Here are some ways brands can build stronger connections online.
Social media has become an important part of every modern business's marketing strategy. But coming up with relevant, interesting content to post is only half the battle. The other part is engaging with your followers to keep them coming back for more.
To help you with this task, we polled the members of the Young Entrepreneur Council to find out what brands need to remember when reaching out or engaging with their audience on social media. The YEC is an invite-only organization of young entrepreneurs who represent nearly every industry, generate billions of dollars in revenue each year and have created tens of thousands of jobs. Here's what they said.
1. Have a process for answering technical questions.
"Some customers, especially young ones, may try to approach your company on social media. They may want support information, or to get details on a product they're about to buy. If someone is managing your social profiles for you, make sure there is a process in place for technical questions. A bad answer could reflect badly on the company. Make sure those questions are forwarded up the chain." – Matt Doyle, Excel Builders
2. Be personable and show some love back.
"Social media platforms, like Instagram, are a power tool for both personal and business brands. When reaching out or engaging with potential customers or clients, it is highly recommended to be personable. Engage back by simply responding to every new follower or comment that you get in your profile. Not only this will increase your own engagement and rapport, but it will also increase your revenue." – Fritz Colcol, ABN Circle
3. Don't offend others.
"I've seen so many influencers and brands offend certain audiences on Instagram. If an influencer or brand doesn't have anything nice to say about something or someone, then don't say anything at all." – Kristin Kimberly Marquet, Marquet Media LLC
4. Tailor content to the channel.
"Social media platforms have unique content formats, idioms and audience expectations. What works on Twitter won't work on Facebook, even though you could conceivably push the same content to both. What works on Instagram won't work on Pinterest, even though both are image-sharing sites. Make sure you understand each platform's unique character." – Corey Northcutt, Northcutt Enterprise SEO
5. Respond in a timely manner.
"If you're going to engage on social media as a business or brand, responses have to be timely. You don't need to respond immediately, but you also can't wait a week to follow up. Often, when people engage on social, they're looking to get a question answered fairly quickly, but don't want to make a phone call. A quick response on social can builds up loyalty and leads to sales." – Yaniv Masjedi, Nextiva
6. Maintain a consistent tone.
"It's important to not let social media be too comfortable for your corporate brand. Too often, people think that it's a place to be casual, but it's important to maintain a consistent tone with your brand to keep people engaged, and in the event that there is a strong negative critique, you will at least have a buffer for the appropriate communication." – Nicole Munoz, Nicole Munoz Consulting Inc.
7. Create a community.
"Stay connected to your intention, which should hopefully be to build a community of people that support your mission. Work on generating not only one-on-one connections through your social media, but more of a community where your audience interacts not only with you but with each other about your message, products, and services." – Jared Weitz, United Capital Source Inc.
8. Keep an eye on platform updates.
"Stay updated on every new update and how it can be favorable for you and your followers. For example, Instagram users watch stories more, Facebook users value lengthy posts more, and YouTube has more video viewers. With the new [Instagram] updates, we have Like highlights, captions text, products and IGTV. Facebook has highlights and a 'watch with a group' option. YouTube has live and posts options. Every update should be maximized or used." – Daisy Jing, Banish
9. Listen to your followers.
"When trying to build your brand, it's so easy to slip into the habit of solely focusing on promotion, entertainment and education. Yes, it's important to make sure you are sharing your story and providing valuable content, but it's also important to listen. In order to reach out effectively and positively engage with people, you have to first track their comments, reviews and activity." – Blair Thomas, eMerchantBroker
10. Take negative conversations offline.
"It's important to take negative conversations offline for several reasons. First, this prevents it from spilling over and drawing more negative attention from other customers, of course. However, it also makes it easier for you to have a deeper personalized conversation with an unhappy user or customer so you can better understand their problem and serve their needs." – Andy Karuza, FenSens
11. Be kind and empathetic to unhappy customers.
"When venturing online, be prepared for anything. No matter how hard you try, you are eventually likely to encounter someone that is not happy with some experience they had with you or your company. Always be prepared for this to happen, and when it does, answer their questions and concerns with kindness and understanding. Your empathy will go a long way with others on the platform." – Rana Gujral, Behavioral Signals
12. Represent your company well.
"Being on social media and interacting with people is no different than if they stepped into your business. Be professional, represent your company well, and bring them interactions worth their time. You want to keep people coming back, and the best way to obtain that is to give them the goods." – Zach Binder, Bell + Ivy
13. Show off your personality.
"Originality and personality are important. Whether it's Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or another site, people are inundated with engagement requests. The more personable and original you can be in your outreach, the better off you're likely to be. Mention the person's name specifically, say something about yourself, or anything else that will set you apart from the competition." – Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance
14. Share and speak in your customer's voice.
"When reaching out directly to people, brands are more likely to succeed if they can share testimonials and maintain authenticity. Even in one-off exchanges or trend-jacking opportunities, being authentic and keeping your message as close to the customer voice as possible will ultimately resonate with your community best." – Kyle Wong, Pixlee
15. Provide thoughtful, valuable content.
"People come on social media to engage. They look for entertainment and educational content that stimulates them. Make sure that when you approach people you have thought-provoking questions in mind and other helpful material. It's important to be authentic and to create value. People will notice and engage with your brand." – Blair Williams, MemberPress
16. Build connections between brand and audience.
"Brands should always remember to bring value to their users, whether it's answering their questions or providing support. Engagement is not always about trying to up-sale your brand, but rather to focus on building a connection between the brand and its user." – Jordan Edelson, Appetizer Mobile LLC
17. Be authentic.
"Users are looking for authenticity. They want to feel like they are connected to the brand and getting content in a natural way. Make sure you are using the right voice. Who is your audience? Do you know how to talk to them to make your message resonate? A great tool to use for this is livestreaming. It allows you to connect with your followers in real time and create memorable content." – Stanley Meytin, True Film Production