These days, brands typically turn to social networks to grow their audience base and capitalize on the millions (and in Facebook's case, billions of) active monthly users. With such a large prospect pool, there are thousands upon thousands of businesses also clamoring for these users' attention (and dollars). That said, it's not enough to just establish a social presence. In order to cut through the social fog and be found by users, brands must continually work to increase their visibility.
Here are seven ways to do just that.
Most businesses already have contacts with other enterprises, and when leveraged in the social realm, these relationships can be mutually beneficial. Whether it's combining forces to throw an event, run a contest or simply share each other's content, both brands will benefit from the extra exposure.
For companies with limited contacts, platforms such as Sideqik can assist with collaboration efforts and help businesses launch marketing initiatives together. This year, the Atlanta Film Festival worked with partners to increase its online buzz, according to Sideqik Co-Founder Kurt Uhlir.
"(The Atlanta Film Festival) works with 40-plus movies that are admitted to the festival every year, several theaters and brands," said Uhlir. "The Atlanta Film Festival worked with dozens of these partners to run cross-promotions using Sideqik for the 2013 festival, and they were able to drastically increase the number of people talking about their festival online, and ultimately, it led to more ticket/pass sales."
Just as partnering up with another business can help increase brand awareness, so can cross-promoting a company's social presence on other owned digital properties. For instance, if a business recently created a Pinterest handle, it should announce this to its Facebook fans and Twitter followers. Moreover, brands with buzz-worthy YouTube videos or jazzed-up Instagram photos should share that content with its other social networks, on its website and within email messages in order to reach a broader audience and attract new followers.
Visual content tends to resonate with social audiences better than text-based posts. In fact, a HubSpot study reveals that photos on Facebook Pages receive 53 percent more likes and 104 percent more comments than text posts, while a Simply Measured study found that videos are shared 12 times more than link and text posts, combined.
This means that in order to increase engagement, brands should incorporate as much visual content into their posting strategies as possible, which can include videos, images or infographics.
There is no better place to publicize an event or run a contest than on a social network. Every time a fan or follower enters the contest or talks about the event, they are automatically increasing a brand's visibility (whether they know it or not).
According to Brian Coughlin, SEO and social media expert for eyeglass retailer Optics Planet, the company has used contests to increase its fan count by more than 50 percent since the beginning of the year.
"Sweepstakes and giveaways are a great way to increase your fan base and really engage your loyal following," said Coughlin. "We've already run 14 contests in 2013, and we're trying to get one up nearly every week."
It is important to note that a successful contest simply needs to be engaging, and doesn't necessarily need to give away a big prize. For example, posting a "Caption the Photo" contest, usually gets people talking about a brand and engaging with the post - regardless if there is a prize or not.
Many platforms within the social-sphere (Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+ and Instagram) allow members to use hashtags to mark keywords or topics, and this feature makes it easy for social network members to discover posts related to a specific subject.
That said, brands should be careful not to overdo hashtags, because it can come across as inexperienced or even spammy. In fact, Twitter recommends using no more than two hashtags per post, as well as only using hashtags relevant to the topic within a tweet.
While some brands do a good job at creating unique hashtags to start their own trending topics, others leverage popular hashtags so that their content is more easily seen.
Perhaps the quickest way to increase brand awareness on social media platforms is by launching a social ad campaign. While not every social network offers advertising options (yet), Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn provide brands with a variety of ad formats and tools.
For example, Twitter offers a self-service advertising platform for small businesses, which allows them to launch promoted accounts and tweets, while only charging users when someone follows their promoted account or interacts with their promoted tweet. Conversely, Facebook provides a variety of ad formats including display ads, Sponsored Stories and Facebook Offers (visit wsm.co/FBADGUIDE for a comprehensive list), which can be used to help brands gain followers, obtain conversions and grow engagement. Additionally, Facebook advertisers can leverage the social network's robust targeting options to ensure that their ads reach the right audience.
Last, but certainly not least, since brands are directly responsible for guiding users to their social pages, they should include social sharing buttons on all of their digital content.
For example, ecommerce retailers will want to include a "pin-it" button for all of their products, so that their merchandise can easily be shared onto Pinterest. Furthermore, including social share buttons on blog posts and within emails will help increase the chance of content going viral, while including company follow, like and +1 buttons on a site's highest traffic pages helps in growing a fan/follower base, as well.
Once these strategies are implemented, brand managers should monitor analytics to find out what content type resonates the best with their audience. By doing this, brands can tailor future content to receive better engagement, which will ultimately attract new fans.