How to Succeed on Social: Our Sit-Down with an Expert

 In iStock Solutions

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Every brand wants to build a strong following on social media. That’s understandable, because in today’s world, more followers means more reach, which means more potential customers. But, it can be tough to figure out how to find meaningful growth on your accounts, while maintaining your brand voice, and keeping the followers you have engaged. So, we reached out to R.J. Talyor, the founder of Pattern89—an AI-centric software platform that helps brands to quantify what works (and what doesn’t work) across their social ads and posts. Here are some of his top tips finding more success on social media.

Be Honest, Be Authentic

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When pressed for the one, standalone piece of advice for finding traction and success on social media, Talyor underscored the importance of being yourself. “People see content all the time that feels polished and forced,” he says. “But then, when a brand posts something that feels authentic, followers jump on it. People want to support your personal posts.” Your business goals do have to be spoken for, so don’t overhaul your whole social strategy. If you feel like your audience is losing interest in your posts/ads, try something that lifts the veil a bit—share a personal story about your childhood, or tell your audience about a business failure you learned from.

Follow the 70-20-10 Rule

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Before you go trying lots of new things, Talyor recommends taking a prudent approach. “You want to keep giving your audience what they respond to, so 70% of your posts should stay within the vein that’s worked for you previously,” says Talyor. “Then work in about a 20% share of new offerings and special promotions, and save the 10% for experimentation. Those wild card posts.” While this might seem like the obvious, sensible choice, it’s easy for brands to fall into ruts where they just post promotional offerings. The 70-20-10 rule will help you to stay focused on diversifying what you post on these networks.

Stand Out, Visually

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Social media strategy is a living, breathing thing, and as such, every context is different. There really isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, and when deciding what type of imagery to choose, you’ll need to consider your audience. “There’s no right answer, but what I’m seeing work right now are high contrast images,” says Talyor. “Think: dark backgrounds with pops of color in the foreground. Weirdly, we’re seeing success with images that show half a face (with the other half cropped out of the photo).” Most social media sites feature white backgrounds, so a dark background or an oddly cropped profile will draw attention more than a subtle image would. These are great starting points, but Talyor clarified that you have to test.

Blend In, Contextually

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It might sound counterintuitive to the point above, but blending in with the context of the platform can actually help your ad. That makes sense, because instinctively you probably know that you don’t respond as enthusiastically to a discount offer from some random brand as you would to a hilarious cat video. It’s a concept that’s well-known in marketing as “banner blindness,” where people subconsciously tune out the ad entirely as soon as they realize it’s an ad.

“The same way you want to be authentic and true to yourself on your platforms, you want to make sure your message feels organic to that platform,” he says. Think about it this way: what do you see on your Instagram feed? Now, how can your brand offer similar content that is true to your brand? Looking at social ads through that lens is already a much better place to start. “You want to offer value to your customer, rather than always seeking it from them,” says Talyor.

Focus on the Details

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Talyor’s business at Pattern89 revolves around gleaning hyper-specific detail about every post using their proprietary, AI-driven algorithm. He even says their system can scrape almost 3,000 different dimensions of data points. But what if you don’t have budget to spend on a marquis partnership like one with Pattern89? “I encourage all brands to do their own analysis of their ads. Make yourself a cup of coffee, pull your best five and worst five ads and print them out,” says Talyor. “Then go through each one and list literally everything you can find about them—is there a man in the photo? Does he have a beard? How many nouns vs. verbs were used in the copy? Once you’ve done that for all the ads, I guarantee you’ll find at least a few actionable patterns to consider.”

Make Actionable Decisions About Your Data

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On some level, data collection is really all an AI-driven analysis engine does—it spits out really specific, really exhaustive information. But it can’t tell you the “why”. That’s where the human element and your creativity come into play. “An algorithm can tell you all the attributes. What a human can do is look at those attributes, and make some educated decisions on developing the art,” says Talyor. From here, you can run all the tests and experiments you want, but you’ll be doing so with a much better understanding of the qualities of your ads and posts.

Stay Ahead of the Curve

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Social media is, well, a social thing. And that means it’s always changing. That includes both in subjective ways but also in technical ways, with Facebook constantly changing how their system displays ads. You also might have a limited window to test, especially if your ads are event-based. “Black Friday is a great example of how brands need to stay nimble. There’s no time to test,” says Talyor. “Even if you did test, you’d be testing against last year, which is inherently different because the world changes a lot in a year. And for small businesses, you need to maximize your success on high-shopping days.”

Put Yourself in the Customer’s Shoes

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Pay attention to your audience, watch what they post and what they respond to, and factor in those “success attributes” from above. Be authentic to yourself, authentic to your social media feeds, and try to provide as much value to your customers as you can. “At the end of the day, your social presence is best supported by joining the conversation,” says Talyor. “Stop promoting yourself and start promoting value. Be patient, join the conversation, and you’ll find more success.”

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