Social media is a relatively new area for development, and apps are constantly clamoring to offer better, more unique functions to their customers. When new apps break into the scene, they usually offer something truly novel, that no other mainstream app has offered before, but eventually, they settle into a rhythm of mutual influence, where they “normalize” (for lack of a better word) and start integrating functions present in other apps to make a more mainstream, approachable model.
The bottom-line effect from this phenomenon is that when one social media platform comes out with a new feature, another is sure to come out with their own version before too long. That was the case with Twitter’s new content algorithm, as Instagram is now coming out with its own version of the update—and it could have a lasting effect on the social media world in general.
Twitter’s New Content Algorithm
Twitter announced its new timeline changes back in February on its official blog, and the change was committed shortly thereafter. By default, Twitter used to display posts purely in chronological order—users’ timelines were filled with their followed accounts’ most recent updates at the top, with older updates populating below in descending order. After the update, a new algorithm selectively curates posts to appear in an order based on perceived relevance, not dissimilar to how Facebook newsfeeds currently display content.
User reactions were polarizing at first, with some proclaiming the update as a massive step forward and others insisting that it took away some of what made Twitter special in the first place. Users can opt out of the feature easily enough, however, by changing one simple option in their account settings.
Thanks to Instagram’s currently higher popularity, especially with younger users, it made an even bigger impact when it announced a content algorithm change in March. According to Instagram’s formal announcement, users only end up seeing about 30 percent of their newsfeeds under the old model (pure chronological listings), forcing the company to assert that users are often missing out on some of the posts that would matter the most to them.
Instagram, like Twitter, doesn’t get into the weeds explaining what their new content algorithm is or how it works, other than the fact that it will “select” the most relevant, appropriate content for users on an individual basis, and order that content using a blend of different factors. No posts will be removed from the timeline, so users will still have access to the same material they would otherwise—just in a different order.
As with Twitter’s announcement, reactions have been mixed. Many users, companies, and organizations have heralded the update as a positive change (and a long time coming), but other users are in an uproar. Some have even taken to starting a petition to force Instagram to keep its purely chronological update.
Despite the noise, it’s highly unlikely that Instagram is going to change its mind.
Fears Over Selected Content
Part of the reason there’s significant controversy over Twitter’s and Instagram’s decisions is a perceived loss of control by users. Chronological order was completely unbiased, and unaffected by any ulterior motives. Now that some extra layer is influencing how content is ordered, users are afraid that they’ll be manipulated by the companies in charge, at least to a certain degree. Few would outspokenly argue that there’s some grand hidden conspiracy by social media companies to brainwash or toy with their user bases (after all, that’s where they make their money), user manipulation isn’t completely unheard of.
Back in 2014, Facebook revealed that it intentionally altered the Facebook timelines of more than half a million users, selectively filling user timelines with either strongly positive or strongly negative pieces of content to see whether users would have a similarly strong positive or negative reaction. It’s doubtful that the naysayers of these updates are worried about being emotionally manipulated in the same way, but this is the type of fear that permeates both user bases. Users have grown accustomed to things like Facebook newsfeeds and Google search results being sorted by an outside authority’s perceived relevance, but when such a change comes to a pre-existing unbiased organization, the dissonance becomes clear.
The Normalization of Social Apps
Users and marketers should also be conscious of this effect of “normalization” in social apps. While each “rising star” social app begins in a niche role, with specific polarizing features, as they gain more users and approach mainstream integration, they tend to gravitate toward a standardized formula. These new content algorithms are just one example—also consider how SnapChat has made itself less private with retrievable snaps, how Pinterest has turned itself into a kind of eCommerce hybrid, and how LinkedIn gradually inches closer and closer to Facebook in terms of look and feel.
The Future of Social Media Competition
There are a few key takeaways to learn from this wave of content algorithm changes. As a marketer, you need to make yourself aware of the possible changes social media platforms hold for the future, and what’s important to the users who rely on them. Be prepared for increased functionality geared toward user relevance, including possible controls on the company/organization side of things. As these changes roll out, it’s important to shift your focus from timing to even higher relevance—and of course, always keep watch for new trends on the horizon.
You’re in charge of marketing for a SaaS company, and like any modern company, you’re considering social media as a channel of choice. This is the guide that’s going to make sure you do it right.
Now, I’m not here to tell you that social media marketing is going to be the be-all, end-all marketing strategy for your brand, or that it’ll offer you a billion-fold increase in ROI. Frankly, anyone who tells you social media is an instant win is either lying or has had enormous luck in their past social ventures.
But, if implemented correctly, social media can be a viable channel for improving customer relationships, attracting new clientele, and building your brand image overall. It’s well worth the investment for most companies, but this is especially true for SaaS companies thanks to your digital presence and scalable model.
Throughout this guide, I’ll be going over the basics and the advanced considerations for social media marketing for a SaaS brand. I’ll walk you through an overview of social media marketing, the unique challenges that SaaS brands face, how to provide the right content, and finally, how to build an audience.
Are you ready?
The Benefits of Social Media
If you aren’t convinced that social media marketing is worth the investment of time or money, you’re not alone. Many business owners have outright dismissed the idea as being a fad, or as having no tangible value, but consider the key benefits a strong social presence could hold for a SaaS brand:
Brand visibility. Posting actively on social media makes your brand more visible, which puts you in front of more potential customers. Simply having a fleshed-out page for social users to find when they search for you can do wonders for your first impressions, and as you grow your audience, you’ll get more and more opportunities to tap new resources for potential software subscribers.
Brand loyalty. If you want your users to stay loyal to your brand, you need to keep yourself top-of-mind and stay in contact with them. Staying active on social media gives you a route for both of these aspects.
Inbound traffic. If you’re like most SaaS companies, you rely on your website (or a specific landing page) to secure new customers. Publishing content and spreading links on social media helps you increase the inbound traffic you need to sustain your growth figures. For some companies, organic social traffic is the most effective channel for attracting new visitors (and you can track this in Google Analytics).
Conversion rates. Building up your consumer’s expectations and showing off your commitment to other users can also help you increase conversion rates. Imagine the difference between a user who clicked on a short, 40 character advertisement to find your landing page versus a customer who saw your engagement with their friend on Twitter—which comes in with a better understanding of your brand?
Customer service opportunities. Many popular SaaS companies set up separate accounts just for customer service. This is beneficial in a number of ways—it reduces the need for expensive call centers or support roles, it adds more potential modes of communication for users, and it gets in front of possible issues by making your community proactively aware of them.
Customer insights. Learning how your customers interact, what else they follow, and what type of feedback they provide can help you make a better product and improve your brand. It’s almost like free market research.
HR and partnerships. You can also build your company by using social media to attract new talent or form partnerships. This is especially helpful for SaaSs due to their technical complexity.
Content and SEO enhancements. Social media is also an important enhancer for both content marketing and SEO strategies. Given a sizable audience, you can greatly increase the visibility for each of your published pieces, and potentially earn more inbound links in the process.
