Social Media Best Practices To Build An Engaged Following

The astonishing growth of social media has been one of the more seismic changes we've seen over the past decade or so. And, make no mistake about it, social platforms should now form a significant part of your e-commerce marketing strategy.

Of course, a consistent, well-branded social presence can help you grow your audience, deliver awesome customer service and raise brand awareness. You've heard that plenty of times before.

But – more to the point as e-retailers – social has now developed into a key driver of customer behavior. Did you know, for example, that as many as 74% of consumers now admit they rely on social networks to guide their purchase decisions?

On the other hand, a below-par social presence – infrequent posting, poor quality content, or inconsistent messaging – can do terrible damage to your brand.

We thought we'd break down the task into 4 simple 'best practices.' By following these rules, we're sure you'll have the basis of a social strategy that's sure to unlock your store's full social potential!

1. Be proactive and plan

While it's true that much of your success on social depends on the stuff you do on a daily basis – responding to concerns and complaints, answering questions and engaging with your fans – it's also impossible to overstate the importance of advance planning.

The most effective brands on social aren't generally pulling posts from nowhere every day; rather, they're working from a cohesive plan that's been put together weeks, or even months, in advance.

We strongly recommend that you put together a content calendar which specifies, in advance, what you'll be posting about each day. By batch processing this task, you can avoid the stress that often goes with trying to find engaging content on a daily basis. This also allows you to mix up your content from day-to-day, keeping things fresh for your audience.

In the long-term, it's worth considering why you're on social media, what you want to achieve from it, and how you plan to achieve those goals. This includes identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the various social platforms, and choosing which ones are worth your investment. It's really difficult to be everywhere, but, of course, there's more to life than Facebook and Twitter. Pinterest and Instagram, for example, are great, visual ways to exhibit your products.

2. Add value

While your natural instinct may be to 'sell sell sell,' it's important to remember that your posts should always deliver value to your audience – or you run the risk of switching them off your brand.

'Adding value' doesn't necessarily mean giving discounts and coupons – although a 2013 study done by Syncapse indicated that this is precisely the reason why 42% of users like a brand on Facebook!

It could be sharing content from around the web that your audience may find useful, interesting information about your products, or even something as simple as posting some fun content that might raise a smile and brighten up your reader's day.

Before you post anything on your social channels, ask yourself: is this something that's relevant, useful and interesting to my audience? If the answer's 'no' then reconsider and post something that is!

3. Respond and be transparent!

If there's anything that really sets social aside from more traditional marketing techniques, it's the importance of engagement. Social really is the ultimate two-way street, and a successful strategy requires you to listen as much as you speak.

It's really important that you reply to all comments, messages and questions you receive on your feeds, both positive and negative. Negative feedback – in such a public forum – is one of the things that many businesses dread, but it can actually be a great opportunity to fix up areas of your service.

Did you know, for example, that, for every customer who complains, 26 others will remain silent? And that, if you resolve a complaint in the customer's favor, they'll do business with you again 70% of the time. It's important, then, to view negative feedback as an opportunity, and to respond quickly, politely and respectfully so you make the most of it! Don't forget – the rest of your audience are often watching to see how you deal with complaints, so never censor or ignore negativity.

If it's an issue that you really do not want to continue dealing with on social, you can always provide an alternative outlet for the customer to air their grievance, such as a support e-mail, or a phone number. Without airing any dirty laundry unnecessarily, this shows your other followers that you're serious about dealing with negative feedback and resolving customer problems, which can actually be a great trust-builder.

4. Determine your voice (and stick to it!)

So often in life, it's not what you say but how you say it. Social media is no exception! Like any marketing communication, it's really important to pick your brand voice and roll it out consistently for maximum authenticity.

A unique brand voice gives your brand unique character and flavor. It can build rapport and trust, and – crucially – set you aside from your competitors.

Brand voice, in a social context, involves the words you use and the content you share. And there's really no right or wrong answer. The best brand voice for your company is the one which captures the attention of your target customers, and resonates with them most effectively!

Closing Thoughts

Social media can often seem like a challenge for e-retailers, but the numbers speak for themselves; you simply can't afford to ignore it! By following these extremely simple rules, you should put yourself in a strong position to maximize the potential of your social presence :)

Did we miss anything? Feel free to let us know in the comments section!