Make Every Post a Winner: How to Win at Social Media
See why planning, tone and knowing your audience are key considerations for your social media program.
Social media is a powerful business tool that can help natural and organics retailers grow their business and strengthen their relationship with customers. To make the most of it, you need to plan ahead rather than just jump in at the deep end.
1. Choose your social channels
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that all social media platforms are the same. It’s important to define your intended audience and demographics, then determine where they engage online, says Susie Campbell – content creator, small business social media expert and founder of Hullabaloo PR.
For small retailers, it’s often a toss-up between Facebook and Instagram, and Campbell recommends testing the water on both to see where you find engagement.
“Don’t try to do all the social media platforms and spread yourself too thinly,” she says. “You can’t just assume that you can copy and paste the exact same posts across all social media channels, because their communities and engagement models differ.”
“It’s vital that you know who you’re targeting. For example, Facebook tends to have an older audience than Instagram, but if you’re after a young audience you might also consider channels like YouTube.”
2. Decide what content works best
A strong organic social media strategy is important for businesses which don’t have a large marketing budget or the backing of a big brand name. That said, to treat social media as simply another marketing channel is to miss the real opportunity and potentially drive people away.
While it can be useful for promoting new products, sales and events, your social media presence should be less focused on spruiking your wares and more focused on displaying thought leadership and establishing yourself as a trusted brand, Campbell says.
“You want to position yourself as a trusted adviser, not just a supplier, to help you build a relationship and stand out from the crowd,” she says. “In the natural and organics space, that might involve informing and educating people about new product categories, as well as exploring new trends and breakthroughs, along with issues like sustainability.”
“Remember, you’re looking to be that voice of authority which helps people cut through the jargon and the marketing spiel.”
Along with single posts and images, social media platforms also offer the ability to tell engaging stories. This might include a deep dive into a new area of interest, a behind-the-scenes look at your business or a customer success story.
“As a rule of thumb, keep the focus on what’s interesting and helpful for your audience,” Campbell says, “not just what benefits your business.”
3. Engage with your audience
The key to leveraging social media for your business is to “talk to” your audience, not “talk at” your audience. The aim is to engage with them and treat it as a two-way conversation, rather than just a broadcast medium.
Building a following and nurturing an online community requires establishing a voice and building a rapport with your audience, Campbell believes.
“One of the keys to social media is building a strong, consistent brand voice which resonates with your target audience, which means you really need to know who you are as a brand and what you stand for,” she says.
Your brand voice needs to be consistent and feel authentic, as it helps determine your social media style, attitude and vocabulary. This should be clearly defined in a style guide which will also help you determine your tone and range of acceptable topics to cover.
“When it comes to smaller retailers, I’m a big fan of really involving your audience in what you’re doing,” Campbell says. “It helps them to really feel a part of your brand and want to be associated with what you’re doing.
“Your engagement strategy might include competitions, challenges and giveaways, or simply asking their opinions and fielding their questions. Perhaps encourage them to tag photographs of themselves using your products and to share their thoughts.”
Ensure you respond promptly to comments and interactions on posts, as failing to do so reflects badly on your brand. In some ways, social media is as much of a shopfront as a bricks-and-mortar store – you wouldn’t ignore someone walking into your store asking questions and the same applies on social media, including when you are tagged in other feeds.
4. Plan your publishing strategy
People tend to say whatever’s on their mind on social media, but it’s best for businesses to avoid such spontaneity and plan ahead.
It’s a good idea to schedule posts at least 30 days in advance, to ensure that content can be reviewed before it goes live, Campbell says. This requires designating responsibility for social media within your business, limiting access to key staff and establishing workflows.
Your publishing strategy will also determine which forms of content are published where. For example, it makes sense to publish long-form content, such as thought leadership pieces, on your own business website, blog or LinkedIn page. Publishing a link and an engaging snippet on your other social media outlets can help drive your audience to that long-form content.
“Finding traction on social media requires posting regularly – you shouldn’t just wing it, so it’s important to plan ahead,” Campbell says.
“Whether you outsource your social media efforts or manage it all in-house, you really need to take a planned and measured approach.”