After performing a digital brand audit, you can better define your digital strategy and tactics.
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Is your digital media and social marketing game plan feeling dated? It might be time to click the refresh button on your social media strategy, and learn more about what’s trending now — not just in product, but in online media itself.

It’s no secret that many green industry businesses have been slow to adopt or master the craft of digital and social marketing. Admittedly, it’s hard to keep up with technology and the digital marketspace as swiftly as it evolves. Some of you may feel like your media presence became dated before you ever really got a handle on it. If so, you’re not alone.

If you’re ready to tackle your brand’s digital persona in 2017, there are a few trends you should become aware of along your path to online relevance. But before you try to track and follow trends, you should start with a digital brand audit to get a better picture of how your company and its products are currently represented online. (Editor’s note: Read about digital brand audits in Leslie’s March column in sister publication Produce Grower at bit.ly/2p51KZX) Once you’ve ticked that box, you can better define your strategy and tactics based on how your customers are using online media.

Let’s start with Twitter. The term “Twitter fatigue” has been kicked around lately, with many users tired of the barrage of 24/7 micro-thoughts. Frankly, there are too many tweets flooding my feed for me to do a good job of engaging consistently with any one person or brand. As a respite from the onslaught of sound bites or embattled back-and-forth personal barbs, Twitter users are seeking more in-depth content. People would rather see your posted videos and detailed photos that offer them useful information, instead of just your personal thoughts or generic marketing messages. In fact, I’ve noticed numerous users comment that they wish certain accounts wouldn’t have so many posts each day. Quality over quantity is in demand.

This trend holds true for Facebook, as well. When I see business posts pop into my Facebook feed inquiring, “How was your weekend, we hope it was great!” or the like, I cringe. That kind of strained attempt at “personal” engagement is already passé in the world of social media. Passive conversation isn’t what Facebook is about anymore. You need to take an active, strategic customer service and sales approach. Give customers content they can use to make the most of your services and buy your products, and support your retailers with content that aids them in the end user sales process. Be there to respond when customers and end users have questions and concerns about their customer experience.

Truly personal socialization migrated from Facebook to Snapchat some time ago. More one-on-one communication also occurs inside Facebook Messenger, rather than on pages. I’ve kept separate personal and professional Facebook pages for years, and excluded all professional contacts from my personal page. Ok, so I get a little salty with my language in real life — who doesn’t? But I noticed a couple of years ago that people using Facebook were doing a lot of professional networking — even if it seemed like socialization. While you can still expect me to get saltier on my personal page than my professional page, I made a strategic decision to stop drawing such a hard line between personal and professional connections and give select industry contacts I’d met or done work with access to my personal Facebook page. The goal: to better develop my personal/professional engagement through my personal Facebook presence. Naturally, I censor myself much more than I used to, but that’s the reality of Facebook at this point.

Facebook has become more of an active customer service tool for brands and a means with which to connect professionally for individuals. To that point, Facebook recently announced that you can now formally post jobs on its platform. That alone should tell you the direction in which Facebook is heading and how you should be using it. It’s still a direct communication tool, but it’s now one with a decidedly commercial, professional, and productive purpose.

Instagram is currently the just-right fit for what customers seek in terms of content and experience. With much less of the politically charged, personal rhetoric that many are blocking on Facebook, the product, project, and lifestyle-based videos and photos served on Instagram are resonating. This type of inspiring content, blended with generally friendlier discourse, sales functionality, and advertising capabilities, gives Instagram an edge for achieving sales-focused (yet informative) engagement with customers.

Even when you’ve managed to develop a good digital marketing persona, timing is everything. You have to serve up the right content at the right time. By using your customer data, you can better anticipate when your customers are going to need the kind of sales information or service you can offer, and on which type of digital marketing channel they will most meaningfully receive it.

It’s time to shift from using digital channels simply to engage in marketing banter, to a sales-focused approach that drives your revenue. If there is one piece of advice I can give you that will serve you best when refreshing your social media strategy, it’s to take a step back from a focus on “you” and renew your focus on your customer’s experience.

Leslie (CPH) owns Halleck Horticultural, LLC, through which she provides horticultural consulting, business and marketing strategy, product development and branding, and content creation for green industry companies. lesliehalleck.com