The financial limbo of social media may be drawing to an end as companies slowly figure out how to monetize their likes and follows. Brand engagement is key.
Despite the sudden dominance of social networking in virtually all aspects of our lives, manipulating it to get results has been a sore point for businesses of all sorts, from start-ups and retailers to the network owners themselves.
Recent research conducted by Google indicates that “people who engage regularly with brands on social media tend to be better customers.” Not only were people who engaged with a business online more likely to prefer that business to others of the same type, they were also more likely to have purchased something there recently.
What’s more, the typical engaged social follower tended towards the same customer life cycle:
- Discovery of your company and products/services
- Choosing what is right for them
- Purchasing product/service
- Engaging with you and their peers after the purchase
The journey today’s consumer takes is increasingly cyclical, offering brands huge opportunities for not only repeat custom, but exposure to customers’ networks as well. Brands become more personable, accepted into the dynamic, and customers may come to see your company as an extension of their expanding social group. This is something to value and comes with great responsibility.
Rather than counting page views like a neanderthal, brand engagement on a company’s social profile is measured simply with replies, likes/favorites, and shares to better estimate how much of an impression your brand is making. Those sharing your identity and products online are your advocates and will help to build your brand.
Know your demographic and communicate in a way that appeals to them. Reward their positive comments with exposure to your own network (e.g. with a retweet — the new customer satisfaction quote). Remember, they might have a significant social outreach and their negative comments can travel as far as their positive ones. Keep them sweet!
Each social network differs in the way it encourages and generates engagement too. Facebook is between “friends” (though often in the loosest possible sense) and users might be more inclined to believe what they read. Twitter, on the other hand, mixes audiences and works better in real time to deliver news or updates as they happen.
It might be the disposability of information on Twitter that explains why Instagram outperforms it 50 times over in brand engagement. Perhaps too much information is a bad thing after all!
Instagram’s success relies on the power of images. It forces you to be creative with everything you post, the hashtag system is easy to use, and its content is shared with wild abandon! Building a following from the ground up can be tough, but if you learn how to maximize your exposure and capture people’s attention with a great name recognition or brand then your content will practically start sharing itself.
The good news is that it’s only getting easier. Businesses can now sell directly through Instagram, and several companies are working at applying the same idea to the Pinterest model too. It’s only a matter of time before other social networks become more directly linked to our final purchases. As that happens, the effects of brand engagement will become simpler to measure and improve.
It may sound corny, but these days it’s truer than ever: the customer is your friend.
Nick Rojas is a business consultant and writer who lives in Los Angeles and Chicago. He has consulted small and medium-sized enterprises for over twenty years. He has contributed articles to Visual.ly, Entrepreneur, and TechCrunch. You can follow him on Twitter @NickARojas, or you can reach him at NickAndrewRojas@gmail.com.