Social media is big business and we all want to unlock its seemingly magical abilities to put us in touch with our audience. Whilst some people manage to make social media work for them and enjoy countless likes and follows, others find it daunting and struggle to widen their social net.
If you’d like to boost social media engagement for your business, then try these 6 ideas for yourself and let us know how they work for you.
1. Use the hashtags
Just about all of the social media platforms out there use hashtags to one degree or another. Some platforms, such as Facebook, allow and cater for hashtags, but their efficacy is limited.
Other platforms, however, such as Twitter and Instagram celebrate and encourage the use of hashtags in updates and posts.
A quick note on hashtags
Social media veterans will have a good idea of hashtags, both what they are and how to use them. However, a lot of businesses we encounter are not so sure about the whole hashtag thing and get stuck.
But hashtags are not to be feared as they are the key to reaching more people and opening your reach up to a whole new audience.
At a basic level, a hashtag is just a way to categorise information. So, where a supermarket has a ‘dairy’ section where you’ll find milk, cheese, cream, and so on, social media would have a dairy hashtag (e.g. #dairy) to group all the tweets, posts, images and information that feature that hashtag.
Expanding your reach with judicious hashtag use
A real example of using hashtags to reach new people can be found on our very own Instagram account (https://www.instagram.com/hows_business/). Our post (see image below) was well liked and reached many more people than just our follower base by including relevant hashtags in either the image description or in a comment on the image.
There are a few key conventions to bear in mind when breaking out the hashtags:
- Keep them relevant
You want to be found by the right audience looking for the right information. For example, if you’ve taken a beautiful photo of a building in York, you’ll want to search out hashtags for ‘photography’ and 'York' and their combinations, whilst avoiding things about ‘London’ or ‘dogs’.
- Less is more
Twitter limits your characters so try to focus on the most popular or relevant hashtags for what you’re posting. Instagram, whilst not limiting your text, does have an unwritten rule for keeping your main description about the image and putting your hashtags into a comment to keep things tidy and easy to read
- Follow the unwritten rules
There’s no real right or wrong way here, but there are generally preferred ways to present hashtags with your posts. If you can weave a few into your text naturally (e.g. ‘here’s a great article on #socialmedia for #smallbiz’) then that’s fine. If, however, you want to include more then it’s considered best practice to include them at the end (e.g. ‘here’s a helpful #finance article [#smallbiz #accountancy #tips]’) or include them in a comment if you’re using Instagram.
2. Get involved in a community
Different platforms have different communities: Twitter has many great Twitter Hours where you can join in a group conversation with other people on a certain topic; Facebook has groups you can join to share information and network with other like-minded people; and platforms like Reddit are built upon active communities, each with their own niche and community rules.
By moving beyond the standard social media approach of merely posting updates, by going a little deeper and becoming an active member of some communities, you’ll increase your reach, gain new followers and stand a real chance of drumming up new business.
It shouldn’t have a consume your workday either. By simply spending 10-15 minutes a day to read up on the latest developments in your communities, offering some advice, and making a contribution, you’ll see the rewards in no time.
We have a guide to the best Twitter hours in Yorkshire as well as running our own #HowsBizHour on Thursdays at 3pm-4pm - it’s packed with great business advice and features a different topic each week.
3. Expand your social media horizons
This one is simple: try another social media platform, or look at ways other people are using your chosen social channels and see if you can do something a little differently.
You don’t have to be active on every social media network going, but you may find it helpful to broaden your approach to one that’s related to what you’re already doing.
For example, if you’re a photographer, then Instagram is an ideal place to showcase your talent as it’s entirely visually based. Likewise, a good partner for an Instagram account could be Pinterest where you could share more detail on how you photograph and the equipment you use. Or perhaps YouTube might be a suitable fit as you could record demo videos or practical guides to improving photography.
4. Try some advertising
Social media advertising is hands down one of the most effective forms of advertising out there today. It typically offers a seamless experience to your users, is non-interruptive (people hate interruptive adverts!), and costs far far less than other, more traditional means.
The other big bonus is that you can be really specific about who you want to show your adverts too. Middle-aged dog owner with kids who likes tennis? No problem. 20-25 year olds males who have a Netflix subscription, who haven’t visited our website? Great, here’s your market segment.
The potential downside is that it can be easy to waste money by targeting the wrong things or by setting up your social media adverts in a less-optimal way.
Fortunately, we have a fantastic guide to social media advertising that you can download here and get started the right way. You can also find some expert advice in our advice section, available on the How’s Business website.
5. Be inspired by an influencer
When it comes to talking about influencers and social media, we typically refer to very popular accounts of people or companies who have very active engagement in their industry and who usually help to shape that industry, thought-leaders.
However, it also might be a competitor of yours or another social media account that you admire.
By drawing inspiration from popular social media accounts that you admire and respect, and who seem to be making all the right moves, you can look at ways to improve your own social presence.
Without copying of course, look at the sorts of things they’re posting, times and frequencies, and the sorts of followers they have and try to replicate this for your own means.
Changing up what you’re currently doing, or even introducing something different that has been shown to work already, should help you grow your audience and boost social media engagement for your business.
6. Stop making it about you
If you take a look at the most popular social media accounts and really focus on the sorts of things they’re posting, you’ll see that there is a definite split between content promoting their business and content that helps their audience. The recommended percentages for this split tend to be 80/20 weighted against business or promotional content.
By helping your audience and promoting content that isn’t about you, you’re still promoting your business, but in a more subtle way.
It’s one simple thing you can do straight away that will help you boost engagement and grow your audience which, in turn, will give you more exposure when you do come to mention a new product or service.
Make it more about your audience and fans and less about your business and you’ll see the magic start to happen.