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E-commerce News and Insights | Aug 06, 2020

Building and Fine-Tuning Your Social Media Strategy

Building and Fine-Tuning Your Social Media Strategy

Shippo Snippets:

  • Social media usage continues to climb, with nearly 3.8 billion participants
  • Consider a mix of broad and niche social media platforms for your company’s social media strategy
  • If you provide posts, tweets, and communications of value—that educate, entertain, and intrigue—then people will be much more likely to read and share what you have to say
  • How often you post depends upon what works best for your company, so you’ll likely need to experiment

The Story:

While the internet itself has impacted virtually everything we do, it’s a pretty safe bet that no one could’ve predicted the rise and runaway popularity of social media.

To back that up, here are some stats:

  • As of October 2019, there were 3.725 billion active social media users:
    • This is an increase of 9.6% from October 2018 to 2019
    • That translates into 328 million newly active social media users in total
  • More specifically, 3.660 billion of those total users are on mobile:
    • This is an increase of 15% from October 2018 to 2019
    • That translates into 476 million new active mobile social media users
  • The average person has 7.6 different social media accounts.

And, these usage numbers only continue to go up. That’s a really good thing because it means that the number of people who could potentially become your customers are already on the social media platforms your business uses.

These ever-growing numbers can also present a challenge to your business because it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle, drowned out by the noise, especially if you’re an emerging business.

So, how do you reach the right users who want and need your products and services?

You can accomplish this targeting in two key ways:

  • Choosing the right broad social media platforms and targeting your strategy and content appropriately
  • Strategically using niche social media platforms that dovetail with what you have to offer

Choosing the Right Social Media Platforms

Having a solid presence on every single social media platform out there can be a challenge even for larger companies. Instead, it may make sense to target exactly the right platforms for your business. To help, here are five of the largest broad platforms:

Facebook

This is the largest social media platform, with 2.6 billion active monthly users in Q1 2020. This alone is a reason to include Facebook in your social media strategy, and this platform can work well for companies that sell directly to consumers (B2C) as well as those that sell to other businesses (B2B).

Facebook has been especially effective for users older than Gen Z. Pew Research Center data shows that 37% of the silent generation (born before 1945) use Facebook now, with 60% of Baby Boomers using the platform. Millennials and Gen-Xers also use it, but Gen Z just isn’t as interested.

Another plus of Facebook is its targeted online advertising program—and, because businesses aren’t getting as much organic (non-paid reach) on Facebook anymore, unless they already have a super-engaged following, businesses are having to consider advertising to get in front of Facebook prospects.

That said, you can also engage customers and prospects on Facebook without paid ads, perhaps by creating Facebook groups where you can facilitate helpful conversations or by providing valuable live video.

Twitter

With about 275 million users in 2019, Twitter is where highly-engaged users can quickly and easily become involved in brief, character-restricted conversations—including those about your brand. 

It also provides excellent opportunities for your social media lead generation strategy because it’s simple to link to blog posts on your company’s website, offer free downloads of valuable information, and so forth (more about lead generation strategies later in this post). Twitter ads are also far-reaching and can be an effective tool to incorporate into your overall social media strategy. 

Here’s a challenge with this platform. The lifespan of a tweet can be fairly short, unless you republish or other people keep retweeting what you originally wrote, so keep that front of mind as you develop your strategy for Twitter.

There are fewer barriers between a Twitter user and big influencers, perhaps because of its fluid nature with tweets constantly churning through people’s feeds, and it can be an effective platform for both B2B and B2C companies. A clever, engaging brand voice goes a long way on Twitter.

 LinkedIn

 This platform is tailor-made for B2B relationship building and interactions, allowing you to connect with valuable prospects, even company decision-makers. With more than 660 million users in 200+ countries and regions, worldwide, LinkedIn can clearly justify branding itself as the world’s largest professional network.

When users go on LinkedIn, they anticipate having business-related conversations, much more so than on Facebook and Twitter, where there is a much broader mix of subjects being discussed. LinkedIn posts and articles can, therefore, be the perfect vehicle to position yourself as a thought leader, which in turn can go a long way in building brand awareness.

You can also carefully target your advertising on this platform, choosing the appropriate industries, companies, and even corporate roles. The cost per click (CPC) is higher than it is on Facebook, but prospects may be more high value.

Here’s one more thing to factor into your planning. For LinkedIn to work well for your company, it’s important to make quality connections. When you send connection requests, recipients will likely look at your LinkedIn profile, which needs to be professional, engaging, and up-to-date. 

Instagram

Although your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn posts can definitely benefit from the inclusion of images, visual content is at the very core of Instagram. An astonishing 1 billion people use this platform every month and, in the Apple store, it’s been the second most downloaded free app, only behind YouTube.

This social media platform can work for a wide range of businesses, particularly those that can benefit from visual branding. If you sell items, say, in the jewelry and fashion industries, culinary arts, real estate, travel, and so forth, then you can share enticing photos of what you sell. This really is a perfect example of when a picture can be worth 1,000 words.

This platform tends to have great appeal with younger audiences, such as the Millennials and Gen Z. So, if those are your target audiences, this can be an especially good choice to include in your overall social media strategy.

 You won’t necessarily target big decision-makers on this platform, but it’s a great way to get your products in front of consumers. You could create B2B ads to expand your reach to that audience, but their presence is more limited than it is in the previous platforms we’ve reviewed.