What It Is and Isn’t
I also want to take the opportunity to dispel some misconceptions about what social media marketing actually is. It isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme; it takes time and effort to see results, like with any other strategy. There isn’t a guaranteed formula; there are best practices, but ultimately each company requires a unique approach. It isn’t an advertising platform; if you advertise too heavily, you’ll turn people away rather than attracting them. Instead, it’s a mutually open communication platform where you can build a better relationship with your user base.
A Note on Personal Brands
For the majority of this guide, to keep things simple, I’ll be assuming your social media marketing campaign will be based around a corporate brand. Using personal brands (i.e. individual accounts) to further market your company is highly effective, and is worth consideration. Most of the techniques I list here apply to both, but keep in mind there is a distinction between a “corporate” and “personal” brand on social media—each with their own advantages.
Unique Challenges for SaaS Companies
With the basics out of the way, let’s address some of the unique challenges that SaaS companies face on social media (and how you can compensate for them).
Standing out. Your first obstacle is standing out. SaaS has become a popular model in the past decade or so, thanks in part to its massive scalability and some highly successful role models. Your users have a number of choices when it comes to doing tasks more efficiently, storing media online, or whatever other service you offer. You can’t just mimic one of your competitors’ brands and hope to be successful; you need to add something uniquely valuable to the mix. Building a unique brand is the first step to this process.
Addressing service concerns. No matter how good your technology is, there will be users who experience problems, and you can bet those users will turn to social media to express their dissatisfaction with your company.
Incidents like this can be major blows to your brand’s integrity—if you don’t address them the correct way. When you see feedback like this, it’s important to address it immediately and work to resolve the situation as quickly as possible. Remember, these types of complaints will happen on social media regardless of whether you’re present there or not, so just having a presence in the first place can begin to mitigate these effects.
Building from nothing. Most SaaS platforms are built from scratch, and yours is likely no exception. With little more than a brand name and a beta product, it’s hard to build up a massive following, but don’t worry—it is possible. I’ll address this in my section on building an audience.
Follower retention. One of the biggest challenges for SaaS companies is user retention. User retention is imperative if you want to continue scaling your model—and the same is true for social media. Chances are, if a user leaves your service platform, they’ll leave your social media page (and sometimes, vice versa). Accordingly, it’s more important for you to focus on keeping the users you have than it is to keep attracting new ones. Keep this in mind for my later discussions on content and reciprocity.
Choosing the Right Platforms
When you get started, you’ll be tempted by two possibilities; either invest everything into a single social media platform, or get involved on every platform you run across. Neither of these is a good idea. You have to be choosy about which platforms you adopt, as not all of them are equal. Just because it “seems” like a good platform doesn’t mean it’s right for your brand, and it’s not worth getting involved on a platform that demands many man-hours per week but doesn’t return much value.
Your first job, therefore, is to choose the right platforms for your social media strategy.
There are three considerations that should dictate your decisions of which platforms to include.
Demographics. As you’ll see, each social platform is home to a different range of demographics. It pays to get involved on the platforms with the highest probability of offering you new customers, and the ones with the highest potential for growth.
Functionality. Different platforms offer different functions, both for brands and for individual users. This can help you target your audience properly, share the right kinds of content, or engage your users better in the long run. Not all social features demand active, regular engagement.
Finally, consider how much time you’ll need to invest in a platform to make it worth it. For example, do you have to create all new content for it and post it in-the-moment, or can you automate your posts and set the platform on auto-pilot?
With those requirements in mind, let’s take a look at how a SaaS company might utilize some of the most popular social media platforms available.
Facebook dominates the market for a reason. It’s simple, it’s easy, it offers lots of functionality, and it doesn’t pigeonhole itself in any one niche. Facebook has more than a billion users, which gives you a crazy big audience to tap into, and because most demographics are pretty evenly represented, no SaaS company should have a problem building a sizable following. You can post regular content, images, videos, and in any format or length you like—plus interacting with others is easy and approachable. The learning curve here is low, and the longevity is high.
Bottom line: Facebook is almost a necessity for your brand.
Twitter doesn’t have much in the way of unique functionality, but it does have more than 300 million users. You’re limited in the number of characters you can post here, and its newsfeed moves much faster than that of Facebook; this could be advantageous or disadvantageous. If your brand relies on snappy snippets of messaging and quick-solution responses, this is a good thing. If you require more in-depth interactions to convey the power of your brand, this is restrictive. Its demographics are relatively even, but do skew younger—so keep that in mind if your brand targets a specific age range. The mechanics of Twitter have a bit of a learning curve, but it’s nothing you can’t figure out in a few days.
Bottom line: Twitter isn’t as valuable as Facebook for most SaaS companies, but has a few advantages depending on your brand.
LinkedIn is a unique animal. In terms of learning curve and functionality, it’s almost identical to Facebook, but it has a much lower user base and a much more specific user base—experienced professionals. If your software only caters to professionals, this could be incredibly advantageous to you. If it doesn’t, LinkedIn will be a crapshoot. There’s one other weakness you have to consider here, and that’s the fact that corporate pages can’t get involved in Groups; instead, you’ll have to rely on personal brands to supplement your corporate brand presence. On the other hand, LinkedIn is perfect if you’re trying to attract new hires.
Bottom line: If you’re after professionals, LinkedIn is perfect. Otherwise, don’t bother.
Pinterest is another specialty platform that many believed would be short-lived. Instead, it has a thriving audience, and now offers a sales integration for interested companies. Pinterest is based solely on submitting and sharing images, and its demographics skew heavily toward women (though age distribution is relatively even). It takes time to learn the ins and outs of Pinterest, and you’re unlikely to see a high ROI unless you have really interesting images to show. As a SaaS company, this seems unlikely.
Bottom line: Unless you have lots of interesting images to show off and a vested interest in female users, Pinterest probably isn’t worth your time and effort.
Instagram is worth noting for its growth patterns over the past few years alone. Since being acquired by Facebook, its functionality has diversified and become more accessible to new users, and its user growth rate has continually risen. Demographics here skew heavily toward younger users, but engagement rates are high. If you don’t have many pictures to take related to your brand, you’ll experience trouble maintaining an active post schedule, but if you do—Instagram is a hot platform to have.
Bottom line: If you want younger users and have any reason to take pictures regularly, adopt Instagram.
YouTube is arguably less “social” than the other platforms I’ve listed here, but with more than a billion users and consistent growth rates, it would be wrong not to mention it. Video content is becoming more popular (and of course, more important), so don’t be intimidated by the fact that it takes some time to pick up. Creating and uploading videos is pretty straightforward—the biggest challenge you’ll have is managing user interactions. For SaaS companies, this is a key spot to publish your tutorials and case studies.
Bottom line: Be prepared for a learning curve, but otherwise, get active on YouTube.
