I spoke to countless business owners throughout the various lockdowns, who all told me they were using their relative downtime to focus on their social media presence. Ahead of the pod, I Googled ‘top tips for social media use’ and then Alan and I discussed the results, critiquing the advice given based on our own experiences.
Unless you are paying for targeted advertising, access to Social Media is free. It enables the smallest business to compete with global brands. It can reach a large audience and create a direct connection. Simple, organic content can build a brand and drive sales traffic. In short why wouldn’t you use it?
Here’s what the advice says you should do to make the most of Social Media.
#1 Start with a plan.
Too many businesses have a scatter gun approach to social media. They post sporadically, there’s no topic or theme to what they post and so it becomes a random exercise of effectively shouting in the dark. If you want to break into one of your prospect’s feeds, or show up on their timeline, then your content needs to be relevant, easily understood and demonstrate the positive impact you can have on their business or sector.
A plan brings clarity on what you are trying to do and the effect you are trying to achieve. The great thing about Social Media is that you can access a whole range of metrics to see what is working and what people are engaging with so you can set some SMART goals and objectives. I would also suggest that before you set future goals you should first review your current position; the number of followers, the level of engagement, the amount of times you post and on what platforms. And understand what your competitors are doing, especially if they are doing it better than you.
In addition, Alan asks clients to measure their motivation to actually do the work. It takes effort to remain consistent and keep posting.
#2 Select a platform that’s right for your business
Not every business will get bang for buck out of every platform. The basic rule of marketing is ‘be where your customers are. Currently, Cypher does really well across LinkedIn because that’s where the majority of our audience is. If you’re a funeral director or a trade business then maybe Facebook is better. If you are a florist, an artist, or a niche craft business, then Instagram or Pinterest might suit. If you create a lot of video content then TikTok is growing massively. The point is don’t try and be all things to all people. Don’t overstretch or pour too much energy into creating the wrong sort of content or attempt to conqueror a platform that isn’t right for you or importantly your audience.
#3 Build relationships
The clue to mastering Social Media is in the name. If all you do is focus on yourself, post about your business and your achievements, but don’t engage with anyone else’s content, then all you are doing is broadcasting yourself and it can be seen as a very selfish view of the world. Instead, show you’re listening; show you are interested in other people’s thoughts.
The post that has brought me the most direct success was one I made at the start of the first lockdown. I ranted about the fact that I felt that accountants were letting their clients down by not being available when the business world needed them most. I picked out some direct competitors that I felt were going above and beyond and I tagged them. Obviously, they all thanked me, their client base saw the post too and the likes and shares drove massive engagement.
I wanted to vent but it was genuine and being authentic is important for a Social Media plan too. I was standing up for what I believed, I was happy to play nicely with the competition and although it wasn’t intended as a sales piece it created the right engagements at the time. Now whenever I get a chance to big up someone in my industry, I do it because I feel it always comes back to me.
#4 Focus on quality over quality
The Google top tips state that one strong post a week is better than five mediocre posts. I disagree.
You never know what your audience is thinking at the time they read your posts and you can’t always know what a good post is until after you post it. For your Social Media efforts to work you need to be regularly seen and heard. People need to know what they are going to get if they engage with you. So as long as you’re consistent in your messaging, you can spend time scheduling enough content, of sufficient quality, to be posting throughout the week.
Not long after my rant post, HMRC posted one of my clients possibly the worst letter I have ever seen. I posted that up and got 125,000 views. People liked it, shared it, I got interaction from HMRC and from accountants around the world! I have never seen anything like it. Did we get any work on the back of it- not a jot! My rant post brought in three clients, my calling out HMRC- nada! So in my view quantity definitely beats quality, but you do need to adhere to a base level of quality and authenticity.
#5 Engage with people
I often annoy myself by just doing the bare minimum to engage. Even if your view is different, you should try and post something. Often the time you get most out of the author or content creator is when you have a different opinion. As long as you can articulate your point in a way that isn’t rude or offensive, then constructive conversations on other people’s profiles can be a great way of stimulating engagement. You can position yourself as an articulate thought leader without hijacking other people’s posts or being aggressive.
This wasn’t a Social Media masterclass; rather this was a real-life critique of suggested social media best practice. In summary, here are mine and Alan’s top tips;
- Have a plan, start with where you are now, and set clear goals so you know you have achieved them.
- Pick a platform, and be social, it’s called a social network, use it to build relationships.
- My personal opinion is that quantity is better than quality but whatever you choose make it consistent with your voice.
- Think of engagement as a way of demonstrating thought leadership
- To remain authentic, pick three words you would like everyone to use to describe what you post.
- Connect with your motivation to do it.
As a result of this podcast, Alan was inspired to commit to posting three times a week.