Updated March 2020

Today, it’s possible to have an entire conversation in emojis and GIFs. There’s internet slang, abbreviations and acronyms specific to nearly every group. People carry conversations over numerous channels. All told, social communication is a very different landscape today than it was even last year. For businesses, this is a problem. It means needing to constantly reevaluate and reinvent social media content and campaigns.

If you own a small business, it’s likely you’ve used social media content to promote your brand or connect with customers. But ask yourself how well that communication went. Did your meme land with your audience? Did people share your content? Did your post generate web traffic and sales?

Social media analytics are some of the best around. The problem is, they rarely measure results. You can see how many clicks, comments and shares your social content got, but what does that tell you? Thousands of followers doesn’t mean much if they’re not interacting with your brand in a meaningful way.

This all circles back to social media content and the question of engagement. When you post something on social media, what do you want people to do with it?

Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to reaching your target audience in a meaningful way on social channels.

Provide value through social media content

Objective: increase brand reputation

Social media content flips the script on traditional marketing collateral. Old school marketing is all about the pitch: “here’s why you should buy.” Social media content is the opposite—a free giveaway of information, education or insight. Followers don’t have to do anything to get the reward.

Let’s say your business is an auto dealership. Your Facebook content might provide tips on conducting regular vehicle maintenance or deliver guidance on how to purchase a new or used car. This information doesn’t have any sales proposition attached to it. It merely showcases your business’ experience and authority. Whether you link to blog content you’ve written yourself or to a great article you find somewhere else online, you’ve provided beneficial information free of a sales pitch.

You may also offer your brand’s commentary on certain news or trends in your industry. If your company is an accounting firm, for example, you can provide readers with updates on changes in tax law and what they mean for clients. In doing so, you serve as a source for news and position yourself as a thought leader in your field.

Ultimately, your social media content increases your brand’s reputation and authority by providing value to followers at no cost to them.

Focus on interaction with followers

Objective: increase brand loyalty

One of your top goals for social media content should be to engage followers in a personal way. On the surface this registers as more likes, retweets, shares, and comments. But it goes beyond that. You need to give people a reason to interact with your content and find ways to interact back.

An effective way to do this is to ask questions in your status updates. If you’re a real estate agent, ask a question like:

“If you’re looking for a new home to buy, what are the most important elements to you?”

Asking questions encourages people to comment on your updates. More than that, it shows your willingness to pay attention and communicate beyond asking for something in return. Interaction humanizes your brand.

Many businesses use their social media content as a jumping off point for communication. They ask a question or post something engaging, then monitor the interactions to participate. For example, if a real estate agent asked the above question, they might also moderate responses too. Engaging on a direct level like this further instills the concept of open interaction.

It takes a lot of work to maintain positive interactions with social followers, but the result is well worth it. Interaction increases brand loyalty and gives followers a reason to pay attention to your business. Instead of shouting into the void, they’ll get a meaningful response.

Keep your content on-brand

Objective: increase brand strength

Too many companies flood their social channels with posts that don’t make sense or that deviate from their core value proposition. The intent is smart: capitalize on a trend or topical item. They post a funny meme or link a trending video, and they get a ton of likes and shares. Unfortunately, this is the epitome of brand dilution.

Deviating from your branding and core value proposition puts your business between a rock and a hard place on social media. You’re stuck between your business niche and the many content aggregators out there. Say, you’re a dentist putting out content about oral hygiene. Then, you start posting Star Wars memes because they’re getting traction. You’re simultaneously losing your credibility as a dentist and positioning yourself against a much broader audience that’s not relevant to you.

Keep your content on-brand and reputable. Use the right hashtags and emojis where appropriate. Meme when it applies to a relevant topic. Touch on topical information if there’s a real link to your brand.

It might feel rewarding to get a thousand likes on a useless viral picture, but you’re mortgaging your branding on cheap clicks when you should be building around original, engaging social media content.

Brands can still win on social

Social media is a sea of content—more than anyone could possibly digest. The good news is, someone, somewhere will see your social media content. Brands like to scattershot at the big audience hoping to hit big on a viral post. Instead, they need to create meaningful content for the few who will actually see it. That means content that provides value, promotes interaction and stays on-brand.

The way people communicate online is bound to keep evolving. What won’t change is what people want from that experience. They want to be heard and feel appreciated as a valuable participant, and they’ll reward businesses who give them this feeling through their social media content.