Growing a Tree: Building a Social Media Presence
“There’s no magic pill in social media,” said Rachel Strella, founder and owner of #Strella Social Media. “It’s more like growing a tree. You plant a seed and watch it grow to reap the benefits.”
Strella is clear about the difference between advertising and social media: “A company could spend a few thousand dollars each month on ads to drive sales immediately. When your ad is gone, so is your relationship with the prospect.”
She explains that building a relationship requires making the customer feel valued and important to the client’s business.
“It’s not so much about selling,” said Strella. “It’s more about communicating your company’s unique value and facilitating conversations with your customers and prospective customers.”
It takes a commitment of time, resources, energy, and money to make social media work.
“Many businesses just don’t have time to maintain an effective and consistent social media presence by themselves,” said Strella.
Putting Yourself Out There
Even though she targets her social media strategy to the unique needs of each client and their customer base, building a social media presence for any kind of company requires the same basic fundamentals we need to build relationships in our private lives: trust, listening, and communication.
It is necessary to keep your clients top of mind.
“One of our core values is customer service,” said Strella. “We monitor all social media vehicles. If someone leaves a comment, they receive a response. We want the community to feel acknowledged and valued.”
Another part of relationship building is showing the human face of the company. Whether the company posts photos of company staff helping at a soup kitchen or the CEO blogs about a personal experience that connects emotionally with the reader, “you need to put yourself out there,” said Strella.
By getting to know the people behind the brand, the customer feels more trust and more loyalty to the company.
“Be honest, be vulnerable, and show that you haven’t figured it all out — that makes you more human!” said Strella. “I’ve received more business from people who read my blogs and like that I’m not there to know it all.”
How to Engage on Each Platform
Strella and her staff take the community-building approach to every social media platform. Which platform to use depends on the goals of the client, the target market, and if the business is targeting other businesses or a consumer.
Facebook – For Strella, Facebook (FB) is still the “go to” platform.
“People share a lot of information in their profiles. However, FB has made the process of reaching out to the right clients much harder. The current algorithms make it hard to break through all the noise.
“You often need advertising as a bridge to get potential customers to the page quickly or just to boost a business that hasn’t had a lot of media presence,” said Strella.
“It is always important to ask yourself, ‘Why would someone follow us? What do they have to gain?’ Whether it’s a special offer, customer service, or content that fulfills some kind of need, people like a business because they have gotten something out of it.”
Instagram – Instagram has been the platform of the year for the last few years. According to Strella, since it just offers images and videos, it “cuts out the fluff.” If you are reaching out to a younger audience, from 18 to 30ish, Instagram is ideal.
With Instagram you only see what you want to see — people can be more selective. While it’s not a great place to share blog posts, if you have skincare products or a weight-loss service, for example, it can work well.
Twitter – It can be valuable tool for people who want a national audience or who want information that is specifically important to them. It’s also a good way to join in a real-time conversation about a work conference or event.
A post on Twitter should offer value to your audience, not just sell a product or service. Once again, Strella emphasizes the importance of adding posts that show the people behind a brand organization to humanize the content.
“It’s not über popular in central Pennsylvania,” said Strella. “It is definitely more popular in more affluent areas, like large cities.”
Website – In the past, you just needed a Facebook page to draw potential customers.
“Now the market is oversaturated, and it’s harder to get people to your website,” said Strella. “The best way is to establish a rich content source. Write a blog that offers content people want to read, or start a podcast or video series.”
But it’s not enough just to build a blog.
“You have to get the blog out there. Distribution to various social media platforms is the name of the game,” she said. “For example, you can use Medium to repost your entire blog or use bookmarking sites to attract an audience.”
What Will Maximize Engagement?
“You have to carve out a niche,” said Strella. “What makes you different from your competitors? Your content has to offer an emotional connection for other people to want to share it.”
She also suggests the efficient use of hashtags.
“Since hashtags became mainstream, I don’t advocate the use of them on all platforms,” Strella said. “On Instagram, they are a great way to engage with followers to introduce new products or services, gain traction for an event, or track the performance of content posted on social media.”
Brands rarely use hashtags on Facebook; one or two may be permissible to promote an event or campaign. Otherwise, tests have shown tagged posts actually perform worse than untagged ones.
Only use hashtags in tweets if they fit naturally and people have an incentive to use your hashtag. Again, limit your tweets to one or two relevant hashtags.
Strella suggests keeping hashtags short, targeted, and with a clear call to action and to avoid “hashtag-jacking” — sticking in popular or trending hashtags that are not relevant.
To maximize engagement on all platforms, “I recommend visual content (eye-catching images or humanizing posts), video content, content that encourages the community to respond, and content that offers value,” said Strella.
She concludes, “Social media works especially well for women business owners because they are usually more willing to be open and vulnerable (to a point) and find ways to nurture relationships.
“Putting yourself out there is sometimes harder for women who have been in business a long time. They are following the old paradigms where you don’t show emotions and what makes you human. We’re past all of that. To build a relationship, people want someone they can relate to, so be real!”