If you want social media activity to be more effective for your company, take the time to build your online communities before getting too deep into posting.
You’ll need to post interesting things when you have few followers, so when new people consider following you, they see value. But that should only start after you’ve determined why you want to engage in social media, what you hope to get out of it, and how your target audience is using social media.
You can build up large social media audiences, but if they’re not the right people, the value of your social media activity will be diminished. At some point, you’ll probably wonder if it’s worth it, and you might abandon it.
If, instead, you find how your customers, influencers, vendors and other business partners, and industry media are using social media, your activity can be very beneficial to your company.
It’s like fishing, you can cast the bait into the water and possibly catch fish. Or you learn the location of specific types of fish and concentrate on those areas – and on the times when the fish are biting.
It takes a combination of efforts to learn where the fish are – both proactive methods and positioning of lures you hope will draw in the fish.
The following steps will work to build your community once you’ve created your social media accounts, or to expand your current community so you’re reaching as much of the right audience as possible.
1) Put Linked Icons In Multiple Venues
Your Website – Put social media icons on your website, and make sure the links work.
We regularly see websites that have social media icons that are not linked.
We prefer links that let a person check out the social media account before deciding to like it or follow it, rather than the links that automatically create a follow or like. We want to see if a social media account is worth following or, conversely, has content that we don?t want to be associated with.
Email Messages – Tell your audience about your social media presence via an email message that contains linked icons and tells people your sites are a good source for news, insights and discussions about your business and your industry. For example, you could tell dealers to watch social media for information that will help them sell more. Add links to your email signature.
Online Directories – List your social media accounts in online directories, such as your Google Places account, and free directories such as Manta, SuperPages, YellowPages and Merchant Circle.
Other Social Media – List your social media accounts across platform, so your LinkedIn company page directs people to your Twitter account, your Facebook page and your Google+ page.
2) Search Out Your Audience
Manually Search – Take the time to find your audience. Get website addresses from your company’s contact database and look at the websites of your customers, suppliers, partners, influencers and others. It will take some time, but it’s worth it. (If you find bad links as mentioned above, let the website owner know.)
Check Lists and Use Search Tools – Twitter and Facebook make it easy to build your list of followers. One way is by reviewing lists of people you are following, especially industry media.
On Twitter, for example, go to a respected industry medium’s Twitter page and click on the Lists tab on the upper left side. You’ll see lists the medium has made, often including other media, industry thought leaders and businesses. You can easily click on the Follow button next to accounts you want to follow.
The Twitter account holder will probably follow you in return.
Twitter also will suggest whom to follow.
On Facebook, you can manually search for specific companies via the search bar on top of your Facebook page.
Or, look at the list of Pages liked by companies you Like on Facebook. To do this, go to the company’s page and click on Friends. A list will appear. Click to “Like” people and companies you find appropriate.
Another way to foster Facebook likes is to post on the pages of companies and industry thought leaders. Your posts will be seen by followers of those pages, which could lead to more followers for you.
On LinkedIn, you can search for companies to follow. As with other social media, your follow will likely lead to your page being followed.
3) Brand and Enhance Your Accounts
Make sure your accounts are fully branded through the use of cover images and backgrounds that are designed to reflect your brand and support your marketing.
Fill out descriptions, but write concisely; people skim through wording online.
On LinkedIn, make sure to add your products or services to the Products/Services page. Make sure to take advantage of the opportunity to post banners that link to specific website pages. There’s no cost to do that, other than what it takes for you to create the banners.
4) Be Active
Once you’ve built your initial social media communities, show those people you’re relevant and valuable to follow by regularly posting. They’ll want to pay attention to you, and in the case of Facebook, you’ll be seen as relevant such that your posts won’t be suppressed due to inactivity.
Page attention to the times of day and days of the week when there are higher levels of activity among your social media accounts, and make sure to post during those times. Your audience might check social media accounts early in the morning only; the rest of the day they’re handling other business matters. If you post when your audience isn’t paying attention, you risk low visibility.
You’ll probably find your target audiences are more active on one social medium or another. You’ll definitely see some people and some companies are more active than others.
Don’t abandon social media if you don’t see a lot of activity among your customers. Your industry’s media are certainly using social media, and your activity keeps your name in front of them.
By knowing where and when your market is on social media, you can more effectively use your time to reach those audiences.
Finally, you can build up a great social media audience, but unless you continue to feed interesting and valuable information to those people, they’ll stop paying attention.