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Social media got your head spinning? Tweets and likes and pins – what does it all mean?!? Likely, you have already jumped in and are doing a great job of creating followers and fans for your pages, but now what?
Creating more process around these new social media marketing tools is essential in making effective and consistent use of these communication vehicles. So we have put together nine social media best practices that we think are crucial in creating a successful, strategic social media marketing plan.
1) Define Brand Personality
Take a step back and pretend your brand is a person. Define your brands voice (slang vs. formal, feminine vs. male, funny vs. serious, etc.) and what kinds of things it would talk about. Then write posts that are meaningful – what would the brand say to its friends to keep them listening and interested? This is how you need to think to be successful. Create a one-page profile and keep it posted in front of your computer screen that reminds you of “who” the brand is, so you stay true to the brand character. A consistent brand voice and personality is especially important if there is more than one person managing a brand’s social media channels.
2) Generate High Quality Content
Focus on the quality of these discussions to foster engagement that encourages fans/followers to communicate with the brand and participate in two-way conversations. Avoid talking at fans/followers. Talk to them. Everything we read today about social media says that a vast numbers of fans/followers is great, but they are of little use without true conversational engagement that includes them in the discussion and gives them a reason to continue following and caring about your brands! High quality posts will encourage honest engagement more than just throwing a bunch of darts at a board without strategizing first on how you can create the most interesting content for your customers.
3) Draft a Posting Calendar
Yes, social media is meant to be somewhat spontaneous, but as a business it is your responsibility to also stay on-brand and on-strategy for business growth goals. For larger companies this may be an absolutely necessary procedure for your legal department to grant clearance for posting on behalf of the corporation.
Your calendar should define a message (actual copy you plan to post), location(s) where it will be posted (social network), and the date/time it will be posted. An example week has been created for January using a dog website, outlining what we have found to work well in the past with both small and international brands. Here’s an example of what a social media schedule might look like:
We recommend that you work at least two weeks out from the current date to ensure there is time for internal review, as well as personal reflection. This will also help you better communicate new product releases. You will want to research and keep in mind upcoming holidays, events and other things that you may not have thought of until it was too late to react if you were not doing a strategic calendar. TIP: There are many resources that allow you to schedule your updates in advance. Facebook now allows you to schedule updates, posting photos and adding content for future dates, simply click on the clock icon below the area where you are uploading and select a date and time in the future. For Twitter we recommend a service such as Sprout Social or Hootsuite.
4) Allow for Spontaneity
Planning is great, but of course there will still be some spontaneous opportunities that you need to react to quickly in your business or your industry overall. These can be great for engaging your customers, as most of them will center around “breaking news” in your industry.
5) Maximize Reach
Research shows that there are best times to engage consumers on various social media sites to get the most impact. On Facebook, plan to post at least once every two days. The more they see you, the more you will see engagement and likes rise. On Twitter and Pinterest, your posts should be more often – at least once per day. Note: 1 to 4 tweets and pins per hour during peak hours is ideal.
6) Don’t Talk Too Much
You want to maximize reach but you do not want to annoy your followers by posting too frequently, especially on Facebook and Pinterest where you can quickly fill up a user’s feed and screen. Stick to the rules above and you should be fine, but try it out and see how it feels.
7) Invite Participation
To further increase user engagement, directly encourage and solicit user participation. Include these in the calendar outlined above.
Here are a few ideas that you might consider if you were running a dog-related website:
- Dog of the week contest on Facebook and/or Pinterest asking followers to post a photo to the wall with a story as to why their dog should be featured for the week. Photo with the most “likes” is selected as winner. Facebook requires users to be a follower of your site in order to “like” a photo. This encourages new fans/followers to “like” the dog Facebook page, Twitter page and even the website.
- Ask for people to share successful dog stories on Facebook that relate to your website’s content/articles. For example, if you featured an article about what to do when your dog has a sick stomach why not ask fans to share their personal stories about what they have done to help their dogs in similar situations? It would drive engagement as well as traffic to your page on this subject.
- Offer quick and easy pet tips (training, treats, exercise, socialization, etc.)
- For key holidays, ask for photos and stories with a contest to be featured or win a free dog collar… for Halloween costumes, Easter costumes, best dog house that you built yourself, favorite vet stories, etc.
8) Measure, Analyze and Optimize
ROI is not easy to measure in social media but start with the easy stuff. Watch analytics to see how your posting strategy is impacting your engagement with existing followers (quantity of “likes,” comments, etc.) and how quantity of followers is impacted (rising or decreasing). Analytics are currently only available on Facebook and are referred to as, “Insights.” Use this data to fine tune and optimize your planning going forward. This is an ongoing process as your communication and consumers’ mindset changes quickly in this day and age. Remember, your primary goal is to increase engagement with more likes, comments, shares, retweets, etc.
9) Share the Love
Social media is all about sharing and interacting with others in a community setting, so do not forget to share the love with your “neighbors.” It is important whenever possible that you repost your own company’s content. If you have reviewed external content carefully and it is not competitive with your business and it shares a common mission or personality, go ahead and repost (retweet, repin, share on Facebook). This will demonstrate that you are looking out into the world for the best content for your followers while also showing that you are not a selfish company. It will feel more inviting and honest to your customer and will also invite others to share your content in-kind. Retweeting is especially helpful as it gives your brand exposure to new followers, including industry experts and specialists who will add credibility to your offering.
Social Media Best Practices Video
One of Godfathers when it comes to social media is Gary Vaynerchuk founder of Vayner Media and author of numerous books including Jab, Jab Right Hook. In his interview with Bloomberg he shares some of his enthusiastic tips on how to make the most of your social media efforts and how to be authentic when engaging in social media.
Check out Gary Vaynerchuk’s book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World.
Be prepared for change!
Nine steps may make it seem easy, but it isn’t. The social network is a living and breathing organism that is ever-changing so you must be prepared to adapt and learn as you go. It is also THE place to meet your customers where they are, building trust to turn them into loyal customers.
What has worked best for you on social media? What has not worked at all?