As Meredith Chapman is one of the instructors in the University of Delaware’s Social Media Marketing Strategy Certificate program, she is asked often about how businesses can best improve their strategies and reach more customers. The program, which is a 2016 recipient of a National Outstanding Program Award from the University Professional and Continuing Education Association, helps newcomers learn how to make use of social media platforms and helps experienced practitioners learn new techniques.
“People want to know specifics,” says Chapman, Delaware’s director of digital communications. “But there has to be a much broader conversation before we can get into details. What works for one organization doesn’t necessarily work for another. There are lots of different goals.”
Still, there are some things every business can do to improve its social media effort, and Chapman offered 10 of the best ideas.
1. Know Your Audience: If a business is trying to reach 17-to-25-year olds, it must use Snapchat, since all of those folks are using it. If you want to look at young parents age 35 to 50, they all spend their time on Facebook. You need to pick the media where the target audience is.
2. The Value of Visual: Most of the people businesses are trying to reach use their smart phones all the time. As they scroll down, they don’t want to look at words. They want to see pictures and videos. Those using social media want to tell visual stories to capture people’s attention.
3. Know the Three Rs: According to program instructor Holly Norton, any content needs to have the “three Rs” to resonate: It has to be real, relevant and repeatable. It has to be something that is tangible, something that is here and now and something that people want to share.
4. Leverage User Generated Content: A business can use social media to talk about itself all day, but getting other people to do that is much better. It’s great to have people giving you positive reviews and providing feedback that can inform big decisions.
5. Build Brand Advocates: It’s impossible to listen to all the conversations about a company’s brand at the same time, so the best in the social media business have loyal followers who will advocate on their behalf. If a business is going to use employees for that, make sure they understand what platforms to use and how to engage people using them.
6. Encourage Peer-to-Peer Recommendations: It’s great for a business to share its story, but it is better for others to recommend the product or service. That way, they can create experiences that others want to share.
7. Listen, Listen and Listen: Social media is about having a conversation. Doing that right entails listening to others. A business must be able to take feedback from customers and turn that into social media strategies that help shape big decisions.
8. Don’t Give Social Media to the Intern: This is an important part of any company’s marketing plan, since 75% of adults use social media. So, do you want someone who doesn’t know your business intimately putting your message out there? Make sure you are using a full-time employee and not an intern. The person running the accounts needs to know how to use social media for crisis communications and customer service on a day-to-day basis.
9. Data Drives Strategy: Social media platforms provide numbers, statistics and demographics. Businesses have to make that information influence social media and business operations decisions. If something goes viral, the numbers look great, but it’s also important to look at the human factor. Make those numbers work in a positive way for your brand.
10. Follow Trends, Not Tools: There is always a new platform in social media, and if a business gets caught up in trying to master every platform, it will miss a chance to use the ones it needs the most. The rise of video and visuals and more user-generated content have made Snapchat and Instagram hot. But at some point, there’s going to be something new. You can’t just get caught up in the next big thing.
“Social media is all about telling a compelling story,” Chapman says. “We’re all human, and tapping into our emotions and making us part of the conversation is vital. The most successful brands on social media tell stories in every bit of their content.”
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University of Delaware’s Division of Professional and Continuing Studies offers a variety of programs designed to accommodate many different student needs. Courses are offered online or in the classroom and cover a broad spectrum of disciplines, all designed to enhance students’ capabilities and to help them become more successful in the marketplace. For more information, visit www.pcs.udel.edu or call 302-831-7600.