WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, and Snapchat are currently the 8 most used social media channels in order of popularity. TikTok follows, but at significant distance, according to the Social Media Research 2021 by Newcom. Each channel has its own character and specific target group. They have in common that (potential) customers are active users: they like, share, or post. And that has 2 advantages:
- Through online word-of-mouth advertising, your brand awareness grows.
- You can communicate 1-on-1 with (potential) customers, providing personal service. This also allows you to get to know each other better.
Using social media for business
To benefit from these advantages, you need to engage with your customers on social media. The step-by-step guide below provides tools for a well thought-out approach and measurable results.
1. Your customer
Find out who your customers are and on which social media channels they are active.
2. The channel
Start with the social media channel where most of your (potential) customers are active. By choosing one channel, you keep it simple and make it easier to get started. Some social media channels have a business version, like the Instagram Business account. Check whether your chosen channel offers something similar. Create an account and download the corresponding app on your smartphone. Give permission to send push notifications when the app asks you to. That way, you can monitor what's happening online.
3. Do research
What are your colleagues and competitors doing? See what your fellow competitors are posting and how their customers react to those posts. This will be great input for managing your own social media channels.
4. Determine your goal
Make your goal specific. This is important because it will determine what posts you create. Also define what success looks like to you. For example:
- I want to answer customer questions via social media. My goal is to answer 50 customer questions in the next month via WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.
- I want to create a community around my shop or brand. My goal is to have 45 active community members in the first month.
- I want to involve customers in innovation and product development. My goal is to post a message about this on LinkedIn or Instagram every week for the next 3 months, and get 1 solid response per post.
Check how you can view the statistics of the social media channel you are using. Decide which metrics are most relevant for you. What information will help you measure what you want to know?
6. Define your strategy
How are you going to achieve your goals? Make a rough draft of what type of posts you want to make and when. For example, will you create series of posts for campaigns? Will you organise online competitions? Do you have a recurring item on your channel, such as T-shirt Tuesdays (if you sell clothing) or Freaky Fridays (for discounts)? Think of what suits your company and brand.
Start following, responding, and posting. Give yourself time to get to know the social media channel. Be aware that all activity is visible to the outside world. This is good, because it helps you get more exposure. But be careful what you say, because everyone can see it. It is difficult, nearly impossible, to permanently erase a message after it is posted. After all, someone may have taken a screenshot. You can also get negative responses. So think beforehand about how you want to deal with those.
Every month, you analyse whether your activities on the social media channel are having a positive effect. Are you achieving your goals? Why or why not? Is this the right channel and are you posting the right messages? Where necessary, adjust by posting more, fewer, or different messages. Or remove your page, if the effect of your social media activity turns out negative.
9. Take the next step
Get active on another social media channel or start advertising on social media. Paid advertising has the advantage of reaching a much larger audience, and bringing in new customers.
Engage with your customers
Margot Duran of Margootje Vintage started with a company profile on Facebook, and discovered that part of her target group is actually active on Instagram: "With my company, I focus on people between 17 and 40 years of age. Instagram is a better fit for that. I post something new there almost every day. Usually mornings before 11:00, so that customers can drop by all day for that featured item. Moreover, it reminds visitors of my shop early on in the day. On Facebook, I post a little less frequently. About twice a week I put an overview of the new shop collection online. In between, I check every few hours to see if anyone is responding to my posts."
Duran continues: "I get both positive and negative responses from customers. Fortunately, the comments are more often positive and hardly ever negative. If a customer misses out on a deal, they might not be happy. Because there is only one of each garment, it may have been stolen from under their noses." Duran usually gets positive responses: "Pictures of happy customers perform well. They bring the clothes to life and that inspires others. Visitors often leave a comment, so you notice that they feel connected to my shop. And I show my commitment to them by liking their comment or responding to their message."
Using social media to maintain customer contact does not have to cost a lot of money. What it does require is knowledge and time. On the internet you will find a lot of information about successfully using social media. Your time investment is not a one-off. To really reap the benefits of social media, you will have to invest time consistently. Monitor what is being said about your company online. It is a transparent medium: everyone can follow you and see what is being said. Make social media management part of your daily work activities.