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How can businesses use social media to drive effective communication with customers?

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Last year, statistics from marketing automation experts Emarsys stated that an estimated 45 per cent of the earth’s population now use some form of social media.

Previously used solely as platforms for individuals to communicate with one another, social media platforms have rapidly developed into tools that can be used in more professional settings.

An extensive array of industries use social media platforms to display their business’ style and communicate with customersand, according to i-SCOOP - a company that specialise in covering the uses of technology in modern marketing - 78 per cent of businesses now have a dedicated team for managing their social media accounts.

With social media platforms being taken seriously by businesses and utilised to communicate and form long-lasting professional relationships, now is the time to learn how it’s used and why. If your brand currently doesn't take advantage of social media, it’s important that your business gets involved.

How do businesses use social media to communicate with customers?

Although you may take it for granted, the use of social media platforms play a pivotal role in connecting a business to its audience. Whether it’s the online presence which Twitter and Facebook can provide, the ability to promote your business’ tone of voice, style and approach through websites like LinkedIn, or the option to provide casual, vibrant imagery and videos over platforms such as Instagram or Snapchat, almost every form of social media can be used to bridge the gap between a business and the potential customers it wants to engaging with.

Buffer is an app that is used to run various social media platforms for both businesses and individuals. In their own research into the impact of social media, they highlight how this 21st Century game changer has benefited businesses, with almost three in four of marketeers stating that the use of social media has been either somewhat effective or very effective in increasing engagement and driving sales for their brand.

In broad terms, there are two primary uses for social media in the eyes of a business: to communicate directly with customers and their target audience as a form of customer service, and to put forward a consistent, relevant, entertaining virtual presence for the audience to connect with and, if done correctly, develop a fondness for.

How to engage customers through social media

Almost every business, regardless of industry, now has a social media account. But how exactly do these businesses go about engaging with their customers?

You should set a precedent by choosing a profile picture, cover image, description, handle and tone of voice that is reflective of your business and its guiding values. Fortunately, you can often use details from your existing website to tick all of these boxes. A crucial part of making these decisions and knowing how best to approach posting pieces of content is based around your audience.

You should invest time in formulating an understanding of your target audience and use your findings - whether they’re from studies, customer feedback, polls, business data or interviews - to judge what type of content appeals to your audience, what writing style they’re likely to respond best to and which assets - such as images, videos, blogs, quizzes or other forms of content - could make your social media posts even more attractive to your audience. It could even be that this level of research leads you to using different social media platforms that are more appropriate to the audience you’re looking to engage with. For example, if your brand is more data and information driven, you may wish to concentrate on your Twitter and Facebook presence. Alternatively, if your brand and its products and services would be best showcased visually, stronger Instagram and Snapchat content may suit your business better.

When you’ve started posting on your chosen social media platform, you can begin to track the performance of your posts and respond to replies and mentions you may receive in a way that is relevant to your chosen style. Although this can be less formal, you shouldn’t make it too casual or it may end up looking flippant and unprofessional.

There are several benefits to speaking directly to your audience, such as the ability to present your account as being friendly and approachable, gauging an even more in-depth understanding of your audience’s motivations, desires and needs, and having the opportunity to point your audience in the direction of your business’ product and service pages.

How to measure customer engagement on social media  

Having an impact on the people you’re engaging with via social media and seeing the number of people rise is one thing; but, to recognise this growth, understand what’s working positively and identify areas to improve on, you need to determine and monitor relevant metrics.

There are different types of metrics for gauging the impact of your social media interactions. They include:

Likes and shares -

On any social media platform, the ability to like or share a post among followers and friends is something that represents how well the post was received. Whether it’s through Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn or a number of other platforms, you will be able to monitor these metrics on dedicated areas for displaying updated insights.

Followers and subscribers -

Another key metric for measuring engagement with your customers is the number of followers or subscribers you have. Likes and shares are important, but there’s a long-lasting element to this metric as it is an indication of how much people want to keep tabs on future communications.

It’s also important that you consider the ratio of people following your social media account and the accounts it’s following. For example, if you’re following three times more accounts than are following you, it could come across as desperate or might even make you look like a robot account that is designed to find accounts that follow back.

Insights into audience -

Statistics around your audience can be beneficial for several reasons. For instance, tracking the growth of the number of followers you have will indicate whether you’re making the correct decisions to grow your social media account.

It could also be advantageous to look into demographics around your audience to identify who is engaging with your content in terms of age, gender and location, ensure they’re representative of your brand’s profile and/or identify areas that you could look to improve on.

Feedback, mentions and replies -

As a business that is looking to establish a social media presence, you should be willing to listen to and act upon the information provided by your audience. By reading the replies, mentions and any general feedback about your account, you’re presented with a valuable opportunity to gauge audience reaction and then, if necessary, move quickly to initiate changes that enable to shift those attitudes and bring your audience on-side.

Performance of individual posts -

You may use Google Analytics and similar programmes to check the performance of your website, its pages and any blog posts you may write. But, did you ever consider using a similar approach for social media posts?

You should frequently check how your social media posts are performing and, if they link to specific blog posts or pages, you can see the amount of people who’ve navigated to it via specific social media platforms, as well as review the number of clicks, the bounce rate, conversions made on the page and a selection of other useful insights.

How to increase customer engagement on social media

As mentioned above, once you begin to understand the typical methods of measuring engagement levels with customers through social media, you can act upon your findings to improve the impact your posts are having. However, there are other steps you can take to increase the level of customer engagement. For example:

  • Create a personality for your social media account based on your business
  • Remain relevant with your original vision but look to be topical, fresh and current
  • Post daily updates and maintain an online presence
  • Establish your audience and form an understanding of their wants, needs and interests
  • Use videos, images and emojis in your posts to make them more eye catching 
  • Identify peak times for your chosen audience and ensure that the timing of your priority posts coincides with those moments of optimum interest (& likely engagement/ response)
  • Plan promotions, campaigns, competitions and polls to involve your audience and encourage posts to be liked, shared and linked to others, all of which will help to deepen, and broaden, the engagement you have with those that matter to your brand.

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