If your idea of social media is to toss up a random Facebook or Instagram post every week and hope for the best – you’re doing it wrong.
In fact, flailing around on social media without knowing what you’re doing can be at best a colossal waste of time, and at worst it can actually harm your business outreach, said Lacey Faught, owner of Spry Digital Marketing, who teaches two classes at Clark College Economic & Community Development on the subject.
“One of the biggest mistakes that ends up happening on social media is a lack of foundational strategy,” Faught said. “Business owners, they’ve barely got time, but they do an Instagram post once a week. They have a post but there’s no strategy. And not having a plan cuts into the efficacy of their work.”
Instead of random posting, Faught suggests analyzing social media traffic patterns and statistics, and then building a strategy. By looking at posts that had good customer engagement in the past and figuring out what word choices, keywords and tags drove that engagement, business owners can replicate the process, drive more traffic to their websites and create more customers, she said.
“Most people are just trying to execute content but not analyzing what they’re doing,” Faught said.
Faught, who grew up in Battle Ground, first delved into social media when she got her degree in broadcast news and political science from Washington State University Pullman.
After graduation, she founded Spry Digital Marketing (http://thinkspry.com) in 2011. The company currently has five employees, focusing on web site development, social media and marketing, mainly for medical, construction and government agency sectors.
“Our main marketing tool is education,” Faught said. “So, about five years ago I started teaching through Clark College. It’s great marketing for my business, and it also establishes some legitimacy in the community for me. But also, teaching is just what I think I was made for.”
Her two classes will run again this winter. Social Media for Business, the first, will run from January 23 to February 13, Wednesday evenings from 6-8 p.m. for $119. The second, Attracting Customers to Your Website, will run from February 27 to March 30, Wednesday evenings from 6-8 p.m. for $119. Registration opens on December 3 at http://ecd.clark.edu/.
Using social media the right way
For businesses starting to dabble with social media, Faught advises starting with a goal of targeting a specific demographic.
By analyzing and understanding the needs of that demographic, you can create and execute a social media campaign, whether that be to introduce the public to a new product or to encourage a personal connection to the company and the product, she said.
“Instead of just doing things willy nilly, posting whatever and whenever, it’s better to post less but more intentionally,” Faught said. “Giveaways can be beneficial, but usually what’s best is a really clear goal for a campaign. Kei Nishida, one of my students who has a Japanese tea website, when he took my class we created a couple of interesting campaigns.”
One of his campaigns involved bring in Mother’s Day blog content. The posts in the campaign discussed how mothers enjoy tea, giving potential customers some ideas for Mother’s Day presents.
Another campaign involved research on keywords. Looking at words tied to the phrase “green tea” online, Faught and Nishida discovered Matcha, a kind of green tea, was trending across multiple platforms. In the campaign, Nishida’s company added “Matcha” to its keywords and significantly bumped up traffic.
“We used a keyword tool to search what was trending,” Faught said. “We compared Japanese green tea to Matcha green tea – and Matcha had significantly more interest online. So, we used keywords to draw that business.”
Finding that strategy and doing the outreach did wonders for Nishida’s company, Japanese Green Tea (http://japanesegreentea.org). It increased traffic and brought in new business, he said.
“Three years ago my business was pretty small, but thanks to Lacey Faught I’ve grown a social media following of about 1,000,” Nishida said. “I didn’t even know what a hashtag was when I started. She’s really good from teaching the basics, but it’s not boring for people who are advanced, too.”
Nishida has been taking Faught’s classes for three years, and each time they’re a bit different, he said.
“I’ve learned a lot,” he said. “She’s always up to date, so even if you take the same class again it’s different.”
One thing Nishida learned during that time is how to tailor web posts. And he suggests letting customers get to know you as a person. Having some posts that are more personal, and also talking about what’s happening in a growing business can build emotional connections. Only infrequently does he do an actual sales post, Nishida said.
“It’s not like ‘buy this, buy that,’” Nishida said. “It’s about connections. Most followers have a strong connection to me and the brand.”
Using tools to find what people are really interested in can help you create content that will speak to them, Faught said.
As for social media services themselves, there are actually some different rules for posting on different platforms. How many characters should you use in a Facebook post? What about emojis and hashtags? Each platform is a little different, Faught said.
“The highest engagement rates can come out of those mechanics – for Facebook that’s about 111 characters, no hashtags and one emoji (with a picture),” Faught said. “Usually your visual is going to do most of the work.”
Instagram, in comparison, has the highest engagement with posts of 240 characters, 11 hashtags and three emojis.
“That’s changed over time,” Faught said. “You’d think Instagram would be a visual-based media platform, but it’s transformed over time into sort of a microblogging platform.”
Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is also important. In her classes, Faught teaches students how to craft title tags and descriptions, along with how to write posts to get maximum engagement and high listings on search engines.
“When I found out how this all worked, it really changed how I used and saw the Internet,” Faught said. “It’s all about understanding the algorithm.”
Conceptually, it’s not all that hard to understand, she added.
The goal of search engines is to give users the best possible answer to a question. The legitimacy of that answer is based on the depth and breadth of content on sites across the web. To improve traffic to your business, you want to provide search engines with deep information on the topic, while also having other relevant sites and social media posts link back to you.
“Our site does have a lot of organic traffic since we started doing this,” Nishida said of his website blog, where he does most of his strategic posting. “It’s keywords and a blog. Our content creates organic traffic. If you search Japanese Green Tea on Google right now you’ll see two or three links to our site.”
Of course, there’s a plethora of social media sites out there, but Faught suggests focusing on a few specific ones, depending on what market you’re trying to target.
“Facebook is always the best one to start with, because there are so many people on it,” Faught said. “Also, it’s a good market if you’re targeting adults.”
Instagram is more visual, with a generally younger audience of people between ages 15-25.
Twitter is good for commentary, opinion and for large companies, it’s actually a good tool for customer service, because customers can tweet questions and get a fast response.
LinkedIn is mostly business to business, and can be a good tool if you’re targeting other companies as clients.
“It really depends on who your target demographic is,” Faught said. “It’s much better to do less and do it right than to try to be everywhere.”