In 2018, having a strong social media presence is key to maintaining a strong competitive edge in the marketplace. With over 50 million small businesses already utilizing social media to interact with their customers and find new leads, having a well-thought-out social media marketing plan in place is imperative. That’s why we’ve put together a list of four ways to improve your social media presence in 2018.

1. Follow your audience

One of the most important ways to improve your social media following is to consider your customers. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve created the most inspiring content of the year if your target audience isn’t going to see it.

For example, if you’re predominantly selling designer massage chairs, you’re less likely to find your audience on Snapchat, which has an average demographic of 18-24, and more likely to find them on Facebook, where over 55s are increasingly flocking.

While Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are popular choices, don’t neglect the less popular social networking sites. As photographer Lori Janeson demonstrates through her profile, even Google+ can be an effective marketing tool for showcasing image-centric brands. It’s all about identifying your audience and making yourself known on their favorite networking sites.

2. Create engaging content

Once you’ve located your audience, it’s time to get their attention by making posts that inspire engagement, such as likes and sharing. Research has identified several main reasons why users are likely to reshare content. These include to entertain friends and to define ourselves in the eyes of others. So, if you want to produce content that has the potential go to viral, be topical and don’t be afraid to be a little provocative.

Typically, users will disengage from and unfollow brand accounts that post blatantly promotional content, so steer clear of obvious promotion in favor of content evokes emotion, whether it is excitement, anger or sadness. Research has shown that there is a high correlation between user surprise and resharing, suggesting an unexpected twist in your marketing strategy can pay off big-time.

3. Measure your performance

Once you’ve started creating content, you need a way to measure its efficacy. While a rudimentary way of doing this is to simply monitor the ‘“likes” and “shares” received by each post, a savvy social media marketer will go a step further to track their campaign progress using analytics. This might involve tracking the time of day when engagement is highest or what your conversion rate is.

By monitoring KPIs that are relevant to your business strategy, you can easily establish whether you’re achieving ROI (return on investment) and determine if the time put into your social media marketing is paying off.

A number of social networking sites offer inbuilt analytics platforms to assist you with this, such as Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics. However, for more in-depth analysis, third-party applications, such as Sprout Social or Hootsuite, usually provide free versions of their more robust tools that will absolutely do the trick for small businesses with limited social media budgets.

4. Keep your brand consistent

One thing a lot of new brands struggle with is establishing a consistent social media presence and brand persona.

Your branding needs to be consistent from the get-go and should be informed by your target audience. For example, if you’re a brand providing hip-hop fashion to a young demographic, your social media language may include slang and bright, bold imagery. While, if you’re a bridal boutique, your social media tone will likely be more professional and detached.

Inconsistency can lead to consumer distrust and give the impression that your company is not professional. One way to combat this is to ensure only one person make posts from the company accounts, as this will ensure the tone does not fluctuate. When people think of your brand, they should imagine a single entity or personality, not a chorus of discordant voices.

Cracking the social media marketing code can seem challenging, but with a little research and a sprinkle of persistence, you’ll see your brand take off in no time.

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