The summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college (2010) I got a Twitter account. And this was my first Tweet:
“Far from a twat my tweets soar above the minds of the twits.”
As embarrassing as that is now, it had the desired effect to my 19-year-old self. PJ Hairston, who was a rising freshman at UNC at the time, retweeted it. He was the closest thing to a celebrity to ever engage with my social media activity. In my mind, I had mastered Twitter! My goal as a social media user was to be revered for my teenage wit. But looking back at my old tweets and Facebook posts, everything I posted seemed to be random and lacking in any type of value. I’d inform people that I had just gone for a run, tweet at celebrities hoping for a retweet or some sort of response and share pictures of myself at different stages during No-Shave-November. Stuff nobody cared about. I wanted people to give me likes and follows and retweets and shares that would convert to fame and glory. But, again, my posts didn’t hold any value.
Clearly, my 19-year-old self had no strategy, no goal and no purpose. I was immature — not just as a person but as a social media user as well. But over the years, as I began to manage social media accounts for others and compare my posts with the posts of successful brands, I started to figure some things out. To be honest, not much has changed in terms of my desired outcomes. I still want people to like, share, retweet, comment on, plus one and follow my social media activity. But I’ve learned a great deal about execution.
First and foremost I’ve learned that you’ll never have any success on social media if you don’t know yourself, know your platform and know your audience. Establish your voice and figure out which social media platforms best equip you to reach your desired audience(s). Whether you’re posting for your friends, customers or others in your industry, knowing your audience is crucial. Having a particular audience in mind before crafting a post is like having a cheat sheet. It keys you into how to phrase your ideas. It helps you determine the type of humor to utilize, the articles and videos to share and the topics on which to focus.
I’ll give you a few examples of ways I’ve utilized different social media platforms recently to bring about favorable outcomes (much like a PJ Hairston retweet).
Success on Google+
One of my clients is in an industry in which costumers don’t particularly like the fact that they are customers in that industry. In fact, people only become customers if they’ve broken the law. For this reason, it would be tough to target customers as the primary audience for a social media strategy. Instead, the social media strategy I’ve developed is geared towards attorneys who could potentially represent my client’s customers as well as other “influencers” who could impact a potential customer’s choice of service provider.
The primary purpose of our social media efforts is to provide valuable information to these attorneys and influencers. Very rarely do we post anything specifically branding my client or its services. Primarily, we inform. This strategy has proven effective on Google+, which is a popular platform for attorneys as well as the best social media platform at segmenting users by interest. Google+ Communities have allowed us to target the specific type of attorney we want to read our content. And we’ve had great success. The client’s Google+ page now has more than three times as many followers as its Facebook page has likes and about 30% more followers than its Twitter account.
Success on LinkedIn
It’s tough for small businesses to grow committed followings on LinkedIn. Business pages can’t “at” other people or companies. Managers of LinkedIn business pages can’t comment in discussion groups as the business. So, a small business’ success on LinkedIn is dependent upon the activity and thought leadership of the individuals within the business. At my company, Angel Oak Creative, it often feels like we’re too busy to invest time in our own social media efforts, especially on LinkedIn. But as a marketing agency, we want to have a presence of thought leadership in as many online communities as possible.
Enter LinkedIn Publishing. Early this year, LinkedIn opened up its publishing platform for all users. Why is this a big deal? BECAUSE! Now, you can draft a long-form post, and LinkedIn will notify everyone with whom you’re connected. Every. Single. One. It’s a powerful way to get the attention of those who don’t regularly follow your blog or other social media accounts. If you write on a topic of interest to your connections, the results can be incredible.
I’m 23, so the majority of my connections are either still in college, recent college graduates or young professionals trying to carve out a path for themselves. Keeping this audience in mind, I recently wrote a LinkedIn post in an effort to test the effectiveness of the publishing tool. My post chronicled my first year in the “real world,” which featured me working for free and picking up a part-time job to pursue the career I wanted. The results were more than I could have imagined.
Strangers liked, reshared and commented on the post, including reputable Raleigh-based organizations like Band Together and SAS. Recent grads left comments thanking me for the insight. I’m just a random guy, and when it was all said and done, the post had been read by 443 people, shared on Facebook 37 times and shared on LinkedIn 43 times. Everyone who wants to increase their exposure should utilize this tool, keeping their main audience in mind when deciding what to write about.
Success on Facebook
If you’re looking for a social media platform that will yield a huge ROI, Facebook isn’t your best bet. People just don’t login to Facebook looking to make a purchase. They’re going to catch up with friends and look at cat GIFs. If you’re looking for a social media strategy to positively impact your SEO strength, again Facebook isn’t the place to go. But where Facebook can be really valuable is in keeping your loyal, most invested followers up to date and engaged.
On a personal level, I’m most likely to share an article or funny video with a friend on Facebook than any other social media platform. Logging in is like walking into your favorite bar or coffee shop. Most users aren’t thinking about work. If anything, they’re looking for an escape from work.
Company pages on Facebook need to fit their content to the platform rather than trying to make the platform fit their content. Posting a lot of industry specific articles and copy-heavy posts will result in utter failure. Angel Oak Creative treats Facebook the same way I do personally. We have our “friends” in mind. This includes family members, personal connections, industry peers and other professional contacts.
We post funny pictures of us goofing off in the office, attending networking events, serving on nonprofit boards and committees, brainstorming with clients, celebrating exciting milestones and hanging out after work. When we post a cool article that we like, it may get some likes, but that’s about it. When we post a picture of us at a coffee shop for a chocolate chip cookie run, our engagement skyrockets. Our audience has spoken. And it likes fun.
In closing, social media can be an incredible tool both personally and professionally, just remember to nail down these three things and you’ll be golden: who you are, what the platform is, who your audience is.