You post a blog every now and then. Each post gets a comment, maybe two, from readers or customers. There are a few people following your company’s Facebook account, and a few more on Twitter, retweeting once in a blue moon. It’s barely enough to call it customer engagement. You know you are doing something wrong when it comes to drawing in customers via social media. Let’s look at strategies for blogging for niches in order to attract customers for social media engagement and eventual conversion.
The blog: a basic foundation
Before heading to social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, you need to have a blog. Blog posts are the meat and potatoes you will often link to on social media. It is the first, most important part of starting to engage with customers.
The first question to ask is what is your company’s niche. No matter what the answer, there is always news affecting your company, your niche, or your customers. You can leapfrog off the news, commenting and explaining what the news means and why it is significant for your industry. This is how you show your expertise, impressing your potential clients - something we’ll discuss later. The key is to have a blog, and make it easy to navigate to on your company’s website.
Your company has a blog, and it’s easy to find. But, the gaps between posts are weeks and even months. The University of Alabama at Birmingham Collat School of Business found that one of the main reasons business owners don’t post blogs or to social media is because they are just too busy. They are afraid maintaining a blog will take too much time away from their actual business duties.
Not posting, however, means losing out on a vast pool of potential customers and clients. As of early 2016, 68 percent of adults had a social media account. Of those, 79 percent had signed up for a Facebook account. Even more interesting, adults 65 and older are taking to social media in greater numbers, with 62 percent using Facebook - up an astounding 14 points from last year. Meanwhile, nearly a third of all adults have an Instagram profile. And there’s a huge search engine optimization benefit for companies that used social media frequently: Last year, companies active on social media had 434 percent more indexed pages with Google. Having more indexed pages makes you easier to find on Google, giving you a leg up on the competition.
Vilfredo Pareto and the 80/20 Principle
You’ve followed the first two steps, creating a company blog and posting regularly. But, each post reads like a press release, telling customers about the latest, greatest product, and why they should buy it from you. This content is doing more to harm than good for your brand, and likely driving frustrated readers away as they see right through your promotional tactics. They want more than just posts about products.
Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto theorized the Principle of 80/20. He found that 80 percent of Italy was owned by 20 percent of the population in the late 1800s. Then, he found 20 percent of peapods in his garden had 80 percent of the peas. The ratio continued popping up in different ways. In social media, it’s the percentage goal of non-promotional to self-promotional posts. The 80 percent should be posts meant to engage your audience. These posts invite comments by offering insight and information, sparking conversation, and overall should encourage sharing to spread your company’s name.
Let’s look at what real companies, large and small, are doing. First, a thought exercise. You run the blog and social media for a small real estate office, with a good amount of clients looking to invest in real estate. Valuable, helpful content will draw in potential customers. The best approach is to provide comprehensive information on investing in real estate, answering any question a customer might have, and presenting your company as an authority in the industry. Or perhaps you sell a wide variety of hats. Draw upon popular trends and pop culture to provide fashion advice, rather than simply shilling your product. The key takeaway is to post something interesting, preferably something a potential client can learn from. A person learning something is more likely to share on social media, passing on their newfound knowledge. This was dubbed the “BuzzFeed Approach” by well-known search engine optimization company Moz.
What are bigger companies doing? The exact same thing. Square, well-known maker of point-of-sale machines and champion of businesses that are mobile, doesn’t post solely about their machines. Instead, they often offer advice, like how to have tough conversations with employees. Notice the article doesn’t mention their product at all. The goal of this type of blog post is relating to your niche. Square posts results of credit card studies and how to manage a company and employees. It’s actionable advice perfect for sharing between c-suites of companies. Companies creating this type of content benefit from indirect promotion. The posts encourage engagement with readers who have used this skills, with users posting stories of their results and opening up a conversation.
There’s still the second half of Pareto’s Principle, the remaining 20 percent of posts. Use these posts to directly promote your product, coupon, sale, service, contest, or event. Think to other parts of your site to increase SEO. For example: You operate a company that sells phones for businesses. How can you be informative - information that is still sharable and inherently valuable - while offering solutions in the form of products you sell? Write a blog on what phones are best for different sizes of conference rooms, linking to the specific product pages.
Do the research
It’s time to sit down and write your blog post. Something that will engage readers, draw them in, foster discussion. How do you figure out what a topic that will do that? Research your current customers. Moz’ Rand Fishkin suggests using social media to research customer needs or profiles. By revealing customer patterns, you can get ideas on how to target current customers with posts. Are there specific trends they follow? Do the majority of your customers use a specific product or service, or are they more inclined to follow a particular media outlet? All of this information can be leveraged, increasing the chance they will read and share. When current customers share, their friends see the content, and then read and share in turn, creating a chain reaction and spreading your company’s name.
Media type matters
You’ve done the research, you know what content does well with your clients. Before you post, the next step is knowing the type of web content your audience wants. Is your idea best suited as a text blog? An infographic posted to Twitter? A long video on YouTube or a short video on Instagram? You may have discovered this already in researching from the previous tip. If not, do more research. You can also take a queue from competitors by reviewing what they post. Improve upon their content by being comprehensive and watch as readers switch to your content.
Let’s look at another well-known company. Red Bull drinkers love extreme sports. The company posted this video to Instagram, combining surfing, zip lining, and BASE jumping in an unique, daredevilish stunt. The key here is that it’s a video, not an image. Not being able to see the crazy stunt in all its glory would not capture the audience. Within a week, the video had nearly a million views and almost 6,000 comments - and the Red Bull logo is nowhere to be seen, so it didn’t feel like a promotion.
The final factor for maximizing engagement is the time of day the post goes live.Social media guru Neil Patel’s research indicates that posting content at specific times to specific platforms results in more shares and higher traffic. Fortune 500 companies posting Instagram videos local working hours averaged 22.5 per 1,000 followers interacting. Videos posted at the end of the work day raised that to 33.4 per 1,000.
Logically, people are more active on social media when they are at home rather than while at work. Using Patel’s research, use the fashion niche as an example for examining what to do. A clothing-related pin on Pinterest, pinned at 3 p.m. on a Friday, will see the most engagement for fashion pins. Why? People are planning what to wear to a Friday night date. It’s also often paycheck day, and they are already planning on spending money. However, it’s not just fashion - nearly all industries see more shares and comments on Facebook posts that go live near the end of the week.
Patel used his own research in an experiment, timing posts for optimal engagement and traffic. He enjoyed a 39 percent increase in web traffic due to his timing.
Using these tips, you’ll have a well-maintained blog that makes your website look active and draw in clients. You’ll earn followers, eager to read your next informative post - and tolerate a blatant ad here and there. Your blogs will foster discussion, with customers volunteering their own stories and advice. And, as a result of your efforts, your business will grow.
By Cole Mayer