While traditional channels such as print, television and radio will always be an important part of any communications strategy, in recent years social has proven itself to be a worthy addition to these long-standing media distribution titans.
In fact, eMarketer estimated that around 25 per cent of all people on the planet used some form of social network in 2013. What's more, this trend only looks set to gain further momentum in years ahead, with the digital research firm forecasting that the number of social media users will hit 2.55 billion in 2017, up from 1.73 billion in 2013.
Given the continual growth of the global digital audience, it might seem as though attracting more people to follow and engage with your brand should be a simple matter. While social media analysis services may enable communications professionals to bolster their online presence, research suggests that few organisations are leveraging these tools effectively.
How are consumers interacting with brands in the digital space?
There are plenty of fish in the sea, but are they biting? More importantly, are you managing to reel them in? This remains something of a challenge for many communications professionals, if the figures are anything to go by.
On Facebook and Twitter, engagement rates are as low as 0.1 per cent.
For example, Forrester carried out a study encompassing more than 2,500 brand posts spread across seven social platforms and found that on six of the networks (including Facebook and Twitter), engagement rates were lower than 0.1 per cent. Interestingly, Instagram stood head and shoulders above the rest, with around 4.2 per cent of an organisation's followers engaging with the brand's content.
Engagement levels might be looking a little sad, but thankfully audience sizes look brighter. On Twitter, for example, Adweek reported that the average business has an impressive 14,709 followers. However, with some 316 million users actively using the social service on a monthly basis, it's clear that there's still room for improvement.
Increasing your number of followers in the social realm can do wonders for your brand's reputation and ultimately raise your organisation's bottom line. But with so many consumers occupying these digital platforms, why is your audience not growing?
1. You don't set goals and objectives
Setting business goals is vital - and this extends to your social media strategies, too.
It goes without saying that one of the cornerstones of a successful business is setting achievable targets, whether they're centred on financial, social or informational outcomes. However, many organisations fail to extend this notion to their digital communications campaigns.
With this in mind, develop some clearly defined and measurable goals through which you can judge your strategy's success. Objectives will vary between organisations, but might include audience growth, lead generation, user engagement or a range of other metrics.
2. Your content is boring
Is your content putting people to sleep? If so, it's time to get creative.
When it comes to social media, content is king, so you need to ensure that the material you're publishing is high quality, engaging and, above all, valuable to your target market.
Entrepreneur.com noted that creating boring and repetitive content is a surefire way to alienate consumers and discourage prospects from following your organisation. Get creative, think outside the box, and consider the type of media that you as a consumer would like to see from your favourite brand.
3. You don't measure results
Media monitoring services can reveal the most efficient way to maximise your efforts.
Forbes contributor Ashley Feinstein explained that one of the best ways of achieving your goals is making sure that you have a way to measure results, as this will help you identify where you should be focussing your efforts to maximise your return.
This is particularly true in the social space. After all, without the right media intelligence tools in place, how will you know which elements of your strategy are working and which ones need to be redesigned or even abandoned altogether?
4. You don't incentivise your current audience
Offering consumers a free product or service may encourage greater engagement.
It can be a hard pill to swallow, but realistically, there's no real reason for your followers to help your organisation grow unless there's some tangible benefit for them. This is somewhat difficult to achieve in the virtual space, but you can encourage them to share or engage with your brand by offering an incentive.
This doesn't have to be an expensive gesture, but it should make their effort worthwhile. Offering a free service trial as a reward for sharing a post or retweeting, for example, is an easy and effective way to quickly expose your brand to a larger audience.
5. You hide behind your brand
Consumers want to connect with the human behind your brand - not a robot.
Despite the complex technology involved, most people use social media platforms to connect with others, develop meaningful relationships and ultimately engage with their peers. However, as Forbes contributor John Rampton surmised, many organisations are guilty of hiding behind the professional image of their brands, distancing themselves from their audiences.
Remember, followers use social networks for the human element. Engage in conversations with your followers and let them see that there is in fact a real person behind the screen.
6. You're not aware of trends
Make use of media intelligence services to identify what's trending in the social space.
In the transient digital age, timing is everything, and communications professionals that are slow to react to trending topics will be left behind. Keeping an eye on hashtags is one way to get an idea of what your target market is talking about, but for an even greater understanding of your audience, you should consider investing in media intelligence services.
Capable of providing you with comprehensive insights, these tools can help you identify the types of content your key influencers are most interested in, enabling you to adapt your strategy accordingly.
7. You don't cross promote
Cross-promoting can help you unlock more followers and higher engagement levels.
As noted, social networks are not so much marketing tools as ways for brands to engage in authentic conversations with their end users. In saying this, Inc.com suggested that cross-promoting does have its place.
When used sparingly, promoting your organisation's other social media accounts can help drive users into adjacent digital spaces in which you may have additional influence. In addition, sharing the content, products or services of other organisations within your industry may help both parties to increase followers and drive higher levels of engagement.
8. You don't post frequently enough
A high volume of content ensures that your brand is always in the limelight.
Quality is a must when it comes to creating content, but Social Media Examiner explained that quality is almost equally as important. Why? Well, given the fast paced nature of social channels and the internet as a whole, new material is rarely in the spotlight for very long. Publishing content on a regular basis not only ensures that your brand is exposed to a large viewership, but also that your organisation remains in the forefront of your consumers' minds.