Nearly every relevant brand is on social media, but many still do not have a pertinent impact on the networks they wish to influence. In fact, it’s easy to distinguish the experts from the amateurs when examining how certain brands utilize social media. It reminds me of a snarky quote by the late, great Kobe Bryant: “These young guys are playing checkers. I’m out there playing chess.”
Like a game of checkers, social media novices merely push content forward through social networks while hoping it does not get “jumped” by the audience they wish to reach. The chess players, on the other hand, take a tactical approach involving audience building, audience engagement and analytics to elevate their digital impact.
Building A Robust, Relevant Audience
It makes no difference how cute or clever your content is if nobody sees it. For that reason, gaining a following must be the first step in launching a new account or revamping a lackluster account.
Keep in mind that each of the prominent social media platforms call for a varied approach to strategically build a following. LinkedIn and Facebook company pages, for instance, are structured around one-way connections where users “like” or “follow” brands they are interested in, while Twitter and Instagram are open networks that allow the brands themselves to go out and follow other brands and users to spark engagement. On top of those organic approaches, the sites offer paid options to boost visibility that can also lead to an increased following.
Audience building is not a one-time initiative. If you are not growing, you are likely shrinking relative to the competition, so it is critical for brands to implement a sustainable growth strategy to continuously reach and influence new and existing audiences.
Sparking Audience Engagement
Engagement is the key to social media success. Posts that fail to attract likes, shares and comments look like a lonely wallflower at the school dance. I am a strong believer that employees need to be their brand’s biggest social media advocates, particularly within small to mid-sized companies, so brands need to cultivate a corporate culture of digital engagement from top to bottom. LinkedIn recognizes this, which is why they released an Employee Notification feature that allows company page administrators to alert employees when a new company post goes live.
The entire company should know when a new post has been shared, and they should be encouraged to like, share and comment on the post to expose it to their respective networks. This sparks a ripple effect that can pull external audiences into the conversation, thus exposing the post to third degree audiences and so forth. This heightened level of engagement will attract fresh followers, heightened visibility and eventually new customers.
Measuring Success Through Analytics
We live in a data-driven world. The chess players already know this, which is why they track the metrics of their own social pursuits as well as that of the competition. By monitoring analytics, brands can pick up on the subtle nuances that will bolster the impact of their social media strategy. For example, they may notice that morning posts consistently spark greater engagement than afternoon posts. That knowledge can allow them to alter their strategy to one suitable for the audience they wish to reach.
Many top social media platforms make basic analytic data accessible to the administrators of company pages, with even greater data available to advertisers or premium subscribers. There is also a slew of external analytics tools out there. Brands interested in diving deep into the numbers should shop around to find the proper tools and software that meet their unique needs.
Winning The Game
The elements outlined above are a few of the basic essentials that brands should consider to boost their social media approach above the competition. As these channels continue to evolve, so must the approach of the teams and professionals who manage the accounts. While the checkers players stay busy with their simple and static approach, the chess players will continue to engage, educate and entertain new audiences while invigorating the success of the brand.
Brian Hart is the Founder & President at Flackable, an award-winning public relations agency representing financial and professional services brands nationwide. To learn more about Flackable, please visit flackable.com. Follow Brian on Twitter at @BrianHartPR.
This is an updated version of an article originally published on 8/11/14.