With Social Media becoming increasingly important for the success of your brand, it is important to also understand how to successfully utilize these amazing tools. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the other social media channels are all incredible ways for communicating and marketing, when used effectively.

While it is not simply enough to have a presence on social media, it also involves a lot more than building an audience and receiving likes, it’s about building engagement, communication and building a relevant relationship! As you build up a loyal fanbase and community across these different networks, your followers can become your biggest advocates, offering you free advertisement in the process, but you need to understand why they would do this in order to make this happen.

Focus Less on Vanity Metrics

Firstly, it is essential that your brand and marketing team do not get completely caught up in vanity metrics. While it is undeniable that generally the bigger your following on social media networks, the better, this doesn’t always translate into success through more sales. For example a brand may pay for a campaign on Facebook to increase the number of followers of their company Facebook page.

When starting this kind of campaign on Facebook, you will undoubtedly see the number of page likes increase dramatically. Your audience will have increased from hundreds, to thousands and so on, but this doesn’t necessarily mean this audience cares about your brand or is listening. Ultimately more followers doesn’t necessarily mean more sales.

What brands need to understand is that while growing a following and audience is an important aspect of effective social media marketing, it is by no means the most important aspect. So how do we measure social media success?

Likes are a start but often the end of the engagement

Another rather misleading feature on social media is the ‘Like’ button. You will find this on almost all of the social media networks and of course it is nice to receive likes, but it often doesn’t translate into your followers clicking on your links or checking out your product. It is a form of engagement, because an individual has taken the time to click the like button, meaning it must have had some kind of emotional effect on them.

On Facebook this also goes a little further as the Like button has recently been altered to add the option of different emotions such as Love or Surprise. With these emotions it allows you to gauge what kind of emotional affect your posts are having on your audience. Even a simple Like on Twitter, Instagram or YouTube can also indicate to your team that on some level your audience is indeed enjoying the content you produce. It is still a limited indicator though, as the time it takes to click this button is less than a second and often this is where the engagement with that post, and therefore your product ends.

Real Engagement is Key

Creating a following on social media is a start for your brand and gaining Likes is definitely one form of positive engagement. An effective part of growing your following on social media though comes from producing great content that people want to engage with. This can be photos, videos, live video, blog posts, competitions or a host of options that will lead to people wanting to follow your brand on social media and sharing your posts with others, which will then lead to more followers.

Social Media is meant to be social

What many brands still struggle with, is the social part of social media with many preoccupied with trying to constantly promote and broadcast their product in a boring, cynical way to their followers. People are sick and tired of traditional advertising which is clear to see by the growing numbers of people using ad blockers when they use the internet. Another example is the huge, growing popularity of Netflix which is set to reach 100 million users as this article is being written. Netflix doesn’t show adverts during its programmes, unlike traditional television and has a massive following on social media through which it engages with its fans.

People don’t want to feel like they are being sold to by a faceless corporation which just wants their money, but instead want to have a conversation with real people. This is why it is essential that brands create engaging content that lead to a positive emotion and creates a conversation with their followers. Rather than just clicking like which takes less than a second, real and meaningful engagement on your social media channels involves comments, shares and link clicks.

Why Comments, Shares and Link clicks Count

If one of your followers has taken the time to comment on one of your posts (ideally in a positive way), then it has had an emotional impact on them and you are on the way to creating a closer relationship. This is also very important in increasing the reach and popularity of your posts as the new algorithms on Instagram, YouTube and other channels means that the more comments a post receives, the higher up it will appear in your follower’s timelines. Social channels are favouring posts, images and videos that receive engagement and promoting these to other users, because a higher engagement suggests this will be relevant to more people.

It is also very important to then engage with the comments that you receive on your brand’s social media channels in order to create conversation. This will help your brand stick in the mind of your followers more and will help reinforce that there are real people running these social media accounts. As mentioned before, people like to converse with real people and not faceless corporations and if you thank your followers for positive comments you receive they will be more likely to do this in the future. If their comments are met with silence then they won’t bother in the future. This is also true for direct messages that your brand receives on their social media channels which should always be followed up (apart from spam) as this can potentially turn a follower into a customer.

A share is another excellent form of engagement, probably even more so than a like or comment, because it indicates that not only has the user enjoyed your content but also feels others will too. Of course this is great news for your marketing team as it suggests the content they are creating is working and is something people are enjoying. In addition to this, unlike a simple like, when someone shares your content across other social media channels this creates a greater reach. More people will see the post and potentially follow your brand on social media and check out your product. If you create a really engaging piece of content this has the potential to go viral and become shared by hundreds, thousands or even millions of users across social media. This is massive free advertising for your brand from the original post.

The ultimate aim for brands using social media is to create a positive image, greater brand awareness and to create more sales. One of the key metrics of engagement on social media is link clicks i.e. when one of your followers clicks on your website directly from a social media post. Companies using social media leading to clients directly buying products is an increasingly effective strategy. This has to be done in a subtle way with a relationship built up with your followers first and no pushy sales tactics. You have to give your followers a reason to want to click on a link to your webpage to buy your product through engaging content. For a hotel or resort an effective social media post of a beautiful photo or video can lead to directly to client’s clicking on your webpage and making a booking. This is why real engagement is key!

Creating Real Engagement:

With real engagement being key, how should your marketing team create this? Your team needs a strategy and to understand what kind of content your audience will relate to. The content needs to create an emotion in viewers and create some kind of value in their lives. The more value, the more connection you will create with your followers. This will lead to not only Likes but also comments, shares, and link clicks.

Your brand should try to create a conversation through adding interesting questions to your posts, adding polls (this option is available on Twitter) and providing interesting content that people will want to comment on and discuss.

Other great options include actually asking your followers to comment and share within the social media post, or creating competitions that incentivise following and sharing. There are a  whole host of other ways to create engaging posts that your brand should explore in order to become more effective on social media and gain more than just likes.

It would be great to hear your thoughts on this topic and hear how you have created real engagement for your brand using social media. Use the hashtag #RDOdigital to get involved with the conversation online and please share this article if you enjoyed it.