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Drive stronger social engagement with strategic posting

Drive stronger social engagement with strategic posting

by: Aris Pilitsopoulos


Do you remember when Facebook video ads became a thing? You know, prehistoric times. Before chatbots and blockchain. Before Snapchat, Vine and TikTok.  

The days when advertising on social media was so shiny and fresh, our sidebars were like self-replenishing candy stores full of great and exciting things to taste.

Those days are, alas, long gone.

It’s 2020 and we’re bombarded by so much daily content, video and otherwise, we’re like parents with a roomful of screaming, red-faced three-year-olds. Just to survive our digital experiences—and find the handful of things we really do want to engage with—we have to tune out so much. In essence, we’ve become automatic web ad filtering machines.

What does this giant cloud of static mean for content producers?

It means the epic battle for dwindling user attention bandwidth is in full swing.

While AI-enhanced segment-of-one personalization and programmatic ads will unquestionably help us reach the right audiences much more effectively—cutting down on our risk of becoming the white noise that’s driving users nuts—we still need to think very carefully about how we post ads across our social channels. Crop dusting audiences, even with smart content, just won’t cut it anymore. Strategic posting is the only way forward.

Sound scary? Budget-busting? Like something you need to outsource?

Actually, it’s not.

But before you press publish on your next social post, make sure you’re scoring on all the essential points that turn good social content into magnificent traffic-and-conversion-boosting events. 

1. Who is my audience and where do they live?

Setting out on a social campaign or post without first thinking about who you’re writing it for is a lot like stepping out the door without first checking the weather. On Mount Everest. 

Whatever size company you are, any content creation for your social channels always starts with figuring out your target audience. 

This requires thinking in segments, sort of like building a great tag and category system for your website blog. If you’re sending a newsletter to augment your social campaigns, email clients like Mailchimp have segmentation built-in, so take advantage of that early on. If you do, you may see your open rates rise by over 10%.

If you’re using Google analytics to parse your website traffic, demographics and social behaviors on Facebook, or industry-related data from LinkedIn, everything from the timing and tone of your posts, to the content itself, will change according to the segments you’re targeting and the social channels they use.

Starbucks’ nightmarish 2017 Unicorn Frappuccino is a case in point.

For the week that the “flavor-changing”, glitter-dusted monstrosity was available in participating stores in the US and Canada, millennials flocked to the bait and Instagram was flooded with over 150,000 user-generated posts using the Unicorn Frappuccino hashtag.

Starbucks had targeted the right audience on the right platform to push their product, which more or less advertised itself.

Segmenting and speaking to the audiences you want to reach where they live will probably be the trickiest, most time-consuming step in your social media workflow. In the beginning, it may even make you want to run to a digital marketing agency for help. (And we’re always here if you need us.) 

But it is possible to get started yourself. You’ve just got to pay attention to detail, work with the patterns your analytics spot for you, think creatively, try out a lot of A/B testing, and, above all, be patient. If this kind of stuff was easy, digital marketing agencies wouldn’t exist. 

 

Crop dusting audiences, even with smart content, just won’t cut it anymore. Strategic posting is the only way forward. 

 

2. What do we want to make happen? 

You know the point you reach when you’re planning an ad campaign on Facebook or LinkedIn and you’re asked to set the purpose of your campaign? It’s the point most of us think: to get clicks. A no-brainer. 

Then why do they have so many options? Brand awareness. Website clicks. Ad engagement. Conversions.

The fact is, not all clicks are created equal. And not all posts are purely there to get clicks.

So you do need to think carefully about what you really want your social posts to do for you, whether they’re paid ads or they’re just promoting your brand. Not surprisingly, sometimes it’s the campaigns that are just there to get people talking that turn out to be the most lucrative for your brand in the long run.

Which is just what Billie’s sexism-fighting Project Body Hair did in 2018, and organically grew a following of 65,000 in 11 months purely over social media.

How did Billie get there? 

They knew exactly what they wanted their ads to do: to give women outraged by the 10-15% extra they paid for grooming products (the so-called Pink Tax)— and by the idealization of women’s bodies in general—a platform to publish their own stories of their real bodies, hair and all, under the hashtag #ProjectBodyHair. 

The result? 

Billie’s brand awareness skyrocketed and they became the go-to brand for a sizable chunk of the market who identified with their position. 

3. How will we make it happen? 

You don’t have to appeal to wallet activism like Billie to get audiences to interact with your brand. You don’t even need to shoot a video. But you do need to have some ideas.

Some of those ideas may even take you off social media entirely and out into the real communities where your consumers live.

Like Chicago-based craft beer shop Bitter Pops. Bitter Pops’ social team decided that integrating actual community events that had nothing to do with beer into its social agenda was the best way to build its brand. So they started offering yoga classes taught by community instructors right in their shop.

When that idea gained traction, they took their campaign one step further. Bitter Pops actually started donating the proceeds from their yoga classes to a local dog charity. They even started a separate Instagram account—Bitter Pups—where followers could post their own pics of the dogs they rescued.