Google+ was once a must-have platform, heralded as the future of social media and a necessary component of SEO. Today, it’s being actively dismantled by Google into components it can use for other features. Is it fair to say Google+ is a dead platform? Maybe not. It’s a decent syndication channel, but its functionality and future growth are limited. Unless you have a specific reason to adopt it, Google+ isn’t necessary.
SnapChat, like Instagram, has seen a massive growth rate in the past several years, thanks in part to its unique offer of privacy and temporary communication. It’s a hard platform to use for a marketing campaign, but its demographics may make it worth it; the vast majority of users are under the age of 25 and female.
Bottom line: It’s a peripheral platform, so only invest in it if its demographics fit your SaaS targets.
There are other social media platforms than these, and there will likely be several dozen new contenders emerging over the next few years alone. It’s impossible to comprehensively cover all of them, so use the factors I listed at the beginning of this section to make up your mind for each of them.
Now that you know what platforms you want to go after, it’s time to strategize about what type of content you offer. Your content plays a pivotal role in attracting new followers and retaining the ones you have; provide a steady stream of valuable, unique content, and your followers will stick with you indefinitely.
Syndicated onsite content (and guest posts)
Social media serves as a syndication platform for content you’ve written elsewhere (like on your company blog or as guest posts on external publishers). Essentially, the goal here is to get more eyes on the content you spent so much time developing—this increases the value of each piece of content you syndicate, increases its likelihood of earning links, and gives your users in-depth content as a show of value.
There aren’t many rules for what type of content you should syndicate; the better the content, the better results you’ll see, but since this guide isn’t about content quality, I won’t stray too far into the details of what makes good content “good.” For SaaS companies, popular content types include studies, tutorials, and industry-specific news.
Remember, you can syndicate your pieces multiple times to rejuvenate interest and capture portions of your audience you might have missed the first time around.
In addition to syndicated content, you should also post content that’s specific to your chosen platform. On Instagram, that means taking lots of pictures. On Twitter, that means writing short 160-character “tips and tricks” or humorous asides. On Facebook, that might mean an infographic or an announcement:
Learn what types of content are most popular on your demographic of choice, and utilize those in your marketing strategy. Over time, you’ll learn from experience which ones have the highest engagement rates, so focus your efforts on what brings you the best value.
For most platforms, it’s also a good idea to share other people’s content, rather than only supplying your own. This accomplishes several things:
It shows you’re involved in the community.
It relieves the burden of creating new content all alone.
It builds relationships with other content creators (more on this later).
Since it only takes a few minutes to find something interesting and one click to share it to your own users, I highly encourage you to use this strategy often.
Timing and frequency
Some social media experts will tell you that the secret to success is in timing. However, timing has a two-pronged effect. Yes, Facebook posts around noon tend to attract more attention, but because of this, most brands rush to post at noon and end up clogging users’ newsfeeds. It’s better to space your strategy out evenly, and rely on your own performance metrics to dictate when is best to post.
When it comes to frequency, each platform is different. Once a day is more than enough to be considered active on LinkedIn, but on Twitter, even three times a day may be considered slow or inactive. Learn the ropes of each platform, and syndicate accordingly.
The “Social” Factor
If there’s one mistake that holds brands back more than any other, it’s the “social” element of social media. Your brand spends so much time posting and scheduling content that your profile becomes a monologue. If you want to be effective, you have to engage with users—sometimes directly—in a mutual exchange. This is especially important for SaaS companies; if a customer feels that he/she isn’t being listened to, he/she is going to leave.
Here’s how to do it.
Content responses and engagements
Your first job is a simple one, so there’s no reason to neglect it. Simply respond to every customer who reaches out to your brand. Like this:
It really is that simple. A “thank you” or “you’re welcome” or “glad you liked it” can make all the difference. Sometimes even a like is all it takes to communicate a level of acknowledgment. The benefits here are threefold:
It makes the individual you’re responding to feel personally touched by your brand (increasing brand loyalty).
It shows other users that your brand listens to its customers (increasing brand authority/reputation).
It gives your brand a good reason to post (increasing brand visibility).
Long story short? Respond to users any chance you can get.
Sometimes, customers will reach out to you with specific, detailed questions rather than quick comments or feedback. For example, a Twitter user might come to you asking a technical question about your software’s performance. The biggest mistake you can make here is ignoring the inquiry entirely, but there’s one that’s almost as big: directing the user to another platform, like a customer service hotline or an email address. Instead, do your best to answer the question directly. Like in the above section, this affects your reputation in the eyes of the individual as well as other users.
Don’t just wait for users to engage with you; go out and engage with them! Look for conversation threads on popular groups, forums, and pages related to your industry, and jump into the discussion. This shows that you’re active in the community, and serves as good exposure for your brand to users who haven’t met you yet. Plus, you might learn something by seeing what others are talking about.
Building relationships with other influencers (who already have followings of their own) is one of the best ways to increase your reputation (and the size of your audience). Engaging with these influencers, by sharing their content, participating in their conversations, or even reaching out directly, can plant the seed of a relationship. Nurture that seed with more engagements and mutual exchanges, and soon, these influencers will be willing to share your content, mention your brand, or otherwise grant you greater visibility and tap into new audiences.
Building an Audience
Posting content and engaging socially are the two most important elements to retaining an audience, and each holds some value in building an audience as well. But what if you want to step up your audience building efforts, maximizing the quality and quantity of your followers? It’s generally a good idea, as a bigger audience means every post you make has a bigger total effect, but as anyone experienced social marketer will tell you, you can’t build a large audience by simply waiting for it to come.
Seeding an Audience
Audiences tend to self-perpetuate once they hit a certain threshold; if you’re posting good content regularly with 10,000 followers, those followers will likely share your work and help your audience grow even further. However, if you only have 10 followers, that self-perpetuation can’t take hold. Accordingly, in the early stages of your development, you’ll need to “seed” an initial audience.
You can do this by asking your friends, family members, employees, and acquaintances to follow your brand, but be careful—remember that quality is more important to an audience than quantity. This is merely to help you build momentum. From there, once you’re posting regularly, you can reach out to individuals and follow them; a percentage of those individuals will follow you back, and in time, you’ll build a foundation that can lead you to a fuller growth phase.
After you’ve built a foundation, you can enter a phase of high growth. In addition to posting good content and engaging with other users, there are several key principles you’ll have to adhere to:
Without a consistent brand voice or posting schedule, your users won’t have a foundation to grow accustomed to. Consistency makes you memorable, and demonstrates your professionalism.
People don’t trust corporations; they trust other people. You have to show off your personality if you want to forge a social connection, so speak casually, add humor, and don’t be afraid to express an opinion.
Everything you post should be valuable; valuable posts get shared and spark interest. Non-valuable posts get ignored.
