I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… Community is the LIFEBLOOD of Social Media.
If you aren’t building, fostering, and maintaining a community through your use of Social Media, then you might as well pack it in and stop wasting your time. Your audience – if you have one – will thank you.
I know that probably sounds harsh, but you need to remember it’s Social Media, and the art of being social requires us to actually interact with our audience – not force-feed them with sales pitches several times a day and then ignore them.
For those of you who understand this about Social Media but are still having trouble establishing your community, I have a few suggestions for you…
1) Know Your Audience
If you’re in business and using Social Media to grow that business, then you’re likely looking for an audience that closely resembles your ideal client. In order to do that, you first need to know what that ideal client looks like. If you’ve never done it before, I strongly recommend writing up an Ideal Client Profile – basically, a bio of your perfect customer. Ask yourself the following questions:
- How old are they?
- What gender are they? If you cater to all genders, what is the ratio of male to female?
- What is their marital status?
- What is their household income?
- What is their employment status? Full-time, part-time, unemployed, retired, etc.
- What is their occupation?
- Do they have a degree?
- Do they have any children? If so, how old are they? Do they still live at home?
- What about grandkids?
- Where do they live? City, Province/State, Country
- Do they own or rent?
- Do they drive? What kind of car?
- What movies do they watch?
- What books or magazines do they read?
- What sports do they play? Or watch?
- What are their hobbies?
- Where do they shop?
- Is there anything else you can think of that would describe your ideal client?
When I’m working with my clients to develop their Social Media Strategy, I ask these questions about their Ideal Client. Some of these questions are really easy to answer, but others are quite challenging… especially the ones about their personal lives and interests. But the challenging questions are the ones that will really help you to engage with your followers and continue to grow your community! Why? Because these questions are all about them.
If you’re stuck on answering some of these questions, go straight to the source. If you’ve been in business for a while, reach out to existing clients and even past clients and ask if they would be willing to assist you with some market research. If you’re just starting out you can try a couple of things: ask yourself these questions (people are more likely to do business with someone who is similar to themselves, as it helps establish the Know-Like-Trust factor), or even pose them as questions to your existing audience as Social Media content. People like talking about themselves!
2) Find Your Audience
Now that you’ve built out your Ideal Client Profile, it’s time to figure out where your ideal client hangs out online! Keep in mind the possibility that the Social Media Platforms you’re currently using are not the same ones as your Ideal Client spends time on. Figuring this out will take some time and research; definitely something that should be delegated to your Virtual Assistant. To get you started, here are a few of suggestions:
- Facebook. It’s the Big Kahuna, with 968 million daily users and 1.49 billion monthly users in June 2015 (newsroom.fb.com/company-info). Pretty much everybody and their cat has a Facebook account. It makes sense for you to maintain some kind of Facebook presence as part of your overall Social Media Strategy.
- Twitter. Another of the most popular Social Media platforms, Twitter has 316 million monthly active users (June 2015, about.twitter.com/company) sending 500 million tweets a day. Twitter moves fast and is attractive to both men and women in the 18-29 age range, with 30-49 year olds a close second. (Pew Research Center, Demographics of Key Social Networking Platforms)
- Instagram. This is another platform that moves quickly and is extremely popular with 18-29 year olds of either gender. (Pew Research Center)
- Pinterest. Extremely popular with women over 50 in high-income households. (Pew Research Center) If these women are your ideal clients, then you absolutely need to include Pinterest in your Social Media Strategy.
Once you’ve discovered where your ideal clients are hiding online, you will next need to determine HOW and WHY they use those particular platforms.
- Most Facebook users, especially users in the 30-49 and 50+ age ranges, turn to Facebook to maintain relationships with friends and family. Facebook is becoming more of a “pay to play” platform for businesses with each passing day, and it’s no secret that the organic reach and engagement levels for Facebook pages are very low. While it’s still really important to maintain a business Facebook page, look for Facebook groups that cater to your ideal client. You’ll establish some really great relationships and leads by regularly participating in those groups.
- Twitter users also use Twitter to maintain connection, but in a different way – often using it to keep their fingers on the pulse of what’s going on in their communities and around the world. Twitter’s 140 character limit means you have to be able to get your message across quickly and clearly, but it’s also an excellent way to drive traffic to your website or blog. Because of the nature of tweets, Twitter users are far more willing and accustomed to being directed to an external site, whereas Facebook users shy away from clicking a link that will take them away from Facebook.
- Pinterest is all about discovery and inspiration. Users are looking for their next great idea, and look to other users to help them find those ideas by pinning and re-pinning enticing images.
Also keep in mind that, at first, your ideal client is highly unlikely to come to you. Especially if you’re just starting out on a platform, users are going to be unfamiliar with you. Instead, reach out to the people who have profiles that match that of your ideal client and follow them or friend them yourself. On Twitter this can be done by identifying hashtags your ideal clients use and on Facebook, try interacting in groups and going through your existing friends list and sending personalised messages.
3) Inspire Your Audience
While one of your chief goals in leveraging Social Media for your business is likely to increase sales, remember that people will only do business with someone they know, like, and trust. Often times, you’re sharing content with complete strangers who don’t know what sets you apart from the next guy, so you need to post content that’s relevant to your ideal client. Sometimes, that’s not always your product or service.
I advocate the 80/20 Rule when it comes to publishing on Social Media. That means only 20% of your posts should be blatantly promotional. If you post twice a day, seven days a week, then only 2 or 3 of those posts should be promotional. The other 11 or 12 should be a mixture of original content that you have created (think tips, questions, motivational quotes, etc.) and content you have curated from other sources (articles, blogs, retweeting or sharing posts from other pages or users). If more than 20% of your posts are all about what you’re trying to sell, you’ll lose followers left, right, and centre. Remember that people use Social Media to be social, not to be sold to. Be informative, inspirational, and when you do publish a promotional post, make sure it provides lots of value to your audience!
4) Interact With Your Audience
I’ll say it right now. If you’re not going to bother with this step, then don’t bother wasting your time on all the rest. Unless you interact with your audience, you’re never going to see any kind of return on the investments of your time and energy (or money, if your VA is handling any of your Social Media).
The beauty of Social Media is the social aspect. As I said above, community is the lifeblood of Social Media, and the only way to build a community is to be an active participant.
As your audience grows, interacting with them becomes more and more time-consuming and overwhelming. At first, it’s easy to set aside a few minutes a couple of times a day to take a look at any engagement you’ve received, but over time you’ll eventually need help managing it. Although I still do quite a bit of my own interacting on Social Media, I have a Virtual Assistant handle a lot of it for me. Built into my strategy are scenarios where my VA can handle interactions and where they should be brought to my attention to handle personally. As you grow, you’ll want to implement the same policy so that you can still be an active participant in your community without it taking over all of your time.
Follow these four steps and you’ll start to see your engagement grow, and as you foster those relationships you’re developing you’ll find it much easier to convert your followers into long-term customers.
Do you have any other tips or suggestions for building your online community through Social Media? Leave a comment below!
Katy Takaoka is the President and Chief Delegating Officer of SBT Virtual. She and her team work with entrepreneurs who are frustrated and overwhelmed by Social Media. By delegating their Social Media Management, SBT Virtual’s clients are able to focus on growing their businesses, working with their own clients, and making more money. Does Social Media make you want to tear your hair out?