VENTEUR spoke with Matthew Caiola, 5WPR Co-CEO, about how businesses can engage their audiences on social media. Caiola quickly moved through the ranks at 5WPR and, after 13 years, was promoted to his current role in February 2022, making him the youngest CEO of a Top 10 PR agency in the United States.
Caiola has been a key member of teams responsible for the reputation of some of the most sophisticated companies and visible public figures worldwide, along with emerging brands and technologies. His clients have included high-profile individuals such as former Apple and Pepsi CEO John Sculley, and companies like Amazon, SodaStream, and RealPage, among others.
Beyond agency life, Caiola supports the American Red Cross, the Soi Dog Foundation, St. Jude Children's Hospital, and Hassenfeld Children's Hospital at NYU Langone.
Social Media Audience Engagement
Why should businesses consider engaging their audiences on social media, and why?
Today, almost everyone has some form of an online presence or social media profile. To ignore social media as a method for your business is a missed opportunity to engage your audience where they are already spending their time.
Which businesses should not engage their audiences on social media, and why?
Every company or business can benefit from engaging its audiences on social media. It comes down to using social media in the best way for your brand and carving out your audience from an expansive pool.
What should businesses consider as they prepare to engage their audiences on social media, and why?
Social media is about strategy. Therefore, it is essential to consider who your audience is and what messaging and content they will be expecting from you.
Should businesses engaging their audiences on social media be active on more than one platform, or should they focus on dominating one platform well, and why?
Each social media platform comes with its benefits and challenges. It is easy to repurpose your content across all major social media platforms, but this isn't a tactic you should rely on. Different content performs better on various platforms, and to make the most out of your social media strategy, you should not ignore one platform. You can favor one. However, the platform receiving the best results should receive the most of your attention and effort.
Which social media platforms should businesses engage their audiences on, and why?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer regarding the best social media platform for you. Consumer brands may succeed more on photo and video-sharing platforms, including Instagram and TikTok. However, if you're selling a B2B service for professionals, you may have a better chance of reaching them on LinkedIn.
Social Media Content Production Budget
How important is a business' budget when considering social media content production, and why?
Especially when you're starting, budget isn't a big concern when turning out social media content. Once you figure out what works for you, you can put a budget behind your setup, purchase more high-quality cameras, or put money behind your posts to boost them, ensuring they'll reach more people who may not be following you. When you implement a budget, you can start small. A little budget can go a long way.
Social Media Content Production
What essential tools should a business have when producing social media content, and what purpose does each serve?
One of the most significant benefits of social media is that it's incredibly accessible to anyone, regardless of experience level.
Anyone can create content with just their phone—you can use tools to enhance your social media presence, including high-quality cameras and content studios. Additionally, you can make meaningful changes and track progress through social media analytics platforms that show how your posts perform and clue you into what you're doing right or wrong.
Do businesses engaging their audiences on social media need to focus on the production quality of their content, or is it enough to provide emotionally or intellectually valuable content with lower production value, and why?
When you're starting, it's important to produce content that will resonate with your audiences, or else no one will care. This is not to say you can ignore the quality of the content—you always want to release work representative of your company, not anything you would be embarrassed to be associated with. However, once you figure out what content works best for you and resonates well with your audience, you can work on increasing the quality.
What are five outside-of-the-box content production strategies businesses can use to engage their audiences on social media without violating platforms' terms of service?
1. Encourage User-Generated Content
Provide your followers with an ask or a prompt and have them create their content, tagging you, which you can then engage with or re-post on the company profile.
2. Host Giveaways
This can work for anyone selling physical products or service-based solutions. Rules to enter the giveaway can easily engage audiences when you ask them to 'like,' 'comment,' or 'share' the post as a form of entry.
3. Ask a Question That Will Prompt a Response
Social media is a great source to collect feedback from your audience. Use this as a platform to ask your users or consumers what updates or products they would love to see become available. What are their favorite aspects of your brand, or how can you improve their user experience?
4. Go Live
Many social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and now TikTok, allow the user to go live, inviting millions of users to get a firsthand and authentic look into whatever they want to share.
5. Be Creative
Even if you think a particular social media trend isn't for you, there was probably a time you were questioning social media. Social media is about having fun and taking chances—hone in on what is unique about your company or brand that you can highlight in a smart, purposeful way.
Should startups and smaller businesses publish behind-the-scenes content?
Behind-the-scenes content can be incredibly engaging, especially if you're looking to recruit new employees or build interest in your industry. This type of content works incredibly well for small businesses and startups to allow your audiences to get to know the people behind the business and feel they're creating a more personal relationship with your company than they would a large corporation.
From a business perspective, when does authenticity on social media transform from being relatable to alienating an audience, and why?
Authenticity is among the top pillars of public relations and plays a significant role in social media. Today's consumers are more tuned in than ever before and can quickly spot and call out inauthenticity. Of course, being authentic and even vulnerable may alienate some of your audience. Still, these are also your most critical followers, would show you little grace in times of crisis, and in the long run would probably remove themselves from your following for another reason.
Social Media and Unhappy Customers
How should businesses handle unhappy customers who use social media as a megaphone, and why?
Social media monitoring is an essential aspect of having an online presence. Consistent monitoring will ensure you see any negative comments and address them promptly. And you should manage these unhappy customers, replying directly to their comments with further instructions when appropriate, for multiple reasons.
First, to get to the bottom of any internal business issues that could be legit and affecting other customers.
Second, to maintain your relationship with unhappy customers, keep them from enhancing their megaphone across multiple social media platforms and offline.
Third, engaging with unhappy customers in the public comments section will signal to onlookers that you are a present brand that is aware of the issue and making an effort to correct any problems. Often, this is done by asking the unhappy customer to follow up more privately, including by email or direct message.
Social Media and What People Get Wrong
What are three misconceptions new startup founders have about social media for businesses, and how can we set the record straight?
1. That Their Audience Isn’t on Social Media
As previously stated, almost everyone has an online presence. You will engage the right audiences if you post the right content and utilize these platforms correctly.
2. Social Media Is a Waste of Their Time
A traditional business professional would never say the same about putting time into their marketing, advertising, or public relations strategies. Social media supports these major pillars of a successful business.
3. Follower Count Is More Important Than Engagement
You can have a million followers, but if only one person buys your product, does it matter? Cultivating a following of users who care about your brand and want to invest in your company financially or through their time and attention is much more important than the number of followers.
What are three mistakes startups make when engaging their audiences on social media, and how can they be avoided?
1. Don’t Stop at One Social Media Platform
Focusing on one platform and one type of content will limit your success. It's important to vary what kind of posts you create. Instead, try a mix of still photos and video content, 'how-to,' and behind-the-scenes. Share your successes, your thought leadership, and your advice. You never know what will perform well.
2. Don’t Limit Marketing to One Demographic
Only marketing to new customers will alienate those with which you already have a relationship. Your posts on social media should target more than just potential new customers to make a sale. Instead, your content should be balanced and nurturing while sustaining relationships and attracting potential new customers.
3. Don’t Allow Your Social Media To Get Disorganized
Posting should be somewhat frequent or on a schedule to keep your audiences engaged and your brand top of mind. Social media can be oversaturated, and if you don't have a consistent presence on the platforms, it can be incredibly easy to be overlooked.