Building a brand presence online is tricky enough without muddying the waters. Creating a “voice” for your business entails a lot more than plugging in keywords and aiming for stronger SEO. It’s about building an audience using relevant, targeted content.
But the question is: Where should that content live?
You have a range of choices, from web copy to blog posts to email newsletters. But frequently, a more comment platform for audience building is social media.
Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest—the web is crammed with advice about how to use these platforms to build and boost your brand. But should your business be using social media in the first place? Here are some questions to help you find out.
Who is your audience, and where do they hang out?
Recently, Copyblogger deleted its Facebook page, despite having nearly 40,000 fans. Why? The audience wasn’t really there.
The majority of their fans and follows were from “junk” accounts—phony accounts created by link-bait services around the globe. Their huge number of “fans” was actually resulting in a drop in engagement, which meant that fewer of the people who actually mattered were seeing their posts and clicking through.
In other words, the Copyblogger audience wasn’t hanging out on Facebook. At least, not enough of their audience to make a difference. So Copyblogger decided to delete the page rather than expend time and resources trying to fix or work around it, and instead diverted their energy to creating more and better content on the platform their users relied upon most—their blog.
That’s an extreme case, but it illustrates a point: If the platform isn’t bringing you results, don’t use it.
Who is your audience? It’s a tougher question than it seems. Because your “audience” and your “customer” may not be the same. The key is to think in terms of nurturing instead of selling. Your platform, whether social media or blog or landing pages on your site, has to encourage your audience to enter into your marketing funnel, which takes over to nurture your audience into a customer relationship with your business. If you spend your effort on the wrong platform, you might as well print flyers and let the wind carry them through the streets. The results will be the same.
Identify your audience first, then focus on the platform they’re most likely to use. That may be Facebook, Twitter, or something else entirely. It may, in fact, change over time (which is why you should re-evaluate regularly). But keeping your audience in mind, rather than trying to target the latest new platform, will bring you a better overall ROI.
What do you have to say? It’s a conversation, not a broadcast.
What you say is far more important than where you say it. What is the brand message you’re trying to convey? Is it benefit-driven or feature-driven? Does it meet a need, or is it purely self-promotion?
There’s nothing wrong with promoting what you do. Announcing special sales or events, tooting your own horn about accomplishments, announcing a new product release—these are all part of the conversation you should have with your audience. But the key is that it is a conversation—not a broadcast.
The “what” of what you have to say should be part of that continual churn of back and forth with your audience and potential customers. Which means it needs to be relevant and aimed at contributing something, overall. And the platform you choose for the conversation needs to match the content.
Twitter limits communication to 140 characters a pop. Facebook limits communication to only those who are actively paying attention to you. Pinterest and Instagram rely on images. Vine uses video. Blogs and landing pages give you more room to “spread out,” but the messaging needs to be highly targeted.
Which of these platforms lets you communicate your message most effectively?
Bear in mind, it could be a combination of platforms, rather than a single resource. You may write blog posts that target your specific audience, and broadcast them via Twitter to make them more discoverable. Or you may use Facebook to engage a qualified audience of followers to funnel them back to a landing page where they can learn more about (or purchase) your newest product.
Where you communicate is determined as much by what you have to say as by where your audience spends its time. Sometimes it’s worth it to target a smaller audience, on a less used platform, if the result is more highly qualified leads that convert easily.
Who keeps the plates spinning?
Again, this is about conversation, not broadcasting. And conversations require that there be someone on both ends, keeping everything going. So who do you have who can engage in conversation with your audience?
Finding internal resources that you can dedicate to monitoring and responding to social media is a challenge. Which is why many businesses outsource this work to agencies and contractors. For a relatively low rate, you can have an individual or even a team of people who keep the conversation going, and help you build a better brand platform.
If you can’t outsource, however, and are forced to rely on internal resources, you’ll need to consider which platforms provide your business with the best reach for the least cost. A full-time employee in your business is likely occupied by other tasks that have a better ROI than tracking and responding to posts on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, your company blog, and dozens of other channels. So it may be best to pick one or two channels, and focus on those, rather than spreading your resource thin.
And when possible, consider transitioning your social media and platform communication to an outside resource, rather than keeping it entirely in-house. You’ll increase your range and capabilities exponentially, and safe yourself some impact to the bottom line. You’ll also have a better conversation with your audience, building greater trust and credibility.
Should you drop social media?
Maybe. If you’ve gone through the questions above and realized that your time and resources are better spent elsewhere, that your audience isn’t there or that you have nothing relevant to say on a given channel, then yes. At that point, you should pull back, regroup, and maybe come at social media again later, from a new angle.
But chances are, that isn’t you. Chances are, you have exactly the right message for an audience, and there’s a platform already waiting for you. You may need some guidance, and a little nudge. And if that’s the case, look to service providers such as GlobalWrites, for help developing a social media strategy that is tailored to your business, and that helps you meet your goals.
Creating a brand voice takes planning and not a little seat equity, and finding a platform for that voice is crucial. You don’t have to do it alone.