The skills you need to succeed in social media

Success calls for more than merely understanding the networks. Make sure the next addition to your social media team has these three skills.

Social networks go in and out of style.

Pinterest is all the rage this year, while Facebook stock is at an all-time low. And there’s a new “must-use” tool that pops up every other week.

Fortunately, none of that really matters. Marketing is not about the tools or technology. In fact, you don’t even have to stay up with the news or “what’s hot right now.”

There are underlying principles you can use on any social network to get more fans, increase engagement, and ultimately drive sales.

The key to unlocking growth and sales

It’s hard to accurately measure sales from social media, but social media can still give you a wealth of insight about your customers.

You can get demographic data and clues about their interests. But more important, you can uncover their underlying emotional triggers. These triggers might get people to like your page, but they’re also the motivations that can get them to buy.

I recently worked on a client’s Facebook page. I analyzed posts with the largest reach and most engagement to see if I could identify patterns.

Here’s what I found:

People like personal questions. Most of the popular posts had specific questions like, “Do you think…” or “How do you feel…”
People like to share their plans for vacations and holidays. People loved sharing their plans for the holidays. It didn’t matter if they were staying home or going to the Bahamas. These plans touched an emotional nerve, and people had strong feelings.

People like to save money. For us regular folk, this should be a no-brainer. The only exception is if you have a product that caters to the high-end, luxury market.

People like to discuss kids. Again, people enjoy discussing topics they have an emotional connection with, even if you jokingly poke fun and ask how they survive long car rides with their kids. It still evokes a response, and people like sharing their sarcastic remarks.

Posts typically have the largest reach Monday through Thursday, around 7 p.m. and between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Your audience will respond more on certain days of the week and specific times during the day. Try to identify these time blocks quickly so you can expose your content to as many fans as possible.

That’s a start, but you still have to analyze what people don’t like. Try to identify what turned people off or prevented them from responding:

Self-promotion: People don’t like when you promote yourself. Why? Because people only care about themselves. Harsh, but true.
Hyperbole: Strong words and capitalization like, “YOU CAN’T MISS THIS…” may work once or twice, but it will eventually turn people off. They’ll either ignore or un-friend you.

Vague questions: Although people like questions, they don’t like vague ones. Make sure you use concrete questions about specific topics.

Obviously everyone’s results will be a little different. It will always depend on your customers, product/service, and industry. But these examples should help you analyze your results and show you what to look for.

And, they’ll show you how to use the following three skills to your advantage:

1. Understand psychology.

Uncover what motivates your customers.

Demographic information is a good start. It gives you a general idea of who you’re talking to. But if you want better results, you need to go deeper and figure out what makes your customers take action.

If people don’t like updates about self-promotion, figure out how you can reposition them. Find the challenges your customers face on a daily basis and pain points they experience, and position your product or service as the solution or cure.

2. Be a good copywriter.

Once you understand what your customers want, you need to communicate it effectively. There are two important parts in the status update above:

The headline needs to grab customers’ attention and hold their interest. Do this by playing on their triggers (see skill No. 1), and other common emotional benefits. Can you simplify their lives or prevent a threat?
The description needs to provide enough information to let customers know what the update is about, but still be interesting and mysterious enough that someone wants to click through and read everything else.

This is where most companies go wrong. Cut out jargon, complex language, and speak as clearly as possible.

Your product or service has to make logical sense for people financially, but that’s not why they buy from you. They buy because they like or trust you, and because they know you understand exactly how they feel (and how to help them).

3. Be analytical.

The hard part of this process is doing the initial research, understanding your customer’s psychology, and properly communicating it.

Once you’ve done that, it’s easy to get more fans, traffic or sales: Do more of what they like, and less of what they don’t.

It’s that easy.

Use Facebook Insights to get some initial data. Record the qualitative feedback people give you. Use a link to track click-through rates.

Try some new things, and see how people respond. Then rinse and repeat. You’ll start to get better social media results across the board, because when you understand the underlying principles and skills, it doesn’t matter what platform you use or what new tool is popular. You’ll still be able to thrive.

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