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The internet has changed business almost beyond recognition. Gone are the days when business cards, a listing in the yellow pages and well-considered display advertising were needed to establish a presence with potential customers. In the 21st century, digital marketing has replaced many traditional marketing activities. Social media networks are among the most effective channels for establishing an online presence.
The importance of social media for your company’s online presence
Since the advent of the world wide web in the 1990s, having an online presence has become all but a requirement for successful businesses. Customers look for products and services online, and many have become accustomed to online shopping. Granted, there may be some local businesses that manage to attract customers by word-of-mouth only, but most companies rely on online connections.
For the first decade and a half of the internet’s existence for the public, building an online presence relied on creating a company website and perhaps using email marketing. Since then, digital marketing has grown and diversified, with social media networks becoming one of the most important marketing tools. Being visible on social media allows brands to connect directly to consumers and establish trust between a business and its potential customers.
In addition, leading social media networks offer marketing tools explicitly designed to help brands connect to their audiences. By 2021, more than 90% of U.S. businesses with more than 100 employees were using these tools for social media marketing. However, your brand can be small to benefit from an online presence. Most social media marketing tools will scale up or down to accommodate companies of all sizes.
Building a successful online presence
Building a successful, effective online presence on social media requires a strategic approach [perhaps link to the previous article here]. Before going into detail, it is worth defining what we mean by social media presence. The term refers to a brand’s social media visibility and its audience connections.
Three main pillars to help establish this presence are branding, public relations (PR) and digital marketing. For all three, a strategic, well-planned approach delivers the best results. Simply adding a post now and then is not enough to establish a recognizable presence or build lasting connections with your target audiences.
1. Branding for social media presence
By the time they start building their online presence, most businesses have created a brand identity and developed a strategy for branding. If that is the case for your business, your brand must remain recognizable on social media.
The company’s brand voice and aesthetic should be easily identifiable across all digital and analog marketing channels. In practice, that means a social media user scrolling through their feed should be able to recognize your posts without seeing your brand logo or your account handle.
Aligning brand messages between all channels helps reinforce and strengthen them. Alignment also helps build trust and credibility with potential consumers. On the other hand, if your brand voice, messages and visual presentation differ between outlets, the differences will create confusion. They dilute the brand’s messaging and damage the credibility you are trying to build online.
2. Public relations (PR)
Strategic PR is another channel brands can use to engage their audiences. Public relations has traditionally relied on media outlets to disseminate brand messages.
However, by using social media, brands can reach audiences — including journalists — directly and start a conversation. If the conversation is relevant to other audiences, social media platforms make sharing content easy and increase its reach. As a result, new audiences become aware of the brand, leading to a greater social media presence.
Another way of leveraging PR to increase a brand’s online presence is by contributing to other media outlets as an expert guest or regular contributor and linking to your brand’s social media channels.
3. Using digital marketing to increase your social media presence
Brands with a successful social network presence utilize all their digital marketing channels to build that presence. These synergies between marketing activities do not happen automatically. They must be written into your digital marketing and social media marketing strategy.
In practice, your marketing and brand team must actively pursue opportunities to highlight your social media presence and drive engagement. Here is an example: if your brand has been using email marketing successfully to connect to consumers, encourage readers to connect to you on social media. They benefit by establishing a more immediate and direct connection if they need support — your brand benefits by being able to connect more frequently.
Other digital marketing channels like blogs can elaborate on a topic introduced on social media and encourage readers to join your brand’s community on a specific channel. The key to using other digital marketing channels to support your social network presence is to create connections between your brand’s channels.
Building a successful online presence through social media networks requires a consistent and strategic approach. Utilizing existing digital marketing channels and ensuring close alignment with the company’s overall branding supports a growing social media presence. In addition, strategic PR activities can also increase a brand’s social media presence across all its channels. Delivering consistent, relevant content that aligns with overall brand objectives is the key to growing and maintaining an engaged social network audience.