Conversations. That’s what drives brands in today’s always-on world.
Successful marketing and advertising is about building an ongoing relationship with people, reaching them where they are hanging out online. It’s a two-way street now. The best brands keep an open dialogue with consumers. They provide them with relevant, interesting and entertaining information on a consistent basis.
Perhaps there’s no better place to do this than on social media. This is where billions of people, interact with and consume content they enjoy daily. The best part? People talk. People talk a lot. They send out their own content, which allows us to better understand them and build connections with them.
This has created both a difficult challenge and also an exciting opportunity. While this wide open forum of conversations has put the control back into the hands of the consumer, it also gives us direct lines to real people. With the power of social technology and an audience-driven strategy, you can drive incredible business growth.
While it takes a documented strategy and a good deal of patience, social content can make a serious impact on helping reach business objectives.
To help, we’ve outlined some quick and easy wins for you and your brand to get started in the right direction. Here are 7 easy ways to start building better connections on social media:
1) Define your ideal customer—and know their expectations
If you’re in the marketing and advertising space, you’re probably familiar with customer personas. These are fictitious yet accurate representations of people you are targeting as customers.
If you’ve not broached this subject, it’s key that you dig in deep to uncover the important details about your ideal customer. Outline them in detailed, written bios for everyone who works with you to keep handy.
There’s no set template on creating audience personas. It’s a good start to create 3-4 persona profiles that include biographical information. This includes who they are, what they do at work, what their family structure is, what their income/relationship to purchase decision-makers is, or what their hobbies/interests are.
These will vary depending on whether you’re B2B or B2C entity. For us, we target by job function. We include marketing managers, strategists, analysts and social media managers in our personas.
A national beer brand, however, might look to target sports fans, barbecue enthusiasts and millennials.
Next, make sure you’re creating content that meets the general public’s expectations. For one, always remember how people are consuming your content. Put yourself in your persona’s shoes. Picture how they might be interacting with your messaging. If you’re creating social content, do so with the functionality of the channels close to heart.
Remember, the the content is appearing in a news feed next to other types of content people enjoy. The social channels are very good at filtering content they are most likely to find interesting or entertaining. Recent algorithm changes on Facebook have placed even higher priority on posts from friends and family.
A good ideology to keep top of mind is this: people are on social channels to digest relevant, fun or otherwise beneficial content. Social networks aim to keep these people using their channel for as long and often as possible. Don’t forget it!
2) Ask the right questions
In addition to asking who your audience is, there are several other vital questions to ask yourself and your team. These questions get to the heart of what that audience is all about. You want to figure out what makes them tick.
Chief among the questions to ask is, why would they need whatever product or service you’re offering?
Most business leaders call out key features and benefits they believe set their product apart. But this question needs a different answer. It needs to focus on their needs, not your offerings.
For example, say you are a financial software company. Instead of creating content around the capabilities of your software and why your features and benefits should interest people, try a different approach. Ask yourself what the biggest problem people have that you’re trying to solve.
Use visuals and messaging that incorporate a challenge your customers face. This could be budgeting to buy a new home or a vacation. This will enable your content to connect on an emotional and personal level with your social following.
Other questions to ask:
- Where are they on social? What channels do they use?
- What are their interests? What do they like to talk about online?
- What kind of online content do they interact with?
- Who are they connected with? What is their influence?
- What is your tone/style? What emotions do you hope to elicit from your audience?
- What is their online behavior? What do they talk about, engage with and share? Do they show intent to purchase?
- Why should they follow you/your brand online? What value do you/your content offer?
3) Create an Engagement strategy
The brands who build powerful connections with their audience are the ones who actively engage with that audience online.
Respond, respond, respond! You need to have a documented course of action for each type of social communication. The goal is to give them the best customer service possible and gain new trust from your customers and potential customers.
Create a document that lines out both the responses to potential questions/comments and also, actions to be taken in response. Authenticity is key during the engagement process. Be real.
An engagement strategy is especially useful for times of dissatisfaction and crisis. This helps to be out in front of potential issues, provide the right responses, or send them to the right people who can resolve the matters.
