Meg Thornley Social Media and Project Manager How To Win At Social Media Social Media or ‘inbound’ marketing has taken the marketing world by storm in recent years, with many companies either hiring a social media correspondent or outsourcing the job to agencies to ensure that they’re covering every marketing channel. However, a lot of small businesses and start-ups don’t have the funds to hire a new team member or outsource to a (usually quite expensive) agency, so they proceed to jump in at the deep end; signing up for business pages on every platform from Facebook to Pinterest without any training or advice because, hey, they’ve got a Facebook profile and their statuses regularly get 10+ likes! Oh, you sweet, summer child. You know nothing of the perils of social media. Just like the rest of us who start out on our first day, determined to increase the business’ twitter followers by 3000% by 5pm, your dreams will be crushed by 3pm. You’ll then probably try weeks of different approaches in your posts- from cool and quirky to straight-laced business. If you’re past this phase, looking back at your previous attempts at engaging and exciting customers will make you cringe more than your year eight school photos. But, just like brace-face, greasy hair and giant backpacks, an embarrassing social media presence is something we all have to live through. Or is it? What if I told you I could give you all the advice you need to start out and continue with strength on your company social media accounts? Because I really can. I can’t help with the awkward high school pictures though. They’re on your grandparent’s mantelpiece forever. Using Social Media to Grow an (Engaged) Audience: Social media platforms are used for many different things due to the users that they draw in. Twitter and LinkedIn can be used to grow your B2B (Business to Business connections) very well. Whether you sell supplies or services to other businesses or you’re just trying to grow your brand and make valuable allies from other businesses, these two platforms are probably your best option (though they are also great for B2C– Business to Customer relations) as they make it really easy to share valuable content such as blog posts in an easily shareable way. It’s also pretty easy to grow your follower base through ‘hashtagging’ relevant subjects on twitter, and joining relevant groups on LinkedIn, then engaging with interesting and active accounts found there to form worthwhile relationships with your community who care about your updates. Twitter Pro Tip: Use different campaign types such as email advertising that twitter provides to gain the emails of users interested in your business and updates. You can then use these emails to send out a newsletter to people who care and are therefore more likely to read and respond to it! LinkedIn Pro Tip: Ask employees of your company if they would be willing to share occasional LinkedIn updates on their personal pages, as they likely have plenty of connections within the industry from networking or seminars who may engage with your content. Using Social Media to Engage Current Audience and Increase Brand Loyalty: Social media platforms can also be used to sweeten up the followers you’ve already drawn in, in order to increase brand loyalty. The likes of Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat are a more ‘behind the scenes’ look into how your company works, which usually appeals to users that are already familiar with your brand, and who care about how you’re operating. Followers on these platforms are more likely to fall into the B2Ccategory and therefore probably care less about the technical side of how your business works and more about the social aspect- how does your staff unwind? A sneak preview of your latest release? This keeps your brand looking fresh and exciting, and engages users. The more emotionally involved in your business a customer is, the more likely they are to stay loyal to your brand and purchase from you rather than your competitors. Here’s a list of brands whose consumers were most loyal in 2015. Facebook Pro Tip: Engage with customers and clients in every way possible. As well as replying to all messages and comments, write posts that prompt responses and even give rewards. Skiworld often gives out Facebook fan exclusive deals. Instagram Pro Tip: Be artsy with shots- images of your team or a close up shot of your product is the aesthetic usually favoured on Instagram. Hashtag Hashtag Hashtag! Read through hashtags and engage with the customers… and the competition. Snapchat Pro Tip: Snapchat live from events to give your super-fans an awesome look at exactly what’s going on backstage. Also give out secret promo codes that aren’t available anywhere else- that makes them even more juicy! Remember to stay relevant by being active. If you don’t have the time to monitor your social 24/7, there are plenty of free websites that queue your posts for you, so your followers and fans never forget about you. (Make sure you do check each platform as often as possible though, to reply to comments, messages and mentions!) And when attending events, always find out the event hashtag as soon as possible and share content under this hashtag on Twitter and Instagram, on the event page on Facebook, and on your own profile on LinkedIn and Snapchat. Make sure this content is relevant and insightful- such as pictures of different stalls, or comments about topics covered in debates. These tips will help you to improve your brand following and loyalty without the need of a marketing agency. You know your brand better than anyone else, so use that to create an incredible social media presence that wows your customers and your competition, without having to go through the awkward phase of finding your feet.