How to understand your platforms and audience for social media marketing.
For your average online educator, the biggest challenge to launching their course is finding an audience of learners to sign up. While many educators have some kind of network they can use to attract new learners, that network will only go so far. At a certain point, for your course to succeed, you need complete strangers to discover and sign up.
Of course, optimizing your posts for SEO will help learners stumble upon your content. You may also get referrals through word of mouth. But social media is an excellent way to attract an audience, and to keep those who follow you reminded of everything you offer. If you haven’t started yet, here are seven tips to help you succeed.
1. Choose your platforms wisely.
The biggest mistake educators make when they first start off online is to publish to every platform. You don’t need to do this. It’s better to be really good at one or two platforms that you enjoy than to spend lots of time trying to learn how to use a platform that doesn’t reach your audience.
That said, there are advantages to having accounts on the major platforms, even if they aren’t your primary concern. First, you want to get your brand’s handle while it’s still available. And, if someone else has it, you want to find out early so that people aren’t confused if they try to find you there and can’t. Second, social media platforms are an advertising tool as much as a marketing one, and having an account open gives you a way to put money beyond your message, should you choose.
2. Research your audience.
In order to choose the right platform, you need to know who you’re trying to reach, and where they tend to appear. You can spend a lot of time trying to attract people who simply aren’t interested, and that’s a waste of your energy and resources.
When you research your audience, begin by searching for terms you might imagine them looking for as well. See what results come up, and read what other voices in your niche are talking about. Search sites like Quora or Reddit to see what questions are being asked—but don’t try to market there. If there are industry publications speaking to your ideal learner, get to know those as well.
Next, find your competitors on social and see what they’re posting. How are people engaging with their content? How long are the posts? What hashtags are they using? Take notes and use these for your own marketing.
3. Think about what types of content work best for each platform.
Instagram is for visual content. Facebook is a better format for lengthy posts. LinkedIn is a place for networking and thought leadership. Twitter is for short, high-volume content.
Each platform will have a style of content that works best, and while some posts will work well across platforms, the specialization of each offers an opportunity to be more creative. Vary up your content, if only to reformat it in a style that will look better on whatever platform you’re creating posts for.
4. Take the time to respond to comments.
Engagement is easily the hardest thing to keep up on with social media. Plenty of people will be supportive, but there are always those who will leverage social to voice complaints, or to try to leave links back to other websites, or who are simply asking incoherent questions.
You should make an effort to respond to comments in a timely manner. If someone’s said something supportive or asked a smart question, say thank you! Give them a good answer! If someone is being critical but polite, use that as an opportunity to show how well you respond to customer complaints. If someone leaves a comment that is irrelevant, or if they are being unreasonable and disruptive, try your best to respond, but you can also consider hiding those comments.
Your primary goal with social media is to create a relationship with potential learners. You want them to be interested in your content, but you also want them to feel like there’s a person on the other side of the channel who will respond to them if they leave a comment—even if it’s only to give them a like. Social media is your first line of PR. Use it well.
5. Don’t worry about finding the perfect time to post.
One question that comes up all the time has to do with finding just the right time to post content. This used to be a big deal, where people would spend lots of time trying to strategize when their audience might be online. However, time has shown that there really isn’t much of a best time. If you post in the most popular hours, your content might be lost in the crowd of other content. Post during slow times, and you might get more attention from a smaller audience.
And none of that takes into account time zones!
People take breaks at different times during the day, some people will check social during work and school hours, some are only online during their off hours. The day of the week still matters, but even that is subject to audience whims. It seems the moment someone identifies the optimal time to post, so many people turn up to post there that it’s no longer optimal. So find a time that works for you, and let this be one detail you don’t stress.
6. Use promotional tools to reach a larger audience.
One of the most exciting things about social marketing is that it gives you a chance to put ad money behind your posts and reach new people. It is easier to advertise on social media than any other place on the web, and the prices are often very attractive.
Furthermore, you can use social advertising tools to refine your audience to be very specific. You don’t have to put an add in front of everyone and hope the right person sees it—you can only put it in front of someone who’s already likely to be the right person, and see more success as a result.
7. Be careful about using the hard sell.
Finally, although we were just discussing promo ads and boosted posts, remember that these don’t have to look like ads. In fact, the more your social posts look like advertisements, the faster people will scroll by.
Instead of filling your feed with discounts and hard pitches, keep your tone casual and informative. Your audience will only continue to follow you if they enjoy your content. If you can’t provide something they like, they’ll tune you out.
Social media takes more time but is less difficult than you might think.
I am convinced that social media marketing is not as intimidating as many people think—at least, not the mechanics of it. The part that can be difficult is simply finding the right words to fit into your character limit. Just because posts are short doesn’t mean they’re easy to write.
However, when you do take the time to create thoughtful content, it will have more of an effect than poorly-written sales pitches. So, to do social well, be prepared to put time into it. But, the more thoughtful you are, the more genuine will be the connection you make with your audience—and that’s what will ultimately make you successful.