Friday, March 18, 2016

How to Use Social Media Engagement to Grow your Business

Social Media: forms of electronic communication (as Web sites for social networking and micro-blogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (as videos).

We have a common definition -- but are you left wondering, how can I effectively use social media to grow my business? According to a customer engagement report produced by Microsoft, 97% of small and medium-sized businesses view engagement as a top priority for their business but 41% say they don't make the most of their social media presence. Here are 15 ways to build up engagement on your social media platforms:

FRONT AND CENTER. Make it easy for people to find your business on social media. Your social buttons should be easily recognized on your website. It’s also helpful to cross-promote your accounts with one another. Google + and YouTube make this especially easy, encouraging you to include a list of your social pages when you build your “About Us” sections. As a general rule of thumb, your social media channels should be complete and always include a link to your business’ site and/or contact info.

EMBRACE YOUR SPECIAL SAUCE. What’s your wheelhouse? Find it. Love it. Use it. Projecting a consistent message and aesthetic -- for example, incorporating your business’ color scheme in your Instagram posts -- on social media will keep folks attentive and interested in what you have to share, say and sell. Being genuine will prove impactful when your audience is faced with choosing your product or your competitor’s. Stay sincere and they’ll stay engaged.

THINK FIRST, POST SECOND. Before you hit “send,” “publish,” or “share,” do your due diligence to keep your messaging professional, even if the post is light-hearted. Rushed (read as: grammatical and spelling errors) or confusing content could translate to losing a follower. Investing a little time in proofreading will save you time potentially spent explaining away a wince-inducing message. Thoughtfully-produced content will pull users into your social media circle and closer to your brand.

EASY DOES IT. Share about your brand’s ongoings but stick to the 80/20 rule. That’s 20% about your business and 80% about something or someone else. Why? Sharing useful content from respected sources builds legitimacy for your brand and you in turn build a reputation as a reliable resource. When using other’s content, tag them to let them know you’ve given them a public shout-out. There’s a good chance they’ll recognize you in return. It isn’t uncommon for unspoken alliances to form between brands and unofficial ambassadors on social media, simply by sharing and favoriting posts. Try it, you might “like” it! [Sorry, I had to!]

MIX IT UP. Keep things interesting. Use images, emojis (emoticons), hashtags, videos and gifs in your social media posts. Via an Amex Open Forum Study emoticon posts have a 33% higher share rate, 33% higher comment rate and 57% higher like rate on Facebook. Hashtags allow you to reach not only your direct followers but any non-followers interested in that tag. TrackMaven shares that posts with hashtags see 60% more interaction (clicks). Similarly, according to Hubspot, tweets with images see a 55% increase in leads. The numbers don't lie. Using visuals improves engagement.

CRISS-CROSS. Cross-promoting content across your social media accounts expands your reach and potentially draws followers of one account, over to another. Sharing a YouTube video on your other social media mediums could prove very powerful for your business, especially if what you have to offer is better expressed in a visual format. Another common practice is sharing Instagram posts onto other social channels. It’s worth noting, according to Simply Measured, photos uploaded directly to Twitter receive 5x more engagement vs. Instagram posts that are shared to Twitter. So, that strategy may vary for your brand. Try different approaches to see what unveils stronger results.

TOOL TIME. Take advantage of the tools offered by the social media platforms you use. Most have a basic analytic section allowing you to dissect your activity and the behavior of your audience. Best practice: Make note of what time of day your posts generate top engagement and what type of messages are getting the most impressions and/or likes. If you take the time to review your audience’s behaviors, you’ll have an easier time reaching them and keeping them engaged. If you’re paying for a service like Hootsuite or Sprout Social to post onto your social media accounts, schedule a call or online chat with your rep to understand their offerings and what’s included in your contract. The better understanding you have of the tools you use to reach your audience, the better outcome you’ll see.

LISTEN UP. Conducting social listening can be as easy as searching for a hashtag, following a trend of interest, or watching another account. For example, keeping a keen eye on your competition could shed light on how to engage a larger audience for your own business.  It’s not sneaky to be aware of your competitor’s social media activity, it’s savvy. Consider monitoring platforms for trending topics, do they affect your business? If so, how could you benefit from being involved in the conversation? Participate in social conversations that promote annual holidays and community events. As long as you stay true to your brand and aren’t forcing your involvement, you’ll align yourself with new audience members aka potential customers.

