It may not cost anything to use Facebook and Twitter, but engaging with social media channels comes with a hidden cost. They should be given equal weight to traditional marketing tools and used as part of your wider marketing and business strategies to be most effective.Here are eight tips to help you refine your approach. (1) Strategise Planning is everything. Understand your customers and future customers’ needs – how are they finding your business online and how might they find you in the future? Google Analytics allows businesses to create a clear picture of how customers are interacting with online platforms. (2) Evaluate your competitors How well are your competitors doing in the search results for Google, Yahoo and Bing? What social networks are they using and how many Twitter followers and Facebook fans do they have? When they post on these sites is there a lot of engagement from their users? Are their posts ‘liked’, ‘shared’ and commented on? Identify what is and isn’t working for competitors in your sector and learn from their successes and failures. (3) Consider your target audiences Evaluate which social media platforms are being used regularly by your target audiences. Plugins and services provide an easy and free way to add social media sharing icons to your website. (4) Commit to a small number of networks Don’t spread yourself too thin. Devote time to a small number of social networks which are relevant to your target audience and do these well. It’s better to grow a large, engaged community on a couple of channels, than be on every platform. (5) Produce great content What is likely to interest your audiences? A combination of photos, animation and video can often lead to more engagement than plain text only. Ask your followers questions to encourage them to interact with you. Your content should be engaging, informative, interesting and relevant to your company. (6) Pay attention to detail Poor writing, low quality images and bad design will do more harm than good for your brand. Assume that your audience will spot your mistakes and judge you negatively for your lack of care. (7) Ask for feedback Social is a quick and easy way to gain customer feedback. Positive comment should be acknowledged, and it’s important to ensure that negative comments can be quickly addressed by a member of staff with the authority to rectify the situation. Social media platforms need to be monitored at all times so that customer complaints can be dealt with swiftly and efficiently. (8) Ensure you get a good return on your investment Your social media strategy should form part of your overall marketing plan. Make sure you’re analysing engagement on your social media platforms in the same way that you track the outcome of other campaigns. Alex Fenton is a lecturer in digital business at Salford Business School.
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