Wednesday 21 March 2018

Friday Five: Ways to Build and Retain Audiences Online

Why It Matters by Mary Beth King

Many companies “do” social media, but far fewer do it well. While brands enter into social media with various goals in mind, an overarching objective should always be to build and retain audiences on social channels. Putting a strategy together up-front around content, cadence and voice can generate consistency and drive regular interactions that can turn casual fans into brand advocates. Framing content with targeted ad buys, listening to an audience’s feedback and effectively measuring results can help build community and make a brand’s voice heard over all the noise. Keep in mind that the ideas below are standard practices, but every digital strategy should be customized for clients.

1. Develop a realistic, compelling content strategy.

Set expectations up front. A brand is not going to turn 100 fans into 10,000 fans overnight, but it can build engagement over time. A few questions to consider when getting started:

  • What story does the client want to tell?
  • Who is the audience the brand wants to attract, and what are they interested in?
  • Who are the influencers (bloggers, Twitter and Pinterest power-users, traditional media outlets) in the brand’s space?
  • What assets (photos, videos, advertising funds, contacts) does the brand have to work with?

From there, build a narrative that content will follow. Knowing that visual content typically drives the highest engagement, ensure your editorial plan reflects this.

2. Find the brand’s voice and cadence.

What a brand says is just as important as how a brand says it, and when it says it. Yes, social media is a relatively casual place for brands to engage with fans, but that doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all. Brands should use proper grammar, spelling and syntax in all posts (although shortening or omitting words is acceptable on Twitter in some circumstances) and brands should never forget who they are or what they represent. As a gut-check, always think, “What would the CEO of this company think if he or she saw this post?” Posts don’t necessarily need to be formal, but they need to be spoken from the brand’s voice. If possible, examine internal documents that circulate to see how the company talks within itself. Or, identify a few brands that have unique voices (Oreo, Spotify and Kim Kardashian come to mind), emulate their strong points, and make a point to avoid their weaknesses.

Cadence and posting times are equally as important to nail down. Don’t forget where fans—or at least target audiences—are located, and post when they’re actively online.

3. Investigate social ads.

So, engagement is up on a brand’s social channels, but the brand is not seeing a bump in fans or followers. Ad buys can boost results and deliver them quickly when used aggressively and strategically. Social ads can be geo-targeted, gender-targeted and even interest-targeted so brands can base ads on their desired audience. This ensures they’re getting the most enthusiastic, interested fans possible.

Be savvy about timing and content of social ads; over-saturation can have the opposite effect you’re looking for, and you need to be actively involved in your ad buy to constantly optimize, retarget and get the most “bang for your buck.”

4. Measure.

“Measure twice, cut once,” as the old saying goes. By evaluating a strategy’s successes and shortcomings with data-based observations, brands will better-optimize content for their audiences, thereby generating engagement and bringing new fans to the channels. Most brands are obligated to post about things that aren’t always home runs with their audiences. But stacking editorial calendars with as much engagement-driving content as possible will drive results. By measuring the success of content using tools like Sysomos, Simply Measured and Radian6, brands will ensure that their content is being seen by the right people and is having the intended effect.

5. Listen to the community.

Too often brands get caught up in pumping out so much content that they forget to consider whether it’s resonating. The most robust editorial calendar in the world means nothing if it isn’t driving engagement and building meaningful connections between fans and the brand. Once community members start talking, listen. Community members expect results when they engage with brands via social media; brands that actively listen and participate in the conversation are building a loyal fan base.

A smart digital strategy evolves over time and is fluid with changing business goals, products and audiences. Stay nimble, stay engaged and stay interested in what fans have to say. Which brands out there do you think are “doing it right” on social media?

Soccer Supporters photo courtesy of BigStock.

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