Let’s state the obvious first: replying to potential customers on social media will help build relationships that directly boost engagement. This effect compounds the more consistently you interact and engage with your community.
Replying to your audience isn’t difficult, especially if you have a scalable solution that you use to handle community engagement. Even the largest brands with millions of followers are often putting in the resources and investing in the technology necessary to filter through all incoming messages and mentions on social media so that they have a 100% response rate for important queries (customer support questions for brands in tech, complaints about food for chain restaurants, etc.).
Hopefully, if you’re reading this, responding to and interacting with your audience is already second nature for your social media team.
Why is engaging customers through social media so difficult today?
One of the biggest challenges facing marketers today is closing what’s known as the expectation gap – a void between what customers expect to experience and what’s actually delivered. The void is caused when brands don’t adapt traditional marketing strategies to meet modern expectations for speed and personalization across all channels.
Delivering personalized content at the right moment is challenging. So is creating and delivering content at a high speed, across multiple touch-points, while still providing an exceptional experience for consumers.
These 6 tactics will help you adapt your social strategy to the modern consumer, so you can reach high levels of engagement and success across channels:
1. Get to know your social media audience
As a business that is marketing on social media, you need to ask yourself this: who are you talking to?
Knowing your target audience is essential to creating tailored marketing campaigns and successfully engaging customers through social media.
Let’s look at an American restaurant chain, Denny’s, as an example. They use language that’s perfectly aligned with one of their target demographics – young people.
They post humorous – depending on your sense of humor – tweets and are constantly engaging with their audience that’s both in and out of the joke.
Denial is not just a Denny’s in Egypt.— Denny’s (@DennysDiner) February 21, 2021
How to align tone of voice with target audiences
Aligning the tone and voice of your content to drive the most engagement requires an in-depth understanding of your target audience. Understanding your buyer and audience personas is critical so you can tailor campaigns to the right segments, and have a more granular understanding of which groups your content is resonating with and which could use a different approach.
One way to create customer personas is to conduct customer interviews. Brent Trotter, content specialist at Clique Studios, developed a five-step approach to creating personas:
Interview and observe multiple people
Analyze the data you gather
Uncover patterns in their behaviors
Group participants into “archetypes”
Create a digestible summary of these insights
2. Know where your audience is talking about you
Are you on Twitter, but your main audience is on Instagram?
If you don’t know which channels different audience segments are most active on, driving engagement on social media is going to be difficult. If your primary audience for one campaign is active on Instagram, there’s no reason to allocate resources towards Twitter, for example.
That’s why it’s important that you find out where your brand is being mentioned and where your different target persona’s spend their time, so you can engage your audiences at the right place, at the right time, with the right content.
You can figure out where customers are talking about you with social media listening. It’s critical to determine where your customers are mentioning you so that you make sure to answer every single question a customer asks regarding your brand.
Replying to your audience on a regular basis is the key to maintaining a positive brand image. After all, social media is a public channel where your existing and potential customers can see your activity and use it to evaluate your brand – which brings us to our next point.
3. Engage with your customers swiftly and consistently
In addition to monitoring where your brand is being mentioned, it’s also important to respond and engage as soon as possible.
A fast response matters to customers – it shows that you care about them and what they have to say. But a lot of businesses are still falling well short of customer expectations on that front.
A fast response time doesn’t just refer to direct questions towards your brand on social – it can also be general comments or even praise. One of the brands that have mastered the art of audience communication on social media is American ice cream company Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams.
The company interacts with their followers on a regular basis, and their average response time is excellent. But having regular conversations with your community is not the only way to engage your customers through social media.
Take user-generated content, for example. Every time a customer shares a positive social media post about your business, it means they were satisfied with your products or services.
So why not amplify their message sharing it across your own channels?
In addition to sharing customers’ content, follow customers on social media to build relationships. It’s a lot like following a friend. You’d want that friend to follow you back, right?
4. Analyze how customers respond to your campaigns
Engaging customers on social media often means analyzing how they react to your different marketing campaigns so you can understand what you did right and fix what you did wrong.
After you launch any marketing campaign, it’s important to monitor how customers feel about it – ideally by using social media sentiment analysis.
Sentiment analysis enables you to figure out what content your customers are into so that you’re able to create more campaigns that they enjoy and find engaging.
Leveraging sentiment analysis is a great way to learn exactly what topics resonate with your audience. This insight can help create tailored campaigns that spark engagement, generate positive feedback, and improve customer relationships.
5. Make your content more accessible
As a marketer, you should also think of customers with disabilities when focusing on your social media content — or any form of marketing you do.
One way to improve customer engagement on social media is by making content more accessible and easy to consume. The two primary ways to do this are by adding captions to video-based content and descriptions to image-based content.
This benefits those with disabilities, which reflects well on your brand, but also can greatly increase engagement in general.
