Social media is an experience, not a place to mindlessly push out content.
“You want to create opportunities for you to continue adding value in a person’s journey,” says internal marketing team member Montserrat Guerra-Solano.
By focusing on how you can engage with social media followers and centering your strategy around adding value for others instead of promoting yourself, you’ll build credibility.
“It’s really all about meeting a prospect where they are, providing value to continue engaging with them and slowly but surely guiding them down a specific path,” Montserrat says.
However, what content is considered “valuable” is not as narrow on social media as it is on other channels you utilize for marketing Since the goal of social media is the experience you’re creating, anything you post that contributes to that experience adds value.
A post about office life that shows off your company culture might not provide thought leadership or actionable information, but it demonstrates how your company treats its people which can be extended to indicate how your company treats its customers. An entertaining meme that brings a smile to the viewer's face might not teach anything, but it makes people happy that they’re following your brand.
1. Know Your Audience and Your Buyer Personas
Your personas might not all be active on the same platforms, and the way they use those platforms could differ.
“You need to frame your content in a way that is applicable to all of your buyer personas, and that comes from taking a look at your metrics, understanding who your followers are, what they’re interacting with, what content is performing well on specific platforms and use that to further develop your content offerings,” Montserrat says.
In addition to keeping in mind who your audience is platform to platform, you must also understand the purpose of that platform as a whole. A text post on Twitter will have a much shorter lifespan than a text post on LinkedIn or Facebook. An infographic might perform strongly on LinkedIn but will get skimmed over on Instagram where people expect to experience visual — not written — content.
It’s also important to base your social media goals on the specifics of each platform and how your intended audience utilizes it. There might be some platforms that your personas don’t use at all.
If you have low engagement rates on specific networks and your research indicates that your personas don’t utilize that platform for professional purposes, it’s OK to only invest the bare minimum required to fulfill best practices in that platform.
All modern companies should have a presence across social media platforms, but where that platform comes into play in the buyer’s journey will be unique to your company. If your personas aren’t active on a platform, it might not be part of your attraction tactics, but your profile there will still help with searchability and credibility as prospects compare your company to your competitors during the decision stage.
Your social media content should be tailored to where it falls in the buyer’s journey just as you tailor the educational content offered on your website.
2. Understand Each Platform’s Algorithms
An algorithm is a set of rules that dictates how a process will be executed. In terms of social media, algorithms refer to the process the platforms use to determine what content is seen by what users. The number of impressions your content receives on each social media platform is going to depend on the algorithm of the platform itself.
The amount of control users have over what they see varies by platform, and different platforms have varying levels of transparency and publicity about changes made to the algorithms.
As of when this post was written, Twitter chooses what users see “based on accounts you interact with most, tweets you engage with and much more” if their timeline is sorted by “Top tweets.” However, users also have the option to see posts in reverse chronological order if they sort their timeline by “Latest tweets” instead.
LinkedIn’s algorithm prioritizes personal users over companies. According to a release on their ranking methods, “The more valuable the conversation, the higher in your feed the post will be. How do we know if it’s a valuable conversation? We use the framework People You Know, Talking About Things You Care About.”
Facebook also tries to guess what users will care most about with their news feed algorithm. According to the company, “The News Feed algorithms prioritize posts that are predicted to spark conversations among people, whether because of format — for example, live videos tend to lead to more discussions than regular videos — or because the posts were shared by people, groups or Pages you interact with frequently.”
According to a tweet from Instagram, “What shows up first in your feed is determined by what posts and accounts you engage with the most, as well as other contributing factors such as the timeliness of posts, how often you use Instagram, how many people you follow, etc.” Because of that, Instagram feed personalization evolves over time based on user behavior.
To reach your intended audience on each platform, you need to take the algorithms’ preferences into account when creating social content.
3. Try Out Different Forms of Content
If your social media content feels monotonous, you’re not creating a great experience for your followers. If you only post a single type of content, whether that’s videos, images, text posts or link shares, your audience will get bored.
“You will usually have metrics that support how a blog post share performs as opposed to a video, but you cannot just be producing the same form of content over and over and expecting it to keep providing value,” Montserrat says.
“Interactive polls are a great way to exercise your writing muscles in a way that differs from say, a blog post,” Montserrat says. “Take advantage of those as a way to engage with your audience, to provide an experience for both of you. If you put a poll up, you’re getting audience feedback and they’re getting something fun, so it’s a quid pro quo.”
Finding the gaps in the experience you’re offering is the first step to diversifying your content. Identify what formats you’re primarily using and what formats you’re not using at all. Then try to make that combination more balanced.
4. Take Advantage of the Thought Leaders in Your Company
While your company needs a social media presence, there are limitations to what your company can say and how far its content can reach organically.
Content posted from a company account needs to align with the voice and tone of that brand, whereas personal profiles have more leeway. Additionally, your company isn’t a person, so there’s some perspective you can’t offer from the brand account.
To make up for this, you can have your team members post thought leadership content or insight from their personal accounts and then engage and share their posts from your company’s profile. Another option is to have your employees take over your company’s account to share day-in-the-life content in their own voice, like what General Electric does:
Your people are an essential part of your company’s identity, so showing them off helps prospects understand who they’ll be working with.
5. Engage with Other People
Put the “social” back in social media.
Your social media presence shouldn’t consist of just shouting into a void. Social media platforms are round tables for open conversation not soapboxes to lecture from.
Have conversations with other social media users. Respond to their comments and posts. Like content from companies and people in your industry and share posts that are relevant to your audience.
The more people you engage with, the more likely people will be to engage with you.
6. Don’t Jump on Every Trend and Fad
When it comes to trends and fads, numbers don’t matter as much as content quality. While you could go viral by creating a variation of the newest meme, if that meme doesn’t match your brand, it’ll disrupt the experience you’re creating.
“Don’t hop on it just to hop on it. You need to understand how your buyers are going to react to that and what it’s going to do for you as a brand,” Montserrat says.
Some trends, like the Ice Bucket Challenge, may be of benefit to companies since the goal of the challenge was to bring awareness to a charitable cause. As long as the company follows through with donations and doesn’t make a social post solely for notoriety, participating in the trend could strengthen its relationship with an audience. An appropriately utilized trend can demonstrate that a company cares about issues beyond those directly impacting its profits.
On the other hand, it’d be weird and inappropriate for a company to participate in an internet dare like the cinnamon challenge, which doesn’t indicate anything about a company’s values.
Maintaining a robust social media presence that positively contributes to your prospects’ buyer’s journey and embodies your company brand requires time and skill. On top of that, if you don’t incorporate social media into your overall marketing strategy, it’ll be difficult to see concrete results.
However, while social media can be a conversion point, the primary goal of social platforms is to socialize. You can’t measure the success of those channels through link clicks and conversion rates.
Instead, you need to focus on engagement and contributing to the conversations your prospects are already having. Social media can help you establish authority, build credibility and create a community of brand evangelists — but to do so, you need to provide value where your audience spends their time and not force them to constantly follow links to your website.
Quinn is a writer and copyeditor whose work ranges from journalism to travel writing to inbound marketing content.