How many times have you heard a colleague, client or marketing talking head say it: “Organic social is dead.” Sure, social media channels are crowded and it can be increasingly difficult to break through the static and get your customers’ attention, even if you’ve acclimated to the platforms’ ever-changing algorithms. As your brand’s reach shrinks, you might find yourself agreeing with the pundits that there’s not much of a point to organic social.
That’s why brands and publishers are increasingly dedicating resources to advertising, and a study by 4C Insights showed spending on social media advertising in the first quarter of 2017 was nearly 60% higher than the same period in 2016.
Paid social may be the key to putting your brand in front of new audiences on that channel, but good old-fashioned engagement is crucial for keeping them around. Why? Because social media engagement is a long-term relationship built on an open line of communication with potential, current and future customers.
According to a 2017 survey conducted by Sprout, more than half of buyers of all ages—Millennials (58.9%), Gen Xers (50.4%) and Baby Boomers (55%)—said they tend to follow a brand on social media before purchasing a product. When a customer had a positive interaction with a brand, 71% of respondents said they were more likely to buy from that company, with Millennials more likely than other generations to spend with a brand after a positive social exchange.
The top brand action that prompts consumers to make a purchase is simply being responsive, followed closely by offering promotions. The key to successful engagement is promptly and effectively responding to every interaction, no matter how small. Even when consumers are airing frustrations after a negative experience, there is an opportunity to turn the conversation into a positive encounter.
But engagement isn’t always as straightforward as responding to brand mentions. High volumes of conversation that are brand-adjacent never mention the brand, but social listening tools now allow brands to find new ways to engage more deeply with their fans. Go beyond notifications to track relevant conversations and improve the customer experience.
Chili’s recently made headlines when the fast-casual restaurant served up answers to a few unusual questions, including health care. While the deductible discussion was unusual, it grew naturally from Chili’s history of successfully interacting with fans on Twitter, whether responding to customer service inquiries, sharing user-generated content or fielding marriage proposals.
Once you’ve identified opportunities for engagement, keep the lines of communication open with constant conversation. Replying to customer comments, no matter how brief, increases the reach of your original post while intensifying your relationship with the commenter.
Facebook Messenger can make connections even more personal by enabling one-on-one, private conversations. And by creating a customized chatbot, you can ensure no customer interaction goes unanswered. The beauty experts at Sephora launched a bot for Messenger to offer a better way to book makeovers in their stores, increasing its booking rate by 11%.
Sprout’s Bot Builder offers a simple way to create and manage chatbots for Facebook Messenger and for Twitter. By creating quick-replies, a chatbot can answer some of the most common questions you receive, streamlining some of the more repetitive tasks involved with social media management.
Build A Community
As your engagement strategy brings you closer to your customers, seek opportunities to connect more profoundly by creating campaigns that inspire brand loyalty and participation. Build and nurture a community where customers feel welcome.
With National Coffee Day on September 29—at the height of pumpkin spice season—Starbucks had an opportunity to do something special. The coffee behemoth launched the #CoffeeLoveCups project, responding to users on Twitter with GIFs featuring custom-drawn doodles. The campaign involved community managers, photographers, producers, writers, designers and a lot of colorful markers. But the ubiquitous coffee chain was able to get a little more personal and build a community around their brand, while artistically inclined coffee lovers shared dozens of their own designs.
Teach A Lesson
The quality of your content will nurture your community and keep them interested, so consider the value of information you post on social media platforms. Content with an educational or instructional angle can both entertain and intrigue, while building loyalty among your community.
Facebook video is a natural fit for showcasing instructional content, and the “how-to video” is one of the most popular types, similar to the incredibly popular recipe videos. Home decor retailer West Elm created this handy video explainer of the proper way to set a table, which just so happens to show off a few of their products, too.
Go Behind The Scenes
Seeing how the sausage is made isn’t always a bad thing. Television shows like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead offer their fans a look behind the scenes to accompany their episodes, by showing how they created a CGI dragon or by featuring interviews with the actors. Viewers are always looking for more information to get the full story.
Tell a little more of your own story by giving followers a closer look at the work that goes into your products. Women’s clothing maker Madewell gave fans a peek at the inspiration behind their clothes with an Instagram Story featuring photos from a designer’s trip to Paris. Users will see this story alongside their friends’ vacation and food pictures, making Instagram Stories a great venue to tell your own.
Give It Away
As your community grows, look for ways to encourage followers to tell their own stories of how they interact with your brand. The ultimate goal is to drum up user-generated content, social media posts created by your brand’s community members.
Giveaways and contests are a great way to both build follower counts and interact with fans. Since Instagram has a higher engagement rate than other social media platforms, it’s the perfect place to run a contest that inspires user-generated content. Create an Instagram photo contest with a branded hashtag. The better the prize, the better the entries, so choose a reward that will yield results.
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Recruit New Talent
Quality engagement leads to deeper brand loyalty, and a more satisfying relationship with followers. As you use social media to tell the story of your brand, include the stories of the employees who created it and regularly showcase your company culture. Finding and retaining top talent is essential for any company to succeed, and your social media community could yield your best new recruits.
Start building a social media recruiting strategy by identifying which social platforms your potential candidates use. You will find a much different talent pool using Facebook recruiting than you will using LinkedIn. Strategically post job listings and recruitment materials, and turn your social media community into a job pool.
As you build a community around your brand, don’t lose sight of the people behind the usernames. Engagement can bring you closer together with the people who can help your company grow.