Social media is no longer a mysterious fad exclusive to teenagers and college students. It’s now a robust communications tool used by hundreds of millions of people and businesses.
Seriously, who doesn’t have a Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn account if not all three? If your company doesn’t have a social media presence, you’re behind the times. At the same time, just having a static company page on Facebook or locked down Twitter handle isn’t enough. Not to be harsh, but it’s time to actively join the social sphere.
Social Media Best Practices
We’ve put together a quick and easy list of steps for you to follow to convert your inbound marketing strategy into comprehensive social media success.
Step #1: Determine the best platforms for you.
You’re familiar with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. You’ve probably heard of Pinterest, Instagram and maybe even Google+. But what about Snapchat? Friendster? Tagged? Vine?
Picking the right social media platforms for your company is important. You want to make sure you’re investing the perfect combination of time and creativity in the ideal social channel.
You’ve heard us talk about buyer personas before. They apply here, too.
Put yourself in your customers shoes and learn from that information. Which social network would the bulk of your customers be actively engaged? If they’re business types, especially men, you’re probably going to want a Twitter account and LinkedIn. If you’re trying to share products with middle-aged females then Pinterest is a great place to start.
Do your homework and connect your target audiences with the demographic data for each social network. That’ll tell you the platforms to focus on.
Step #2: Stake your claim.
Setting up a social media account is fairly simple, but it’s important to remember you’re joining a massive network of people and companies. Be sure to make your page names, handles, etc. clear and congruent. You want people to immediately identify your company online.
Many social channels, like Facebook and Twitter, allow you to create friendly URLs with your name or handle directly in the link. This will help when you cross-promote your social accounts in your overall inbound strategy. There’s always the risk that the exact name you’re wanting may be taken or ten companies have dangerously similar names. You’ll need to get as close as possible, but don’t worry if it’s not exact. You can utilize your profile or bio to clearly state who you are and what you offer.
Just make sure you keep your profiles, handles, and urls as consistent as possible across all networks.
Step #3: Tell people who you are.
Filling out your profile or bio is extremely important for companies on social media. With so many accounts to sort through, you want your social visitors to know where they are as soon as they land on your profile.
Update your profile image to a standard logo or icon. Add some language to your “about” section, including a link back to your website. Listing contact and other relevant information can help to keep customers actively engaged.
Step #4: Use your personality.
Whether you’re a formal company or a casual one, social media requires a different style of communication. Establish a unique but consistent writing voice. Always remember it’s social media; talk to your audience in a way they can easily talk back. Creating a platform for two-way communication is vital to a company’s social success.
Keep in mind, you’re likely to get at least one or two negative comments from disgruntled customers over the course of time. It’s important to plan for this. Have a process for how to handle upset users and bad feedback. These situations are best approached by addressing the issue on the particular social page, demonstrating transparency and your company’s willingness to provide customer service. But when it comes down to it, that’s something you'll have to work out as you go.
Step #5: Listen to what your customers want.
All too often companies line up a string of content that’s all about them.
Don’t do that.
It may sound counter-intuitive, but that’s where the buyer personas come in again. Keep in mind why people would follow you on a social media networking site. What are they looking for? Sure they want to know if you’re having a sale or why they should choose you over the competitor, but they really want to hear something that resonates.
The best social media content is the stuff that finds the “sweet spot” -- the intersection between what is happening in the world and what your audience is emotionally connected with. Find ways to tie your company’s messaging into cultural happenings and events that evoke strong emotion. As a best practice, share content that answers the questions and concerns of your target personas.
Step #6: Map out your plan.
Shooting from the hip is an inevitable part of the social media process. Things change so fast you have to be ready to react quickly. However, having a plan will keep your social strategy tied to your overall inbound plan.
Calendaring is the most common way companies prepare social content. You can find great examples to create your own by doing a simple search.
If your company is just getting started with social, it is wise to write some Company Standards documents as an outline for how the business will use different platforms. Some basic examples would be a Social Media Plan, Social Media Policy and Procedures (both internal and external) and even Social Media Guidelines. These can, and should, be living documents that are updated periodically. They will help your company stay focused and uniform even if multiple people are using the social accounts.
Step #7: Be flexible and knowledgeable.
As mentioned previously, the social world changes daily. It’s important to be a continuous learner and someone who adapts easily. Even with a calendar in place, something is going to change. A world event, a company crisis, or an impromptu shift in strategy. Make sure your social team knows how to respond to these shifts.
Staying up to date on technology, applications, and operating systems is also important. Sites like AllFacebook, AllTwitter and Hubspot are solid resources to keep you in the know for all things social. The Internet is full of blogs and self-help sites for every platform. Do your due diligence and find the information that pertains to you and your company.
Step #8: Use compelling visuals.
More than two thirds of all social content is visual. Facebook has even limited the amount of words you can put on an ad image because it knows users aren’t interested in words. The most recent report shows that a tweet with an image is 150 times more likely to be retweeted.
Now, don’t ditch language of any kind. Simply supply a strong visual element to your content. Applications like Infogram are great ways to create fast and easy infographics without needing a full-time graphic designer. Even a simple photo works for most purposes.
Step #9: Measure your results.
What kind of company would you work for if leadership wasn’t interested in the return on investment of social media?
A regular social media report may also be a good way to demonstrate success. Things like audience growth, engagement percentages, and website leads are great data points to include. Show how social media generates word-of-mouth for your company.
Bonus Point: Learn to adapt with the trends
Social media is constantly evolving, and your strategy should move parallel with those shifts. Don’t be alarmed if you feel off-kilter thinking about conversational tone, or weaving your messages into an engaging format. Those skills come with time. The only way to develop a robust approach and social media expertise is to keep doing it and be consistent.
Stay alert for platform updates. Use the right tone. Test your content and then tweak everything as you go.
Taking action and follow these 9 steps. Soon, you and your company will achieve social success.
Jason Thomas has been helping launch and develop start ups for 10 years. Jason's passion is working with motivated entrepreneurs to validate and implement ideas that grow their business.
Jason is a husband, father, and homesteader in training. In his spare time he's generally outside working with his hands and getting dirty.