No one is going to sit here and lecture you on how easy it is to develop an engaging social media presence or tell you that implementing a digital media marketing strategy will be easy. Why? Because that would be a bold-faced lie.
Digital marketing strategies are tough to create, and even tougher to implement properly. Even with plenty of experience in the industry, you’re likely to run into your fair share of issues.
While these issues could theoretically be anything, it’s amazing to see that most of the problems that small business owners deal with all boil down to the same issue: a lack of meaningful engagement with your audience.
Which is understandable, of course. It’s not easy to get people to pay attention to the news these days, let alone whatever product/service you happen to be in the business of selling. But this goes beyond the issue of attention spans and the fever pitch of stimulation that the average person gets subjected to on a daily basis.
No, this is about a fundamental flaw in the way the businesses and business owners try to communicate with and relate to their consumers.
The easiest way to think of this is that the world of communication with consumers has a spectrum. On one end we have ‘professional’. It may not be the most riveting or engaging, but it’s typically a methodical approach that addresses concerns in a very matter-of-fact way.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have ‘personal’. Here the priority isn’t on checking off all the corporate boxes, but instead on providing clear, no-nonsense answers to community members.
In a vacuum, both of these approaches are lacking in certain regards. But by analyzing both of them, we can develop a better understanding of what it means to build a balanced social media presence.
Meaningful engagement is a must today, and the reason why is actually pretty simple. Consider this for a moment: the modern consumer spends a large portion of their time online, where they can decide exactly what kind of content they want to consume. From a traditional marketing perspective, this should be troubling. After all, tradition states that marketers need to bombard their audience with a ridiculous amount of commercials.
But there’s been an interesting shift in the culture that centers on one thing: reputation. If we’re looking at this like it’s a pendulum, we started by prioritizing reputation. In small towns and villages, people went to a baker because they’d proven themselves time and time again as reliable. Not only was there accountability, but there was a relationship there as well. You knew each other by name and you treated each other accordingly.
Eventually, the pendulum swung the other way. Aside from luxury brands, most people didn’t have any strong sense of brand loyalty. For a while, it was just about who made the cheapest product. Which certainly works in the short-term, but has predictable issues in the long-term.
Fast forward to now, where the pendulum is swinging back in the direction of reputation and accountability.
Of course, the question remains: “how can you be more personal when it comes to social media marketing?”
The answer revolves around the concept of community building. Most businesses use social media to simply update their followers on what’s going on at HQ. While you should certainly use social media to do that from time to time, that’s hardly the reason social media is so powerful.
To tap into that power, you need to put the ‘social’ back into social media.
The focus should always be on how to create a space for people in your community that makes them feel like they’re part of a larger conversation. And just to be clear, there should be a conversation happening. If you don’t put in the effort, how can you expect them to?
Injecting humanity into your social media posts shouldn’t be too hard. The beauty of social media is that it’s so high up on the sales funnel that you can afford to be a bit less corporate. It may alienate a few people, but the people that appreciate your authenticity will stick around because of your content, not in spite of it.
Respond to comments honestly and organically. Avoid generic answers and scripts. And above all else: try to be original. The only thing worse than a corporate ad campaign is an uninspired corporate ad campaign.
To be fair, the chances of your business being in this camp are (admittedly) low. Most businesses struggle with being too clinical, most notably on social media. But of course, there are startups and small businesses that are very self-aware, human companies right from the very beginning.
The biggest issue for these types of businesses is that as they continue to grow, they have a difficult time striking the right balance between personal and professional. Keep in mind that just because you’ve gotten bigger doesn’t mean that you have to change your brand. The argument could be made that ditching a successful branding campaign because it might be too ‘casual’ for the next level up the food chain is a recipe for disaster.
A good rule of thumb is to ensure that the closer you get to a sale, the more corporate you can get. At that point, the consumer has already bought into the branding (that is to say that they probably wouldn’t be on a checkout page if they weren’t at least considering doing business with you). Not only that, but there’s no risk of compromising the integrity of your brand in the process.
When you’re using social, keep doing most of what you’ve been doing. Most of your changes will occur as consumers get closer to a sale. Your brand is built on personality and changing that now would be like quitting the NBA to give the NFL a shot. The risk is too high, and the reward is far from worth it.
If you’re trying to build a social media presence that has both the presence of a business with a professional focus, while also being as accessible as a business with a personal focus, you’ll need to recognize the importance of maintaining a healthy balance.
It won’t be easy, and you’ll have to constantly self-evaluate to make sure that the content you put out is legitimately matching the tone you want. But if you manage to pull it off, you’ll be able to connect with consumers in a meaningful, positive way while also being able to grow your business and develop your social media presence like never before.