SAY HEY. Interact with your followers. They’re following you for a reason and it’s your job to keep them in your corner. Post consistently in both tone and timing (remember your Special Sauce from above). Avoid going long stretches without sharing content on your platforms, people lose interest easily -- they have options and you have competition. An un-follow is as easy as…POOF. Likewise, respond to all comments on your social posts. Your social media accounts might be the only way an individual connects with your brand. Make it personal but keep it professional: Signing responses with your initials or name (if characters allow) proves you aren’t a robot and strengthens the relationship you’re working to establish or maintain. No one likes robotic conversation. Sorry, robots. The same goes for when you address a party, use their first name. Offer additional follow up via direct message or email depending on the social platform’s offerings. This builds trust and comfort and therefore future engagement possibilities.

TWEET, TWEET, REPEAT. A tweet has an 8-minute lifespan. Translation: Don’t be afraid to repeat an important message or one that has proven to engage people via your Twitter account. According to Wisemetrics, 55% of Twitter users repeat their tweets. On average, a 2nd tweet gets 86% as much performance as the first run. It’s well worth repeating when it’s a given you’ll reach even more folks with your message. Also, consider quote tweeting and retweeting content so the audience sees you give credit where credit is due and that you appreciate their engagement.

GET CHATTY. Engage in other accounts’ live chats on social media. This is a wordy way to get in front of your pursuits while offering valuable content. Want to give it a go, yourself? Try hosting a live chat. This can be a solo effort or you may choose to co-host with an ambassador or influencer of your brand. A chat can occur in several forms but most popular would be a Q&A or an “ask anything” format. In a nutshell, both require a hashtag and someone monitoring the account in real-time. Use an easy-to-type hashtag, so you can find participants’ questions and replies during your chat. Welcome them, thank them and follow up with them.

Recently, we held a live chat via BBB’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. We opted for the open framework aka “ask us” format -- implementing an #AskBBB hashtag. What did we learn in our first experience hosting? Consider the timing -- when will people be online BUT also be available to chat. Part I of our chat was held at lunchtime. The posts got a lot of views but people were maybe prioritizing their taco and guacamole (oh, the nerve!). With that said, views (otherwise known as impressions) are always good. The next level would be reaching those same people when they’re available to engage. Part 2 of our chat took place in the evening and saw both impressions and an increase in engagement. We'll apply these metrics to the next chat we conduct.

GET IN THE ZONE. Participate in forums and groups such as those hosted on LinkedIn. When someone interacts with you in a group, ideally you’d like them to end up on your LinkedIn profile and learn something about your business. Provide helpful and relevant content and have an open profile that suitably represents your brand. In addition to organized groups, sporadically interact with the accounts you follow on your social media platforms. It shows you’re paying attention and not just following for the gesture of a follow. Plus, your interaction will be a reminder of your willingness to be a resource.

GIVE IT AWAY, NOW. If your budget (and HR department) permits, consider hosting contests via your social media accounts. Maybe it’s requesting a page” like” with a user adding their email address in the comment field. Or asking for the follower to repost a picture on Instagram and tag a friend in the copy? Either are short order tasks for folks who want -- and like --  to win! Make sure to clearly define the rules and have it approved by the appropriate channels in your chain of command.

LET THEM DELIVER. Ask your followers to share your content. Loyal followers will see this as an opportunity to be a driver of your brand to their friends, “hey, did you know about these guys.” Keep your call-to-action simple. Instructions that are too involved will distract and turn off your audience. Encourage users to share content and thank them for doing so! Did a user share something positive about your brand? Or review their experience with you? Why not ask them if you can share it on your website as a testimonial and link back to that social platform from your site. It promotes your brand, a positive consumer experience and your social media channel. Talk about a triple threat! And if an account mentions you, jump right in! Re-share their message and always (always) thank them.

GET TO THE POLLS.  Running polls is easy on platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Do you care about your audience’s opinion -- that deserves all caps -- YES, YOU DO! Why not ask them? Polls are a simple maneuver to involve your followers and hopeful followers-to-be, while at the same time collecting their preference on a topic, product or service. You name it. Have fun with it.

How do you engage with your audience on social media? Have you found techniques that work for your brand? Share in the comments below! BBB’s News and Opinion Blog serves as your source for business topics and industry news like ways your business can tackle tax season and tips for customer retention. For more information you can trust, visit us at, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Written by Stephanie Benz, Senior Social Media Associate for Better Business Bureau Serving E. Massachusetts, ME, RI & VT.