Social media is an extremely important tool for local businesses to use, but how do you make sure what you share on social media is read and shared by your followers?
Finding followers or gaining likes is one thing – but keeping your followers interested is very different. Social media relies on the community of people using it to add interesting, relevant and helpful information to the channels. If you bombard people with sales messages or poor quality information, it’s likely they’ll switch off.
These seven ideas are designed to help you come up with new social media marketing techniques that suit your customers and keep them engaged with what you’re sharing on social media.
1. Link your business with topical or seasonal events
If there’s an event, news story or commemorative day which you think is relevant to your business and customers, create social media updates around it. It might be a day (like National Ice-cream Day), a local news story or a bigger seasonal event. Look on social media at the hashtags people are using to talk about the event and use these in your updates.
Make sure the topical or seasonal event really does link to your business, otherwise people will feel like you’re piggybacking on something that’s not relevant. Of course, our National Ice Cream Day example is good for food & drink businesses, but not so appropriate for solicitors.
2. Create competitions and offers
Competitions are widely used on social media as a way to attract more customers and re-engage existing ones – even Westminster Abbey and Blenheim Palace do it! Choose a prize that’s relevant to your business – for example, it could be a new product or free service. Make the competition itself reflect the value of the prize so people feel like they’re not ‘working’ too hard to enter.
Offers are another useful way to engage followers further on social media. Making them specific to one social media channel (for example, just your Twitter followers) and promoting these on other channels can help increase the number of people who ‘follow’ you.
3. Ask for your followers’ opinions
Many social media channels now offer the option of built-in voting or polls. These are a great way to engage your followers – like asking which colour they prefer for your new product, or discussing a recent event with a poll. For example, a clothes shop could ask which celebrity looked best at an awards ceremony to encourage conversation and debate.
You can also ask for more general feedback and opinions to help you improve your business, such as what new services they’d like to see or changes to opening hours. By asking questions and acting upon feedback, people will feel more invested in and engaged with your business.
4. Mix behind-the-scenes posts with business updates
Depending on the sort of business you run, mixing behind-the-scenes updates with business information can encourage good responses from your social media audience. For example, if you run a cake-making business, you could upload behind-the-scenes posts of the cake being made so your followers can see the various stages you go through to produce the finished product.
Avoid anything negative or potentially boring, and focus on behind-the-scenes clips that you think will interest your audience the most. You may not get many comments on these updates but it will help build trust as your customers see you as a real person.
Be careful not to include too many of these updates. Your customers follow you on social media because they’re interested in what you share as a business – not what you’ve had for your tea.
5. Use good quality images and videos
Using relevant, good quality images and video on social media can dramatically increase how many people like, comment and share your update: for example, Facebook updates with images get over twice as much engagement as those without pictures (BuzzSumo, 2015).
Adding images to your updates is a simple way to encourage better conversations with your followers and capture their attention. Think about what a relevant image might be – for example, one associated with your business or the information you’re sharing – and add this to your updates. Use an online service (like Pixlr or PicMonkey) to help you make your images look good and add any filters that fit your branding or business’ personality. It’s also worth noting that Facebook favours video posts above all other post types (i.e. pure text or images), so rewards this content by showing it to more people. So, if you can afford to create some short videos, this is a great way to help increase the number of people who see, and are aware of, your business.
6. Share relevant ideas from other people
As well as creating and posting your own original updates, take the time to find and share relevant ideas from other people. This shows your followers you want to help and inform them – not just sell to them. It could also help encourage your followers to share your posts now or in the future, meaning they would be seen by a much larger audience.
This could mean sharing articles from local websites, bloggers, or sharing and re-tweeting information on Facebook or Twitter. Doing this is a good way to strike up a conversation, so make sure you include the original creator’s name or username (for example, by using @[username] on Twitter).
7. Experiment with social media advertising
Social media advertising, where you can pay for an update to be shown to more people than those who like or follow you, can be a great way to boost engagement. More people who don’t already follow you will see your update, potentially increasing your fan base. When targeting people outside of your fan base, it’s important to remember that these people are not yet loyal to you, so you will need to create genuinely useful and engaging ads if you want to get noticed, and gain more followers as a result.
One of the most effective parts of social media advertising is you can target your adverts to specific types of people, including by location. For example, if you run a dog-grooming service you can target people who are ‘fans’ of interest groups on Facebook about dogs, and who live in your local area. We recommend trying out the other six ideas first before embarking on social media advertising, as it’s a good way to increase your existing followers rather than building them from scratch.
Using social media to talk to your followers is a great way of connecting with them on a personal level and contributing to a community with helpful, interesting and relevant information. Try out our seven ideas above to increase engagement with your social media followers and track how effective they are for your business.