If you’re operating a business in the year 2021, one thing is certain: You need to be on social media. Gone are the days of doing the bare minimum when maintaining an online presence; with the COVID-19 pandemic limiting companies’ means of connecting with their customers, leveraging social media to reach your audience is more critical than ever. That’s something Reverb social media strategist, Mallory Nees, emphasized during her “Social Media in 2021: 5 Ways Your Strategy Must Evolve” education session at NAMM’s Believe in Music Week.

Nees also underscored the need to evolve alongside the internet’s popular platforms. Read on to learn her five tips for boosting your social strategy in the coming year, even as the way consumers use the internet continues to shift.

Assess Which Channels You’re Using

One of the first tips Nees offered during her Believe in Music Week session was for companies to give some thought to the social media platforms they’re expending time and money on. There’s no shortage of social-media sites these days, but according to Nees, attempting to juggle all of them “might not be sustainable or fruitful.” Instead, she suggested evaluating the pros and cons of the platforms your company uses, reviewing that information to determine where your efforts will be most effective.

Here’s what Nees had to say about the four most popular social platforms:

  • Facebook: Facebook remains the most-used social-media platform to this day, meaning it’s likely your company will reach a wider audience on there. However, organic reach has become more difficult for businesses to obtain since Facebook began taking an individual-first approach, focusing on connecting people with friends and family over helping companies boost profits. These days, businesses that are serious about increasing their Facebook presence may need to pay to play, a method that’s not necessarily sustainable for everyone.
  • Instagram: Instagram’s audience tends to be on the younger side, so if your company is looking to attract the next generation of consumers, that’s where you’ll want to be. The platform is always pushing new in-app products and trying to improve the user experience, two more pros to using it. The main downside with Instagram is that, because the site wants you to keep scrolling, it tends to be difficult to link back to your own store or website. Companies whose goal with social media is to drive traffic back to their page may not find what they’re looking for on Instagram.
  • Twitter: Now that Facebook and Instagram have foregone chronological feeds, it can be difficult to share or keep up with news in real time. That’s one advantage Twitter offers, alongside making it easy to hold conversations with followers and share posts from other companies and individuals. The downside to this is that, unless you have a large social team at your disposal, it can be difficult for companies to keep up with Twitter’s onslaught of news and trending topics in real time — especially when there are other business matters to attend to.
  • YouTube: Video is rapidly becoming one of the most popular forms of content, and YouTube is a tried and true platform for publishing videos — particularly those that tend to be on the longer side. YouTube enables users to link to outside sites, making it ideal for companies hoping to drive traffic. The main con when it comes to joining YouTube is that it often takes a great deal of time and effort to build a following, especially with the site’s continuously changing algorithms.

Leave Your Comfort Zone

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube are the four social-media sites most companies have been using for years, but Nees advised retailers and manufacturers to “explore new horizons” online. There are several platforms gaining in popularity, and businesses shouldn’t let fear of the unknown prevent them from signing up and reaching new audiences.

Nees outlined the four up-and-coming social networks businesses should have on their radars (and maybe even experiment with before they really blow up):

  • Pinterest: That’s right, Pinterest isn’t just about saving craft ideas and recipes. Plenty of businesses, Reverb included, have begun using the platform’s benefits to their advantage. Not only does Pinterest make it easy for your audience to find and share your company’s posts, but it drives traffic to your website with little effort on your part.
  • TikTok: Businesses may be tempted to leave TikTok to the teenagers, but it’s quickly becoming apparent that the video-sharing app is growing in popularity (and not just among younger generations). And although TikTok is currently “more focused on interpersonal video-sharing than it is on making it easier to buy or sell,” Nees believes “that’s how all social media platforms start,” and that businesses will eventually find ways to use the app in their favor.
  • LinkedIn: Any brand hoping to achieve a certain level of professionalism should consider joining LinkedIn, which Nees described as “free and easy to maintain.” Even if it’s just to have a presence on the site for when users search your brand, making a LinkedIn page will give your business a more legitimate feel.
  • Twitch: Once used mostly by gamers, Twitch has become a popular platform among musicians over the past year, offering them a place to hold virtual performances and get paid for doing so. With more music-makers joining the site, Nees recommended MI professionals look into the benefits of live-streaming. This is especially true of companies with the ability to hold live demos or lessons.

