More than 70% of Americans have at least one social media account, and more than half of them scroll through their feeds at least daily.
With numbers like those, is there any wonder why social has become an integral part of marketing plans for companies ranging in size and scope of multinational conglomerates to local music stores, wholesale instrument and accessories businesses, and performers?
Social is a hot medium. Unlike cold media—passive forms of marketing such as print advertising and outdoor billboards—social invites interaction. It’s dynamic, fluid, and its users give it a life of its own as they like or dislike content, comment on it, or forward it to others.
Regardless of the motive behind taking your marketing social, the name of the game is engagement.
According to Sprout Social, social media engagement is an umbrella term for actions that reflect and measure how much your audience interacts with your content. Social media engagement can include likes, comments, and shares, but varies by platform.
Engagement drives results that can range from increasing website traffic and growing revenue to simply building interest.
Quality Content Is the Foundation of Social Engagement
Social media channels are littered with content. Some are very good, some OK, and the rest is noise. What goes into making high quality information, images, and video?
Gratuitous entertainment—cats playing oboes, for instance—can stack up the likes. But what does sloppy shot, poorly lit video do for your business?
If your goal is driving profitable engagement, make it visually appealing, informative, well written, and well produced.
Social is very much a visual medium. Images, GIFs, and videos are prime content for maintaining and improving engagement compared to written posts. If somebody wants to read about how to connect a Bluetooth sound system, they can read the owner’s manual. Or they can go to the manufacturer’s or retailer’s social to find a short how-to video.
Hashtags # Generate Buzz
A social media hashtag is a word or phrase preceded by the ‘#’ symbol to categorize content. But the overuse of the # has become the butt of late night jokes. Used judiciously, hashtags get more than 12% more interaction—Instagram posts with 11 hashtags get the most buzz; 4 get the second most engagement. Regardless of how many you use, make them relevant to the content and its key information. A great practice is to do a search using the hashtags you’re considering and see what kind of content pops up.
Socialize through Social Media
Talk is cheap, which makes social a high ROI channel. Once it’s up and running, it costs practically nothing to stock it with quality content. Use it to talk with your audience. Don’t just like or add emoticons to posts. Reply to comments, provide praise, critiques (be discerning with this one), refer to other sources of information, offer opinions and suggestions, listen to feedback, and acknowledge it.
It’s particularly important to respond to negative feedback. Critical, in fact. Start with a “thank you for your feedback and I’m sorry you had a less than stellar experience …” and move quickly into how you are going to make it right. Others will see the chain of discussion, appreciate the care you’re taking and the service you’re providing, and know that you place real value on customer satisfaction. We all make mistakes but how we deal with them can actually lead to better business. If someone is really hellbent on being caustic or problematic, take them offline: “I want to make sure I address all your concerns! Please email me at … so I can help resolve this issue.”
Don’t wait to respond! If a friend asks you to dinner tonight, you wouldn’t reply next week. Responding to a customer comment, particularly if it’s critical, is common business courtesy and customers value that. A sincere response can save a customer, who will go on to tell friends about you, etc. So, it doesn’t become overwhelming, it’s best to set aside some time every day or on a regular basis to comment. Remember, there are more of them (followers) than you—comments can add up quickly, so discipline is key here. Just like with the friend/dinner scenario, commenting a week later on a post loses the potential positive impact. The sooner, the better—and more engagement will likely result.
A final note on socialization: Repost content from your followers. If you find someone who’s sharp, ask them to create original content that you’ll post if it meets your standards. Look for comments or feedback that are particularly compelling or inspire others to comment. Followers who become contributors can be invaluable to your overall engagement efforts. One surefire way to get others to contribute is to ask about their genuine experience with your products, performance, etc. Be prepared because it may not always be good news but even a bad experience can add objectivity and credibility to your content.
Analytics Allows Optimization
Social is most definitely not a “one and done” medium. Analyzing what’s working and what’s not is the key to improving the quality of your content, which as noted above, is the foundation of engagement, which is the point of the entire social media drill. Most website builders and social media channels provide some level of analytics. There are more advanced tools as well but start with the basics. What content is garnering more engagement? How is frequency of posting influencing traffic? What posts lead to better sales? By regularly checking analytics, you’ll be able to hone and refine your content to grow engagement.
People love to win stuff and contests are a great way to build engagement. Start small. Set up a contest where everyone who posts a comment on your clarinet maintenance video automatically gets entered to potentially win a useful accessory or swag item (shirt, hat, bottle opener, etc.). Keep in mind the more you ask people to do, the less engagement you’ll get unless the prize is a high-ticket item. It’s all about engagement so make it easy for people to engage. There are also easy-to-use contest templates. Check with your respective social media channels to find out what they offer and be sure to follow all rules and regulations.
While we all hope our social media content will go viral, keep in mind “hope” is not a strategy. Improving engagement is a long-term process, but once you get started, it will gain its own momentum. With focus and consistency, you’ll not only be able to drive the results you desire but will also feel more engaged yourself!