5 questions to help you build a more effective social media presence

In today's digital society, if your business isn't on social media, it doesn't exist to the majority of American consumers.

In fact, the lack of a social media presence can actually make consumers question your legitimacy. 

Establishing an effective narrative on the right platforms is crucial for any business looking to build brand awareness and a foundation for growth.

Consumers today want to know more than just who you are and what you do — they want to be inspired and feel connected to you, your brand and your values.

So if you want your business to survive in today's consumer-driven society, you have to build brand loyalty with a message that is trustworthy and authentic. You have to tell a story people can relate to and believe in — and social media is the most powerful and effective way to create that experience people now expect from companies and brands.

Unlike traditional marketing, social media allows you to connect and engage — with both existing and potential customers — directly and immediately.

And having the right strategy is key to successfully reaching the right people in the right ways.

When you're just getting started, the social universe can be overwhelming and confusing — but it doesn't have to be! Think of it simply as a way to spread your message and tell people why they should turn to you for whatever it is you have to offer.

To help you get started, here are a few tips to help you start building a successful strategy.

5 questions to help you build a more effective social media presence

1. What are your goals?

To be successful on social media, you need to develop a strategy that aligns with your overall goals.

Whether it's to build brand awareness, increase sales, increase app downloads or drive traffic to your website — you need to identify what you want to accomplish with your social media presence in order to determine the best strategy.  

And if you aren't sure, that's OK!

Here are a few things to think about to help you identify what exactly it is that you want to achieve:

  • What are you looking to get out of social media?

    • More traffic to your website? Brand exposure? Increased sales? 

  • Who are you trying to reach?

  • What makes you and/or your brand unique?

  • What do you have to offer that's unique? What makes you different?

  • What type of content will you share?

    • Informational, visual, etc.

Once you establish specific goals, and how they relate to overall business goals, you can then determine your metrics for success — which could be number of clicks to your website, new followers, app downloads or overall reach, among others. Tracking the data is what allows you to measure the ROI of social media and adjust strategies based on success.

For example, let’s say one of your social media goals is to increase brand awareness. You want more people to know about your brand and what it stands for — meaning you want to get it in front of as many people as possible. Just a few examples of things to measure to determine the success of brand awareness strategies on Facebook would be overall reach, likes, followers and shares. Twitter: followers and Retweets. Instagram: followers and likes.

If another one of your goals is to increase website traffic, you’ll want to track how many clicks are coming from each social media site. While Facebook is the best platform to focus website-traffic strategies, many companies bring in a significant amount of clicks from other platforms. So you’ll want to track how much traffic is coming in from each site and take note of whether those numbers increase or decrease as you roll out new strategies.

Examples of social media goals and metrics to track on/from each social media platform:

  • Brand awareness

    • Reach, likes, followers

  • Website traffic

    • Traffic from links clicked on social

  • Brand loyalty and/or website visitor loyalty

    • Return visit rate

  • Conversions

    • Conversion rate of people coming to your site/app from social .

2. What is your brand story?

At the center of your social media strategy is your story.

If your brand doesn't tell a story, you're just another brand — another commodity that gets lost in the mix.

In order to be successful, as a small business or entrepreneur, you need to tell people more than just what your company has to offer — you want to tell a story that connects your brand with consumers on a personal level.

Your story is the foundation of your brand — and your future growth. But it's about more than just standing out and getting noticed. 

Take a step back and think about why you're doing what you're doing — users need to feel the passion that's at the heart of your brand. You believe in it, right? So you have to make them believe in it, too.

Your story is what allows you to build brand loyalty by appealing to the emotions of existing and potential customers. In today's digital landscape, it's about building relationships with people who may never lay eyes on you or your company in person. So your narrative needs to shine through everything you do on social media.

What makes a good brand story?

Telling your story is about building something people care about and want to be involved with — it's about making users feel connected to your brand in a unique way — and being authentic about the why is exactly what will attract more customers to your brand.

For your brand story to be successful and relatable, it must:

  • Clearly establish what your brand is about: its core values, mission and value to consumers

  • Offer an experience, not just a product or service

  • Be entertaining, useful or informational — or all three!

  • Motivate users to get involved — to buy in to whatever experience you're offering — by making them feel like they are a part of something that has meaning

  • Offer consumers something they don't want to miss out on

You started your business for a reason — maybe to fill a need in the marketplace, carry out your passion, create something that can improve people's lives or just make their lives easier — even if you don't think it's interesting, others will -- because the fact is, your story is uniquely yours, and it exists nowhere else.

And it doesn't even matter what your business is, does or offers — you just have to tell people a story they've never heard before — one that gives them an opportunity to be part of something great.

Bottom line: People will always remember a good story — and they will always remember how you made them feel. And that connection is what will help your business grow.

When it comes to telling your brand story, here are a few things to think about:

  • Why did you start your company? 

  • What are you passionate about?

  • What motivates you and your team every day?

  • What goes on behind the scenes that will make consumers feel more connected to you and your brand?

  • What is your unique value that will get people to spend their money?

  • Is there a charitable or community aspect to share?

3. Who is your audience and what do they want?

Who needs your product or service and why?

Figuring this out is crucial, because you don't need to reach everyone on the Internet. You only need to reach those who want or need what you have to offer — and are willing to pay for it.

Start by determining your ideal customer — gender, age, lifestyle, interests, needs, wants, financial status.

If you have several offerings, break out several specific customer profiles to match each part of the business and/or each specific goal.

Whether you're selling a product or service — or trying to get more people to your blog — you have to know whom exactly you're going after to avoid getting lost in all the clutter.

This will help you build a strategy and message that appeals to the right people — the people you need to build a relationship with so they trust you and feel connected to you enough to buy in to whatever you're offering.

