Social media marketing has grown in popularity and sophistication in recent years. Unfortunately for many small business owners, the rapid changes, combined with a steep learning curve and lack of time to learn the different platforms, have left many struggling to establish and grow a strong social media presence.
What is a small business owner to do? Check out these six tips on how to create quality social media marketing posts that engage followers and help you build a strong following.
1. Understand your brand.
First and foremost, you need to understand exactly what your brand is and how you plan to market it. If you're not sure about these two things, it will result in scattered, nonsensical social media posts, which will confuse and alienate followers.
Whether you are just establishing a channel on social media or have an existing one, before you randomly start posting, first identify what makes your business unique.
How do you want customers to see your brand? How you want them to interact with you? Once you have an idea about your brand identity and communication methods and style, you can then brainstorm the types of posts that will effectively convey that message to your target audience.
2. Content is king, but distribution is queen.
It's true, content is king, but distribution, carefully spreading the same message different ways across multiple platforms, is queen.
"People focus too much on the content, like wording or photos, which isn't a bad thing," said Carly Brasseux, president and owner of Carly Brasseux Consulting. "But you also have to know the best hashtags, the ideal time of day to post, and [to switch] up wording and images for each platform. If you're cross-posting a tweet to Facebook or Instagram, you need a different-sized image, different hashtags, and [you need] to post it at a different time of day."
By spreading your message across multiple platforms and varying your posts, those who are likely to see them on the various platforms aren't likely to be annoyed.
3. Avoid 'the sell.'
Because marketing has become so pervasive, audiences know when they are being sold to. They have developed an aversion to classical forms of advertising, such as "buy this product now, and you'll be happy."
Modern marketing, particularly social media marketing, has become significantly more nuanced – the focus now is on selling a lifestyle rather than a specific product.
"It's obvious [on social media] when all you're doing is selling," said Brittany Morales, CEO and founder of Brimagraphics LLC. "People won't care, and your posts will do horribly."
Make a point of sharing your story with followers and why your business exists. The key is to make your followers care about what you do so they engage with your posts. Caring equals engagement, which means you have an increased chance of gaining new customers.
"Social media is a conversation, not a sales tool," said Richard Kelleher, marketing sociologist.
At its core, social media is a place for socializing and engaging with others. Encountering a hard sell in that space is jarring and unwelcome to most people.
"Be human," said Chad MacDonald, social media specialist. "Let people see you be human, and don't always talk about the things you're selling. If you're real, people will follow you just for that."
4. Create bonds by sharing your story.
Sharing your own business story and creating a space for others to share their experiences not only engages followers – they also feel valued.
"People love talking about themselves and sharing their stories," said Megan Winkler, owner of Limelight Visibility Marketing. "They want to feel like they're a part of a company's story too, that they matter. Creating content that does that helps forge a bond between a business and its customers."
With your social media channels, there's a void between your business and your followers. Your job is to close that gap, and some easy ways to do that while forging a bond with people is creating posts that ask followers to comment with their personal stories or responses, hosting giveaways or challenges, or reposting followers' content (as long as it's appropriate).
5. Know your audience.
To create content that your audience will engage with, you need to understand your audience and what will prompt them to engage with you. To determine that, you'll have to try a few tactics before you know what works and what doesn't. Pay close attention to things like how many people see your post versus how many comment on it or like it, or what types of photos seem to get more engagement.
"Consider everything an experiment," said Winkler.
You can also use Google Analytics to find out demographic information about your audience, like the primary age, gender and locations. This can help you hone your posts so they are more appealing to your audience.
A common mistake, said content marketing strategist Olivia Angelescu, is recycling or copying a specific type of post from another business.
"Always have your own audience in mind when you create your social media posts," she said. What works for one business may not work for another – or yours.
6. Have a goal for each social media post.
Avoid posting for the sake of posting. No one will notice if you miss a day, but they will notice if you're posting for no apparent reason. Make your posts purposeful and well thought-out, and your engagement rates should increase.
Have a purpose or goal in mind for every post. What does this post do for your business? Why is it worth posting? What do you stand to gain from it? What does the post say about the business?
"With every post, you need to make people either know you, like you, trust you or take a desired action," said Angelescu.
"Treat every post like its own little billboard," added Corri Smith, owner of Black Wednesday Marketing and PR. "Post often, [as long as] you have strong content and something important to share."