Organizations may work in a multitude of industries and locales, but all have something in common in a world where competition is on the rise: a growing need to put themselves in front of and promote themselves to rapidly changing client bases. From a social media standpoint, all face a pressing demand to redefine the shape of communications and outreach efforts to better meet these audiences’ changing interests and methods of interacting with an increasingly connected and social world.
So, it is vital to shift from the traditional model of push-based communications to one that is focused on telling compelling short-form stories designed to help better connect with and engage audiences. Consider that today’s end-user increasingly lives in a 24/7 on-demand online world in which they are exposed to thousands of brands and marketing messages daily. And that these individuals are becoming increasingly adept at tuning those messages out—especially millennials, who now number over 74.5 million members and have become the single largest generation in the marketplace and workforce.
As a result, businesses and brands have to realize this: Rather than promote canned marketing messages, they have to double down on telling stories that resonate with audiences on a personal level. And it’s no surprise that over 60 percent of brand marketers say social outreach is becoming far more vital to promotional campaigns, while nearly three in four saw spikes in website traffic after spending just six hours a week putting the word out on social networks. According to HubSpot, 77 percent of consumer-facing businesses and 43 percent of b2b-focused firms have acquired customers just by promoting on Facebook alone.
In addition, other studies have shown that social media has a 100 percent higher lead-to-close rate than traditional, outbound promotional efforts. Recasting the way in which you message and promote your solutions also provides ample opportunity to innovate and differentiate on a much more powerful, economical, and implementable scale—not to mention a more empathetic way of putting a vision and voice to your band. Keeping this in mind, PR pros looking to better connect with today’s audience would do well to keep several important points in mind when crafting a digital and social outreach strategy:
1. Don’t market or promote solutions directly. Instead, tell bigger-picture stories that evoke emotion, and that others can relate to and rally behind.
2. Keep messaging short, sweet, and simple. Capture audience attention immediately by using offbeat angles, instantly attention-getting visuals, and easily understandable storylines that convey three to five key points within less than 5-10 seconds.
3. Lead with a strong, compelling and well-differentiated hook. Whether using humor or heartwarming elements to tell your tale, quickly set yourself apart at a glance.
4. Use visual elements, such as videos, animations, and infographics, to communicate complex data wherever possible. Today’s audiences respond far better to graphical components than text.
5. Design messaging to suit the medium. A one-size-fits-all approach should not apply. Communications should be tailored to each social or digital channel.
6. Take a closer look at strategic ROI. Ask yourself, how can your social media strategy support your larger goals and objectives? Define those objectives up-front to create a strategic communications plan.
7. Set tangible measurements that help you gauge a program’s effectiveness and impact. Are you trying to drive website page views, increase your number of incoming leads or close a bigger percentage of deals?
8. Remember that numbers aren’t everything, though. Effectiveness may also be gauged in terms of how often conversation topics trend, how audiences respond to messages and how much goodwill you are generating for your brand.
9. To better connect with others, shift the focus from strictly selling solutions to creating value for your audience. Think about the pain points you can help them solve, and systemically go about doing so. As a general rule, employ the 60/20/20 rule online: 60 percent of time should be spent engaging your audience; 20 percent should be spent sharing content your audience will care about; and 20 percent should be spent talking about your brand.
10. To more effectively rally a following, position your organization or client as a thought leader. Be the source your audience goes to for industry information. Provide them with content that they will keep wanting to come back and tune into again and again.
Communicating and connecting with tomorrow’s audiences becomes simpler and more cost-effective when you are willing to rethink the way in which you engage with prospective customers. Going forward, it isn’t simply about marketing your organization or client’s services to others, but rather about finding more effective ways to connect with and inspire them. The more effective a storyteller you can become, the more pronounced an impact your outreach efforts will have on your company’s bottom line.
Scott Steinberg is among today’s best-known trends experts and futurists, and the bestselling author of Make Change Work for You: 10 Ways to Future-Proof Yourself, Fearlessly Innovate, and Succeed Despite Uncertainty, and the CEO of BIZDEV: The International Association for Business Development and Strategic Partnerships.