Fen Slattery, Accessibility Lead at Clique Studios, says to make sure you use image descriptions to describe the images you post across Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
“Image descriptions are generally for people with low vision and people who use screen readers,” Slattery said. “They’re also great for people with cognitive disabilities who have a hard time understanding the purpose of an image.”
Use thoughtful image descriptions when posting on social media. The description will also make the entire experience better for all of your customers.
Another example of making the social media experience better for all customers is to use captions at the bottom of a video.
“Captions on video help people with hearing loss,” they said. “Captions also help people with all sorts of cognitive conditions, like autism.”
In addition, Slattery added, “Video captions help people who aren’t a native speaker of the language that’s being spoken in the video or those who are from a different region. It’s also for those who don’t want to hear audio in the moment they are watching the video or if you forget your headphones at home.”
6. Show the Human Side of Your Business
No matter what kind of company you are – SaaS, restaurant, Ecommerce yoga clothes store, whatever – you can engage with customers by simply being human.
Here’s a great example from Trello. The company talks to their social media audience in a very personal way.
They say skinny jeans are out, but you can still add them to any list for a celebration 👖🎉 pic.twitter.com/To6l8cF95I— Trello (@trello) March 2, 2021
One way to make your brand’s social accounts more human is to post relatable content that talks about common challenges, pain points, or experiences. It’s also a good idea to express emotions, with humor being particularly effective.
Finally, you can add a personal touch to your social media bio and make it about your social media manager as opposed to the company. This way, people will feel that they’re interacting with a fellow person, and not with a faceless business.
7. Take a stand on a social issue
According to a survey by Clutch, 75% of people are likely to do business with a company that supports an issue important to them.
“People support their buying decisions as a way to support the issues they care about,” said Toby Cox, Content Marketer and Writer at Clutch.
The survey also found that only 44% of people think that price is one of the most important company attributes when compared to “environmentally-friendly business practices (71%), social responsibility (68%), and giving back to the local community (68%).”
Patagonia is a classic example of a brand built on taking a stand. They work to reduce their impact on the environment.
The company’s content reflects protecting the environment. Here’s an Instagram post promoting fixing clothes, purchasing from sustainable companies, or buying used instead of contributing to fast fashion that helps contribute to global pollution.
So how do you begin to decide on which social causes to take a stand for?
To find out, I spoke with Jason King, Digital Marketing Strategist for SOCIALDEVIANT. He said that before a brand evaluates social causes to support, it first needs to know its brand purpose.
“Brand purpose is different from mission or vision,” King said. “The brand purpose, in a simple sentence, is why the brand exists. Not what it does. To determine the brand purpose, the team can have discussions over a short period of time to determine what is true about the brand.”
Once the brand purpose is decided, the team should speak with employees, partners, and customers to find out their interests in social causes, King added. There can then be a balance between the brand purpose and the interests of the company’s stakeholders to decide on social causes to take a stand for.
“If the brand purpose is true, it can positively impact all aspects of the business. From hiring to operations to marketing. In particular, the brand purpose will affect the brand’s corporate social responsibility,” King said.
Your team should decide which aspects of corporate social responsibility are important based on the brand purpose – it has to align with the purpose, according to King. Corporate social responsibility includes things like economic mobility, giving back to the community, or sustainability.
King warned that companies should be careful in supporting social causes.
“Brands should be very careful about adding their voice to social movements that might not be relevant,” he says. “When brands take a stand, there is always a risk of people disagreeing with or criticizing that view. When there is a disconnect between the brand’s purpose and a cause it supports, the risk increases. This is one reason why Gillette’s recent ‘The Best Men Can Be’ commercial saw backlash: it was a new stance for the brand to support.”
Implementing a cause marketing campaign
After discussing your brand purpose and talking with company stakeholders, you can determine what social cause(s) to support. Over time, you can use this social cause in your marketing.
King said that effective cause marketing campaigns have a few common elements:
A clear overall message – Why the cause matters
A takeaway or call to action – How real people can learn more and get involved
Compelling creative – while this can take shape in many ways, video is often a great delivery format
Created with social media in mind – This means planning for specific platform positions like Instagram Reels or Stories, not just cutting snippets of one video
Realistic expectations – Don’t assume a campaign will go viral because of its good intentions; determine how it can be supported through digital advertising or other methods such as blogging and media outreach to expand its reach
In today’s busy world, engaging customers on social media can be a challenge. Your followers are always on-the-go and constantly exposed to huge amounts of content – which makes getting their attention (let alone engagement!) difficult.
Yet, difficult doesn’t mean impossible. By learning about your audience, replying to their messages, and showing your brand personality, you can successfully establish a connection with your community and encourage them to interact with your brand.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on socialbakers.com. Any statistics or statements included in this article were current at the time of original publication.