Every business everywhere, with or without an eCommerce component, must have a website to build an online brand.
In the first part of this series, we went over the basics for building your brand on your website and through a blog. Once you’ve got the basics down, it’s time to expand your influence and start building your brand on social media.
You don’t *have* to be active on all social media platforms, but developing a presence on a platform where your customers are spending time makes good sense. More and more, customers want to engage with their favorite stores and brands. Whether you select Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus or other options, you have to understand that you’re there to share, engage and build relationships – not sell directly. The sales come later as a natural part of the relationship-building.
Here’s how to leverage social media to promote your brand online:
Give something to your customers. Social media is all about engagement and giving information to others, rather than blatant self-promotion. Gear your marketing this way and you’ll find lots of new opportunities to show off your brand to the world. Share news stories about your industry, relevant safe for work jokes and information on new promotions to encourage people to connect. Images work particularly well on Facebook and Google+, so if you’re using these platforms find ways to use images in your marketing.
Be accessible. Just like when you’re dealing with merchandise returns, customers who contact you via your social networking want to know you’re listening. Respond to comments politely and promptly, without judgment, and help customers to find the answers to their questions. Whether that means answering them directly or pointing them to a blog entry or page on your site that outlines your store’s policies – it’s up to you. Just be sure you have the framework in place to handle inquiries through social media.
Timing is crucial. Social media is a funny beast. Unlike your basic eCommerce order management site, where customers can come and find the same thing no matter what time of day they access it, social media is an organic form of communication. It’s always changing and it must be fed in order for your business to stay in your customers’ line of sight. Don’t spam your followers, of course, but do post something new every few hours and see how your customers react. Certain times of day are better for certain types of posts, depending on your audience and industry. Take notes and plan accordingly so you can improve your results.
Avoid common pitfalls. You may be tempted sometimes to tweet or share content of a political or religious nature. Although you probably mean well, this is a huge mistake. Unless your business thrives on political or religious-themed order fulfillment, you’re likely to make more enemies than friends with this kind of move. Both religion and politics are very divisive issues — using social media for branding is all about bringing people together to celebrate your business, so pass on the “hot button” issues.
Promoting your brand on social media is essential if you want to engage your audience. But it takes time and strategy. With these tips, you can take steps toward making an impact on social and meeting customers where they are.