Building a fanbase on social media isn’t as hard as you think. It boils down to knowing how the platforms work, understanding your audience and offering a variety of content. Once you master these elements, apply consistently. Your posts can experience what I call the web effect — a reach that builds itself as friends influence each other’s choices. Over the next three Fridays, we’re going break down how each of these aspects — platforms, audience, variety — should influence what you do on a day-to-day basis.
Welcome to the social media spectacular!
We all know the basics. Twitter gives you 140 characters to share your thoughts. Instagram acts more like a picture-based blog. And Facebook is an enormous social networking site. Once you get past the basic structures of these platforms, they all work the same way: algorithms. Algorithms determine a post’s reach. With hundreds, maybe thousands, of potential pieces of content vying for position on a person’s timeline, the sites have to have a way of ranking the content and that’s why these algorithms were put in place.
Therefore, once you master one platform, the same strategy can be used on all of them — except Snapchat which is just starting to implement algorithms. Algorithms work behind the scenes on these sites to determine what posts you see or do not see in your timeline. When that friend says she posted something on Facebook and you never saw it, chances are Facebook’s algorithms determined it wasn’t something you wanted to see.
Why is that?
The algorithm is only as smart as the interactions we have online. If you enjoy a post, but you don’t interact with it, the algorithm will have no idea. Posts that you like are given weight, however not as much as an emoji reaction or a share or a comment. Each method of interaction has a weight assigned to it that is used to determine the type of posts you want to see. The whole process is designed to make social media more fun for audiences, but it makes it harder for businesses to get their message out.
Facebook is probably the most famous for operating like this. People have too many friends, follow too many people, so there has to be an internal ranking system that makes sure you are actually seeing the content you want to see. As a result, organic reach isn’t what it used to be, but it is still possible to achieve. There are ways to teach the algorithm that your content matters. The more interactions a post gets, the more it is seen by others because the formula deems the content useful.
Therefore, your goal as a business is clear. You want people to engage with your posts because that will keep your message showing up in their timelines. How do you accomplish that?
- Post frequently
The more you post, the more chances people have to interact and the more value you are given in the algorithm. If I post on my Facebook business page three times a day, I have three different numbers for post engagement. One post might receive 9,000 impressions, one might receive 1,200 and the other could end up as low as 18. That’s why tracking what you post, when you post and how many interactions the post receives are important factors in determining how to increase reach. What was different about the post that had 9,000 impressions? How can that level of engagement be repeated? These answers provide solutions to increasing your organic reach.
- Use hashtags
Hashtags are incredibly simple. They are a means by which to search. Twitter started the hashtag phenomenon, but it has spread to all platforms. Use hashtags that are relevant to what you are posting, are being used by others and will help you reach your customer base.
As a college store, always use your college’s hashtag on every post. This is a way students and alumni will find you. It is also a way you can find people in your own college to interact with. Let’s say you search your college’s hashtag and see someone wearing a shirt you sell in your store. Maybe comment “I like your shirt. Show us this picture next time you come in for 15% off your next purchase.” Not only will the student get a kick you out of “the bookstore” seeing their post, but all of their friends will also see your comment.
- Use emojis
I admit I cringe a little even as I type this. Emojis are not my chosen form of communication, but that isn’t true for everyone. To millennials and Generation Z emojis are an important part of their lexicon — they are actually a preferred method of communication. They are so important, in fact, that Google, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter all have the ability to search by emoji now. Use emojis in your hashtag or increase post engagement by asking your audience to respond by emoji. The important part is that you are speaking the students’ language.
- Offer a service
This point is key: you have to give students, or anyone, a reason to follow you. Whether they follow you for campus information, helpful advice or a weekly coupon, there needs to be a tangible reason for them to give you their time. Ask yourself what service you are providing. What are you posting and what benefit will it have to the person who is following you. Absolutely let people know when you are running specials in the store, but it should by no means be the only types of posts you do. In fact, go with an 80/20 rule. 80% of your posts should not be related to sales, but should still directly offer benefit to your audience. Read how Danville Community College tackled their social media strategy.
Lead by example. If you want people to comment on your posts, then like their comments and reply back. Social media needs to be social. Starting a dialogue is a great way to accomplish that and to let your customers know you really do care about their opinions and their interaction with you. Plus, it helps make the store feel like a business composed of real human beings and not a nameless, faceless organization.
That’s part one. Spend the week working on these suggestions and stay tuned for next Friday’s post on understanding your audience.