Get the most out of your online engagement efforts!
By Shane Wilson – Special Projects Coordinator

Buffer. SocialBro. Bubbly. Frilp. Am I making up words on the spot, or is there something more to this “new age” lexicon? The top experts in social media strategy know about these tools and use them on a daily basis. If you haven’t heard of them, now is the time to jump into the deep end and learn as much as you can about social media and how you can make it work for your business – in the most effective and efficient way possible. These tools and strategies, used in tandem with conventional marketing tactics, are meant to help you “drive” your business – drive sales, drive traffic, drive brand awareness.

New tools and platforms to keep an eye on

IFTTT

Short for “If This, Then That,” IFTTT is a time-saver’s dream. By activating your social accounts via their easy to use interface, it allows users to do multiple actions based on one. For instance, IF you upload a video to YouTube, THEN it can be automatically uploaded to your Facebook page. IF you or your business is tagged in a photo on Facebook by anyone, THEN it can be uploaded to your own Facebook photo album for you. There are hundreds of compatible apps and social media channels that can be programmed to do almost anything. You can create your own actions, called “recipes,” or you can browse a giant list of premade recipes!

Hootsuite

For those looking for a “catch all” for social media management, few offer the range of services and tasks that Hootsuite does. Managing Facebook and Twitter via a single medium is very handy – there are even ways to handle multiple accounts of the same social platform. Hootsuite can be a tried and true resource- engagement results, web traffic reports, analytics, mobile support – you name it.

Buffer

Similar to Hootsuite, Buffer allows you to post to social accounts like Instragram, Google+, Facebook, and Twitter through a singular dashboard. Buffer gives users a variety of unique tools, like sending single messages to multiple accounts and scheduling messages via a timing mechanism so as to hit the web at peak times. It also allows users to analyze traffic for each and every post via shortened, targeted links. It’s very user friendly, so those with little experience can feel comfortable jumping right in!

Edgerank Checker

For businesses that are Facebook heavy or dependent (you shouldn’t be too dependent on just the one at this point!), there’s Edgerank Checker, a unique service that analyzes your page and gives suggestions. A better explanation from the web:

“Edgerank Checker helps admins understand how their followers interact with each post by assigning it an Edgerank score and makes recommendations to assist with future posts. With this tool, admins can even monitor each post in real time.”

Edgerank Checker also provides education on the (known) ins and outs of Facebook’s algorithm used to determine news feed layout and positioning. Timing strategies are also given, based on your audience’s peak usage times.

SocialBro

Like Edgerank Checker, SocialBro provides analytics and social strategy insights specifically for Twitter. The platform focuses more on data analytics rather than posting and scheduling content, so it’s best to use this in tandem with pieces like Hootsuite or Buffer.

This post from Visually gives insight into 16 social media tools that you should be using – a few of those listed above are on that list, so check it out for even more information. If you want to be on the “cutting edge” of social media strategy and implementation, check out these  15 Social Media Companies to Watch in 2015.

Social Media Return on Investment

Getting ROI from something as “intangible” seeming as a Facebook share or a favorite on Twitter is a hard concept to process, but it is certainly possible. In the context of dollars and cents, social media is only a portion of the total marketing package. That package is meant to get you a definitive return for your investment of time. Social media, as a promotion tactic, can help drive sales but only with a proper strategy. There are several things to consider when determining how to get the most bang for your buck on social media, including:

  • What is my current level of social media knowledge?
  • What is the opportunity cost of learning more about certain social media channels versus farming it out to an agency?
  • If I were to pay an employee in-house to tackle social media for my business, what are the wage parameters I’d set?
  • What are my specific social media goals? X amount of likes via a Facebook campaign? Y amount of retweets for a targeted live event tweet? Z amount of new followers during a given month during an in-store marketing campaign?
  • How am I going to deliberately track my goals? What apps or software will give me the best, most relevant information?

Below I’ve included a few resources – the first is for businesses that provide e-commerce, and the second is a “delightfully short” guide to ROI for social media. Both resources give great insight into putting real dollars on the time and efforts you put into your social media streams.

Resources:

Use the competition to your advantage!

As part of the overall business plan, it’s imperative to do competitor research to analyze the market – the same can be said of social media. Businesses selling competing products or services are a great way to start your research for creative ways to interact with your consumer base. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when a plethora of quick-wins are available at your fingertips through a quick competitor search on Facebook or Twitter. Here are a few things to ask when analyzing a competitor’s pages:

  • What are they doing well? How can I mitigate my business’ exposure to their strengths?
  • What are they not doing well? How can my business exploit those weaknesses by turning them into my own strengths?
  • Who are they targeting?
  • What is their frequency of interaction and engagement?
  • What is their brand voice, and how is mine similar or different?

