Oh, the struggles of understanding digital media, especially social media. There are so many things to learn and terms that seem to intertwine with other terms, it can be overwhelming to know where to begin, let alone how! And yet, you know you need to use it and it adds to the frustrations you already have, some of which were discussed in the first two blogs in this series: Presentation is Everything and It’s All About Convenience. So, let’s start simple and build on what we already know.
Where to Begin?
To know where to begin, you need to first know which platforms you should use to reach your people, your target audience. Knowing who and where they are will help narrow down the platforms you need to think about. While we advocate that every business owner should be on Facebook (research shows that about 7 in 10 U.S. Adults use Facebook), there are other platforms that can be just as powerful, if not more so when used correctly. But do you need to use them? That depends on whether or not your people are there.
With Instagram and YouTube showing great success, especially for influencers, these platforms seem to be an easy way to find easy money, if only we knew how to do it…and then there’s all the others, Snap Chat, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter – it’s a lot to consider. But is that where your people are? Instagram and Snap Chat are popular in younger age groups, 18-24 and Twitter users also, tend to be younger, and have higher education and incomes. So, if your business gears toward older adults, you need not consider these platforms.
If your target audience includes a younger demographic, then you need to consider how you will speak to that audience because each platform has a different means of communicating with others and needs to be respected. Not only will you present your business in a poor light with your inexperience with the platform, but you will also feel all of the frustration from the time spent for little return.
Speaking to The Audience: Facebook
To understand how to effectively communicate with people on these platforms, we need to know how they work. Let’s start with the big one, Facebook. People use this platform more than any other to keep in touch with friends and family and be in the know locally. It is highly centered around the idea of digital communities. Photos, videos, memes, events, updates, and shares (both personal updates and friends) are all centered around creating a sense of community digitally. This is why you can tag individuals, places, and even check in at events.
Groups are becoming more and more popular on this platform as well, which again builds on this sense of community. Facebook speaks to all the aspects of life, from the not so great moments to celebrations, it’s all there and discussed openly and frequently within these communities. In speaking with this community, you will want to have a clear idea of both who you want to speak to and where they are located. Other than that, your options are fairly open, just be sure to follow the 80/20 Rule and focus on your brand first.
Speaking to The Audience: Instagram and Snap Chat
Instagram also has a sense of community. However, this platform is focused on visual components – photos and videos with supportive text. As visuals are the key component of this platform, “stories” are very effective. Stories are a compilation of visual information that support your brand. While this may sound a bit complex, in reality, it is quite easy.
Let’s say you have an event coming up or something you want to promote. Creating a story can help boost interest by sharing photos with text and emojis that show for a 24-hour period. In creating a story, you can build excitement, but you are also using a key factor in how this platform is used, you are engaging with your community.
Because the communities on this platform can be so diverse, hashtags are used to associate with other pages as well as other communities on that platform. Such as if you have a restaurant in downtown Chambersburg, you may use #chambersburgpa to reach others who may also be interested in that community. This helps build your brand recognition within that community and builds on your own brand awareness, all in the same locale. Remember, it’s not just who your people are, it’s also where they are.
As hashtags are used heavily on this platform, it is acceptable to use up to 30 different hashtags! That can be just a little overwhelming. Determining which hashtags to use that support your brand may take some time. It comes down to some good, old fashioned research. Search for different hashtags, and see what is posted to them, does it support your brand? If so, make note of it and use it for future posts. You can also see what hashtags other businesses like yours are using and use it for your own business.
To keep posts clean, you can put your top hashtags (those that relate most with your business) in the post itself (up to 10) and any additional in the comments. Lump them together in packages of 10. This keeps everything clean and is less overwhelming for the follower to decipher.
Instagram is known for being a bit perfection forward and positive. Things posted on this platform should be uplifting or showing at your best. Presentation matters here. With this, you will also want to be aware of who you are following. Who your business follows says as much, if not more, about your brand than what you post. So be sure who you follow on this platform also supports the brand you want to build.
Snap Chat also shows stories for a 24-hour period but is used in a very different way from Instagram. Snap Chat is much more of a slice of life, it’s moments during your day and often funny. Let your silly side show and share moments of your day. People on this platform are looking for real, not glossed over like Instagram.
This platform can also be used to promote events and specials, but you should use it for more than that to keep your audience engaged. Share moments in your day with photos and videos with supportive text, emojis, and stickers, or have some fun with it and use a snap filter to become a pretty princess, a puppy dog, or even a scary monster, the possibilities are really endless. Snap Chat offers a great deal of filters that you can add to your post including based on your location – where you took the picture. Again, like Instagram, this can help build your brand awareness within your community both physically and digitally.
Speaking to The Audience: Twitter
Twitter, like Instagram, also uses hashtags but in a very different way. Yes, they are still searchable, but on Twitter they “trend.” This means, those who are using that platform are discussing a particular topic. This platform is much less focused on community, although that aspect is still there. Rather it focuses on discussing something that is on people’s minds.
