While traveling the state as co-host of the Discover Wisconsin TV show, Mariah Haberman never loses sight of her target, whether the show is about a cheesemaker or a champion fisherman on one of Wisconsin’s clearwater lakes. But the target Mariah is focused on isn’t the person in front of the camera; it’s the person in front of the TV and the computer.
You can have a great brand and put together a great show but, “it’s worthless unless you have an audience invested in what you do,” Mariah said Wednesday (October 15, 2014) during a presentation at Social Media Breakfast Madison. For that reason, understanding your audience and appealing to their interests and needs is the formula for a successful brand.
“A marketer’s biggest talent might be to step into the shoes of your target market,” she said, speaking from the stage at the historic Orpheum Theater in downtown Madison.
And there is no better way to make that connection with the audience – the target market – than through an extensive, carefully crafted social media plan that connects your audience with your product or service.
“It’s about connecting with our audience on a really emotional level,” said Mariah, who not only co-hosts Discover Wisconsin but also manages social media for Discover Wisconsin and Discover Mediaworks, an affiliated marketing communications firm.
Mariah offered this list of the 10 Best Ways to Boost Social Media Engagement:
1. BE A STUDENT. “I think some of my best inspirations have been from observing what other people are doing,” she said. “I will look at brands far removed from what we do to think outside the box and draw inspiration from a different kind of brand.” Also, she said, listen to conversations around you on Twitter and Facebook.
2. THINK LIKE THE TARGET. Listen to what people are saying about your brand, whether it is on social media or face-to-face in the field. “They are going to engage with you when they feel they are getting that one-on-one conversation on social media,” she said. Appeal to people’s emotions, she said, citing examples where she posted moving photos – such as a dramatic fall scene – and asking people how it makes them feel. “Emotion is a key driver, and this is something I think is lost on a lot of brands on social media. So I always ask what kind of emotion a post will generate.”
3. BE GREAT … CONSISTENTLY. To be great on social media, you must understand the difference between community and audience she said. “An audience is a group of people. You can buy an audience. But if they’re not listening to what you are saying and engaging with you, they are not a community. It takes work to build a community. It isn’t free and it isn’t easy … Quality content reigns supreme.”
4. VARY YOUR STYLE. Mariah mentioned several social media tactics that should be part of your mix:
- Gamification. These are conversation starters that tend to keep people on your site a little longer. For example, she asked her Facebook fans to “Name a Wisconsin community that doesn’t have an E in its name.” But don’t just ask the question and forget about it, she said. She monitors conversations and helps steer them in the right direction. When you post a conversation starter, she said, ask yourself, “Will this make someone stop on their news feed, and what kind of reaction will they have?” Another way to engage your audience through gamification is to offer prizes, and Discover Wisconsin has given away more than $100,00 in prizes through social media
- A look behind the scenes. Discover Wisconsin does a lot of behind the scenes images on Instagram.
- Power Photos. This is “the bread and butter” of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. “I spend as much time finding photos as creating copy,” said she because it is images that will draw the most attention on social media. Mariah said she has built online relationships with fans who take and share great photos of Wisconsin. “Crowdsourcing has been my best friend for finding photos. Now I get dozens of photos posted on our wall and emailed from fans hoping to get discovered on Discover Wisconsin.” On Instagram, she said, “We’ve built a nice community of people who love our state and promote it online.”
- Fill In the Blank. This works well for the Discover Wisconsin brand she said, citing an example: My Top 3 Favorite Places in Wisconsin are ….”
- Updating Albums. Every time a Facebook photo album is updated, it turns into a quality post, she said. Discover Wisconsin has several ongoing photo albums, including Behind the Scenes and Fan-Submitted Photos.
5. THINK IT THROUGH. Your copy reflects on your brand, and you don’t want grammar or factual mistakes. To whatever extent you can, get someone to review your copy before it is published, and consider creating a test page to see how things look sometimes before posting live.
6. BE RELEVANT. And be timely. “We’re always trying to be one step ahead, and it’s hard, it’s very hard,” she said. But it pays dividends. Mariah used the example of when she posted a “Go Pack Go” image just seconds after a big Packer victory and it got huge engagement. Mariah also said she subscribes to the 80-20 rule: 80% of posts should not directly promote your brand while 20% can be direct calls to action or sales.
7. TEASE THEM. Posts that keep people guessing a little can entice people to click through to your blog. As an example, Mariah cited the post: 7 of Wisconsin’s Most Romantic Towns. “We’re always trying to get people to move from Facebook to our blog and then back to social media,” a good idea she said because you have more control over your own blog and you want people visiting it frequently. Quoting John Battell, she added, “Do not build your brand house on land you don’t own.”
8. WRITE GREAT HEADLINES. Generally speaking, you want short, punchy headlines such as, Chasin’ Waterfalls: 6 of Wisconsin’s Best Falls.
9. USE EYE-CATCHING IMAGERY. “I never sacrifice our imagery on social media because I think it is everything,” Mariah said. The image is where the eye goes first, followed by the copy. “And if they like what they see, they will engage. We want things that will stop people in their news feed and make them stop scrolling.”
10. PLAY TO YOUR STRENGTHS. Mariah said she focuses on writing because she is a writer and uses other people’s photos for the most part. “I have access to photographers and videographers so I empower them,” she said.
She concluded with these key takeaways:
- The most important thing is to put that target market hat on and understand your audience.
- Don’t overstate the death of organic reach. While paid reach is a key part of an overall social media plan, you can still gain a lot of traction through organic reach and posting, as long as you …
- Always care about quality content!
Written by Bill Hurley, (@billhurleymedia / billhurleymedia.com / beachmaniac.com) Editor, writer, social media strategist, website developer, digital publisher. BillHurleyMail@gmail.com, Bill@smbmad.org.