Marketing

How to Engage Audiences Who Are Opting Out in 2021

Audiences follow brands on social media for many reasons — to purchase or research new products and services, to feel understood, and to be entertained. I personally follow brands that inspire me and challenge my way of thinking. When brands or influencers focus too hard on making sales and ignore their customers’ needs, they risk the “unfollow.” How can brands retain their audiences for the long term? It starts with creating content that addresses customers’ wants and desires.

C

ontent overload exists, and audiences are feeling it.

According to Sprout Social’s 2020 consumer index survey, people have relied on social media even more than usual during the pandemic, and 89% of consumers now make purchases from brands they follow on social media.

But we are more than a full year into an exhausting health crisis, and many consumers have started to feel fatigued by influencers and social media marketers. This is probably because we’ve turned to social media for much of our social interaction. While it’s true that social media holds a lot of marketing power, it’s also possible for consumers to tune out brands that target poorly, run too many ads, or no longer post relevant content.

Audiences follow brands on social media for many reasons — to purchase or research new products and services, to feel understood, and to be entertained. I personally follow brands that inspire me and challenge my way of thinking. When brands or influencers focus too hard on making sales and ignore their customers’ needs, they risk the “unfollow.”

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How can brands retain their audiences for the long term? It starts with creating content that addresses customers’ wants and desires.

Avoid the Dreaded Purge

A customer is most likely to unfollow a brand if it provides bad customer service, posts irrelevant content, features too many ads, promotes way too much, harps on social issues, fails to interact with audience members via posts and mentions, and uses influencers to sell products. It’s a long list. If I feel that a brand’s social media presence isn’t genuine, then I’ll probably unfollow it at some point as well.

If a brand can’t connect authentically with consumers, it will lose them. Audiences are becoming more selective about the brands they engage with, but there are a few things brands can prioritize to keep engagement (and revenue) up.

First, social media success hinges on authenticity. Now more than ever, people crave community and connection. They value shared experiences and brands that understand their needs. According to Shelton Group, 86% of consumers want brands to honestly engage in social issues. Brands should deliver authentic messages that show compassion and inspire audiences.

Next, interact with your audience. Use consumer feedback as a tool for improvement. About 38% of American Millennials offer feedback to companies via their social media channels, and almost 70% admit that response speed affects their connection with a brand. Feedback opens conversations about a company. When brands enable participation on their social media channels, they are much likelier to retain followers.

A great example of a brand that focused on connecting people during the pandemic is the Getty Museum. While the museum was closed, it encouraged social media users to celebrate their love for art during the lockdown with its “Getty Museum Challenge.” The challenge required users to recreate their favorite artwork with just three objects around the house. This project not only increased brand awareness, but also helped customers engage with one another during a difficult time.

Maintaining and growing your brand’s audience requires authenticity and interaction. Real and relevant messages are key to keeping your followers. Plus, they will help your brand stand out online and help customers remember you when they are offline.

Emphasis on Creativity

Successful social media plans shift with the needs of the audience. Companies without a relevant, creative, and consistent social media strategy lose brand awareness, miss out on important conversations, and forfeit the chance to tell their brand’s story. Here are a few ways brands can increase customer engagement with their social media channels, even as audiences continue to clean up their social clutter.

  1. Interact and react. Build trust in your brand by responding to customers’ comments, messages, and mentions. Try to initiate interactions, too. Personally engaging with your audience builds trust by showing authenticity and providing value. When you respond to users on social media, it shows you care about their concerns. In fact, 78% of customers think social media is crucial for customer service — and many customers use social media to complain about a brand — so it’s important for brands to respond quickly and authentically.
  2. Know what your audience is enjoying offline. Get familiar with your followers and the content that appeals to them. Use this information to determine when, what, and how often to post. Brands lose followers when they post too often or feature disconnected content. Also, an Edelman report noted that 70% of U.S. respondents value trust in a brand more than they did in the past. Customers want relationships with brands, and those relationships depend on whether a company can empathize with its followers.
  3. Humanize your brand. Create social media messages that tell the brand’s story and show your company’s heart. This type of marketing, also known as trust-based marketing, allows brand marketers to really get to know followers and understand them. For example, when schools were closing at the beginning of the coronavirus shutdown, Scholastic launched the #OperationStoryTime campaign and worked with authors and celebrities who shared videos of themselves reading stories. This helped families feel more connected and increased engagement with Scholastic.

Now is certainly not the time to go on autopilot when it comes to engaging with your customers on social media. Get to know your followers and create content that resonates with them. While doing so requires a bit of effort, it will increase brand awareness and deepen the relationship with your audience. Who knows? You might actually gain followers as we finally escape the clutches of the pandemic and move on with our lives.

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