Using Social Media to Engage Audiences
Using Social Media to Engage Audiences
By Liz Evans
I guess that either you have already taken the plunge and joined the conversation online, or you are considering how to go about it. You don’t want to get left behind the crowd in this fast moving world. But what happens next? How are you going to make sure you engage with your audience and really connect with your followers? There are numerous examples in the arts, entertainment and cultural sectors of how institutions have successfully used social media to engage and connect with their audiences.
No-one can have failed to notice the remarkable popularity of Compare the Market’s advertising character Aleksandr Orlov, the world’s most famous meerkat. He frequently appears on UK TV screens, and now even has his own book. But did you know you can also follow him on Twitter and become a fan of him on Facebook? The potential reach of these platforms is hundreds of millions of people worldwide – but that isn’t necessarily what a small business from the north west of England needs. You want to forge better links with your existing customers, and through word of mouth...reach their friends and family too.
Before you leap straight in to the world of social media it helps to have a plan or strategy. Be clear about what you want to achieve, and know who your existing audience is.
Here are three key questions you should be thinking about when it comes to audience engagement.
One : What do audiences mean in the context of a business?
They are your customers, both existing and potential. People that do not necessarily use your product or service may still be discussing you in the online world of social media. Find a specific group who will be interested in the products or services you offer and target them more personally. Start with your existing customers, as this will give you exposure to all their friends and contacts too. They are your ambassadors among their peers, and it is often said that word of mouth is the most effective form of marketing. The importance of gaining good interaction with your audience cannot be overstated. If people are willing to say good things about your company, then when the occasional negative comment appears it is more likely that your loyal followers will jump to your defence. When your audience feels personally involved in conversations with or about your business, you will also be kept front of mind.
Two : What do we mean by engagement?
Engagement is the difference between active and passive marketing strategies. Passive is like shouting at a crowd and hoping the right people hear you; active is having a focused conversation with specific people. Active marketing listens and responds accordingly, and consumes information as well as producing it. You need to get away from the “one to many” approach of promoting your business, and concentrate on developing conversations and interaction. It is important to be open and transparent in your attempts to engage an audience – people are becoming more savvy to marketing techniques and are likely to see straight through a blatant marketing attempt that gives no value in return to the customer.
Three : How do you go about engaging your audience?
Having a reason to participate help encourage engagement. Pose questions, host competitions, ask for your audience to give feedback or post their own content. Creating good content yourself, asking for content from your audience, or linking to other sites is essential for creating interest in your social media activities. Try to come across as a person rather than a company. People respond better and engage more with real people than they do with faceless brands. Personalise content – your customers may be interested by behind-the-scenes stories and footage. Photos and videos are always popular. Communities can grow independently if fostered, and people who feel more personally involved will be more likely to recommend your product or service to others. Find a way to add value to your customers by being a part of your online community. Try to keep conversations rolling, as dead pages can put people off – this is where it can help to have a proper strategy or plan in place so you are never short of something to say. You may find that all this takes up more time than you have available within the company, and it could be worthwhile outsourcing your social media strategy to professionals who already have a good knowledge of how engagement works.