social media
General Business

Social Media 101

Marketing experts share tips on how companies can effectively and appropriately use social media platforms to promote their brands while interacting with their audiences.

By now, nearly all businesses have established a social media presence. However, effectively promoting your company and interacting with your online audience requires a dedicated effort and a strategic game plan. The Garden State is home to an array of marketing firms that specialize in helping companies navigate the ever-changing world of social media platforms, with experts who can guide businesses on everything from producing unique and meaningful content to how to remain authentically engaged with audiences.

Which Platform?

One of the first questions many companies have is: Which social media platform is truly the best for their business? According to Emily Duban, head of digital marketing and platform strategy at MWW in East Rutherford, there really isn’t a straight answer to that question. While LinkedIn remains one of the most powerful professional platforms, that doesn’t mean it’s the only one that matters. “TikTok is increasingly top of mind for younger consumers, and it’s no longer just for dance videos, it’s even overtaking traditional search platforms for certain audiences,” she says.

When it comes to determining which platforms are right for your business, Michael Cherenson, executive vice president of SCG Advertising and Public Relations in Whippany, says companies need to think about their audiences first, including identifying the target demographics for their brands, as well as organizations’ goals. “If your brand tends to have a younger audience, then a platform like TikTok or Instagram might be appropriate, but if your customers skew older, then Facebook or even YouTube could be a better fit,” he says.

According to Dave Alvarez, digital strategist at The S3 Agency in Boonton, potential customers have certain expectations of the information they can expect to find when they search for your business on social media, and that can help determine which platforms you choose. “If you’re a local bakery, you need Facebook because that’s where most people search for store hours, while a more craft-oriented business may want to focus on Instagram reels,” he says. “Using Facebook is probably the baseline on what you absolutely need to have, and beyond that, you really need to think about how you’re going to meet your audience where they are.”

Capitalizing on Your Presence

Another thing businesses should consider is how they plan to capitalize on their social media presence. Cherenson notes that some social media sites are better suited to growing businesses and capturing new clients and customers, while others may be a better choice for customer service purposes or even internal or employee communications.

“You can’t just create one piece of content or develop an approach and expect it to perform well on every platform,” Duban agrees. “What your company is doing on TikTok should look very different than its presence on Instagram or LinkedIn.”

As companies are developing their social media presence, it also helps to know the optimal ways to reach their audiences. Data shows that the more visuals and video, the better, but there’s more to it than that. “You have to be willing to engage with your audience, and most importantly, you have to be authentic,” Cherenson advises. “Audiences are becoming tuned in to overly-scripted messaging, so you have to use the platforms in an authentic way and use compelling narratives, storylines and visuals to engage your audience and make them feel truly included in your brand.”

“You definitely don’t want to over-engineer the conversation,” Alvarez agrees. “Audiences are good at recognizing fake versus organic content the moment it pops up on their feeds.”

Denise Blasevick, CEO and founding partner of The S3 Agency, notes that businesses should be mindful of how their content is reaching their audience. “At the end of the day, you have a tiny fraction of a second as somebody’s scrolling to get their attention,” she says. “If your message isn’t hitting the right audience, if it isn’t differentiated enough, if it isn’t clear or targeted, there’s no immediate reason for that potential customer to engage with your company, and they will move on.”

Consistency also plays a significant role in how successful companies’ social media campaigns will be. Social media is a great tool for sharing special offers, coupons and deals, but Duban warns that companies also have to be consistent when it comes to producing and sharing content as well as interacting with customers.

“All of these platforms are constantly updating their features, functions and algorithms … so you have to stick with it and understand that each platform is truly its own special snowflake,” she says.

Customer Service, Too

In addition to winning customers, social media usage should also be about customer service for businesses – and a way to remain connected to employees. “Companies should be thinking about how they can use their social media platforms to cut down on the number of calls to customer service, or how they can proactively address some of the most common questions or concerns that consumers seem to be having about their product or service,” Cherenson says. “At the same time, companies should also be thinking about how to best communicate with their employees and how to inspire them to share, like and engage with their content online.”

One misconception many businesses have is that, because social media access is free, successful social media campaigns aren’t going to cost them anything in the long run. “There’s definitely an investment that’s required in a successful social media campaign. It takes time, expertise, good visuals, and editing, and most platforms now do require additional financial investments in order to be successful,” Cherenson explains.

Another mistake is that companies sometimes think their ultimate goal is to “go viral.” However, Blasevick warns that going viral doesn’t have the same impact that it once did. “Now things go viral all day long … you might have a brief spike in your social conversation or relationship with your audience, but that’s all you can really expect.”

Duban notes that it’s also important for businesses to not attempt to be part of every trend. “People on the Internet love nothing more than calling out brands for jumping on a trend for no relevant reason; companies shouldn’t waste their time, money and energy on a trend that doesn’t have anything to do with their business or audience,” she says.

It’s About Relationships

Above all, companies have to be mindful of the fact that social media is about more than self-promotion or trying to win new customers – it’s ultimately about building relationships. “If someone came to a party and stood there shouting corporate messaging or trying to sell you something, you wouldn’t want to hang out with that person; the same applies on social media,” Blasevick concludes. “When it comes to your social media presence, companies should always be thinking about how to build relationships while finding ways to show customers they are grateful for their time and engagement with their brand.”

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