by Rachel Strella, founder of Strella Social Media
With social media a marketing staple for businesses in all industries and across all parts of the globe, it has become more competitively critical than ever for brands to get their acts together. You’ll find no shortage of online articles that offer social media tips, but many of them don’t cover the foundational necessities that are at the core of a successful social media brand presence.
Working as a social media strategist for the past eight years has given me an opportunity to work with many clients that take social media seriously and have put processes in place to facilitate success. It has also given me ample occasion to deal with businesses that fail to acknowledge that social media marketing requires commitment and the right organizational mindset.
Do you want to position your company for all of the benefits social media can deliver? Let’s look at some no-nonsense ways you can accomplish that.
1. Realize there’s no substitute for a sound strategy.
Brands that have built a large and engaged following didn’t do so by accident. They strategize and have a plan for their social media channels. They have taken the time to understand what’s important, interesting, and entertaining to their audience.
Below are examples of what an effective social media plan for your business will address:
- The audience needs and expectations on each platform your company uses
- Types of content your brand will post on those platforms
- Content themes to guide the kinds of posts you will create
- Frequency of updates
- Roles and responsibilities of team members and other parties that will manage your social media channels
- Tools that will be used to automate and schedule social media updates
- Policies for responding to mentions, comments, and messages—positive and negative
A content calendar is a tool that can help you organize the social media content you create to align with your strategic protocol. You may decide to plan your content a week, a month, a quarter, or a year in advance—in all cases, a content calendar will help you stay active on your channels even during the most hectic of times.
2. Respect each platform’s nuances.
Facebook isn’t Twitter. Twitter isn’t LinkedIn. LinkedIn isn’t Instagram…you get the idea! Each social media channel has its own unique qualities, and the audience on one will have different expectations than the audience on another. For example:
Hashtag usage – Instagram users expect to see multiple hashtags on posts, but on Twitter using just one or two is ideal. Hardly anyone uses them on Facebook. LinkedIn is encouraging hashtag use, but the jury is still out on whether it will gain notable popularity as a best practice.
Frequency of updates – To stay on the radar on Twitter, it requires a much higher posting frequency than on other platforms. So while tweeting every two hours won’t overstay your welcome on Twitter, posting that often on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn might result in people muting or unfollowing you.
Formality – LinkedIn, with its 100 percent professional focus, demands a bit more professionalism than other platforms. However, don’t confuse “professionalism” with “stuffiness.” You can be professional without being boring or unrelatable.
There are other distinctions between platforms that you should consider when using them to build your brand, as well.
3. Make sure your social media management team has mastered your brand’s voice.
Whoever has the responsibility of crafting your social media content and responding to followers should have a firm understanding of your brand’s voice. If your content and interactions are off-brand, your social media presence might confuse customers or drive them away.
One idea for keeping social media managers on track is to have a style guide for your company. A style guide can contain rules for any aspects of communication you want to be handled consistently by all who represent your company (customer service, marketing, public relations, sales, etc.).
A style guide might include:
- How you want your business name presented (for example, “ABC Electronics, Inc” vs. “ABC Electronics:”)
- Hyphenation of certain words (such as “well being” vs. “well-being”)
- Compound word preferences (like “health care” vs. “healthcare”)
- Taboo words (those that you never want to be used within your posts)
- The tone of your company (such as casual, earthy, witty, prestigious, high-tech, etc.)
Before you task someone with tending to your social media, make sure you’ve given them your style guide and encourage them to ask you for direction when they’re unsure whether proposed content will accurately reflect your brand voice.
4. Be approachable and real.
It’s called “social” media for a reason. Brands that come off as out of touch with or uninterested in their followers put themselves at a competitive disadvantage. Make your brand presence more than just a talking logo that promotes your services in every post. Mix it up and give your updates the human touch.
Some ideas for how to do that include:
- Strike conversations with your followers. Ask questions or create polls to get them talking.
- Share glimpses of what happens behind the scenes of your business via videos.
- Introduce your team members through bios or video interviews.
- Share real-life stories about how your services and products have helped your customers.
By making followers feel at home with your brand, you’ll gain their trust and facilitate interaction with your company. Ultimately, that can result in referrals, leads, and new customers.
5. Strengthen your leadership team members’ personal branding efforts.
What sets many brands apart from others is when followers have an opportunity to get to know the head honchos. Business owners, CEOs, and others in leadership roles have prime opportunities to strengthen their companies online presence by taking opportunities to share their expertise via guest blog posts, podcasts, media interviews, etc. All of these have the potential to generate exposure across multiple social media channels and to audiences beyond your business’s immediate reach.
6. Stay up to date on social media changes.
One of the best ways to do this is by subscribing to blogs that focus on content marketing and social media trends and best practices. Most important, don’t be a stranger to your social media accounts. You’ll find that you’ll see or receive notifications of changes (such as layout modifications) made to platforms if you log into your accounts frequently.
7. Make sure your social media managers have your organization’s support.
Social media followers expect answers to their questions and concerns quickly. In fact in reference to an article on ConvinceandConvert, “Forty-two percent of consumers that complain to a brand on social media expect a response within 60 minutes.” So if your social media admin needs guidance on how to answer an inquiry or resolve an issue, you must make it your business’s M.O. to give that individual the information or direction needed to respond within a short window of time. This will mean setting the expectation with your team members that they must make answering questions from your social media manager a high priority.
8. Accept that you will probably need to “pay to play” if you want to expand your reach significantly.
With the intent to facilitate a more enjoyable social media experience for consumers, platforms have tweaked their algorithms to organically show less content from brands in followers’ news feeds. To gain greater exposure online, you may need a little help from the almighty dollar. Fortunately, options like Facebook Ads and advertising on Instagram offer a comparatively cost-effective way to boost your brand and accomplish reaching a more extensive and l targeted audience.
9. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
One of the biggest mistakes businesses make is trying to be on more social media channels than they are capable of handling. Resist the urge to immediately jump on the bandwagon when a new platform enters the field. Being an early adopter doesn’t always work to your advantage. Not every new channel takes off and sticks around for the long term. Some become short-lived fads (such as Vine and Blab) that sucked up marketer’s time without delivering an ROI. Not that you shouldn’t review what new sites and tools have to offer, but carefully assess their potential benefits for your business before throwing time and money at them.
The Ultimate Social Media “Must.
The absolutely essential ingredient for success with social media is the willingness to embrace it as part of your company’s operations. Just like other aspects of your business — sales, customer service, production, technical support, marketing, etc. — social media requires constant attention and evaluation. And, just like other aspects of your business, your social media goals should be carefully constructed to align with your overall organizational goals and objectives.
Rachel Strella is the founder of Strella Social Media, a social media management company serving dozens of clients nationally. She is a regular contributor to Small Business Trends and Social Media Today and has been featured in Forbes, ABWA Magazine, and numerous other major publications. She’s also a well-respected speaker having delivered dozens of social media presentations to businesses, colleges, trade groups, etc. Follow her on Twitter.