How Businesses Should Be Using Social Media in 2015

Author

Sujan Patel, Contributor

June 25, 2015

It’s been reported that as of 2015, roughly 73% of all Americans have at least one social media profile – up from 48% just five years ago. Keeping up with this massive movement to social media has long been a business concern. A lot of businesses still struggle with understanding how to use social media effectively.

As a business owner, it can be tempting to want to jump right in and establish profiles on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat. After all, social media can be a great way to attract and convert new customers.

But in order to be successful on social media in 2015, you have to do more than just participate. You have to show your followers that you actually care about them and their problems. You have to show them the human side of your business. Only then will you be able to get any sort of ROI from the time, energy, and money that you put into social media.

Here are five ways to humanize your social media marketing efforts in 2015:

1. Treat Your Followers Like Actual People

During the age of mom-and-pop stores, businesses relied on personal relationships to make sales and retain customers. They built genuine trust with their clients and delivered in heart-to-heart exchanges, instead of account-to-account transactions.

As a business owner, you need to try to create the same experience for your social media followers. Instead of playing the numbers game and focusing solely on vanity metrics or pageviews, you should instead pay attention to engagement. Engagement essentially refers to the number of authentic, real (as in not spam) comments and shares you receive from your online community.

When you focus on engagement metrics, it forces you to treat your followers like actual people. It makes you think more about who they are, what they need help with, and why they chose to interact with you online at all in the first place.

2. Focus on Who People Are, Not What They Give You

In order to stand out on social media, businesses need to concentrate more on the people and less on the dollars. The people who follow you may well not be customers yet, but they are potential ones. There are a million other companies around who are stuffing ads in their face, discounts on their screen, and one-liners on the side of the profile they choose to view. Savvy customers ignore these and look for companies that focus on them as individuals.

How can you tell if you’ve gone overboard with the promotional messages? The 5-3-2 rule is a good way to keep things in check. Developed by TA McCann of Gist, it involves posting in a ratio of:

  • Five social media posts based on information from others that’s relevant to your audience.
  • Three non-sales related posts based on your information that’s relevant to your audience.
  • Two personal posts that aren’t business-related and help humanize you and your brand.

Work in a sales related message now and then, but strive to keep this ratio intact otherwise.

3. Take Your Time and Build The Relationship

In order to be successful on social media in 2015, you need to stop focusing so much on getting immediate sales from new followers, and instead focus on building authentic relationships with people. It is called “social” media after all! Gary Vaynerchuk talks frequently about how building those social, non-monetary relationships lead to increases in sales. While in may seem odd at first, it has helped Gary build a $60 million online wine business from the back of his dad’s local liquor store. He has written three books detailing his tested theories and methods of harnessing social media for his business.

Social media is all about the long sell. Your goal isn’t necessarily to generate sales with every promotional tweet or status update you run (although it’s great when that happens from time to time). Instead, look at every new interaction as an opportunity to build engagement with your followers. With each message, their comfort with your brand grows, as does their willingness to buy from you in the future.

ProTip: To make sure you’re building relationships with the right people right off the bat, use tools like Narrow.io to engage with people that fall within your target audience.

4. Help Them Decide to Buy Instead of Asking Them For The Sale

Once you’ve taken the time to develop authentic relationships with followers based on trust, allow them to digitally “window shop.” Create excellent content. Make your website easy to navigate. Notify them of great deals and new items via social media without bombarding them with updates trying to squeeze every possible extra dollar out of their pockets. Allow them to make the choice to purchase from your business, instead of asking for their money in the first place.

If you aren’t sure whether or not you’re meeting the mark here, do a quick gut check. If you were a new visitor who wound up on one of your social profiles, what would you think of your brand? Would you feel like you’re being over-sold? Or would you feel that your company is providing you with helpful, interesting and engaging information that makes you want more?

If you can’t honestly say that you’ve struck the right balance, hit the drawing board and revise your posting ratio to ensure you’re delivering more quality content than sales messages.

5. Listen!

One of the best things you can do to boost ROI in terms of participating on social media is to simply be a good listener. Encourage your followers to give you feedback on your products, your brand, and your participation on social media. Let them know that you’re listening and that you value their feedback. In addition to paying more attention to what your followers are saying about you and your business (this is your qualitative data), you can also be ‘listening’ by paying attention to quantitative data.

That means paying attention to engagement metrics, as mentioned before, and it also means going out of your way to understand and learn from the other data found in your social analytics dashboards. Oftentimes, you can look to your quantitative social analytics to learn more about when your followers are active, when they prefer to be engaged with, and what types of content or information they value most. From there, you can make changes that are intended to strengthen the relationship you have with the people you’re ultimately trying to convert.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting your social media marketing efforts to result in a positive ROI for your investment of time and money, but you can’t force it. To be successful with social in 2015, focus less on sales and more on people, taking the time needed to develop solid, long-term relationships.

Now, I want to hear from you. How is your company using social media in 2015? What priorities are you focusing on and what are you doing to ensure you reach them? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below:

This article was written by Sujan Patel from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


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