On the positive side, when the audience gives you love, throw love back. Prepare your team to surprise and delight fans with perks and special offers. When you see certain individuals giving you consistent fan feedback, acknowledge and engage. This helps keep the conversation going.
4) Use social listening and monitoring tools
Social media listening is the process of researching and discovering what is being said within online communities about a topic, brand, industry, event or other subjects that would be crucial for marketers to know.
The great thing about social listening tools is that they help you do several things on this list. Establishing trust and building a connection with the audience requires getting to know that audience. This involves figuring out what they’re talking about online and what drives the conversation.
Today’s technological capabilities give us real world insight into audiences. We can identify their behavior, their sentiment and how they interact online. Social intelligence provides brands with vital information about their industry, competitors and the impact their product makes.
Say you're a smartwatch brand. It would be valuable to know what the two most talked about topics online regarding wearable tech is "exercise" and "style and fashion". Content about a healthy lifestyle, exercise and being active would be a great way to capture the attention of your target audience.
Furthermore, your content can absolutely cover the topics of style and fashion.
If your business makes record players, listening tools can look deeper into the conversations about music and audio. For instance, you might find that people who are interested in record players are also very passionate about interior design. Not something you expected, right?
These insights will be key in helping you establish a bond with your audience. You can then leverage your social content to drum up enthusiasm within online communities.
Social media monitoring is the act of keeping tabs of all your content’s performance. This involves tracking engagement and responses from the audience. Using social monitoring tools such as Hootsuite, Mention, Respond by Buffer, or Lithium, is a great tactic to implement as a part of your engagement strategy (#3 on our list!). It will help to efficiently respond to your audience and also track analytics to see how your content is performing.
Tracking performance of your content will tell you what resonates with your fans. Use this data to further establish and maintain these social connections.
5) Stop selling, start solving
We all hate that guy that can’t stop talking about himself.
Brands that talk only about themselves and how great they are rarely get very far with their social content. The best way to build connections on social is to put the audience at the very center of everything you do. Instead of “me, me, me” content, come to the table with something to offer. Publish social posts that provide value.
Just as with the engagement strategy, your content itself should address the needs and questions your fans are asking. As you are developing your content, focus on providing value and giving people reasons to come back for more. Go back to point #2 and look at those questions you should be asking yourself. You see how they’re all about the audience?
To build connections on social, treat it like a relationship. If they’re interested in what you have to say, you shouldn’t have to blatantly sell. The potential for someone to choose you when they have a need is already there because you consistently provide value. Generosity is the key here. Be a giving soul. It goes far in the real world and in the social one as well.
Don’t sell. Instead, tell your stories. Give people content that benefits them in some way. They’ll be far more likely to do business with you if you’ve established that trusting relationship with them.
6) Start working with your Sales team
There’s no better way to build connections online than knowing everything possible about your audience.
One of many ways to get inside the head of your audience is to actually listen to what they have to say. In that regard, your sales team is far and away the best resource to tap.
The sales team is the gatekeeper to your potential clients and customers, the problems they face and the needs they have. They are on the front lines interacting with the precise people who might do business with you. They will hear all the pain points and needs of your potential customer, first hand.
So, you should be in lock step with the sales team. Get to know what your potential customers are truly looking for and issues they’re having. Understanding what they could use your product or service for will help you formulate your social strategy.
This will provide real-world answers to those key questions about what your audience’s interests, passions and needs. You can then create relevant, audience-focused content that resonates and captures their attention.
7) Test, test, test
With such a rapidly evolving space, treat social content like a scientific experiment. What worked a year ago may not be as effective today. As your product or services have improved or changed focus, your audience might have as well.
As you’re implementing your social strategy, it’s imperative that you analyze how your content is performing. Keep close tabs on the community using social listening data to define your audiences and refine your focus.
We’re now in an always-on, real-time digital world where the audience calls the shots. They decide what conversations they want to take part and which ones to tune out.
Thankfully, we also now have access to the insights and audience data that can tell us what to say and when to say it. This is how the top brands establish and nurture lasting relationships with their customers.
These easy steps can help you better understand audiences and what drives their online conversations. You can build impactful connections with real people that helps drive business and brand growth. That’s the true power of conversation.