According to Statista, there are almost 2.4 billion users on social media across the globe and the number is expected to reach 3 billion by 2021. With an average person using 7 social media accounts, it comes as no surprise that marketers and business owners everywhere are flocking to these platforms to create brand awareness, interact with the existing audience and attract new customers, amongst other things.

As an effective medium for capturing and nurturing highly-relevant leads, social media should most definitely be part of your overall marketing strategy. Let’s quickly go over the basic do’s and don’ts of using social media platforms for generating and retaining customers:

Always respond to social inquiries:
A lot of times people have questions or feedback related to the products you offer, a clearance sale you’re running or simply a technical issue they are facing. According to a recent research conducted by Sprout Social, 90% of individuals reach out to brands on social media for customer support, in the absence of which, 36% prefer to engage in a public call-out or switch to a competitor. If you have an active social media presence, maintaining constant communication with your target audience is important for generating leads, encouraging conversions and ultimately, building brand loyalty.

When you provide a personalized customer experience on your social media channels, 70% of people are more likely to use your service or product, 25% are less likely to take their business elsewhere, 25% will refrain from posting negative reviews about your brand, 75% are going to share their good experience with their peers, 43% will make a purchase and 65% will remain loyal to your brand. Make sure you closely monitor all your social media channels so that you’re able to respond to your leads right away.

Don’t: In the last year alone, there has been an 18% increase in the social messages that most brands receive, however, only 89% of them actually get a response. Not only this, customers prefer to wait for not more than 4 hours to hear back from a brand, even though, the average response time is actually 10 hours. Avoid keeping your customers waiting, especially when they are looking for an immediate solution to the problem they encountered while using your product or service. 

Build relationships with industry-specific social media influencers:

More often than not, branded content comes across as heavily biased, so customers with purchasing intent flock online to discover recommendations and reviews about the products they’re interested in. In fact, 92% admitted that they trust product suggestions when they come from people they haven’t even met, instead of brands themselves. Since social media influencers leverage affiliate marketing to make money, you can launch an outreach program to facilitate a mutually beneficial partnership with them. For example, Daniel Wellington, the Swedish watch company, sends a free watch to an influencer with a large social media following, along with an exclusive coupon code that their followers can use while making a purchase.

You can also encourage the influencer to run a giveaway for their followers, where you send an exclusive gift to the winners. For example, the brand Passion Planner, partnered up with social media influencer CelineReads, a self-professed bibliophile blogger, for a giveaway that requires people to follow them both and tag three other friends on their post for a chance to win a limited edition backpack with other goodies. This achieves two things: Both the brand and the influencer experience a surge in followers and leverage each others’ followers to create brand/influencer awareness.

Don’t: When choosing an influencer to partner with, avoid getting swayed by the follow-count. Having more followers doesn’t necessarily translate to better conversions. Moreover, people don’t usually respond well to promotions or advertisements that are not relevant to them. Try going for individuals who can embody your brand’s message and pass it on to their followers. For example, if you’re a cosmetics company, reaching out to makeup artists makes more sense, as their followers are mainly people interested in beauty trends.

Invest in paid marketing:

In the last two years, the number of marketers who’ve leveraged promoted posts on Facebook to generate leads has increased by 80%. Most social media platforms offer affordable paid marketing plans (Facebook starts at $10/day), incredible targeting capabilities across thousands of data points and a solid ROI. With a paid advertising campaign, you can target people based on their gender, age, location, interests, and other parameters relevant to your brand. For example, if you’re a nail salon owner in NY, you can target women between the ages of 20 to 40 who live in and around NY with an interest in nail art.

Jon Loomer, a Facebook marketing expert, used paid advertising to target people who didn’t see his posts on the Facebook page (70,000 likes). With only $10/day and 10-15 cents/click, he was able to drive almost 251,000 monthly visitors from the social media platform to his website. Obviously, things might not work the same way for you, so, if you’re running an ad campaign that isn’t delivering the expected ROI, stop, optimize and try again with different parameters. Jon usually put an end to a campaign when it started costing him more than 20 cents/click.

Don’t: A common mistake that first-time paid marketing users make is not investing in the right kind of content or distributing their budget equally.  According to paid marketing expert Larry Kim, you should ‘only promote your unicorns‘ which means that after you make organic posts on your social media, analyze their performance and promote the ‘winner’. Using this approach, you will be able to assess the posts that resonate more with your target audience, so you can put your money in content that guarantees more ROI.

Monitor for branded keywords that indicate sales readiness:
Remember, most of your potential customers use social media for research when they’re thinking about making a purchase. The probability of converting individuals who are already ‘sales ready’ is higher than an average person, therefore, ‘strike the iron while it’s hot’. Third-party tools like Hubspot and Mention alert you when someone posts about a keyword relevant to your business, so you can respond to them with a short pitch.

For example, if you own a cafe in New Jersey (NJ), you can set an alert for everytime someone in NJ tweets with the phrase ‘looking for’ and ‘coffee’. So, imagine a customer tweets, ‘In NJ for the weekend. Now, looking for only the best coffee the city has to offer. #vacation’. You’d be notified immediately, and you can respond with, ‘Hey, welcome to the city. Drop by at XYZ for your caffeine fix!’

Don’t: While branded keywords are a great way to discover new customers waiting to be introduced to a product or service like yours, no one likes being constantly spammed. At any given time, set alerts only for 3-4 keywords that are most relevant to your business. Even if you’re alerted, make sure that your response actually will add something to the conversation before hitting ‘send’.

Run retargeting campaigns:
How many times do you have potential customers on your website who browse through your homepage, product list or pricing plans, but leave without taking a desired conversion action? Retargeting allows you to market to people who have already interacted with your brand, either by following you on social media, signing up for your email list or visiting one of your landing pages. On an average, businesses that employ retargeting campaigns see a 10x increase in their click-through rates (CTR), since you’re not selling to a stranger anymore, but to someone who can relate to your content.

Facebook and Twitter, for example, allows you to target people already familiar with your brand in three ways:

  • Customer list, also known as list-based retargeting lets you create a ‘custom audience’ by uploading your CRM database that contains customer’s contact details, including email addresses or phone numbers. Your display ads are then delivered only to the people on the ‘custom audience’ list, if they’re on Facebook.
  • Website Traffic: The Facebook or Twitter ‘Pixel’ monitors customer behaviour on a website and allows you to create retargeting ad campaigns for the specific things they’ve demonstrated an interest in. For example, you can target people who’ve spent more than 30 seconds on your website with a ‘sign up’ ad or reach out to people who visited the product page by showing them an ad about ongoing discounts.
  • App engagement: Similar to the pixel, Facebook and Twitter offer an SDK Setup for businesses looking to bring people back to their mobile app. For example, you can run a retargeting ad campaign for users who downloaded your app but haven’t been online in 30 days. With the Facebook SDK (available for both Android and iOS), you can get an insight into how people interact with your app and measure the performance of your mobile app ads. 

Don’t: Managing the frequency of retargeted ads is extremely important, as they’re more likely to be hidden or reported as spam, if they show up constantly in the same user’s newsfeed. Segmentation of your custom and lookalike audience is critical to how people engage with your ads. For example, if you’re showing a retargeting ad about fitness equipment to someone interested in cooking, you are less likely to see any traction.

Using social media for creating brand awareness and generating leads can only be effective if you’re spending a considerable amount of time and resources to analyze the performance of all your strategies. While the aforementioned techniques work most of the time for both short-term and long-term results, it’s your responsibility as a marketer or brand owner to determine what works for your audience and business.