If you know anything about modern day marketing, then you know social media is critical. This is the first time in history that people have been instantly connected all over the world, able to communicate in a moment over different mediums.

If you have an audience, social media can be a career. Influencers create more impressions than media outlets and get better response rates on branded programming. Eighty-four percent of millennials have bought something directly from a social influencer. People trust influencer endorsements more than they trust celebrity endorsements.

Of course, social media has had major implications for business. Most businesses either have social media accounts they manage or manage social media accounts for other businesses. There have been entire careers and fields created thanks to the rise of social media, and there will be many more as social media continues to grow and evolve.

Even if you have a social media account specifically for marketing, you may not be getting the most out of it. Sure, sharing blog posts, posting pictures and providing updates are important, but the best social media accounts go beyond that. Your social media pages need to be more than just advertisements. The point of the entire page is to be social, and if you aren’t engaging properly with your audience, then you could be missing out on potential sales and clients.

The importance of social media.

“If you’re a job-seeker, social media is your resume,” said Jeff Barrett, the Shorty award winner whose agency manages social media for Cision and HootSuite. “A piece of paper can only tell a hiring manager what you think you can do,” he added. “Your social media, especially in certain industries, can show them. Show always wins over tell.”

It’s important to realize that social media is an extension of you and your business. Too many social media accounts are uninvolving and sterile. As an example, think about a business you know that has a Facebook page. This could be a business you enjoy, a friend’s business or even your own. Look at your posts, the total number of likes and the comments below each post. The comments are especially important since it represents someone wanting to engage with your business. But is your business responding?

Pages and accounts that don’t take the time to respond to visitors are losing potential clients and not getting the most out of their social media presence. The more your business engages with people, the more likely you are to build emotional connections with them. When someone leaves a comment on social media, they are often looking to create a conversation, receive an answer to a question or get some other type of validation.

You should also be sure that your business is on the right form of social media. Facebook is always a great platform, but not everybody spends their time browsing through their news feed. If your target audience is younger, like the millennial market, you’ll need to spend more time posting on Instagram and Twitter. If you’re trying to market to professionals, you should be spending more time on LinkedIn.

Building a brand.

One of the biggest reasons a business might use social media is to make impressions through ads. This generates buzz for a business, and it gives people a chance to click through and learn more about your company. While many people use social media to reach out to a specific audience, they don’t fully understand that they’re branding themselves with every post they make.

If your business has a certain type of culture or theme, social media is one of the best places to show that. People who click to your page will get to see photos, read your bio and engage with everything you’ve posted. After seeing this, they’ll generate an opinion of your business and assume that you have a certain type of company culture. But if they go to your business in person and notice that the culture is completely different, they might not be happy with their decision.

Make sure that everything you do on social media is in line with your company’s values and mission. If your business is trying to be fun and engaging, posting boring content isn’t going to get anyone’s attention. Likewise, you need to be careful about the “tone” you use when engaging in conversations on social media. Responding in a fun and engaging way will further your image, and it takes just seconds to accomplish. After you post a comment, everyone who engages with the post will be able to see the organic interaction, and that will end up being free advertising.

When in doubt, think of your social media page like your webpage. What kind of copy is on your webpage? What kind of message are you trying to convey? People want to see uniformity, so you should make sure your description, tagline and all posts are in the same tone and voice as your website.

Engaging your audience.

Social media is an excellent place to find information and promote your business, but at the end of the day, everyone is on it for the same reason — to be social. You and your business have a chance to engage with real people, and if they are interacting with your post, they are looking for a response.

“Be intentional about your social media,” said Barrett. “Start by creating value. Identify people who can help you in your career and find a way to help them first.” He added: “Most people who became influential through social media did it by accident, but you don’t have to stumble into it. It’s strange and feels a lot like an episode of Black Mirror, but it is a new reality that you should embrace rather than fear.”

If you don’t have time to respond to every comment, message, Tweet or response, then make sure that your content says everything that you would want to say.

It’s time for people to stop treating social media pages like an advertisement. The best businesses are engaging with real people, and they’re building legitimate interest in their business. People want to know that you’re listening, so letting them know you’ve read their message is a great and easy way to build customer retention.

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