Which meant a ton of extra, completely free, quality user-generated content for Bitter Pops.

The takeaway? 

Social posts can come in many forms. Not all of them will break your budget or require big tech. In fact, some of the most successful social posts are just that: social. 

 

Not all clicks are created equal. And not all posts are purely there to get clicks.

 

4. What kind of language should we use to engage audiences? 

How important are the words you use in your social posts?

Short answer: As important as your brand itself.

This might seem counterintuitive when so much of what we find on our social feeds these days is videos, photos, and jungles of hashtags and emoticons. 

But it’s true. 

Words are the most versatile, and impactful, tool for establishing your online social presence, whether those words are snarky potshots at competitors posted on Twitter (hello, Wendy’s) or hard-hitting and controversial social messages delivered via voice overs, like Gilette’s We Believe social campaign.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all recipe for writing copy that connects with audiences, there are a few basic rules of thumb all of us should keep in mind when establishing our brand voice on our social networks.

First, social platforms were designed as open markets for engaging and exchanging ideas with people (and now brands) you know or want to know. Interaction and inclusiveness are implicit. Make sure your writing reflects that.

Don’t just “write like you speak”. There are thousands of writers out there who can pull that off. Write like you want to hear what others have to say.

Second, don’t be a salesman. We’re under constant siege by sales messages. While a little urgency like a limited time offer probably won’t kill the mood, salesy words like “best” “one-time-only” “top” and “now” in your copy and CTAs will quickly earn you the stink eye if users are looking for something funny, educational or truly urgent.

Third, your words, and voice, are your digital fingerprint. They should be consistent across all your social channels. That said, online voice is always a work in progress. You aren’t born ironic, upbeat or funny. You get there, post by post. 

Finally, always respond. Social platforms are social spaces. There’s nothing worse for online relationships than for someone to reach out to you and you leave them hanging. So never press publish and disappear. Follow-up is pretty easy, and grassroots brand building can even be fun.

 

Words are the most versatile, and impactful, tool for establishing your online social presence. 

 

5. When should I post?

This can get tricky. 

Here goes anyway.

Always post when you’ve got something new to share: a new blog or video, or some company news that might interest your subscribers. 

Make it timely (i.e. don’t wait two weeks to tell us what happened at yesterday’s meeting), and make it as consistent as you can. 

If you publish your blog on, say, Sunday afternoon, don’t randomly publish on Tuesday afternoon one week because you missed your deadline or thought it would be fun to mix things up. You’ll just throw your schedule-minded readers off balance, and they won’t appreciate it.

Finally, don’t overdo it. 

Are you posting three times a day? You’re probably losing three times as many followers as you gain. Unless you’re giving away free Google Pixel 4s or backstage passes to the Deadpool 3 press junket, no one wants to hear from you that often. Sorry. Them’s the facts.

As for the part you’re all probably waiting for—what days and times should you be posting?—the terrain here is a bit murkier.  

Obviously, posting days and times will depend on what platform you’re using. Your Instagram followers will be checking their accounts much more often, and more randomly, than your LinkedIn followers, for example, even if there’s overlap. 

LinkedIn users tend to check their feeds once or twice a week in the middle of the week, and usually at work. This holds true for a lot of B2B social engagement, even on Twitter, which is super hot for B2B during office breaks and weekday commutes. If you’re tweeting directly at consumers, on the other hand, the weekend is your best bet for getting heard.

You’re probably beginning to get the point. Nailing ideal posting times is messy.

To complicate the matter further, audience behaviors change by location, age demographic and industry. Which is why we recommend starting with consistency and timeliness. 

Following guides like this one, and the fruits of your own trials and errors, will gradually give you a much more granular understanding of how to connect with your ideal audiences at the right times.

How much will all of this actually help you? Digital marketing guru Neil Patel claims his own social media traffic increases by up to 39% when he uses best time practices. This is definitely a bar worth aiming for. 

Did we checked our grammar, punctuation and speeling before we launch! 

It’s just grammar and spelling, right? Readers will forgive us a minor lapse.

Actually, they probably won’t. 

You don’t have to garble a sentence like we did (on purpose) in our header to lose credibility with your followers. All it takes is adding an extra “for” in your newsletter sign-up form to make users think twice about getting involved with your company.

Just how bad are social media slip-ups for your business?

While the numbers are difficult to pin down, if Grammarly’s review of negative reactions to badly written LinkedIn profiles is any indication, sloppy social writing could definitely be damaging your brand.

The good news is that there’s an easy hack for writing spotless social posts, and it always works. Before you hit publish, make sure a professional editor has reviewed your work. We always do. If you don’t have an editor in-house, find a local writing agency that specializes in this kind of work.

Wrapping up

As with online voice, hitting the sweet spot where you’re producing engaging content that your followers are actually responding to will take some time. 

But your patience will pay off. 

If you do invest in a social strategy, you’ll be spreading your brand’s wings organically and connecting with other voices whose lives you may change. In a digital landscape overflowing with white noise, there’s no better way to separate your signal from the static.

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