4. Where is your audience?

Just because a social platform exists — or there's a new and exciting one everyone's talking about — it doesn't mean you should be on it.

When you're trying to build an effective strategy, the last thing you want to do is spread yourself too thin by focusing on platforms that don't offer you much, if any, return.

So once you've determined your goals and target audiences, you then need to figure out which platforms will be most effective in helping you reach those goals.

Meeting your audience where they already are

It's important to invest your time and resources on the platforms where you can reach and engage with as many potential customers as possible.

To get your brand in front of the right people, you have to meet them where they already are — and then put a message in front of them that they can't resist.

To determine the best strategies, it’s important to familiarize yourself with each social network in order to get a grasp of: how it works, the demographics that use it, the type of content that performs well etc.

Here are some basics to know about some of today's most popular social platforms:

Facebook: With 2 billion monthly active users, using Facebook to market your business is really a no-brainer.

Regardless of what industry you're in, Facebook is a great starting point for any small business, entrepreneur, blogger or really anyone looking to grow their fan/user base and gain more exposure. Plus, there's a lot you can do on Facebook for free — with plenty of marketing/advertising options that fit within any budget.

With Facebook, you also have a lot of options when it comes to the type of content you share and how you interact and engage with users. Here are just a few examples of what you can share (and how you can share it) in order to get in front of the right people and market your business and/or content:

  • Photos: of your product/service, behind the scenes, data graphics etc.

  • Videos: brand videos that tell your story (what you do, where you came from, your purpose, why users should care — offering that emotional piece that allows users to feel a connection to you and your brand), videos about your product/service, videos that appeal to users’ emotions by telling a story that builds a relationship and trust with them — which could be a video focused on the community outreach aspect of your business or a customer testimonial.

  • Links: to your website/blog — offering users more information about why they should buy in to whatever you're offering and why they need it, or simply to learn more about the content that already sparked their interest.

  • Targeting: You can target any post (photo, video, link, poll etc.) to the exact audience you're trying to reach — by demographic, location, interests and more. 

The platform can also be as low-maintenance as you want. Depending on your time and resources, you can post several times per day or per week. Plus, you have the option to schedule posts as far out as you want — so you could spend just a few hours scheduling photos, videos, links, polls etc. for the next week or however long you want.

One thing about Facebook is it allows you to easily interact with users — in private messages, comments on your Page/posts, as well as within the Facebook Live video feature. You can host a Q&A or behind-the-scenes live video and respond to users' comments live throughout the broadcast.

Twitter:  Twitter is a great platform to share quick updates, interact with users and to get your brand in front of new audiences. Twitter is also a great place to handle customer service, allowing you to respond directly to consumers' questions, concerns etc.

With Twitter, you can share text updates, videos, images, links, polls and more. You can also easily engage with users and other brands by mentioning them in your posts.

It's also a great place to insert your brand and your brand story into existing conversations by using hashtags. You can always jump on trending topics, but with a little research, you can find niche groups and ongoing conversations that relate to your brand/industry that already exist -- allowing you to get in front of that target audience you've already identified.

Plus, by retweeting users with big, active followings -- who share interesting content related to your brand/industry -- will help boost your presence and diversify your content so you aren't just sharing your own links/thoughts.

So Twitter is great for exposure, engagement and reaching new audiences; however, Twitter is not the best platform if you're looking to drive massive traffic to your website. Links to interesting/relative content will push users to your site, but you have to get them in front of those users who are likely to click. 

Plus, Tweets move a lot quicker than Facebook posts and can easily get lost -- the platform requires more consistent posting/engagement on your part to really start to build a loyal following. So being active on the platform is key.

With Facebook, your posts are shown to users who are most likely to be interested in them. While with Twitter, you have to do a little more work to get in front of the right people.

Instagram & Pinterest: Instagram and Pinterest are great platforms for businesses with visual content. Some of the top-performing topics are lifestyle, DIY, health, life tips, fashion, beauty, photography, cooking and other content that appeals to users in a positive and visual way — such as ways to improve their life/lifestyle, make their life easier etc.

Both platforms are primarily about high-quality visuals — making them great for small businesses and entrepreneurs who want to display their skills — things like jewelry, art, photography, nutrition, interior design, decorating etc..

Pinterest is great for sharing step-by-step content, as well as infographics and other data visuals — and the content is more evergreen than other platforms, meaning users can find it based on search results regardless of when it was posted.

5. Determine your content strategy

It's not enough to simply state who you are, what you sell or do, and why people should be interested. You have to show them why they should choose you by sharing content that's unique, credible and relates to people on a personal level.

What type of content is your audience interested in? To build a successful social media presence, your content must be more useful and informational than strictly promotional. That's how you appeal and relate to the right people. You need to figure out what your potential customers want and then design your strategy to provide that content.

Determining what works best can take a lot of trial and error, but you can get a lot of great ideas by looking at what your competitors and others in your industry are doing. What works for them on each platform? What are they sharing that catches your attention and interests you? That's the content you need to pay attention to, because what works for them will likely work for you — and finding similar ways to share your message will help you begin to understand the best strategies to continue to build on as you grow your presence.

Also take note of what types of content interest and inspire you on social media. And before you post anything, always ask yourself: would I share this? If the answer is no, then don’t post it!

Last thing…

Signing up for email alerts from social platforms, social experts and publications that cover social marketing tips and platform updates can give you new ideas and help you stay on top of the latest trends and marketing opportunities.

Bottom line: When building your content strategy, you need to make sure it's interesting, useful and entertaining. Social marketing is about giving users something they need or want without making them feel like just another consumer being sold a promotion or advertisement. You have to show users that your brand is more than your product or service. If you invest in them, they will be much more likely to invest in you!

Alex Thomas