Cross-Pollination. Social media doesn’t exist in a vacuum; integrate it with as many other marketing channels as you can. For example, use it in fluid harmony with your SEO and content marketing campaigns, and include your social icons on every webpage you build and email you send out.
Hashtags. Hashtags are a powerful way to get your content seen by new people. However, there are two important rules to follow; one, never use a hashtag unless you’ve done your research and you’re positive you’re using it correctly, and never stuff your posts full of hashtags for their own sake.
Give your users more reasons to engage with your brand, such as by offering discounts, promotions, contests, and giveaways. It’s like bribing your users to invest more in your brand (but more respectable).
No strategy starts out effective; it takes tinkering, tweaking, and sometimes drastic overhauls to find out what really works. Don’t be afraid to evolve.
Incorporate these principles reliably into your campaign, and I can guarantee you’ll see growth in both the size and engagement of your audience.
Okay, so I’ve practically guaranteed you a level of social media growth, but how fast can you hope to achieve it?
Social audience building tends to function on a logarithmic scale. Earning 100 followers is hard when you have 0 to start with, but ridiculously easy if you already have 10,000 followers. Additionally, in my experience there seems to be a threshold of exponential growth for most SaaS companies; you’ll hit a limit, maybe 5,000, maybe 100,000, where it seems to become more difficult to gain more traction. Let’s call this the “sophomore plateau.”
The foundation could take days or months to build. Depending on how much effort you’re putting in, once you’ve built a foundation, it should only take a few weeks to double your number of users. Assuming you scale your efforts accordingly, it should take that same amount of time to double them again, and again, and again, until you hit your sophomore plateau. At this point, your growth rates should level out.
I’ve laid this plan out very nice and neat, but as you can imagine, things won’t always go this way. Chances are, you’ll hit premature plateaus or lose users, and you’ll have no idea why. It’s important to recognize these stopgaps and work proactively to fix them. Generally, a problem can be traced back to a failure to follow one of the best practices that I’ve previously outlined; use these as checklists to evaluate your performance, and bring in a third party if you want a more neutral set of eyes to review your work.
If you haven’t missed anything, don’t panic. You know something’s wrong, and you don’t know what, so there’s only one approach to take; change something, see if it fixes the problem, and if it doesn’t, change something else. Repeat ad infinitum until you start to see better growth rates.
Social media marketing isn’t straightforward or easy, but it is highly valuable if you know how to invest in it. As your SaaS company begins to accumulate more followers, you’ll gain a better understanding of what makes your users tick, and will be able to incorporate that data into your future efforts. This recursive style of improvement is critical for maintaining a long-term growth pattern, so never remain stagnant with one strategy for too long. Your customers are always growing, and if you want to maintain your connection, you have to grow with them.
It’s no secret that Twitter’s been struggling. Even though it commands a base of 320 million monthly active users, growth on that front has been relatively stagnant for the past several years, and analysts note that the company isn’t doing enough to differentiate itself in an ever-diversifying market of social media platforms. In response, Twitter has been releasing a bevy of new updates, some of which provide new functions and features, and others of which are purely aesthetic, to help restore and improve its status as a major social media player.
The Latest Change
Twitter’s latest change is its new “timeline” feature, which transforms the conventional way tweets are displayed on a user’s newsfeed. Under the traditional model, tweets would be displayed in a strictly chronological order, with the newest tweets at the top and extending downward to older and older territory.
Under the new model, tweets will be evaluated and sorted using a new algorithm based on relevance, so the tweets that are mostly likely to be important to you are featured at the top.
Twitter doesn’t explain much about this algorithm, but from what we can gather, it’s based on a number of factors, including:
The time the tweet was posted.
The popularity of the tweet.
The popularity of the user.
Your previous engagement with the user.
The similarity of this tweet and previous tweets you’ve engaged with in the past.
Cumulatively, these factors will result in a “relevance-based” newsfeed, similar to Facebook’s current model. Users can also opt-out of this feature, reverting back to the old way of displaying tweets in strictly chronological order:
Other users have been more welcoming of the update, considering it a way to view more relevant content in a more efficient way. It’s hard to gauge exactly how the community is taking this as a whole—users haven’t started abandoning the platform entirely, but new users aren’t exactly flooding in, either. Ultimately, the change isn’t that significant—but Twitter hopes it’s enough to instill new confidence in some of its users. If it isn’t, it has plenty more in store.
Twitter Isn’t Slowing Down
This is just the latest change Twitter has offered its users. Soon, it plans to launch a “searchable GIF” feature that allows users to quickly and easily find animated GIFs relevant to their interests. The company traditionally posits these updates as “big changes” in the works, but once released, they seem little more than minor adjustments to the core platform.
So why is Twitter continuing to hammer out these relatively small updates?
The Downward Spiral
Though its users are still active, Twitter’s standing as a business keeps slipping further and further. Its stock price seems to hit new lows every month, and advertisers are starting to cautiously withdraw from the service. “Twitter is dead” articles litter social media news outlets, and even Twitter users themselves are starting to joke about Twitter being a “dead” platform.
There are several reasons why this might be the case, but the biggest seems to be Twitter’s lack of differentiation in the market. Think about what makes Twitter different from any other social media platform:
It offers a restriction on the amount of information you can post.
It encourages users to post quickly, “in the moment.”
It offers more publicly accessible connections.
When Twitter launched back in 2006, these distinctions were new and exciting. Today, one seems more of a hindrance and a gimmick than a feature, two isn’t special, and three has opened the doors to widespread abuse problems.
In an effort to differentiate itself further, Twitter is resorting to these new updates. The idea is to give users a better, more strongly differentiated reason to continue using (or start using) the platform. In theory, this is the right thing to do from a business perspective; if something isn’t working, change it. But why is Twitter opting for these almost-innocuous, micro-updates rather than massive overhauls?
Small and Familiar Is Less Risky
Twitter needs to change, but it can’t risk alienating its current user base. A major change is risky, and could trigger a chain reaction that leads to a mass exodus from the platform. Two ways to mitigate this risk are making the updates smaller and less impactful, and making them similar to other platforms that are already doing well. For example, this timeline update replicates a formula that Facebook has been using for years. When you see updates like this, it shows Twitter is willing to change—but only in safe, measured ways.
How Twitter Could Fail
I’m not saying this will inevitably lead to Twitter’s eventual collapse, but it does open the door for that possibility. You’ve probably already figured out the main problem with this formula; if your goal is to differentiate yourself, making your changes safer by modeling them after existing success isn’t going to get the job done.
If Twitter wants to survive, it needs to take bigger risks. Yes, it might anger their users, but if Twitter wants to stick around—and keep reaping those marketing and advertising dollars—it’s a short-term sacrifice it’ll have to make.
Twitter has long been one of the most useful and approachable platforms for businesses and personal brands to distribute content and engage an audience. Unfortunately, that might be about to change. Back in September, Twitter announced that it was going to unveil a new kind of tweet button. This alone didn’t make much news, since social apps update their image all the time, but the actual change to the tweet button has already begun to affect publishers.
