Some people say ‘thank goodness’ to social media, because in social networks they see a goldmine of marketing bonanza every business owner can tap into. Whether it is true remains to be seen, but suffice it to say that an effective use of social media can, in the medium or long term, help a startup or established business boost its brand.And the good part is that it is free.
You don’t need to pay a cent to open a page on the most popular social networks, from Facebook and Twitter to Pinterest and LinkedIn. But the catch is, you need to allocate enough time and resources to your social media strategy – and you might even need to outsource the work if technology is not your strong suit or your don’t have time to focus on your social branding.
Here are our top 10 ways to effectively and creatively use social media to grow your business brand. Obviously, we have focused on a few social networks for sake of clarity and conciseness, but some of these tactics can be applied over multiple platforms.
Facebook is the number 1 social network nowadays, with a global reach and membership approximating the billion – the perfect tool for a business looking to grow its brand.
1. Content Is King…
Create a page and feed it with content that is catchy, informative, instructional and entertaining. If you can meet at least two of the four requirements in any post you make, you will build a reasonable fan base in no time.
2. …But Visual Content Prevails
It is better to always post images and short videos, and embed the written content in them. Alternatively, you can redirect users to an external site – your business blog, for example – but make sure the content, again, is very short and snappy.
Twitter has half of Facebook’s membership, but its follower base is quickly growing and tends to be more responsive than Facebook users on certain campaigns.
3. Connect in Context
Twitter recommends that you ‘connect in context’ to grow your brand quickly. In other words, you should creatively insert relevant content that discusses your business while also mentioning another user in your content.
4. Listen and Learn
Another brilliant piece of advice from Twitter: Use the good-old benchmarking method of ‘listen and learn.’ Follow what your direct competitor and the market leader are doing, mimic the good parts, fix the bad parts, and create your own Twitter strategy.
Instagram has an expanding user base, which is good for the company but also conducive for any business – including yours – that wants to grow and promote its products and services the right and cheap way.
5. Show Products and Services
Instagram is a picture-heavy social network, so adapt to it and show your products and services in a likable way. Experts recommend that you tie something to the picture, say, an ongoing promo or a major national or international event going on. For example, if you sell athletic gear or female jewelry, you can embed the product pictures in an oval ball, alluding to the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
6. Be the Face of Your Brand
Personalize your brand to grow it faster. You – or another employee – can be the face of the brand, and the tactic works because people associate well with other people…or, in some cases, pets or animated characters.
LinkedIn is the social network of predilection for hundreds of millions of professionals around the world. Maintaining a presence on LinkedIn provides a triple benefit, boosting your brands vis-à-vis customers, business partners and potential employees.
7. Begin to Blog on the Platform
Connect your blog – if you have one – to LinkedIn’s blogging platform, and begin to blog on topics that could interest your various networks. Make the topics in sync with your products and services, and ask to guest-blog on other groups’ platforms.
The goal is to establish yourself as a thought leader, which could heighten people’s interest and, ultimately, increase your brand appeal.
8. Enroll in Relevant Groups
Once you find the proper group, do three things: create events, participate in forums, and respond to people asking questions. Make sure the queries relate to the products and services your company provides.
Remember to always insert an email signature at the bottom of your forum posts, thus redirecting users and readers to your company’s website.
The gist of marketing on Pinterest, a fast-growing social network, is to create visual content worth pinning, meaning content that users find relevant and interesting enough to like it and pass it on to others.
9. Create Pinnable Content
Generate content that others can pin. Again, the same rules of ‘catchy, informative and funny’ apply. The more people pin your content, the better.
Remember that Pinterest virality can also translate into popularity on other platforms, especially if your fans are present on multiple networks.
10. Position Your Brand With the Target Audience
In Google+, unlike other social networks, you can choose exactly who you want in your network and whose updates you want to read. Google has a ‘circle’ system that ensures users coalesce in affiliation circles and only connect with those with whom they share something in common. On Google+, set a page for yourself and/or your business and invite your potential customers. Also, publish relevant and snappy content often, so as to expand your circle and potentially convert your virtual fans into real customers.
To effectively and creatively use social media to grow your business brand, commit time and resources to the most popular social networks. These include Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Also, don’t forget LinkedIn, which has the double benefit of professional and personal usage. If social networking is not your forte, enlist the help of a professional or a PR company.
Dr. Emad Rahim is an award-winning entrepreneur, educator, author, community leader and TEDx Speaker. He currently serve as the Endowed Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Oklahoma State University and teaches at the Jack Welch Management Institute in the Executive MBA program. He was recognized by the United Nations Foundation as a 2013 Empact100 Honoree for his social entrepreneurship work, received a Congressional Award for his community service and was the recipient of the Forty Under 40 Business Leadership Award sponsored by Syracuse University. His personal story was turned into a short documentary, “Against the Odds,” and featured in the Huffington Post and Forbes. He co-authored “Leading Through Diversity: Transforming Managers Into Effective Leaders” and “The 4-Tions: Your Guide to Developing Successful Job Search Strategies” and is a frequent contributor to the Refractive Thinker book series, CEO Magazine, TweakYourBiz and YFS Entrepreneurship Magazine. Fellow him on Twitter @DrEmadRahim