Don’t Fight the Algorithm

When it comes to ever-changing social algorithms, business owners and marketing managers may be tempted to push against the current. Nees, however, urged them to go along with it, advising, “Don’t fight the algorithm.”

“Each platform has their own specific algorithms, but there are a few universalities that really do apply everywhere,” she explained. “And once you figure out how to work within that box, you might find that the algorithms actually work for you.”

Nees offered some overall tips for keeping up with the algorithms on most social media platforms, including:

  • Use live video: Sure, not everyone feels comfortable using the live-video features available on nearly every platform, but doing so will benefit your company in the long run. Most of the sites offering live video are rewarding the users who take advantage of it — so hopping on Instagram or TikTok to communicate with your followers in real time may boost your presence there.
  • Forget about clickbait: According to Nees, “Clickbait was once the reining king of engagement on social media, but the same tricks that worked in the past are falling flat these days.” Social platforms have caught on to these tricks, and many of them will flag such content and hide your posts moving forward. Rather than trying to cheat the algorithm, businesses would be better off providing genuinely valuable content.
  • Be social: Being social on social media sounds like an obvious pointer, but far too many companies believe that sociability ends with replying to their own messages and comments, something Nees advised viewers to go beyond. Sharing interactive content, such as polls and Q&As, and engaging with other users’ posts will show your social platforms that you’re an active and supportive member of their community, which will make them more likely to boost your content.

Be Authentic With Your Followers

As Nees pointed out during her session, the past year has been particularly difficult given the increased stress and isolation created by COVID-19. “Companies that were able to adjust and find ways to speak to their audiences authentically on social media were in a unique position to find success,” she explained, adding that this “will remain true in 2021.”

A big part of maintaining authenticity with your audience involves being relatable, and unfortunately, there is sometimes a gap between “what consumers want and what marketers think consumers want,” Nees said. Oftentimes, going overboard with memes and pop-culture references isn’t as effective as simply offering basic interaction.

Nees also advised getting your tone right for such interactions, ensuring that it’s effective and appropriate in relaying your message.

Diversify Your Profiles

Companies hoping to reach new audiences must put effort into diversifying their social-media profiles, making them more accessible to consumers from all backgrounds.

“Representation matters, and especially in our industry, it’s important to remind ourselves that music makers are as diverse as music itself,” Nees explained.

Of course, this means showing social-media users content that they can see themselves in. “People are much more likely to engage with you on social media if they see themselves and their interests represented on your page,” Nees said. “So if you want to keep growing your brand, it’s your responsibility to set the table and make sure new faces feel comfortable when they arrive.”

Some ways to make newcomers feel comfortable and welcome in your community include:

  • Watch your comments: Businesses should encourage open conversation on their platforms, but not at the expense of losing newcomers’ interest, something Nees warned could happen if conversations are offensive or isolate certain demographics. She recommended being “a thoughtful moderator” when it comes to such interactions.
  • Share the spotlight: Sharing content from other companies and platforms (with their consent, of course) is something Nees does often when managing Reverb’s social sites. Not only does this boost engagement, but it ensures the company’s platforms are full of new faces.
  • Make your company’s identity and beliefs clear: If consumers don’t have a clear picture of your company’s mission and values, how will they know if your community is the right place for them? Clarifying and repeating your mission will give your brand a decisive message that attracts the very audience you’re hoping to reach.

Click here for more of the Music & Sound Retailer’s CTV @ Believe In Music Week coverage. 

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