The biggest change for the “new look” has been the removal of share counts from the button itself. What this means is that it’s no longer possible to, at a glance, see how many people have shared a specific piece of content on your site. Other competitors, like Facebook and LinkedIn, are still broadcasting the number of shares a piece has gotten on their respective share icons, but Twitter’s is no more (you may have noticed this already).
The Short-Term Effects
If you’re a content marketer, you’re probably thinking this sucks, but ultimately isn’t that big of a deal. The short version is, you’re right. The removal of share counts doesn’t mean those shares no longer exist—readers are still free to share your piece with their respective audiences, just as they always have. But there are two key drawbacks making this an impactful change.
First, the possibility for virality is somewhat reduced. As any content marketer will tell you, most viral pieces toward the middle stage of their life cycle start accumulating shares based only on the fact that they’ve already been shared thousands of times. New readers see the high share count and think “I want to be a part of this.” Without the share count, this tendency declines—readers can still share the piece and re-share it when they see it in their respective social newsfeeds, so it’s not the end of the world, but it still counts.
Second, publishers have reduced insight in the success of their onsite pieces. Share counts were a nice at-a-glance metric of a piece’s performance, and now those have been squashed. It’s still possible to run analytics metrics to monitor traffic and use social monitoring to find out what’s going on secondhand, but that metric was great for giving publishers immediate information.
These effects are significant, but aren’t game-changing or deal-breaking. So why the fuss? It’s more about the long-term trends this change could herald for social media marketing.
Where Have the Shares Gone?
First, it’s important to realize that Twitter hasn’t stopped counting these shares. It still has this valuable information—it’s just no longer willing to give it up for free. When pressed for commentary about why share counts are no longer available, Twitter insisted that share counts were still available—except they’re only available through Grip, Twitter’s data business. If you want to learn the share counts for your posts, you’re going to have to pay for them.
Twitter saw an opportunity to make money on a service that they used to provide for free. Can you blame them? It makes business sense, but what does it mean for all the other free services they provide? And could this start a trend among all social media platforms?
The Tie to Declining Organic Visibility
Subtle plays toward maximizing profitability are nothing new. Facebook is open about the fact that it’s been slowly throttling organic visibility for business and company posts over the past several years. You may not have noticed due to its gradual nature, but today your posts show up in far fewer follower newsfeeds than they did just three years ago. Facebook claims this is all about relevance and user experience, but it’s not hard to see the bottom line for the company—fewer organic options means companies will be forced to pay to get the same level of exposure.
It’s a kind of “first taste is free” angle for social media companies. For more than a decade, they’ve allowed businesses to create accounts, post, reach audiences, and analyze metrics for free. Slowly, those free services are fading away. Companies are becoming more dependent on them, and social media platforms are becoming hungrier for profits.
How the Decline May Continue to Grow
Social platforms are afraid of stirring the pot too much or too quickly, especially with so much competition available for businesses. As a result, the decline in organic reach (and other free services) is going to remain at a slow and steady pace—at least until paying for everything on social becomes the new norm. Facebook and Twitter have started the trend innocuously, but as soon as they start making some major changes, it won’t be long before every social platform available adopts a similar strategy. That means you can say goodbye to your plans of getting free exposure for your content on social media (at least part of them).
What It Means for Your Strategy
It’s hard telling exactly how these changes will develop or how fast they’ll develop, but you know these platforms will start charging more for more services. It’s in your best interest to take advantage of the current state of social media while you still can, and hedge your bets by building a presence that doesn’t depend on social media for exposure. The more evenly distributed your strategy is, the less susceptible you’ll be to major shifts.
Twitter’s always been a little strange in the world of social media. Facebook serves as a general, universally used hub. LinkedIn appeals to professionals and entrepreneurs. Pinterest specializes in images. Snapchat offers privacy fast communication. But Twitter, despite having hundreds of millions of users, doesn’t have much to make it stand out other than a character limit and an innovation—the hashtag—that is now used by virtually every other platform.
Still, Twitter continues to thrive as a loved platform by consumers and marketers alike. There are a number of exciting developments that have boosted Twitter’s functionality, and more on the horizon, but without a niche focus (as of yet) and increasing competition from other, more aggressive social media platforms, what course of development remains for the platform?
In terms of its utility as a marketing platform, I envision three possible futures for the app, barring any radical unforeseen developments.
1. Obsolescence: The MySpace Route.
Even at this volume and stage of growth, it’s entirely possible that Twitter could become obsolete. Right now, it occupies a strong niche and thrives on the strength of its brand, but as new competitors start encroaching on its territory, if it fails to catch up to them or stay a few steps ahead, it could collapse under its own weight.
The big question here is users. Without enough users, Twitter won’t be useful for marketers, and if Twitter completely collapses, it won’t even be available to marketers. Young demographics tend to prefer Snapchat when it comes to communication. Most users prefer Instagram when it comes to posting images. Twitter had a boon with Vine when it comes to posting videos, but most people still prefer Facebook for general posting purposes.
So if people don’t generally prefer Twitter for posting, communicating, or responding, what do they prefer it for? This is the question Twitter needs to answer (and it may—see my next two points). But without that critical distinguishing function, eventually, the Twitter population will seek refuge in other, more viable platforms. Marketers like us tend to follow the user base, so without one, Twitter is practically sunk.
2. We’ll Do It Live: Instant Connections.
One potential route for Twitter is the “instantaneous” update. Already, most social platforms allow us to post in real time, but Twitter has a slight advantage—because its users are forced to write and post more concise updates, and its newsfeeds are filled with a greater number of these small updates, the entire Twitter demographic tends to crave fast, immediate information in any format.
Twitter is catering to this drive for instant information in a handful of its recent developments. For example, the social platform recently acquired the application Periscope, which allows users to broadcast live video feeds from wherever they are to a distributed user base. Followers of that user can watch the feed from anywhere in real time. Such an update is nice, and makes Twitter even more of a “live” app, but isn’t enough on its own to warrant the app’s survival.
Following up on this, however, Twitter is preparing to release its “Project Lightning,” otherwise known as “Moments,” which aggregates posts, images, and videos from users at specific events so that other users can get a near-first-hand experience for what’s happening. This would change the platform into a kind of live, crowdsourced journalistic platform, while still retaining some of its other features. Under such a model, advertising would be harder to explore, and because so much data is aggregated, marketers would have a harder time standing out organically. This option would allow Twitter to survive, and maybe even thrive with new users, but the marketing and advertising side of things could be compromised as a result.
3. Extension: Folding Into a New Context.
It’s also possible that Twitter could end up partnering with another, more established or more popular social platform, though this would be years away from happening due to the current power of Twitter’s brand. For example, consider how tweets have recently been integrated with Google search. Is it much of a stretch to think of Google acquiring Twitter as a pseudo-replacement for Google+ (which also experienced issues establishing a distinguished niche of users)?
