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Social media has transformed the way we live and work. In our Business Talks Series, Dr Sue Black, the renowned computer scientist, academic and social entrepreneur, and Daisy Buchanan, the columnist and writer, discuss the way social media allows us to reach out to and connect with likeminded people in a completely new way. These platforms are also a key way of building and amplifying your brand, both for new and old businesses.

Choosing the right platform

There are stacks of social media platforms to choose from – choose being the key word.

Social media icons rainbow

Think carefully about your audience, your content (text/photos/videos) and the engagement you’re looking for (clicks to a website/sharing a promotion/subscribing to a service). Each platform has different functionality and therefore creates different engagement. If you’re starting a food truck, Instagram will be perfect to share photos, videos and your next location; if you’re looking to reach out to new clients, LinkedIn could work well for you; if you have a physical shop, then Facebook might be best to highlight your location and share local promotions within the community.

Looking at the demographics of each platform can also be a helpful way to decide which will work best for your business. Research published by the social media management platform Sprout Social about the demographics of various networks can help you reach your audience. It found, for example, that 38% of online women use Instagram compared with 26% of men.

According to the Digital Marketing Institute, 91% of retail brands use two or more social media platforms. They found that striking a balance on how many platforms to choose can be tricky. It’s not always the case that the more platforms you do, the more people you reach. “Too many, and you’ll spread yourself too thinly and dilute the impact of your efforts as a result. Too few, and your brand visibility and reach might suffer,” they suggest.

Consistency is key

Your social media accounts should match not only with your existing company website/shop/product, but with each other. Keeping your logo, cover photos, description, colour schemes, tone of voice (and use of emojis if that’s what you’re into) consistent will strengthen your brand.

Opening new social media accounts or revamping existing ones may end up being the perfect opportunity to consider your overall look or messaging – is it still right for how your company has evolved? Or if you’ve just launched, are you happy with how your brand looks across all these platforms?

The other thing to bear in mind is consistent quality. For each platform, there are different specifications and dimensions for the cover photos/logo image. These are detailed by several sites including social media scheduling platform Postcron. If you upload the same high quality images you might have used on your website, these can end up looking fuzzy when they are compressed on social media platforms. That’s why it’s worth adjusting the size of your images before you upload them to keep them looking sharp.

Put a ring on it

Engagement – in other words. Different types of content generate different reactions. For example, a poll or series of questions that prompts a response is often more engaging than a single line of text providing an explanation.

Both Sprout Social and Digital Marketing Institute explore the importance of visual content. According to research published by Sprout, on Instagram, photographs generate more likes than videos. Images featuring faces receive 38% more likes. Research from Wistia found that videos up to 2 minutes long have high levels of engagement, but after this there is a huge drop and people will stop watching.

Using relevant or trending hashtags on Twitter or Instagram can be a great way to engage a new audience and increase the number of people sharing your content. If you create your own hashtag around a campaign, think carefully about the words you use: keep it punchy, easy to read, and make sure there are no hidden words/meanings when it is all lowercase.

Looking into annual awareness days/weeks/months and creating content around this can loop you into hashtags that may arise on those days. At Starling, we launched our #MakeMoneyEqual campaign on 8th March 2018 – International Women’s Day. This was one of the ways that we aimed to make it more topical and therefore more engaging.

Keep it up

Quote - What you do every day matters more

Post frequency is so important to keeping people interested and learning about your business. According to SME, a website for small and medium-sized enterprises, 52% of small businesses post on social media every day. As with choosing the number of platforms to use, deciding on the number of posts per platform is also a matter of striking a balance. From a sample of 11,000 tweets, marketing consultancy Socialbakers found that engagement decreases after the third tweet of the day.

The other aspect of over-tweeting is the time it eats into. One tip to make social media less time-consuming is to set aside a time in the diary each week, create all your upcoming posts and use scheduling sites such as Falcon that can send out posts at pre-set times.

Crunch the numbers

As with many aspects of running a business, reflecting and analysing your strengths and weaknesses can help you move forward. Taking some time at the end of each month to review which were your best performing posts in terms of comments, clicks or likes can guide you in what to do more of the following month. Free tools such as Google Analytics can give you easy breakdowns and insights into social media performance over each day, week, or month.

Finding your tribe

As Sue Black and Daisy Buchanan discuss in our Business Talk video, social media can also give you the power to connect to a community. Instant customer feedback, engagement and direct questions can help to grow and develop your business in a connective and organic way. Through these platforms you can create not only a community of customers, but of other businesses. We can all learn from and help each other through these networks.

Images: Jamie Spencer, Gretchen Rubin

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