5 Expert Tips from Influential Executives to Improve Your Social Media Approach

Social media has quickly become a go-to resource for marketing and sales. It’s an obvious choice, considering there are 2.8 billion social media users globally. But just because social media is widely used doesn’t mean it’s well understood.

Consider this tale of two companies. When taxi drivers went on strike to protest the immigration ban earlier this year, Uber and Lyft took to social media — each with a very different outcome. Uber’s promotional tweet, which offered discounts to stranded riders, came across as undermining the drivers’ efforts. Lyft, on the other hand, used social media to show support and to publicly donate $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union. Users rallied around Lyft while condemning Uber with the hashtag #DeleteUber.

Social media is a powerful tool, but it comes with some risk. Even a small misstep can cause a major headache. Fortunately, a little know-how can help you get it right.

Getting the most out of social media

Social media is worth the investment. According to Ambassador Software, a relationship marketing software company, a positive social media experience will convince 71 percent of consumers to recommend a brand to friends. It can yield great results in providing customer service and connection.

The caveat is that anyone can weigh in, so most of the conversation about your company happens outside your branded channels. In fact, Brandwatch found that 96 percent of people discussing brands online were not the brands’ own followers.

Furthermore, that flood of content on social media makes it hard to break through the clutter. A study conducted by Havas Media demonstrated that ads generally elicit no response; only 20 percent of Facebook posts prompt an emotional reaction. Despite these challenges, social media is a highly influential platform that can be used to great effect.

Just take it from the experts who have employed the following strategies for successful social media marketing:

1. Target smaller-scale influencers.

Influencers drive conversations with fans about your brand and will also help you tap into new audiences. While it may seem sensible to attract big names, you’ll actually get better payoff from smaller-scale influencers starting out.

As Laurie Cutts, VP of marketing at Acceleration Partners, points out, microinfluencers — or influencers with tens of thousands of followers, not millions — have better connections with their fans. “Many of these smaller influencers are beloved among their niche audiences, which means they can deliver superior engagement and more meaningful conversations about a brand for a lower cost,” she says.

She cites a Markerly study explaining that while megainflucers may reach millions of people with a post, those followers are less likely to engage. For influencer marketing that makes an impact on social media, think smaller.

2. Diversify and test your approach on each platform.

A unique benefit of social media as a marketing tool is that it lends itself to easy, cost-effective testing. You can try different strategies from one site to the next.

“To discover an approach that works for you, implement tests across multiple channels with varying messages,” suggests Jon Brody, co-founder and CEO of Ladder. Trials will demonstrate what works well on Instagram but not on Facebook, for example, and they can help you determine which platforms work best for any given approach. “Try personal and creative messaging.”

3. Narrow your focus.

Companies develop highly specific brands and marketing efforts to target the right consumer. Social media strategy should be no different, so stay true to one brand identity across your social channels.

Susan Gunelius, CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., explains, “It’s better to specialize than to be a jack-of-all-trades. A highly focused social media and content marketing strategy intended to build a strong brand has a better chance for success than a broad strategy that attempts to be all things to all people.”

4. Look beyond Millennials.

Millennials ushered in widespread social media use, but they shouldn’t be the only target for social media marketing. Generation Z is becoming increasingly important, according to Deep Patel, founder of Owlmetrics, an Instagram analytics tool.

“A recent study conducted by Goldman Sachs concluded that Generation Z was more valuable to most organizations than Millennials,” he says. “Today, the oldest Gen Zers are 22 years old. They are just beginning to enter the labor force and will have increased buying power for some time.”

Tap into Gen Z by meeting them on the platforms they love, like Snapchat and Instagram. Investing in future consumers ensures your social media’s longevity.

5. Be quick to respond to negativity.

When customers reach out on social media — even if it’s for a negative reason — make sure they have a positive interaction. “Responding adeptly to negative postings can also turn lemons into lemonade,” says Chris Silver Smith, president of Argent Media. “The corporate world frequently forgets that it’s actually OK to be human and to communicate in a humane way with people — and doing so will win over people more than cold, sterile communications.”

Develop a plan to deliver great customer service on social media by outlining how you will respond to and rectify customer problems. Execute that strategy consistently, and you’ll build a positive reputation.

Today, social media is an essential part of any company’s marketing strategy. It’s easy to use, but it’s also too easy to get wrong. Companies need to avoid getting lost in a crowded digital landscape or attracting negative attention. Craft your approach carefully and get the right people talking to ensure your social strategy has a great return.

Chirag Kulkarni is the Chief Marketing Officer of Medly, a digital pharmacy. Forbes ranked him one of the top 25 marketers and he’s helped brands like Expedia increase their revenue on the web.