perform better.
LinkedIn is far from the most popular social network in the United States, but it does reach an important niche audience: highly educated professionals who make more than $75,000 a year and businesses and the people who own them. A solid LinkedIn growth strategy includes:
- A focus on thought leadership content: shift your focus towards posting helpful, informative articles.
- Engagement among employees and team members: most businesses on LinkedIn already have a built-in community. Utilize them to further your conversation.
- A fully-completed profile: your page should be SEO optimized. On average, pages with photos get 21 times more views and 36 times more messages than those without.
Like Facebook, YouTube is vastly popular among adults in the United States. Between 87% and 93% of 18 to 49-year-olds use the platform. It’s even used by the majority of boomers under the age of 65. This is why it’s become an increasingly popular platform for brands. Building a community on YouTube is often a slow burn with a focus on quality and consistency. To grow your community, focus on:
- Setting a schedule: users should be able to expect videos regularly. Think like a TV series, where viewers know to tune in at least once a week.
- Soliciting branded partnerships: bringing users in from popular, like-minded accounts always helps.
- Mixing longform content with shorter content: the average YouTube video length is between 4 and 10 minutes long, but some of the most highly engaged YouTubers have videos that span 20 minutes or more. Longer content — if it’s meaningful — can solicit increased shares, but you have to check the metrics to see if your audience is responding well to lengthier content.
- Minding the thumbnail: The thumbnail is the first thing that grabs a user’s attention, so it should be eye-catching.
- Add annotations to drive actions: If you want users to subscribe, remind them! If you want them to engage, just ask. Annotations put calls to action front and center.
Snapchat is where you’re going to reach the most teens. A whopping 73% of 18 to 24 year olds use the platform, which is exceedingly more than any other demographic. A great way to ramp up your Snapchat following is to:
- Have top customers or influencers take over your account: this gives you direct access to their followers.
- Include your Snapcode on physical marketing materials.
- Cross-promote your Snapchat with your “add me” URL: this will go a lot further than a screenshot of your snapcode.
- Run a snapchat contest.
- Regularly post a lot of content throughout the day: Snapchat is like the Twitter of video. Post, and post often.
Remember: Always Monitor Your Metrics
Once you’ve adopted a strategy towards each specific platform, you need to monitor key metrics. Most platforms have their own analytical tools, but outside platforms can help give you greater actionable insights. Close monitoring can help you determine which types of content and campaigns your audience likes best and what times of day they’re more likely to engage. If you give your community what it wants, it’s only going to grow.
Author Bio: Ryan Gould- Vice President of Strategy and Marketing Services
From legacy Fortune 100 institutions to inventive start-ups, Ryan brings extensive experience with a wide range of B2B clients. He skillfully architects and manages the delivery of integrated marketing programs, and believes strongly in strategy, not just tactics, that effectively aligns sales and marketing teams within organizations.