It wouldn’t have to be Google—Facebook holds an equally vested interest in what could be described as its biggest competitor. Whether Twitter is carefully folded into another existing app or if its functionality is somehow leveraged in some other way, this could be the jump start Twitter needs to establish some unique relevance. Of all three options listed here, this is probably the best for marketers, as it would preserve the core functionality of Twitter without alienating any users, and still carve a path forward to reasonable growth. However, Twitter’s seeming desire to remain independent could squash any hopes of this happening.
It’s entirely possible that Twitter will take us all by surprise and avoid conforming to any of these three scenarios, instead choosing an entirely different path forward. But the platform is certainly at a significant fork in the road. Now is the chance for the company to prove to the masses that it deserves to be on equal footing with the other social media giants, and that it won’t succumb to failure or envelopment. In order to do that, in any capacity, they’ll have to work hard to keep introducing new features and find a niche that suits them.
When it comes to social media platforms, Twitter has always been a competitor, but has never been the best or first at anything. Facebook commands more than three times as many users and has a far more robust system for business advertising. LinkedIn caters to a very specific demographic and offers just the right tools for those users to communicate and network effectively. Snapchat introduced a new, more private way of communicating. And Twitter, while still handling more than 300 million monthly active users and offering unique, well-designed communication functionality, hasn’t done anything to stand out in the past few years—until now.
With its new “Moments” system, debuting within the next year, Twitter could change the landscape of journalism—and content marketing—as we know it.
Moments aka Project Lightning
For several months now, Twitter has been talking about a mysterious “Project Lightning” that has been consuming most of the company’s time. Only last month did the company start doling out bits of information about the project, including its intentions and its scope. According to former CEO Dick Costolo, Project Lightning is a new way to see and use tweets, and will serve as an event-centric aggregated content platform. So what, exactly does that mean?
The details we have now are few and far between, but the intentions of Project Lightning (now known to be called Moments upon its debut) are quite clear. The algorithm will scour the maze of tweets and live updates from its users, from short messages to photos to real-time video from Twitter’s recent acquisition, Periscope. With this information, the program will be able to identify when a crucial event is taking place—it could be anything from a major professional sports title to some newsworthy military deployment. Twitter will gather up the most relevant tweets, pictures, and information, and aggregate them in a separate area of the app. This area would be accessible from any time in the app as an icon in the home row.
Theoretically, Twitter would create entire dedicated experiences for its users based on events as they unfold in real time. It’s a new way of connecting users together and a new way of storytelling—rather than relying on a single journalist’s delayed account of a major news event, people will be able to see that event occur in real time, gathering their own details and forming their own perspectives.
All this seems interesting, especially if you’re the type of person who likes to follow along with events as closely as possible, but how is this going to affect the content marketing world?
Automation of Storytelling
The first major consideration is that this is almost a form of robotic journalism, which is already starting to shape the journalistic community. In fact, chances are pretty good that you’ve already read an article that was written by a machine’s algorithm, and you didn’t even realize it. Algorithms are becoming so sophisticated that they can pull basic information from online sources and compile it in a generated article that is both accurate and semantically sensible.
Twitter’s “Moments” project seems like a different shade of this automated journalism. Rather than pulling raw information then compiling it into a readable article, it’s going to take user-generated information and compile it in a way that makes sense to an individual user.
Either way, this cuts out the need for writers, content marketers, and storytellers as an intermediary—at least when it comes to current events. Eventually, these same kind of algorithms may be able to write other, more sophisticated articles and craft other, more sophisticated experiences—meaning no content will need to be created except by users themselves.
This deployment could also increase user demand for more immediate, onsite information. Already, users are accustomed to learning about events mere moments after they happen. With Twitter’s technology, they’ll be learning about them exactly as they happen. This, in turn, will force a change in the content marketing industry. It will no longer be acceptable to publish an article about an event a week after it’s happened, or even a day after it’s happened. Everything will ratchet up in terms of immediacy to keep users happy.
The Short-Term Impact
As “Moments” begins to roll out, I doubt it will have much of an effect on content marketing in general. People will see it as a nice add-on for their social media experience, but ultimately, they’ll still consume other forms of content in much the same way that they used to. For the most part, “Moments” will only affect the consumption of current and live events, which few businesses focus on as part of their strategy.
The Long-Term Impact
“Moments” is only the most recent step in a long and complicated journey to full content and storytelling automation, as a contemporary of the robotic algorithms responsible for generating journalistic articles. It’s only a matter of time before this technology expands, in terms of sophistication, areas of expertise, and the number of platforms able to use it. When it hits that critical expansion point, typical forms of content generation will no longer be effective, and most content marketing strategies will begin to collapse.
Because this progression is unpredictable, yet far off, there’s no current need for concern. In the next few decades, we may see the demise of content marketing at the hands of an application similar to “Moments,” but “Moments” itself poses no immediate threat. For the foreseeable future, or at least for the next decade or so, conventional forms of content marketing will continue to be the cost-effective, practical brand building strategy it has been for the last several years.
Twitter is one of the most popular social media platforms around today, and it’s also one of the most useful for marketers. While the platform doesn’t boast quite as many users as its close competitor Facebook, it does offer a variety of functions and tools that make it naturally more advantageous for certain marketing strategies. However, in order to take full advantage of this platform, you must commit yourself to more than just occasional posts and check-ins.
Twitter lists are one of the most valuable functions you’ll find in the platform, and they can be used in several different ways.
Creating and Managing Lists
First, you must understand how to create and manage lists within the Twitter platform. Don’t worry; it’s ridiculously simple. Log into your profile—if you’re on the desktop browser version, click on your profile image in the upper-right corner and click on “Lists.” If you’re on mobile, hit the gear icon and click “Lists” from there.
Here, you’ll be able to see all the lists you’re subscribed to and all the lists you’re a member of. For now, we’ll just focus on the ones you’re subscribed to. These include all the lists you’ve personally created as well as lists that you’ve subscribed to that other Twitter users have created. Both can be useful.
To create a new list, click the “Create new list” button and name and describe your list. You’ll also want to be sure to check either “public” or “private.” Public lists can be viewed by anyone, while private lists can only be viewed by you. The intention of your list should dictate your decision here. Once created, you’ll be able to add individual users to your lists by visiting an individual’s profile, clicking on the gear, and selecting “Add or remove from lists.” You can also manage your lists directly from the Lists menu.
Once your list is fleshed out, you’ll be able to see a specialized news feed for each list, based solely on posts from the users you selected to be in that list. There are a number of different reasons to do this.
Lists as a News and Discovery Tool
One of the most obvious uses for Twitter lists is consolidating information on a given subject. For example, if you wanted to read domestic news headlines every morning, you could create a list that includes the Twitter accounts of news publishers like CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News. For businesses, this is especially useful for industry news. Cherry-pick the most reliable or most active authorities within your own industry, and confine them to a particular list, so that any time you want the latest updates on that industry, it’s only a click away.
