When companies and individuals first began adopting social media for business purposes, they had very clear goals in mind: drive traffic and make direct sales. They were often robotic and impersonal; they might as well have flashed a billboard that read, “Go to my website! Buy my product!”

But social media marketing has evolved, according to Amy Evans, president of Colibri Insurance Services. Speaking at BenefitsPRO Broker Expo, held last week in San Diego, Evans said the key trend today is engagement. She cited a 2018 study conducted by social media platform Buffer that found engagement (42 percent) is the top way to measure ROI from social media advertising, followed by leads (17 percent) and sales (15 percent).

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At its core, Evans said, social media is about developing deep and lasting relationships, and those relationships are built by communicating a clear message, one that can embrace both business and personal lives.

“People who do social well see no difference between the two,” she said, but added, “You want to remain professional when posting any personal information.”

The key, though, is to make a commitment to post, and to create content on a consistent basis so “your audience looks to you” as a trusted source of information. “Your goal is to figure out what content you want to communicate,” Evans said. “And you can do that by answering the question: What’s unique about you to your clients?” 

What does content looks like?

The leading social media platforms for business accounts are Facebook (96 percent), Twitter (89 percent) and LinkedIn (70 percent), according to the 2018 Buffer study, but no matter what platform someone adopts, content should be their driver, according to Evans. “And it should have inherent value and provide truthful information.”

She said it’s easy to get disappointed if there’s not an immediate interaction on a social media feed. “How many of you will open your Twitter or LinkedIn or Facebook page and scroll through the feed?” she asked. “You can see that information rolling off the page, but don’t get discouraged by all that noise. If you stick to your message and provide consistent content, remember that eyeballs are seeing what you’re working on.”

Evans said great content is made up of five key traits:

  • It’s positive. People don’t want to log into their social media platform and become inundated with negative news. They want something that will educate, inspire and uplift them.
  • It’s timely. Information moves fast on social media. “If you see content that happened a month ago, you might want to leave that alone unless it’s evergreen content. What you want is the news of the day, and you don’t want to simply forward it. People are in your feed because they want to know what you think about this topic you’re promoting.”
  • It’s authentic. The most important aspect people look for in a social media feed is authenticity — and people will respond to authentic posts. “Some people look at hiring social media managers to run their account,” Evans said. “But the best response and engagement you will ever receive from your followers is when you make posts in your distinct voice.”
  • It’s educational. Knowledge is power and people gravitate to social media to learn something new. “We know more than we think we know, particularly when we’re talking about our industry. When you provide your followers with educational information, it’s incredibly powerful and valuable to them and has the potential to help them in their own business.”
  • It’s engaging. Engagement is the new normal in social media. One way to achieve that is to speak directly to your audience. When you find a piece of content you want to share, ask for comments and then respond to their feedback. This is where real dialogue and the sharing of information can take place.

This might all sound daunting and too time-consuming, but Evans said “it’s easier than you think and won’t take hours a day.” By utilizing a third-party platform like Buffer or Hootsuite, users can manage their social media accounts “without getting sucked in to the quicksand of social media, and you can create your content and log back out in as little as 10 minutes a day.”