Before we start, it’s important to look at the current landscape of social media.
So far, 2018 has been full to the brim with stories about social media platform data breaches. From the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal to the more recent news that Google+ will be closing due to the exposure of users’ data – it’s all starting to sound like an episode of Black Mirror that we just can’t switch off.
The result of such scandals has been a loss of trust in social media platforms. In fact, a recent study from Campaign suggests that ‘one in twenty Brits deleted their Facebook accounts’ after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, while 67% of Brits reported to be extremely concerned about the misuse of their data.
But it’s not just their data users are worried about. Inauthentic content from brands is also an issue. A report from Social Media Today recently showed that of those surveyed, 57% felt that half of brand-generated content resonates as inauthentic.
The two of these issues combined have led to users reporting lower than ever levels of trust in social media platforms.
How have social media networks tried to curb user mistrust?
At the start of the year, Facebook introduced its new algorithm. This algorithm aims to prioritise content from family and friends in a news feed, rather than content or spam from businesses. The aim is to ‘encourage meaningful interactions between people’.
In addition, Instagram’s latest algorithm change aims to emphasise the posts that users care about most in their newsfeeds.
Although these changes may help social networks gain back a little trust from users hoping to avoid spam, it doesn’t help businesses to do the same. Such changes to the algorithms have presented serious challenges for digital marketers to aiming to get on users’ news feeds, let alone try and promote anything to them.
Is this the death of organic social content?
So, I hear you ask – what can be done to beat the algorithms? How can I counteract the fear of ingenuine marketing? How can my business succeed on social media? Is it even possible? HELP!
The answer is: Yes, it most certainly is possible. Let me show you how:
Create genuine, authentic connections with your social media audience
Organic social content is more important than ever. It’s a chance for your brand or business to really connect with and understand your audience – without the somewhat off-putting ‘sponsored’ tag.
Most importantly, It’s an opportunity for your followers to see you as a brand they can trust and one that listens to them.
But how can you do that without sounding like a phony? How can you help your followers to trust you?
5 tips to create real, genuine connections with social media followers
Listen to your customers
This is one of (if not the most!) important rules: You have to listen to your customers! You need to understand what they’re talking about by listening to the conversations they’re having online. Some sure-fire ways to do this are:
Follow the hashtags of topics within your industry and see what people are talking about. Then, use this research as an opportunity to create on-trend content that your followers will love and respond to.
Keep an eye on your social analytics and understand what posts have engaged your followers the most. Then, repurpose successful posts to appeal to your followers again by. For example, create a video version of a successful article, or repurpose a status as a Instagram story.
Hone into what potential customers want by looking at what they’re searching for on your website. Then use social media to show them the products or services that you already know they’re engaged by.
Give your customers value
Never push a product for the sake of it. Give your customer real value you by presenting them with content that will add value to their life.
This means that posts must be much more than a sales pitch. Instead of asking yourself questions like: “how can I sell this product?”, you should be asking: “how does this product add value to my customer’s life? Is this interesting to anyone outside of the business? Would I respond if I saw this?”
Some fantastic ways to do this are:
Provide customers with tips or ideas when pushing a product/service. For example, add real value to the customer by giving them a solution to a problem they may experience.
Give a story behind how the product was made or provide insight into the staff behind the service. For example, a furniture company could tell a story about the craftsmanship behind a beautiful wooden chair. Doing this will make the product or service seem more valuable, and therefore more likely to stick in your customer’s mind.
Evoke emotion. Make them laugh, cry (happy tears!) or just aim to inspire them. This could be done by sharing an inspiring story about a staff member or customer who has used your product. Alternatively, share a funny story/meme/gif to engage people. Even a game like the one shown below can be a great way to get followers engaged! (Just make sure this is relevant to the brand!)
Remember, by giving your followers added value you’re increasing the likelihood that they will look at your content for longer. And, regardless of whether or not followers engage with your post, the longer they look at it, the higher the post will climb in the algorithm (For Facebook & Instagram).
Feature User Generated Content and micro-influencers
Featuring User Generated Content (UGC) can help evoke real trust from your audience. When they see your product being used by a fellow customer, it can be as effective as a recommendation from a friend!
Sharing positive posts that users create about your service or produce is a perfect way of doing this. Any comments, posts, photos or videos where users have mentioned your offering in a positive light can go a long way in evoking trust in your brand.
In addition to this, you can look at working with (relevant) micro-influencers. This can help your business gain trust from your followers in a similar way as UGC but on an often bigger scale.
Choosing the right micro influencer allows you to associate your business with a person that is already trusted, established and valued by their larger (very loyal) followers. They will showcase your product in an appealing but relatable way which your customers will see as accessible and genuine.
But remember – only partner with influencers who are passionate about your product, and who will naturally and genuinely incorporate it into their everyday lives.
Generate real discussions with your followers
This is a great way to actually have a conversation with your followers – and it’s so easy to do!
Simply ask your audience open questions in captions, as shown below. This will help them to feel part of the conversation while also reinforcing that your business is listening to them!
Conversations between you and your audience also help to create lots of engagement on posts – which can potentially drive new ideas for your business! And, the more that your followers feel like your social media channels are like a community, the more engagement you’ll have – and this is exactly what the social networks want.
Make your business more human
Don’t make your social media all about promotion. You need show the human side of the business too! That can be by sharing the “behind the scenes” of your workplace, by championing individual workers or by giving sneak peaks into the daily life of an employee.
This shows your audience that there are real human beings behind your business, and also helps your employees feel part of your social media. This in turn encourages them to support and advocate your business social media channels themselves (if they’re not already!).
A look at emerging platforms on the horizon
So, there it is. Despite a challenging landscape in the social media world, it’s still possible to engage your audience using organic, non-paid social media.
However, the complicated landscape has given way to the rise of alternative, niche social media platforms. These platforms are growing rapidly and offer users – and businesses – something different from traditional social networks. Some focus on privacy, others on community, while some just offer an opportunity to be social while remaining completely anonymous.
Next time, I’ll take a look at how businesses can harness the power of these new social platforms to reach their marketing goals.