Lists as a Competitive Research Tool
This is a handy strategy for those in a tightly competitive market. Create a list of any direct or peripheral competitors you want to keep tabs on and confine them to their own list—for this one, it’s usually better if you keep it private. Here, you’ll be able to get a glimpse of what your competitors are up to, both in terms of any company news they announce and in terms of the types of content and promotions they give to their followers. See what strategies they use that are the most useful, and learn from that impact to tailor your own strategies.
Lists as a Buyer Persona Profiler
Hopefully, you already have an idea of what type of people comprise your target audience. If you’ve developed an “average” buyer profile, sometimes called a buyer persona, even better. If you haven’t, now’s the time to develop one.Use this buyer persona as a template to add real people to a list you create—and be sure to keep it private. For example, if your buyer persona is a middle-aged woman, start looking for individual middle-aged women, and add as many of them as you can to this list. Then, you’ll be able to pop in at a moment’s notice and monitor any social trends that develop within that demographic. This is especially useful if you have multiple demographics to watch.
Lists as a Resource for Your Followers
The first three list functions I describe in this article are mostly for private use, but public lists can be just as valuable. Instead of focusing on what would be the most valuable to you, focus on what would be the most valuable to your followers—what type of resources would they find helpful? What type of newsfeeds would they want to read through? Offering a selection of valuable public lists can make your followers appreciate you more and grow to see you as a greater authority.
Lists as a Way to Increase Your Following
There are two ways that lists can actively help you increase your following. First, you can add people to your public lists as a way to appeal to them—when you add an individual to a public list, they’ll get a notification, and they’ll be likely to follow you as a result. Second, you can use lists to aggregate types of organizations whose followings you’d like to emulate. From there, you can monitor their follower lists and use them to build your own.
No matter how you choose to use lists in your own business, they can be invaluable resources for gathering information and building your own authority. Use them consistently and tap them for everything they’re worth.
Google and Twitter recently closed a deal that will allow Google to include the body content of tweets in its search results. Previously, Google was able to crawl Twitter’s site for indexable information, but as a result of this partnership, this information will be immediately available to Google.
While the details of the plan are still under wraps, I expect that once live, this will mean we’ll see live and current tweets embedded near the top of search results for relevant queries. For example, if news of some major announcement breaks, anyone searching for information on that announcement will see real-time tweets from influential Twitter users in line with other, more conventional news search results.
This isn’t the first time Twitter’s material was made available to the search engine giant; in fact, there was a very similar partnership in place between 2009 and 2011. Twitter allowed the deal to lapse, rather than renewing it, in an effort to gain a tighter control over its own content. This new deal isn’t expected to go live until later on in the first half of 2015, but the partnership is significant for Google, Twitter, and the marketing world as a whole.
How Google Benefits
Google’s motivation is relatively simple. The company has always strived to give users the best, latest, and most accurate results for searches, and lately, they’ve been obsessed with integrating with other companies and services in order to give their users the best possible online experience. Integrating live tweets into search results would mean that users get more, better, more immediate information than they have before. For regular Twitter users, it also cuts out a step—users can get traditional information about a new event while simultaneously scanning for how that event is affecting the public. It also gives Google even more clout in the search world—the more partnerships it forms, the stronger it becomes.
How Twitter Benefits
The deal will also be beneficial for Twitter, though the social media platform will face some additional challenges as a result. Obviously, getting exposure in Google’s search engine is a good thing—that’s the entire reason why SEO exists. Users not currently on Twitter performing routine searches will get exposure to the brand and may be prompted to spend more time on the platform.
However, there are a few potential wrinkles to this setup. While users will see individual tweets, there’s no guarantee they’ll actually sign up as a user or use Twitter more. In fact, if users can see tweets just by searching for a given topic in Google, they may actually be less likely to use the platform. Since most of Twitter’s revenue comes from advertising, if the majority of users rely on tweets from Google search, they may lose out on some significant revenue.
Why This Partnership Is Important for Marketers
Google and Twitter each have their motivations and goals for this partnership, but what really matters about this deal is how it’s going to affect you. Since tweets will now be included in major Google searches, marketers will have to adapt their strategies to stay current with their audiences.
Real-Time Updates Will Become More Important
First, tweeting in real-time is going to become far more important. Concerning matters of breaking news or recent announcements, you’ll no longer have to write a press release or significant content in order to get recognized by searchers. Something as simple as a hashtag or a brief mention on a tweet, if timed correctly, could get your brand in front of hundreds, if not thousands of searches. The companies who spend the most time reading the news and staying actively involved with current events will stand to benefit most from this new partnership.
Mistakes Will Be Less Tolerated
There’s also a flip side to this increased visibility. It means your errors will hit the spotlight faster, and they’ll be harder to make up for if they end up going live. Countless companies, including major brands, have tweeted unintentionally offensive material or poorly worded entries that damage their overall reputation. Even when confined to Twitter, these types of mistakes were devastating. Now that they’re going to reach an even wider audience on Google, smart brands will take the extra time to proofread everything that reaches the public eye.
SEO and Social Marketing Will Be Closer Than Ever
Social media marketing and SEO have been closely related for some time now, and this partnership is only going to increase the power of that connection. The actions you take on social media, particularly Twitter, will give you a much greater chance at showing up in searches—and you might even get a boost in domain authority by proxy.
This partnership alone may not prove to be a revolutionary game-changer in the world of SEO or social media; companies will still need to put up a serious effort on both fronts, prioritizing user experience and accurate, valuable information like they always have. But this partnership will likely pave the way for others in the increasingly interconnected world of Internet and social companies; already, Google has made partnerships with companies like Uber and OpenTable to bring these services closer to the public and improve its own capabilities. This tight interconnectedness will only grow in the coming years, so marketers would be wise to pay attention to popular apps and platforms and get involved with as many of them as possible for greater visibility.
Building a strong social media presence can improve your brand awareness, increase traffic to your site, and eventually result in far more paying customers for your business. While there are many factors that play a role in determining the success of your social media strategy, none are as important as getting social shares.
Getting your content and posts shared accomplishes many goals simultaneously. First, getting shared is an indication that you’re producing compelling content, giving you a positive feedback loop. Second, when your content is shared, more, newer people are able to see your content, which leads to greater following numbers and greater traffic. Finally, getting shared often is a social signal that tells Google you are an authoritative brand, which helps your site rank higher in search results.
Obviously, getting lots of shares is the key to establishing a great social media presence, but it’s not always easy. Try using these seven hacks to get more shares from your social posts:
1. Release New Information.
Posting information that’s never been seen before tends to get far more shares than regurgitated or repurposed content. Originality goes a long way here; one of the best ways to accomplish this is to do your own original research within your industry and post your findings on social media. If you don’t have the time or resources to perform original research regularly, you can capitalize on a new product, new service, or new offer from your company. As long as your audience hasn’t ever seen it before, you’ll retain the higher chance of attracting shares.
