September 21, 2018 / Karissa Kuhle

6 Ways to Leverage Social Media For Your Business

It’s 2018 and you own a business. You see the value in social media and you’ve claimed your Facebook page, but you’re not sure how to up your game. There’s both an art and a science to effectively navigating and leveraging social media for your business — we’ll break it down for you in these six steps.

Step 1: Pinpoint goals, identify channels

Let’s assume your business will use social media to drive leads to the website. You want more sales and customers, right? The first step to leveraging social media is pairing your business goals with the target audience on the social channels they prefer to interact on. For example, if your target audience is Baby Boomers, consider joining Facebook, where 59 percent of people ages 43-62 spend their time. On the other hand, if your target audience is Generation Z and Millennial consumers, steer your social media efforts toward Instagram, where 64 percent of 18-29 year olds are active, and YouTube, where 91 percent of 18-24 year olds consume content.

Remember, it’s not necessary to be active on every social media channel; instead, prioritize. Consider available bandwidth and start with what you can manage. As you grow your audience and influence, branch out to other channels.

Step 2: Understand your audience

After determining the social channels to focus on, research and aim to understand the types of content your audience resonates with. Start by sifting through competitors’ social media channels and familiarize yourself with the posts garnering the most engagement. Are Facebook Live Q&A videos drawing an audience? Or do funny memes or thought-leadership quotes on Instagram activate your audience? Additionally, look at brands you aspire to be like for social media ideas and inspiration. What do you notice about their social media strategy? Understanding your audience’s favorite types of online content is a critical piece of building your social media foundation.

Step 3: Set your voice, tone

After gaining an understanding of your audience, shape your brand’s voice and tone as it translates to social media. Oftentimes, a company’s website serves as a North Star for how companies speak with customers online. An important part of building your brand’s overarching online presence is ensuring the website and social channels have a united message and aesthetic. While your website context’s tone is generally more calculated, your social media tone serves as an extension of the brand’s personality, informing customers of the type of company they’re interacting with. Are you casual, funny, serious, instructive? While content can and should vary from channel to channel, your brand voice and tone should remain cohesive online.

Step 4: Map out content themes

Once you’ve determined your goals, audience, voice and tone, the next step is brainstorming social media content ideas. Generating three to four overarching content themes will organize monthly posts into categories and help strategically promote an array of areas you want customers to know about.

Some examples of content themes include blog posts, user-generated feature photos, employee channel takeovers (think Twitter and Instagram Stories), product features, thought-leadership features and much more. If you have a website or blog, think about how to adapt and promote the website content for social media.

For example, if you feature long-form videos on your website, then extract short, impacting messages from those videos for Instagram Stories or native Facebook videos. Producing continuous social content is much easier when you have content themes to work from.

Step 5: Create compelling content

Once you’ve established the framework and content themes, it’s time to create content. Write captions, design graphics, take photos and scan hashtags for brand-related user content.

Some social media managers prefer to chunk the content creation process for the entire month in one sitting. However, many prefer to create content week by week. Lay out the day-to-day content for each channel as thoroughly as possible a month in advance. Google Sheets is a simple platform to organize and adapt your monthly social content calendar, and can easily be shared with your team.

After the content is created, make sure to post and distribute it during times when customers are online and engaged — this will help organic posts garner a higher reach. For example, when using Facebook for Business, the Insights tab shows when your audience is most often online. Other social measurement and scheduling tools like Buffer and Hootsuite can help with post optimization.

Step 6: Engage with customers

People expect social media to be … social, especially with businesses and brands they follow. Engaging with customers online is an easy and authentic way to gain feedback about products and services. Interact with followers by liking user-generated photos and check-ins and replying to comments in a timely manner.

Today’s consumers consider social media a customer service engine. Instead of emailing a company or calling the number on a website footer, customers often tweet at a company’s handle, send a private message or comment on a public post to receive feedback and assistance related to a business or product. Consumers expect business social media channels to be responsive to questions or problems in a minute’s notice with actionable steps.

Try to give customers as much information as possible, right where they’re at. For example, if a customer sends your business a Facebook message inquiring about hours or available classes, spots, or openings, take the time to lay out the information within the Facebook message versus sending them a URL redirecting to the help section of a website. Help customers develop a deeper connection to your brand by thoughtfully engaging with them online.

Steps after you’ve laid the groundwork

Social media advertising

Once you’ve locked down your organic social strategy, decide how social media fits into the overall marketing and advertising budget. Scrolling through any given channel, consumers see more ads and less organic content appearing in the feed — that’s no mistake. Throughout 2018, changes in the Facebook news feed algorithms show an uptick in the importance of advertising and demotion of organic business page content. Magnify your brand’s voice by including spend on social media advertising in the monthly budget.

Constant review

Social media channels are constantly evolving. Performing a rolling social media audit helps identify patterns of customer engagement. Step back, reflect, compare, ask yourself: Am I getting the largest amount of reach, shares, comments and likes I could be? Are followers completing the desired action, e.g. clicking through to the product website or sharing your product photo to enter into a contest?

Tools like Google Analytics, Sprout Social, Hootsuite and Buffer serve as analytics platforms to streamline and track your data-driven audit efforts.

After putting these steps into place, you’ll be on the right trajectory to leverage social media for your business. But remember, one of the key components of social media success is continually uncovering and honing creative ways of telling your brand’s story.