Social engagements might mean heading out to dinner with friends but when it comes to business, it’s something far more virtual. The term ‘social engagement’ refers to the process of businesses and users communicating and interacting together on an online forum. Whether that be a social media platform, a blog or a review and advice site, all interactions in this virtual sense count. While this type of communication may have seemed optional for businesses a decade ago, these days, a smart and engaging presence online is essential for all businesses.
Small business owners may question whether this applies to them. Is investment in social media the domain of big budget, growing businesses whose customer reach is so broad that engaging online is a necessary efficiency? In truth, making clever time and resource investment in your brand’s social engagement is a fast track to growth even more so for a small business.
Here’s how to make the most from your online conversations.
Be on brand
Figure out what your brand is. What do you represent? What messages do you want to send out to your customers? From there, you’ll be able to work out which social platforms suits you best. Which will allow you to reach your target customer in a way that best suits your business. Create a style sheet so that you and your team are clear on the language you want to use, the tone and vocabulary that you consider on brand. It’s key to be consistent here. From imagery to font, types of content to query responses, have a clear picture before you post of how your brand would act and make sure you roll it out across the board.
Don’t think of this as sales
The biggest waste of social time is thinking this is a one way street. Social media is a conversation, not solely a sales pitch. Sure you can and should be updating customers on new products and events, new solutions and offers, but that should not be the only thing you do. These platforms are your window to your customers, a direct conversation to people you may otherwise struggle to get access to so use it. Ask questions, answer questions, engage with likes and comments, offer more than just a sales pitch and you’ll find that your user engagement will reflect that extra effort.
Get to know your customers
Talking to your customers on social platforms necessitates knowing your customers. Yes you can post on Facebook or Instagram and hope that the right people see your update but if you want to see results, you need to do more. Work out who your customers are, what are they interested in, where to they ‘live’ online and when are they using those platforms? Piece all this information together and you can craft social content bespoke to your customers, increasing the chances they will see it and like it and most importantly, engage with what you’re doing.
Be a leader
Liking posts and replying to your customers is only part of the goal. Consider your social platforms a space to show just exactly how expert you are. Offer more. Whether it’s thought leadership around something product specific, a comment on something that ties into your service or video content to show how to make the most of your offering, customers want to see added value. You know what you do best and this is your chance to engage with your users by offering them tricks and extras to make sure they recognise your market leader status.
Don’t forget the ‘social’ part
It’s all about the people behind the screens so don’t forget to be social! Talking is good, getting into conversations is great, responding, and being grateful for the time and effort your customers are investing in your brand is something invaluable. Users should want to be on your profile, to see what you have to say, and to know that your brand values them so getting into the habit of really engaging in a social way (on brand of course!) is positive.
As with everything, you need to hold yourself and your team to account on your social engagement. Put some rules in place. How long is it appropriate to wait before a customer question is answered online? How often should you post value added content to keep your users feeling interested? How regularly should you refresh your bio information? The worst thing to see is the profile of a company whose last post is several months ago or who don’t answer their customer questions. Start small with one to two posts per week, respond to questions within 24 hours and set up auto responders in the meantime and you’ll be on the right track. As your following builds, so can the volume and frequency of your engagement.
Stay on top
What’s happening in your industry in regards to trends is important to your business but also to your customers so why not talk about it? Stay on top of what’s happening in the market and share it with your customers. Have an opinion and reflect on what impact changes might have on what you do. Your customers will be following and will be quick to come with the questions so make sure you’re informed.
Markers for success
Measure and edit, measure and edit. Using social engagement to its potential involves understanding your goals and setting relevant markers for success. Perhaps you have an ideal number of impressions you want for each post, comments on each image, shares on your tweets, or new profile follows? Whatever is ‘success’ for your business, set those markers up and check in with them weekly and monthly. You’ll begin to see the posts that are doing best, the content that has the biggest impact, and the areas in which you’re not hitting mark. From there you can edit. Edit the content you share, the way you interact, the frequency, the platforms and anything else you think is relevant. Keep measuring, and editing what you do and you can expect a more informed and useful success trajectory.
Engaging with your customers at any level is key to the success of a business and since our lives online make up a huge part of how we live, it’s vital for businesses to be present there too. Social platforms represent many more doors to our brand than we could expect in person and finding out how to make the most of those online spaces is an invaluable part of small business success.
Whatever your business idea, whether it’s just something you’ve been mulling over or whether you’ve taken some steps on the entrepreneurial path already, we’d love to help. Read some of our Go For It Success Stories and get in touch. Our business experts will be delighted to hear from you and to talk you through everything you might need to know to move forward with your business concept.