Keep in mind – in the world of social media and e-commerce, everyone can be a competitor, regardless of brick-and-mortar location. Feel free to take liberties from various sources to create something specifically “you.” There are many resources about this concept on the web; a really good one is “How to Easily Analyze the Social Activities of Your Competitors” from Social Media Examiner.

It’s not always about selling.

The digital age is one of noise – we can’t escape it. With thousands upon thousands of images, advertisements, and upsells flooding our social spaces, it’s hard for the average consumer to keep track of what’s what. That’s why it’s so important to vary your message across your social platforms.

Do you want to be sold or hear a sales pitch every time you enter a store? It’s the same concept online. Taking a varied approach and mixing up your message every once in awhile goes a long way in showing your customers that it’s not all about the almighty dollar for you and your business. Content marketing is a beast in and of itself, so check out this simple guide for ” 100 Killer Ideas for your Social Media Content.” Among simple ideas like posting quotes or simple statistics about your business, the guide offers creative advice about linking to your own content, video testimonials, “caption this” contests, and others!

Social media is for your employees, too!

Using an “owners only” approach to social media isn’t always the best practice. Customers want to see consistency, don’t get me wrong, but having a bird’s eye view of a business from a unique, vested vantage point could absolutely benefit your online presence. Turning your employees into brand advocates goes a long way toward building a positive, thriving culture, both on location and in the digital space.

This point comes with a caveat. It’s critical to strategize how a business should implement this practice. A concrete list of policies and procedures in regards to your brand and your voice should be set, reinforced, and reinforced again. If this is all brand new to your business, don’t feel bad about easing into it. With a large chunk of part-time employees coming from Emporia State and FHTC, the likelihood is high that their knowledge base of social media practices (do’s and don’ts) has been cultivating and expanding for 10+ years now. Use them as an asset to create strategic initiatives; invest in them in this small way so that they can invest in you and your brand across all social mediums.

Creating and then reaffirming your business’ image online via your employees shows people a certain culture your business is creating and sustaining. It could lead to positive social influence, and reveal potential new employees who want to be a part of what you’re creating. Integrating your workforce also doesn’t have to be solely on their shoulders – do your part in highlighting their achievements for the world to see. A resource form Social Media Examiner shows us “How to Turn Employees Into Social Media Advocates” and provides case studies of companies who do this and do it well.

The most active user base on social media (and the next generation of prime consumers) is millennials. Millennials are typically visual learners; as such, it’s important to integrate highly visual content into your marketing mix, given that this generation is in your target market. The brain processes visual content 60,000 times faster than plain text.Per social media guru Jeff Bullas, articles with images get 94% more total views. Usethis data to your business’ advantage when curating content.

The importance of visuals

There are several things to consider when deciding what kind of visual-based content to promote. An article from 1st Web Designer details the “Most Common Visual Content Mistakes and How to Fix Them” – based on this, there are a few questions to ask yourself before posting:

  • Is the visual piece clear and concise?
  • Is there a strategy involved with the graphic? Likes and shares are fine, but intentionality is key when determining strategy. What am I trying to drive by getting the likes and shares?
  • Do the visuals I’m sharing cater to the different social media platforms? One size does not necessarily fit all!
  • What is the quality (detail) of the visual I’m presenting?
  • Who is this for? Is this going to be appealing to the target market?
  • Is this really for me? This is a persistent problem – just because you like the content doesn’t mean your identified targets will. Keep them in mind at all times, and keep the ego at home.

With these tools and resources, hopefully the dive into the social media pool is an easier one. More than anything, social media is a people business. The numbers, analytics, likes, shares, retweets – they’re all people-driven. Without them, there is no reason for engagement. One of the biggest mistakes people make is forgetting about the human on the other end of the computer. The manners and etiquette we hope to exude in-store are the same sort of decorum that must remain consistent on the web!

Below I’ll include a few more resources for social media growth and strategy. If you decide to use any (or all!) of these tools, let us know! We’d love to hear your success stories. If any of this is as clear as mud, feel free to reach out to Shane in the Main Street office for clarification!

16 Hidden Social Media Features

10 Advanced Twitter Growth Hacks to Increase Your Follower Numbers

Twitter’s Customer Service Playbook – a guide dedicated to aiding strategy when answering Tweets directed to businesses

For this article and MUCH more, check out this week’s Emporia Main Street E-newsletter!