If you've been following Downtown Arlington Management Corporation's social media accounts, you've noticed we attended the 2015 Brand+Aid Conference right here in Arlington, TX. Run by the talented minds of Arlington Parks and Recreation's Marketing Department, alongside professionals from Grand Prairie and the surrounding area, the Brand+Aid Conference invited marketing and government officials from all over the nation to learn and lecture about social media and branding. We learned quite a few things, from best practices to the latest how-to's, and now we'd like to share some of that knowledge with you.
1. Existential crises are necessary.
Who are you? Who is your audience? Why should they care about you, and what you have to say? Most importantly: What do you hope to achieve by joining social media? These are questions you must know the answers to before you like a single post in the name of your company. Each website is nuanced, and carries huge potential for your business, whether you aim to publicize your products or offer coupons or just hear what people are saying. But just as college students must ask who they are when they pick a major at UTA, your business needs to recognize it's resources before it dives in unprepared and overwhelmed.
2. The conversation is happening--with or without you.
That last entry may have made you think "Well, why bother with it then?" Valid point. Social media for business is not the easy-peasy experiment the sites would like to have you think. Not only should you be able to commit to posting regularly, but if you have more than one site, sometimes the job adds up. Time is money, and you'll be spending a lot of it posting. Here's where the buck stops: whether you choose to join or not, the conversation about your business is happening. People are posting. That customer you gave the discount to because you were in a good mood? That positive review now sits on Twitter. The lady who didn't find what she wanted? Angry Facebook post, ahoy! Word-of-Mouth is happening online, and your business has no power unless you get involved in that conversation. Becoming involved in social media can drastically change the conversation and offer customers (both old and new) opportunities to engage with your business, which translates directly to better customer relations, better publicity, and better reviews.
3. Know your audience and respect them.
If a business posts to their Facebook, and their page has no likes, does the post make a sound? Understanding who creates your consumer base is vital for any advertising campaign, and this applies two-fold to social media. Before you aim to have a presence online, your business should decide which social platform best represents your customers. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and every network in between has a different feel. Once you narrow it down to those that apply best to your company, then you can start planning content. Before you get too excited, remember to match your content to that site. Pinterest is best for DIY tutorials, and has a whimsical and crafty feel; it's probably not best to post your press release that begs to be seen immediately on a platform meant for long-term sharing. Know your audience and respect where they reside, then respect the culture they've adopted on that site.
4. Content is king.
[caption id="" align="img-wrapright" width="291"] This is a meme. There are millions, if not billions, of different meme's out there, and each is used in a specific way.[/caption]
If Downtown Arlington posted cats on our blog every day, we'd probably have quite a bit more internet traffic. Choosing the right content can be frustrating, especially when what's popular doesn't exactly match the services your business provides. That's not to say you can't bank on the opportunity, though. Content you post should fit your business and the platform you post it to (see #3), but a creative mind can easily incorporate the latest trend. Creating a meme (one of the funny pictures with text that you've seen floating around online) that relates to your services is a great way to benefit. If you aren't creative, sharing other's content can similarly boost your presence. People need to trust your business, but they also want to connect with it on a personal level. Posting funny and relatable things fulfills the latter, but trust only comes from reliability and quality. You should always ask before posting, "Will this be valuable to my audience?" Value can come from caring about them personally, to offering financial incentives (coupons, etc.), to giving them information they didn't have before. Offer value and personal connectability, and people will rush to befriend your business, both in real life, and online.
5. Post, post, post, and post some more.
[caption id="attachment_5689" align="img-wrapleft" width="180"] Juntae DeLane (@JuntaeDeLane) works for USC's admissions team. They recently boosted applicants while addressing students' needs more efficiently through the use of social media marketing.[/caption]
The modern American consumer, tends to be cynical and suspicious. Mothers tell their children not to believe everything they see online, even before they give the speech on the importance of looking both ways before you cross the street. Skepticism is here to stay. Unfortunately, that makes your job a lot harder. Convincing your customers you are real and provide valuable content that they should take the time to look at is a process, but that process starts with posts. The more, the merrier. Posting regularly solidifies the foundation of trust, and that in itself goes a long way. Abandoned accounts, or those that get sporadic attention, aren't even worth having. If a customer asks a question there, who will answer? If you don't see or reply for a week or two, that customer already feels you've taken them for granted. Social media helps you guide the conversation, and that doesn't work if there's a whole conversation happening about your poor use of social media. Regular posting isn't hard with the use of content managers like Hootsuite or Tweet Deck that allow you to schedule when and where you post. Therefore, you should post regularly. At least once a day, more depending on the platform.
If you'd like to learn more about online marketing and your business, there are a ton of ways to learn more. We highly recommend signing up for the Brand+Aid Conference. Two days of content from professionals in the industry, meals provided, and networking with people all over the country is a good place to start. If you can't step away from your business, we recommend picking up a book, or heading over to YouTube. The "For Dummies" series is informative, yet easily digestible, and has books small and large for anything you could ever have a question on for cheap (or free if you visit the Arlington Public Library). Similarly, YouTube has videos that explain various facets of online marketing, from the sites themselves to how to best market your brand. Finally, when in doubt, Google. Reading what others have to say and visiting the platforms yourself gives you a far better understanding of who (and what) you're dealing with. Need some examples? Follow us on social media to learn alongside us! We're on Twitter, Facebook, and trying to learn more about Instagram.