Maybe you’re coming up on a decade or more of being a Facebook user. Sure, you’ve mastered the occasional shared articles, the posts on friends’ walls on their birthdays, and the process of uploading the best filtered pictures from your latest vacation. If you’re among the two-thirds of American adults — and 81 percent of millennials — who have a Facebook page, you probably feel like you know your way around the platform pretty well. 

So how hard could it be to set up a social media account for your business? You already know all the rules, right? 

According to Liz High, vice president of customer experience, insight, and delivery for global performance marketing company Metia, the work that goes into constructing a successful social presence for a business is a lot more complex than running a personal account. 

“It has to start with insights and data,” High said, speaking both of the setting up of social channels and also of the marketing that a company should go on to do through them. “Data can come in a million different forms — it’s not always just numbers. It’s observing, it’s interacting, it’s what your team members already know about customers in their heads. You combine it all, and that’s where you start.”

In other words, strategy is paramount. High’s strategy for clients focuses on what she refers to as the three C’s: customer, content, and context. The importance of these apply to businesses no matter the size or the location. Last year, Metia — which has four global headquarters, one in downtown Bellevue — worked in 89 countries with small, medium, and large businesses, including global giants like Microsoft.

The three C’s were the backbone of digital marketing for all them. 

“You need to know who your customer is and where to find them; you need to produce content that is aligned with who that customer is; and you need to have cultural and generational knowledge — context — to make sure what you’re doing resonates,” High said. 

That contextual knowledge is one of the most important aspects of the digital marketing world, where social media plays an increasingly larger role. Without the correct context, content will almost always fall flat. And without a carefully constructed strategy, any marketing campaign will do the same.

But why does a company’s social media presence have the ability to make or break it? 

“Social media is where the people are: It’s the watering hole, the gathering place,” said David Carpenter, president of digital marketing agency Connection Model in Issaquah. “If you look at the stats for Facebook and Instagram alone, the average adult is spending 25 to 30 hours a month (there). To be relevant and earn a following, to get exposure and be visible, you have to be where the people are.” 

Like Metia, Connection Model starts out working with clients on their social media by establishing who their customer is and where they can best be reached. If your main focus is a white-collar, professional audience, home in on LinkedIn. Targeting millennials with a product that is aesthetically pleasing? Instagram and Pinterest are no-brainers. And though there recently has been somewhat of a souring attitude toward Facebook, it remains the largest social media platform, making it a good place to start for all. 

Once you have established where your customer is — which should be done by examining data and trends rather than simply assuming — the next steps are listening to, and engaging with, them. 

“When you’re using social media as a business tool, customer service becomes a part of that,” Carpenter said. “When people leave reviews on any platforms, or leave comments, you need to respond. That’s how you start to form community: by listening and engaging, just like you would do in a real-life exchange.” 

As far as content goes, Carpenter’s opinion is that it should be educational and entertaining. 

“You can do more with your social platforms than just be there and respond,” he said. “You can put out content that informs and persuades. It should be valuable and interactive.” 

Pam Van Ert, content manager for Connection Model, said that good content on social media is defined by a healthy mix of three components: posts focused on the company’s product or service; posts about educating and entertaining; and posts that reveal the personal, human element of the company. 

“People want to know about who you are,” Van Ert said. “You should humanize the business, celebrate wins, announce things like birthdays and engagements. It makes (your company) more of a place that people want to do business with because you’re more just like the person next door.” 

High agreed.

“Successful social moving forward is all about authenticity,” she said. “We can all spot things on our Facebook feeds that are repeated and generic advertising. But if you’re able to have an authentic voice, express yourself, show your personality, that’s how you’ll really connect with your customers. If you can get that right, (social media) is an immensely powerful channel.”

Although digital marketing agencies tend to agree on bigger-picture ideas in social media marketing — the importance of authenticity and strategy, for example — there is no one-size-fits-all approach that will lead to brand success. For many of the more fine-tuned details about social channels, what constitutes a good approach is difficult to generalize. 

“It depends,” Van Ert said to questions ranging from best posting frequency to best number of hashtags. “A lot of it is dependent on your industry, who your audience is, and what their tolerance is. And social media is changing so much and so quickly, today’s mistakes could be tomorrow’s big breakthroughs.” 

Digital marketing agencies focus on keeping up with social trends and tailoring the strategies of their clients to fit those trends. It’s no small task to mine data, identify audience, create appealing and balanced content, and engage effectively with customers; hitting all those marks can quickly spiral into a full-time job, which is why companies like Metia and Connection Model exist. 

“We try to help set up consistency and strategy so that a company can be successful on social media, but we want someone in the company doing it in the long-term,” said Carpenter. “What we do is more about support than anything.” 

And with a little bit of help on the front end, any company can — and should — manage a successful social media presence that feels good, drives marketing, and creates community while reinforcing the bottom line.

Photos: courtesy each respective person

Stat sources: Merkle and Lithium; Sprout Social, Statista, and Hubspot