If you’re like most people, the idea of branding yourself through social media sends chills down your spine. How do you craft an image? How do you stick to it, make it consistent, and make sure it reaches new clients? And the question for the ages: How often should you post?
Well, fear not — we are here to help. In the next few weeks, we’ll be running stories on how to brand yourself. To that end, we spoke to some of the best social media branding experts in the biz, and you might be surprised by what they have to say. The first lesson is to figure out who the heck you’re talking to.
Locate Your Community
Social media is, a platform that fosters community, in the same way that a church or school might foster community in “real” life; the only difference is that the social media community is virtual, and includes people from all over the globe.
With that being said, it’s critical to figure out where your people are hanging out. Some communities favor Facebook, some favor LinkedIn, others Instagram, Snapchat, or Twitter. By learning where your people are, you can save yourself time (and thereby money), and also reach people with a much greater sense of purpose and deliberateness. This can be accomplished by just doing some research and seeing who you find where — and it’s easier than it looks.
“It’s like cliques in high school,” says Asma Stephan, a social media marketing manager with Salesforce. “Certain groups have certain associations. So for instance, younger people aren’t necessarily on Facebook, but they are on Snapchat.”
Business-to-business tends to be on LinkedIn, she adds, and celebrities are often on Instagram and Twitter. Make some educated guesses as to where your community is — you probably already have a general idea, based on where you tend to spend the most time personally — and stick to that platform, creating a plan for how often you’ll post (it’s probably less often than you think you need to). From there, you’ll be able to tell if you’re in the right place “if you are gaining a following,” says Stephan.
Talk to Your Community
Once you’ve found your people, talk to them. The easiest way to start is by identifying people who might already know of you or your business, or, barring that, who might be familiar with the type of work your company is doing. Those people might include companies or brands working in the same space in which you’re working (or trying to work), tastemakers in your industry, or simply vocal consumers.
“Find the people who are already interested in you,” says Stephan, “and communicate with them.”
Start by asking questions of those community members to find out what they’re into, what they want, and what they need. That can be done through a survey, or even by tracking down individuals and talking to them one-on-one. This type of outreach is especially important if you’re starting a new business. Once you’ve become more established, “you can reach out to your ideal customers and consumers,” says Stephan.
Make Your Content Great Again
Of course, good social media branding is nothing without good content.
“People give you the benefit of the doubt by giving you a follow, but getting them to that next step of engagement is about the content you are delivering,” says Stephan. “At its core, it needs to be relevant.”
That could mean many things, depending on your business: perhaps it provides them with new information, or follow-up information, or perhaps it’s just to elicit an emotional reaction. Know your audience, and know what they’ve come to you for.
Los Angeles-based entrepreneur Elizabeth Kott, who has worked as a producer, creative strategist, and stylist, also suggests that you avoid, wherever possible, making it look like you’re trying too hard. Kott, whose business depends on her maintaining a specific aesthetic, notes that while sites like Instagram are “an amazing way to get inspired, to be visually ignited,” it’s also possible to put too much stock in them while overlooking other areas of business — like product and personal connections.
“I see people put too much weight on it,” she says. At the end of the day, “it’s just an app on your phone.” And if the product you’re producing doesn’t match up, no amount of social media will keep customers loyal.