This is a common problem I see businesses making all the time. They put time and energy into social media without really having a clear objective for why they are doing it.

They’ll say “we’re putting out one Instagram post a day”.

Great, I say. Why are you doing it?

“We are interacting with our community,” they’ll say.

That’s great, I say. Why?

And that’s where they usually stop and pause for a long time.

Listen – there’s nothing wrong with interacting with your community (or customers, whether or not your customers are truly a community is another question for another time). But what value is that providing your business?

This is where having a marketing strategy comes in handy. That’s where the thinking around this kind of thing is supposed to happen.

If you have customers, there are a few reasons why you might want to communicate with them on social media.

  1. It’s a handy way to keep them informed about new products, new deals, new classes, etc. That’s great. But let’s just clear that this activity is about driving new sales from existing customers. But it’s not really going to lead to new customers.
  2. If you have the kind of business where you don’t have repeat sales from customers, for example, you sell something that they are only going to buy once or once a year or even once every few years, then social media can still be a useful tool, but it takes on a different purpose. Now you want to use it as a mechanism for making it easy for your existing customers to tell their friends about your brand. You want them to share your posts, not just like your posts. By sharing your posts, they are giving your brand credibility with their personal network. However, getting customers to share your posts, or tag their friends on your posts, can be difficult. Why would they bother to take the time to do such a thing? Obviously they aren’t going to share every brand post they see each day. So why would they share yours?

The psychology behind why people share a brand post is interesting to pick apart. Studies show that people usually share posts for one major reason – the content of the post reflects who they are, their values, their self-perception. If it’s a funny post, they share it because they want people to think they are funny. If the post is about a product, they share it in order to say “I’m the kind of person who uses this product”. If the post has a particular political or inspirational message, they share it to say “I agree with this, that’s the kind of person I am”. Think about it – are you likely to share a post that talks about a product or political opinion that you don’t like? Only if you’re critiquing it, which is, again, about posturing. And I don’t meant that in a negative way. That’s what people do. We are social beings. We are constantly tweaking our social identity – this is who I am, this is what I believe in.

So to make sure your customers are sharing your posts, you need to write them in a way that captures how your customer wants to be perceived by their network of friends and family and colleagues. But how well do you understand how they want to be perceived? What are their self-perception goals? What motivates them?

When we sit down to write a social media marketing strategy, these are some of the questions we consider. We often find that our clients really haven’t thought about these things before in much detail. But we all need to start somewhere.

Cameron Reilly of Motherlode (Marketing Consultants Brisbane).