Snapchat

 We wanted to at least mention this social media platform as an example of one that really appeals to a young audience, those under 25 specifically. If that’s your core audience, then brainstorm ways to present content in a fun way that demonstrates the human side of your business. Note, too, that Snapchat allows you to carefully target your ads and present them in an eye-catching way.

Paid Social Opportunities

 To save you time, here are links to paid social resources for each of the broad platforms we’ve discussed:

Here’s more information about social media advertising, as well as other types of digital ads that may be good choices for your emerging business.

Niche Social Media Platforms

When you use niche social media platforms that align with your business, you’ve automatically cut through much of the noise because you’re already speaking to people with interests that mesh with what you’re selling. Here are a few examples of these types of platforms and the audiences you could potentially reach on them:

 There are many other niche social media platforms out there, so keep an eye out for potential ideas specific to your area of business.

Ways to Cultivate an Organic Audience

To engage and grow your social media audiences, it’s important to create a strategy that includes a fair amount of non-promotional content. If there’s a perception that a company is only out to relentlessly peddle its products on social media, it could hurt that company’s credibility and push prospects elsewhere. If, however, you provide posts, tweets, and communications of value—that educate, entertain, and intrigue—then people will be much more likely to read and perhaps even share what you have to say—including the percentage of content that’s more promotional.

This is especially important early on, when your goal is to provide content that inspires users to like/share/retweet. This helps you to build the number of followers on each platform, as well as to increase levels of engagement.

How often you should post depends upon what works best for your company, so you’ll likely need to experiment. It can make sense to post daily to Facebook and LinkedIn, for example, and engage with people as they respond. Answer their questions, thank them for sharing your post, and otherwise have genuine conversations with them. On Twitter, start a few times daily and adjust, as needed.

 If you post more often, do you find that it increases engagement or decreases it? If the former, then boost your daily posts to twice a day and experiment from there. If it decreases engagement levels, then it may not make sense to do more work for a smaller return. If that’s the case, going back to the original posting schedule while experimenting with cadence may make sense.

 Here’s what this might look like in real life. Let’s say, for example, that your company decides to initially have a 90%/10% split of content in favor of non-promotional and, as you gain follower loyalty, to increase that to 80%/20%. You’ll post once a day to Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram, and tweet five times a day.

What should your non-promotional content look like?

Well, for example, if you’re selling underwater cameras, your content could be about newly discovered shipwreck sites, intriguing deep-sea creatures, tips on how to capture quality images underwater and so forth. If you sell vintage candy, you can share stories of what else was going on during the year a particular candy was released, include pictures of quirky fashions from that era, and so forth. If that candy appeared in a movie or book, talk about that.

For example, in the latter part of the 1970s, Everlasting Gobstoppers were super hot, thanks for the release of the film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. If you were selling them now, you could post about disco fever, Elton John’s insane platform shoes, and so forth while gently encouraging people to also remember those hue-changing jawbreakers.

Including appealing images and videos of interest in your social media postings can also have a strong impact on user engagement. When something works, repeat the underlying strategy while presenting fresh content. 

And, although most of your non-promotional content should somehow relate to your business, you don’t have to make that a hard and fast rule. If, for example, you offer deep discounts in August, make that your “dog days of summer sale” and invite your followers to share pictures of their favorite dog. That creates engagement with social media users, highlights your sale, and causes your social media channels to be filled with content that makes people smile (and hopefully convert).

 Your organic (non-paid) promotional content, meanwhile, can include links to products, promote sales, share when your company was highlighted in a news story, and so forth.

Social Media Lead Generation

As you grow your social media accounts, in numbers of followers and other growth metrics—and as you boost engagement, through more likes, comments, and shares—you also want to strategically bring prospects closer to a sale.

For example, one idea would be to write and publish a blog post on your website that’s an “ultimate guide” on a subject that would interest your target market. Let’s call it The Ultimate Guide to Worry-Free Blue Widgets. You could then create a series of social media posts, each containing one tip from the guide, an eye-catching image—and a link to your blog post. This gets people into the habit of regularly going to your website, which gets users more familiarized with your site itself.

And, at the bottom of this ultimate guide, you could include a call to action that offers an even more in-depth piece of content in exchange for a site visitor’s email address—perhaps one that includes information about blue, red, and green widgets. Let’s call that Who Are You: Red, Green, or Blue?

You can then provide subscribers with a mix of promotional and non-promotional email messages, strategically encouraging them to buy. Rather than a hard sell approach, you could provide an email message that shares the benefits of each color of widgets along with a quiz that helps readers to decide which one better suits their personality.

You can also experiment with posting on social media about the Who Are You: Red, Green, or Blue? download. Are you more successful when you reel in readers through a series of widget tips on your social media channels or does it work just as well to simply offer the free download? What about if you posted your red/green/blue personality quiz on your blog and shared that through social media channels?

Monitor what works. Do more of that. Determine what doesn’t work. How can you tweak it to make it more appealing and effective? Did that help? Test, monitor, test, monitor, all the while deepening your engagement with prospects and customers through your social media strategy.

Check out Shippo for an easy, cost-effective shipping solution for businesses of all sizes. 

Kelly Boyer Sagert is a full-time freelance writer living in the Cleveland area. Her range of expertise spans business, finance, logistics, automotive, e-commerce and more.

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