Get Comfortable Using Social Media for Business

If you’re using social media, er, socially, using it for business sounds like an easy prospect. You’ve got a handle on the nuances of posting to Facebook compared to Twitter or Snapchat. However, attaching goals, measuring and testing the success of your activity brings new angles and challenges that using it for fun does not.

Conversely, if you’ve never used social media, you might have a clear idea of what you want to get out of it for your business, but fail to grasp what the social experience is like for the people you’re trying to reach. And that can impact your ability to use social media to effectively meet your business goals.

It’s never as simple as “hey, get that person aged 18-23 in here and make them do the social media stuff!”. Even they – though some may call them “digital natives” – will have something to learn.

What Makes it Social Media

First off, how do we define social media? Does it have to be an app? Is it a website? Does an animated gif qualify?

I would define social media as a type of platform – which is usually in the form of a website, an app, or both. The part that makes it social is the ability to somehow connect with other people using the platform. Adding someone as a friend or following them gives your account a connection to them within the system.

Then comes creating or sharing something. Text, images, videos. You use the platform to publish media content, and its social functionality presents it to the people who follow you, or makes it possible for people unconnected to you discover it through things like hashtags, your location, or your connections to other users.

Each platform has more ways and unique ways to interact with content and other users, but I’d say those are the basic characteristics of what defines social media.

The Social Experience

For those of you who haven’t naturally gravitated to social media and don’t personally see the point of it, even if you realize it could help your business, it’s still important to understand the experience of using social media.

Adopters of social media usually connect with friends and family first – people they know and whose contacts they already have. They friend/follow/connect with people they want to stay in touch with.

Social media offers a passive way to check in on friends, see what they’re up to, and be reminded of them on a semi-regular basis. Imagine your address book or list of contacts in your phone, but every time you open it up and flip/scroll to a name, you see a new photo or short paragraph about their lives.

Checking in on Facebook or Instagram on any given day might greet you with a picture of an old work pal’s new puppy, your cousin’s family vacation photos, a joke from your sister, and an uncle arguing about politics.

You hit like, leave comments, you share stuff, have conversations. Sometimes you come across people you don’t know, but you like what you know of them, and you follow them and they follow you. It’s part of your routine.

But people also follow brands and companies – because they enjoy the content they share, or they hope to gain something out of it. They might see a new job opportunity, get a coupon code, or stay apprised of the latest products for sale.

They hit like, leave comments, they share stuff, sometimes they even have conversations. Sometimes they come across new companies that seem interesting and they follow them, too. It’s part of their routine.

Social Media for Business

Using social media to help one’s business is a little different. You’re not there to make friends. (You totallycan make friends, but that’s a bonus, not the goal.)

Instead, you do the following:

Many people still use social media professionally, even if they’re not running their own business or selling something. They might simply be using it to establish their personal brand, to meet new people, discover new opportunities, or get new ideas. This is another case for using social media for business, and tends to be a bit more social.

Some businesses also take advantage of social media for customer service, some for sales or conversions, and others place more emphasis on brand building and SEO. Approaches will also vary whether you’re targeting direct consumers or other businesses (B2C vs B2B).

For job boards, you usually have the challenge of appealing to both job seekers and employers/recruiters. Some social media platforms may be more effective at reaching one over the other, and your messaging is going to be different for each group. In some cases, you might wind up creating two accounts for every platform you use, one focusing on your customers and the other on job seekers. Or you might find that recruiters and employers frequent one platform and devote all your content there to reaching them instead of candidates.

Using Your Knowledge to Market Better

If you know what it’s like to use social media in your personal life, you’ll probably have opinions on what you like to see from brands and companies – and what will make you hit “unfollow”.

Consider your planned schedule or campaign from the perspective of the person you’re targeting. Will they enjoy seeing “Buy now!” 50 times a day on their feed? Or will they get annoyed and unfollow you? Would you enjoy getting a bunch of direct messages from a strange company trying to sell you something immediately after you follow them? Or would you respond better with something you see of value, like interesting news and advice? Maybe after you start to trust the company, you’ll be ready to act on the occasional call to action or a direct offer.

Some platforms are busier, in a sense, and followers won’t bat an eye if you post 20 times a day. Whereas others might perceive any more than 2 postings a day to be overkill and clogging up their feed.

Certain industries may have their own particular habits, hashtags, or style of interaction that defines them as a community on social media. People in financial tech might communicate and interact with each other very differently than people in, say, the video game industry.

Use your experience (or that of others) and combine it with the research you do, and the results you observe from experimenting with social media.

Whatever your level of comfort with social media, for personal, professional, or business purposes, you can learn to wield its power to help your business. Getting comfortable starts with making the unknown known, and if you’re reading this blog series, you’re probably ready to get your feet wet and give it a try.

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