The hand that guides the knife in the Instagram video belongs to Albuquerque-based Maurizio Leo, founder of the baking website The Perfect Loaf. While Leo’s online presence is substantial – he now has over 59,000 Instagram followers and his site was named “best special interest blog” by Saveur Magazine this year – back in 2016, he never expected his bread-scoring video would garner thousands of views.
“It’s just this catchy, visceral thing,” Leo, who is also a software engineer, said of the video. “But I’m just posting what I’m doing. … The most important thing is to be authentic.”
Now Leo is leveraging his social media following into a subscription-based baked goods service he plans to launch later this year.
Whether the industry is baking or banking, having a solid social media plan is a necessity in 2019. Though she is the founder of digital communications and marketing firm Siarza Social Digital, Kristelle Siarza says many organizations can handle their social media needs without the help of a firm like hers.
“If you’re really good at storytelling, and you have a sound concept of who your target audience is, most sites make it very easy for small business owners to use the tools by themselves,” Siarza said. “If you don’t have time to do the extra work or you’re ready to let it go, that’s the time to call in someone else.”
For those businesses taking a do-it-yourself approach to the subject, where does one begin? The Journal asked some of the state’s social media mavens to spill their secrets.
Listen before speaking
When University of New Mexico Anderson School of Business Professor John Benavidez teaches social media to his students, the first thing he tells them to do is to listen – to visit sites like Twitter and Facebook and see what sort of conversations are being had about an industry or a specific company.
“People are talking about your business on social media even if you don’t have social media accounts,” Benavidez said.
Benavidez says this is also a good time to conduct a competitive analysis. Find the social media accounts of competitors, and take stock of how many followers they have and how they are engaging with customers. What works well and what doesn’t? How would you describe the “voice” these brands are using and whether or not it’s effective?
Once you’ve tackled those topics, it’s time to choose the platforms that align with your target audience (see sidebar). Then, start thinking about content.
“The rule of thumb is that 80 percent of what you post should be about educating or entertaining consumers and 20 percent should be about your brand,” Benavidez said.
Jessie Tootle, director of content and advertising for Albuquerque-based weight loss program LadyBoss, says she thinks of the 80 percent in terms of “value-based content, things people would typically pay for.”
“We’re asking, ‘What can I contribute to your journey?'” Tootle said. “Maybe it’s a workout plan or a holiday hack for a pumpkin spice latte. If we can provide value before someone gives us money, they’re more likely to trust our brand after they give us money.”
Tootle says she also pays attention to what customers are talking about on the company’s Facebook page and what topics are trending on social media platform. That attention led LadyBoss to create popular videos about the Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino and low-carb ketogenic diets.
Deena Crawley, marketing director for Dion’s Pizza, creates a content calendar that spans the entire year and reminds her and her social media team to emphasize certain topics at certain times. During the holidays, for example, the focus was on holiday parties or the merchandise store where individuals can buy pizza-and-ranch necklaces.
Other posts are more impromptu. It is impossible, say, to plan for the day rap superstar Kanye West is photographed wearing a red-and-yellow ensemble that makes him look very much like a Dion’s employee.
“We said something like, ‘Hey Kanye, looking for opportunities?’ ” Crawley said. “It did very well.”
Communication is key
Just as important as using social media for publicity, according to Crawley, is using the platforms to communicate directly with customers. Whether its a complaint about a burnt pizza or a compliment about green chile ranch dressing, Crawley says the goal is to respond within 24 hours maximum.
“We respond to all of our customers when they bring things to our attention,” said Crawley. “Service is one of our company values. We want to have that exact same attitude on social media.”
Benavidez says he has seen organizations take the opposite approach and receive bad publicity as a result.
“Businesses have gotten into these wars with customers on social media, and it’s not good,” Benavidez said. “When someone complains, the natural reaction is to clap back. Have someone else respond if you need to.”
Benavidez said the ideal approach is to respond in public on the platform, but take the conversation private as quickly as possible. He suggests the following phrasing: “I’m sorry this happened, let’s see what we can do to fix this. Please (direct message) us.”
As content and communication become more routine, Siarza says it’s essential to use the analytics tools built into social media platforms to measure the effect of your efforts.
“‘Going viral’ is not always what you want,” Siarza said. “What you want is a return on your investment and results that bring your company to the table when it comes to brand awareness.”