Media Icons The year is 2014 and unless you’ve been asleep, you’ll see that nearly anyone and everyone is conducting business online. Whether you’re running e-commerce store or just trying to gain online brand attention, there’s a spot for you somewhere on the information super highway. Now, some people believe that by simply establishing yourself a spot on the internet, success is just around the corner. I am here to tell you that won’t work. You could have a great product or service and the best customer service in the world…but unless people already know who you are and what you do, it’s unlikely that they’ll find your website. Now there are tons of strategies and tactics that one can undergo to make their digital presence large and in charge but for the sake of this article, I’m going to focus on some strategies that I believe are easy to accomplish through social media. Branding yourself is a challenge that many struggle to accomplish but by the end of this article, you’ll be ready to brand yourself before you bland yourself.

Content

It’s important to share content that is both engaging and relevant to your audience. Well….what kind of content is that? This is a major issue that many brands face. Many brands assume or believe they know what kind of content their audience wants to read about…and judging from a majority of pages that I’ve come across, it’s what they have on sale or some other info about the company that has little or no value to the end user. A good practice I’ve done to determine what good content is to take the demographics of my customer base and just listen. Listen to what they’re saying online; see what kind of content they’re sharing, what is driving the conversation, and what people are passionate about. By doing so, you’ll have a good idea of the kind of content you can share that will generate interaction on your page. It’s much easier to have people willing to listen to your sales pitch if you have gained their trust and attention as opposed to shouting at random strangers.

Schedule

What is one of the easiest ways to hook someone in for a great TV show? Offer them weekly new episodes. You get them coming back for more, and they’ll begin to schedule your activity into their schedule.  To have a successful social media presence, it’s important to be consistent and keep a schedule. By sharing content daily, you’re more likely to be seen in people’s feeds and you’ll be offering them a reason to come back to your page if they don’t scroll across your page in their news feed.  Over time, you can also start to get a better understanding of when’s the best time to share content based on your demographics, so as you’re sharing, you’re also learning and improving.  Now I understand that it can be difficult sometimes to set aside the time to make sure you’re on a schedule, but there’s plenty of tools and what not available to help ensure you get content shared daily and at the right times.

Voice

One of the biggest pitfalls I see brands do in social media is use an improper voice. What I’m referring to is how they pose their posts, comments, interactions, ect. If you were at a party, would you rather to talk to a human or robot? My money is on the human. Often, many of these robotic voices are done by the use of various social media programs or platforms that schedule a handful of automated posts and remarks; scheduling programs can be good as mentioned earlier, but creating the right voice and content is needed to be authentic). By creating auto generated commentary and community management, you’re going to lose the attention of your audience fast.

This quote by Ernie Smith from Associations Now says it pretty well:” The thing about social media management is that, like anything else, voice matters. And handing over your content to a bot puts you in danger of losing your voice.”

So what kind of voice should I use? Again it goes back to listening to your audience and adapting your voice to be one that resonates with how your audience speaks. For example, if your audience is super casual and humorous, toss in some jokes and be drop the MR and MS’s. If someone contacts your brand, respond to them when you or your community manager is able to. Don’t set an auto response that says something like “We value you speaking with us and thanks for contacting Joe Blow, a rep will contact you soon.” Everyone knows this isn’t a real person; no one talks like that unless it’s scripted. Respond in a personalized way that lets them know that this conversation is personal and you’re really listening to them and talking with them. You’re demonstrating you value this interaction and the opportunity to speak with them.  If it takes a bit to get back to them but you offer a real voice and valuable interaction, it will be worth the wait.

Activity

So you’ve been listening to your audience and sharing content aimed to please them, but are you seeking out new members of your audience or actively engaging yourself in the community? This is a best practice that some brands do, and some brands don’t. Social media has such a large opportunity to find potential customers or community members, whichever the case may be, and it should be something you take advantage of. There are a number of social media tools available that will allow you to improve your strategy in terms of targeting new users. You can monitor various key words or hashtags to keep up with the conversation. You can engage in industry specific tweet ups. You can also comment and join into conversations with business partners or businesses you admire on their pages too.
The biggest point I want to make is that you should not expect the conversation to just come to you.  You need to be seeking out conversation and really getting social on social media. By engaging with both your current and potential community, you strengthen your brand; better establish your human identity, and extend your potential reach and viewership to new audiences.

Offline/Online

One of the biggest opportunities to leverage and create relationships online is to move relationships you have offline to your online platforms. If your business is friends with or does business with business x, y, and z, it’s a good idea to engage them socially. These are the ones who will be the most apt to share your content and help you out and it’s likely you would do the same.

Is your business active in the community? Are you networking offline? If so, it’s a good idea to view these as potential marketing opportunities. They provide content to share and relationships to establish. When you’re interacting with people offline, let people know that you’re active in social media and to find you online and you can continue this relationship and conversation.

For example, if your business just helped serve food at a local fundraiser to feed the homes, live tweet from the event, tweet people you’re meeting at the event, and interact face to face and get you’re your name out there. These offline opportunities give people a chance see another side of you that they might not quite get from your online presence; it’s good to be the same both on and off but let’s be realistic, there will be little differences.

I’ve seen far too many businesses suffer a real disconnect between their online and offline brand when there have so many good opportunities to strike up conversation and build new relationships with their target market. Just because the event you’re attending is over, doesn’t mean the people you met have to be long gone too. Hit them up on Twitter or Facebook.

In the end

When it boils down to it, I’m not saying these are the only pieces to the puzzle, because trust me, there are a lot more, but I do believe these are crucial building blocks needed to manage your businesses social media effectively. The digital landscape is a very complex environment but by integrating some of these practices and tips I’ve mentioned, you’re brand will be engaging and thoughtful, not bland and stale.