Twitter is very news-focused and because of this, the majority of tweets come from a small portion of the users. With this platform, you will want to address things that are current and keep your audience up to date. You will also want to be aware of who you follow, because like Instagram, this says a lot about your brand.
This platform is known for being clear and concise in messages. Previously, you were limited to 120 characters in a post, including hashtags. This has now been increased to 240 characters, but the expectation remains, you should say what you need to say.
Supportive photos and videos are used on this platform, but it is focused on text – what you are saying. Conversation is key on this platform and with that, you will need to “talk” to or “talk about” others to your followers. This can include a shout out to another business in your area for a job well done or posting an update about something someone else has going on that supports your brand.
While this sounds a bit muddy, it really isn’t. It all comes back to what we do. Business owners know other business owners. We’re the ones who are asked, “Do you know someone who…” because yes, we probably do, and we probably know several! So following businesses on your account, especially those that relate to your brand and support what you do, and either retweeting (sharing) their posts, or tagging them in a post not only helps build their brand but also your own. It also starts a conversation, which is what Twitter is all about.
Speaking to The Audience: LinkedIn
We should all know what LinkedIn is used for, it’s where the business people are! But how we communicate with business owners is very different from how we speak to the general public. Treat this platform much like you would a networking meeting with a lot of people you know.
Tell them about what you have going on in your business, share posts or links that relate to your business, and if you own a business, create a page for it. This solidifies yourself and your business on this platform, it gives validity to what you are doing. It shows you mean business. Post business specific topics on your business page and share these to your personal page.
In addition to this, you will also want to maintain the sense of community. LinkedIn recently added different reactions to posts, which helps build on the sense of community the other platforms use and it is becoming much less of a sales dumping ground. So, post things specific to you or your business, celebrate others’ successes, comment on their posts. It’s the little things that matter.
LinkedIn also recently started using hashtags, which as we know, has worked for other social media outlets as a means of searching for information and communities. While there is no limit on the number of hashtags you can use on LinkedIn, you want to be aware of the community you are speaking to. Business owners don’t have time to go around looking up hashtags to determine if it fits the brand and on LinkedIn. Nor do we want to see a lot of hashtags in a post. It looks spammy and we all know how spam filters work. Keep hashtags concise and no more than 5.
Speaking to Your Audience In A Positive Light
Now that you know who is where and how to start a conversation with them, you need to know a bit more about who you are specifically talking to so that you can present yourself and your business in a positive light. From here, it is quite simple. Each platform, including YouTube, offers insights on your specific audience. These are the people who currently like or follow your page. And you can know a lot about them by looking at your insights. You can see their age and location, both of which are key in speaking to them.
Think about this, we all have a variety of people in our lives, from young to old. But we speak to them very differently, even when we’re talking about the same thing. Sometimes it’s simplifying the language to something they would understand, but often, we do this because of our relationships with those around us. Generally speaking, we talk differently to those within our age group than we do other age groups. But more than that, different age groups have different frustrations.
The frustrations experienced by a 25-year-old man may be very different from that of a 40-year-old woman. Whereas one may be looking for options to finance a first home, the other may be looking to refinance a current mortgage. While one business can speak to both these individuals, how you speak to them should be reflected in who you are as a business and how you speak to that age group.
Let’s return to the restaurant. A restaurant can service one frustration felt by many different ages, hunger. Sometimes choices are made based on convenience, what’s quick and easy. But often, decisions on where to eat are a bit more. Something as simple as deciding where to eat can be downright difficult! But as you have found, being concise and clear in what you say, who you say it to, and how you say it, can make all the difference.
So, with this information, start with who you have. Look at your audience, who is already on your page. How old are they? Where are they? How would you speak to them in person? Sometimes it helps if you can think about a specific group of people you know personally, try to be as diverse as possible. Once you have that group, think about their frustrations and how you have a solution for one of their frustrations. Now post about it – sell that 4.99 foot-long! But also, be sure to understand the community you are speaking to. What are their expectations for your communication? Do they want text or visuals? Do they like hashtags or not so much?
In addition to this, you should also be aware of how close your current audience is to that of your target audience. If there’s a discrepancy, you will want to focus your branding on speaking to both audiences while speaking to each individual audience. Yes, you can sell a foot-long to a lot of people, billboards do just that but you will also want to speak to your current audience. Post something later in the week that will play on a frustration – too tired to cook, need something fast and easy because the kid has practice, haven’t gone grocery shopping – and use it to promote the deal on your foot-longs.
But it’s just a little more than that. Because you must be more than just that on social media. These are digital communities. And you need to be a part of that community, an active part of that community, to have it work for you and build your brand. To do this, you are going to have to give a little bit of yourself, tell a little bit more about what you do and why you do it. You’ll want to be aware of who you are speaking to and how they communicate. You will want to meet their expectations and when you do, that’s when things start happening. And that’s when it’s time to get excited, because it will start to reflect in all other areas of your business.
This, like everything else, takes time. And in that time, you still have a lot to do. Come back next week when I am going to finish this series by discussing how you can present your business in a positive light in your digital presence – we’re talking websites and SEO!