Social Media Savvy: Customer Follow Up
Posting, tagging, tweeting, linking. Social media is where a lot of small businesses fail at customer follow-up. But, we hear you say,
I don’t have time for social media!
We get it, we really, really do. Here’s the thing: Your customers are all on social media. Yes, even if you’re a niche business, and, yes, even if your core customers are over 55. Don’t believe it? Here are some facts.
Sixty-five percent of Americans use at least one social media channel. And while it may not surprise you to learn that 90 percent of young adults (18 – 29) use social media, it is surprising that people between 55 – 64 are more than twice as likely to engage with branded content than those young adults. In the last ten years, usage among folks 65 and older has skyrocketed from 2 to 35 percent, and they’re Facebook’s fastest-growing demographic.
Social media is right behind email as the second most effective online tactic for retaining customers. In fact, researchers and marketers are making a compelling argument that social media can work at every stage of the sales funnel, which is really more of a circle, anyway. A whopping 92 percent of small businesses that use social media agree that it’s an important aspect of their marketing strategy.
Of course, you’re not wrong to worry that social media can be an enormous time suck, because it definitely can be. The trick to taming social media is twofold: 1) Know why you’re posting. 2) Schedule it.
If you don’t have a goal or a plan, you might as well be writing your marketing content on Post-its and flinging them into the street outside your office. When you get started with social media, even if you have a plan, it can feel like what you’re doing is having about the same effect. Like many marketing strategies, reaping the benefits of social media can take some time. But if you have a goal, you can create a plan that targets it, and then measure how you’re doing. Like so many things in life, putting in more effort on the front end will make life much, much simpler down the line.
So, how can social media help you retain and attract customers?
To really nail follow-up in the social media realm, we’ll turn again to Studio 5 Innovation and some other expert members. The most common (and achievable) goals are
- Gaining more traffic to your web site/location
- Interacting with your customers
- Building your brand reputation
- Increasing customer loyalty and trust
- Marketing research
- Saving costs on advertising
- Increasing global awareness
- Sharing information with like-minded people
These are all fine goals, but to make the best use of social media, don’t shoot for all of them at once.
Once you’ve settled on a goal or two, it’s time to make a plan. Where are you posting? What are you posting? When are you posting? Slow down there, Hoss. Before you think about any of those questions, you need to know who you’re targeting, and then figure out what social media channel(s) they’re most likely to be on.
There’s plenty of research available about who’s on what channel, from gender and age to geography and hobbies. To get you started, here’s Studio 5’s run-down of the most popular channels.
- Facebook – the leading social network by numbers of monthly active users. Facebook offers a casual environment for both B2C and B2B businesses.
- YouTube – the biggest video platform, YouTube is the leading social media marketing tool for businesses that focus on video content.
- Google+ – best used as a content sharing tool for both B2C and B2B local businesses.
- Instagram – great for sharing rich media, such as images and videos. It is especially useful for the restaurant, fashion, and technology industries.
- Twitter – the best social network for sharing current news. It is a great tool for starting, leading, joining and moderating conversations.
- LinkedIn – the leading B2B social and professional network. In addition to connecting your business to other professionals, LinkedIn drives traffic to B2B blogs and websites.
- Pinterest – great for B2C businesses such as retail stores, photographers, jewelers, and restaurants.
For most small businesses, the basics are still the best when it comes to social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube. These will be your besties when it comes to promoting your business on social media. That doesn’t mean you need to be on all those channels. If you’re new to social media, start with one or two and see how it goes.
Think about which channels will allow your business to really shine. If you sell clothes or food, for example, Instagram is a good bet. The number of Instagram users is only increasing, and photos are more likely than text to catch the attention of users interested in fashion or finding a good restaurant. Instagram also has the highest browser-to-shopper conversion rate of any channel.
Keep in mind, your business’s social media channels are not analogous to your personal social network; too often, businesses conflate them. Make sure your business’s social media presence is consistent: your brand should be recognizable no matter the channel. Use the same hashtag and handle for your business across all social media channels.
Once you know where you should be making the effort, the next step is figuring out what to post. What do customers want from your social media channels? Most important is that you’re sharing new content that’s relevant to your business. Signing up for a social media account and then letting it collect dust isn’t just not doing you any good; it might be actively hurting your business’s reputation.
Finding the right content can be the most time consuming aspect of managing social media. The rule of thumb is that only 20 percent of your content should be directly about your business or products. The rest should be offering your followers value in some other way—keeping them up to date about your industry, for example. Your business’s social channels should have a point of view and “personality” appropriate for your industry. Use that voice as the guideline for what to share.
You don’t have time to browse the internet all day, looking for engaging material. Here are three quick and relatively painless ways of gathering shareable content.
- Google Alerts are your friend. Sign up for Google Alerts on as many relevant keywords and phrases as you want, and get a daily (or weekly) digest delivered to your inbox.
- Sign up for a free RSS service like Feedly, give it a list of sites and it will bring you the most popular content from those sites, every day. You can bookmark items in the app to read later, building up a library of shareable content.
- Twitter lists and streams will also filter relevant content from the ocean of the Internet. If you use an automation service like Hootsuite to schedule your Tweets, you can add hashtag streams to your dashboard. These will show only those tweets with that particular hashtag. You can also create Twitter lists that will create a feed narrowed to whoever’s on the list.
Townsquared NYC member Liz Loizou-Smith of LSC Studio has these tips for how to approach your business’s social media:
- Keep it short and simple. The most effective messages are engaging by getting straight to the point, and using links and images for enhancement.
- Develop an online voice with personality. Yes, everyone loves a sale, but if that’s all you post, you’re going to bore followers and lose them.
- Tag almost everything. Use hashtags where appropriate—don’t go crazy. Check out Hashtagify. It’s not a pretty word, but it is a pretty useful site. See what the top 30 hashtags are for the last seven or thirty days. Even better, discover the top related hashtags and top influencers for particular terms.
- Be responsive! Don’t let any message or response to a post go unanswered. You don’t have to monitor 24/7, but check your channels regularly. And you can always thank new folks for following.
Now’s the Time: Scheduling Social Media
Scheduling applies to both your time and to the posts themselves. Schedule a time for yourself once a week to work on it. A tool like Hootsuite’s free scheduler will allow you to schedule all your social media in advance (as far as you like), for up to three social channels and includes basic analytics, so you can see what’s working. Twitter and Facebook have their own schedulers and analytics, as well. For Tweets, make sure to use a link shortener—there’s one in Hootsuite or you can use Bit.ly—to save space. It’s also important to include images as often as possible. If there’s an image in the original content, you can use that. Bookmark this Medium article for the best-ever list of copyright-free images, including sites like Unsplash.
If that’s more than you can commit to right now, Studio 5 suggests a “bare minimum” sharing schedule for the following channels:
- Facebook 3x/week
- Twitter 10x/week
- Pinterest 20x/week
Spread the Word
All of the above will be for naught, of course, if no one knows you’re out there. Make sure people can find your business on social media by posting links to your channels on your website, business cards, and anywhere else you can think of.
We won’t judge if you still feel like social media is the bane of your business existence. Studio 5 Innovation’s handy daily checklist for keeping a grip on your business’s social media may help.
Let’s be honest. Follow-up is hard. Even in our personal lives, keeping up with friends, family, and acquaintances is a lot of work. Relationships are just as important for your business. Your customers want a human interaction, to feel cared for, thought of, and most of all, special. And, in truth, you do feel that way about your customers—that’s why you’re in business! So, follow-up takes some time, sure, but it means a lot to your customers new and old, and it means a lot to your bottom line.