2. Ground Your Post With a Visual.
Written content can get shares, but visuals attract far more. Images and videos naturally draw social users’ eyes and make them more willing to share that content on their own profiles. Consider using a video as a platform for your content, or an infographic that summarizes your latest findings. Even if you’re just linking to a written onsite article, posting a related image in your syndication schedule will increase the total number of shares your content will receive. If you can’t afford to have a new image with every post, save your images for your most impactful pieces of content.
3. Crack a Joke.
People love to laugh, and humor is contagious. When someone encounters a piece of content online that makes them laugh, or even crack a smile, they’ll want to share that content with their friends to make them smile the same way. While posting one-liners all day won’t do much for the authority of your brand, associating your otherwise authoritative content with a quick punchline or a wry aside can help propel it to get more shares. Also, don’t waste time recycling some other joke you found online. Come up with something unique to your story for maximum impact.
4. Capitalize on News and Trends.
Novelty is valuable in the social sphere. People check their news feeds when they want to stay up-to-date, and if you give them information they didn’t already know or post something related to a trending topic, you’ll be far more likely to catch their attention. Post opinion pieces on recent industry news, or capitalize on trending topics and hashtags with your own original material. Showing that you’re up-to-the-minute with the latest information will showcase your brand as an authority, but more importantly, it will inspire people to share your material.
5. Incentivize the Share.
You must be careful with this strategy because it’s easy to appear like you’re simply pandering for shares or using gimmicks to improve your social standing. However, incentivizing shares with contests or special offers can be a valuable way to get your content circulating. For example, you could host a free giveaway to one randomly selected user from a pool of people who have recently shared your content. On a smaller scale, you could even make a post along the lines of “share this post if you agree that…”, which prompts certain segments of your audience to share your original post. In a sense, you’ll be asking for shares directly, but you’d be surprised how many people are willing to indulge you.
6. Lead in with Teasing Copy.
While visuals are important, the copy you use to lead into your post is also very important in cultivating social shares. With this strategy, it’s important to tease your audience. Give them a taste of what’s on the other side of your link, but don’t give away all the details. You probably see tons of shared posts on your personal news feed with phrases like “you won’t believe what happens next” following a basic premise. While such headlines are known as “click bait” and are generally frowned upon, the teasing technique they use in their copy is a well-established standard for attracting more shares.
7. Share Others’ Content.
The social media world is typically governed by rules of reciprocity, especially among leading influencers. As a general best practice, your brand should be regularly sharing content from other influencers and leaders in your industry. It’s good for both of your reputations. Since you’ll be doing favors for others, they’ll be far more likely to do favors for you. In effect, the more content posted by others you share, the more likely your content will be shared by them in turn.
Social media is a constant experiment. You’ll never be able to accurately predict exactly how one of your posts will perform until you actually publish it, but you can gather information about your previous posts and make assumptions accordingly. Work to continuously refine your social content strategy, and revisit the tactics you’ve found to be previously successful.
Successful social campaigns are about more than just getting online and posting information. While social media platforms often make for great content syndication channels, your primary goal should be building a community. Only through community building will you be able to develop a wider reach for your brand, stronger loyalty among your customers, and a better medium of communication between you and your followers.
Unfortunately, building a community takes time and a significant amount of effort. To make things worse, there are few reliable protocols for community building since each industry is different and your audience may behave in unpredictable ways.
Still, there are seven tested rules for community building that you must follow in order to effectively facilitate the growth of a social community:
1. Remain Active and Consistent.
The first rule is also the most important. While building your online community, you’re going to need to remain both active and consistent, indefinitely. That means logging in to each of your social profiles multiple times per day, every day, and posting at least a few times a day as well. Without that level of active consistency, people will have no reason to check your page for updates. It’s also important to remain consistent in the types of material you post. That means writing in a consistent brand voice, posting consistently high-quality material, and generally keeping your subjects and content to a specific theme.
2. Don’t Just Sell.
When you first establish a social media presence for your company, it might be tempting to push your products or services. After all, if you have 100 followers and you post an ad for your latest product, you could get 5 of those followers to buy one. Unfortunately, while these types of sales tactics might have a short-term return, their effects on your long-term social community are devastating. Followers are turned off by companies who are only interested in pitching their products. Instead, focus on bringing value to your users and engaging in sincere, personal conversations. Show off your personality and show that you’re more than just a faceless corporation interested in sales.
3. Respond to Everyone.
Anyone who goes out of their way to engage your brand deserves to be recognized in some way. Any time you see someone share or comment on a piece of content you posted, and any time you see someone message you, respond to them, publicly wherever possible. This will show that you appreciate interaction, and will encourage more people to interact with your brand directly. Even if these comments are negative, don’t cover them up; instead, address them with patient understanding. This approach will make your brand seem more valuable to new customers and may salvage an otherwise damaged relationship.
4. Engage With Influencers.
Influencers are the only shortcuts in the world of social community building. By definition, influencers are social media users who are seen as highly authoritative in a specific industry, and as a result, they tend to have large followings. Reaching out to influencers in your industry can open the door to new segments of your audience and accelerate the impact of your posts. For example, merely mentioning an influencer in conversation might spark them to share a piece of your content, which could get thousands of new eyes on your brand and your material. Use as many influencers as you can, especially at the beginning of your growth. Eventually, you’ll become one in your own right.
5. Use Trending Topics.
Staying topical is a good strategy no matter which social media platforms you use. Experiment with social listening software or simply keep active tabs on your news feed to find out what people are talking about and what they’re most interested in reading. Once you have that information, the next step is obvious—use it! If you have time to write articles around the new trends, feel free to, but don’t be afraid to simply mention them in short social posts. It shows you pay attention to the world around you and gets you much more visibility for your brand.
6. Start Conversations.
Communities aren’t one-directional. In order to be successful, your audience members must feel comfortable to engage with one another as much as they are engaging with your brand. The best way to facilitate this type of atmosphere is to start conversations. Get your users to talk to each other however you can. Typically, the best ways to do this are through controversial subjects (which tend to elicit strong opinions) or topical matters (which attract a lot of attention). Keep these conversations going by getting involved yourself.
7. Encourage Shares and Participation.
In order to keep your community going, you’ll need to attract more and more followers to your brand. The best way to do this is to get your existing followers to do the work for you. Every time one of your followers shares a piece of content, your brand gets exposed to several dozen new people. Therefore, the more shares and page participations you can encourage from your existing fan base, the greater your potential impact on new customers will be. Write shareable content, share viral material, and host contests to encourage more of these actions.
Put these rules into practice for your ongoing social media strategy immediately. Building a community takes time, so the sooner you’re able to build momentum, the sooner you’ll be able to start reaping the benefits.
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