Live Fast, Die Young.
Unfortunately, this seems to be the catchcry for countless social media users who gain a large following quickly and then, sometimes just months later, are left with an embarrassingly low rate of interaction.
The ‘live fast’ part of the equation can often be attributed to an initial drive for followers through promotions like giveaways, or a single item of content that ‘went viral’.
While these techniques are useful for building an initial following, it is perhaps more important to focus on strategies that will ensure you will get a long-term return on the time you invest in platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Build a Community, not Just a Following
Some of the most influential users of social media have maintained their online presence by ensuring that the followers they engage with also engage with each other.
Lady Gaga’s famous use of the term ‘little monsters’ to collectively refer to her worldwide following had the powerful effect of endearing them to each other, as well as to the singer herself.
Creating a sense of belonging is essential to building your online community. A key part of achieving this is to focus on what beliefs your followers might have in common, outside of just an interest in your brand.
For example, a local fresh juice bar looking to build a social media presence should consider that its followers (and potential followers) are likely to associate themselves with fitness and healthy lifestyle choices.
Projecting your social media brand as ‘standing for’ the same types of attitudes and lifestyle decisions as your followers will help create cohesion amongst your online community. It will also mean followers are likely to associate positively with each other and feel more strongly about your brand.
You can amplify this effect by using your chosen shared lifestyle choices or attitudes as a reason to actively encourage your followers to interact with each other in a positive and supportive way.
Get Your Posting Frequency Right
Too many social media users fall into the trap of either posting content too often or not often enough.
Posting too much content will fill up followers’ newsfeeds and is likely to be construed as annoying – a factor that will almost certainly decrease engagement. On the flipside, not posting often enough will probably see your page fade into obscurity.
The answer to the posting frequency dilemma will vary depending on the user and the social media platform in question.
Brands that are in the business of providing media, like news outlets and photographers, should have a higher frequency of posting than other social media users. For these media-based brands, the content they generate is essentially the product that followers are seeking to obtain.
For other users, a lower rate of posting is likely to be ideal. Social Media analytics company Socialbakers measured the Facebook posting frequency of ten top brands and found that the average rate was one post per day.
The study also noted that users posting three times or more each day would begin to lose engagement, as would users posting less than twice a week.
Platforms like Twitter and Instagram are based more around content and less around closed social networks, and so the ideal number of tweets (or posts) per day for these services is likely to be slightly higher. Statistics suggest that Twitter users’ average engagement rates would not decline until after the third tweet per day.
While these studies are a good place to start with when deciding your posting frequency, your brand’s sweet spot will be unique and depend on the habits of your target online community. Often the best way to fine-tune your process is through trial and error.
Using social media platforms to conduct the same kind of unilateral marketing that can be achieved through old-fashioned print media is one way to ensure engagement with your page dies out.
Too often, brands make the decision to occupy a space in the social media sphere, only to leave the majority of attempts at interaction by users unanswered.
This is often driven by a fear of having negative feedback in public view.
Yet, in an age when accessibility is so important to consumers, being seen to respond to criticism in a constructive way is a better public relations policy than simply closing the door.
This has been demonstrated by a number of big brands who have used an active approach to social media to weather PR storms – think about how Royal Caribbean Cruises’ handled the recent fire on board one of their liners by getting ahead of the media and proactively addressing public concerns on Facebook.
A simple way to deal with negative feedback on your social media page, should it occur, is to thank the user for their feedback and request further details from them so that someone can reach them by phone or email.
If it can be accepted that responding well to negative feedback is good for building your social media brand, it goes without saying that responding to questions and positive feedback is a must.
Keeping your response time short and consistent will mean your social media page is seen as a legitimate contact point for your brand, and will ensure engagement with your page is maximised.
Facebook recognises the importance of accessibility, and now displays a ‘very responsive to messages’ badge on pages that have had a response rate of 90% and a response time of 15 minutes or less for the last seven days.
Diversify Your Promotions
Giveaways are undoubtedly the most common social media promotion to build a following, yet they fall short of the mark when it comes to longevity.
There is a risk that asking social media users to ‘like this photo, then like/follow our page to win’ may mean that most of the followers you gain via the promotion will remember your page as the one that ran the competition they didn’t win.
This strategy may be more appropriate for a general social media page than one belonging to a brand, but anyone looking for sustained growth and engagement should consider running a diverse range of promotions.
When using promotions to increase engagement, think about arrangements that will reward a high number of people, and will encourage loyalty.
For ecommerce brands, running a promotion where social media followers are given access to a discount code will mean a high number of participants feel rewarded, as well as increased revenue for your online store.
Alternatively, think about ways of encouraging more meaningful interaction than simply a ‘like and follow’ as criteria for participation in giveaways. Asking social media users to produce content is one way to do this.
Big brands like Ikea have been known to ask users to take photos in store, or of products in their homes in order to win prizes. This promotes engagement and gives the brands additional content to repost on their own pages, as well as broadening reach to include the networks of each participant.
Offering followers exclusive access to content, or products or online sales before they open to the general public is another way to diversify your promotions. It will make users more likely to check your page regularly, and will help create the impression that their interaction on social media is valued by your brand.
Share the ‘like’
One of the easiest ways to get users to engage with content you have created is to engage with the content your community creates.
Finding the right kind of social media users to reach out to and engage with can be achieved through hashtag searches (for Instagram and Twitter) and through finding influencers in your area of interest and targeting their existing group of followers.
Regularly ‘liking’ and leaving positive comments on other users’ content can expand your reach by engaging with people outside of your existing following.
It also acts to draw users’ attention specifically to your page, and the ‘feel good’ effect associated with receiving positive online interactions will mean that users are more likely associate positively with your page and any brand it represents.
There is also a strong positive correlation between ‘liking’ other users’ and achieving an increase in engagement with your own page. Taking advantage of this will give you a means to actively uphold engagement with your page over time.
Content is Key
As ever, the cornerstone of any successful and sustained social media campaign is creating content that is engaging to your target audience and of the highest quality.
For an in depth look at how to create the best content, you might be interested in engaging content.