Social media channels have become heavily integrated into our personal and professional lives. For businesses, social media plays a big role in digital marketing strategies. It provides various platforms for business marketers to increase brand recognition, connect with their audience, and convert followers into paying customers.
If your company still doesn’t have a social media presence, you’re missing out on a big opportunity to attract new customers. In fact, Buffer – a social media marketing agency – conducted a report in 2019 and found that 58% of marketers say social media is “very important” to their overall marketing strategy.
Whether your business has had a presence on social media for years or you’re just getting active, here are eight practices for success in the social media landscape.
1. Research Your Audience
Social media is a connectivity tool, so naturally, the first step to take when planning a social media marketing campaign is to research the audience (potential new customers) you’re aiming to connect with. What is their age? Buying behaviors? Do they work or are they still in school? Understanding how they behave online will help you to craft a campaign that speaks to and appeals to them.
If you’re brand new to social media and are unsure of who your target audience is, a good place to start is with your existing customers. Who is buying your product? Is it primarily women, men or a pretty even mix? How old are they? Do they typically buy online or in store? Getting a better understanding of the type of people who are already loyal to your brand will help you to target other likeminded consumers through your social media efforts.
Perhaps the most important part of this process is understanding which social media platforms your target audience spends the most time on. You have to think of each platform as its own ecosystem. A tweet is different from an Instagram post which is different from a Facebook post. Figure out where your audience is active so you can tailor your marketing efforts to those platforms.
The social media landscape as a whole can be overwhelming. Targeting your audience allows you to narrow your scope and concentrate your efforts.
2. Set Goals
Setting goals helps you to measure the success and effectiveness of your efforts. This could be anything from gaining a certain number of new followers or increasing the engagement on your posts, to driving more traffic from your social media pages to your company’s website. Every time you’re conceiving of a campaign, initiative, or even a single post, ask yourself what you are hoping to achieve with that action. Keep track of the goals you reach as well as the ones you don’t. Use every post as a learning opportunity.
When establishing goals, it’s good practice to use the SMART method – SMART being an acronym for: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
- Specific: Business owners and social media managers should set goals that are clear and well-defined.
- Measurable: Creating measurable goals means having a criterion to gauge the extent of your goal’s success. Quantifiable goals should answer questions like “how much?” or “how many?”
- Attainable: Goals should be achievable and realistic. You may have to consider what resources or skills are available to you at the moment to help you achieve the goal.
- Relevant: Are your goals aligned with your company’s current vision? Will they lead to the improvement of your company’s bottom line?
- Time-Bound: Setting goals also means setting realistic deadlines for those goals. Time-constraints will provide a sense of urgency and will help you and your team focus on specific tasks to meet them by your established target dates.
3. Form a Separate Team for Your Social Media Marketing Campaign
Social media is one of the most challenging digital marketing strategies that you can implement because there are so many moving parts to it. Without a team in place to help you create content, schedule posts, respond to customer concerns, and generate leads, it becomes that much more difficult. Small business owners already have a ton on their plate. Chances are, they won’t have the time or bandwidth to give social media efforts the amount of energy and focus they require in order to be effective. It’s best to assemble a team to make these efforts their main priority so you, the owner, can continue to focus on operating the business.
When forming a social media team, it’s always better to have a group of people with a range of skills. At the very least, they should have a good grasp of the various social media platforms, understand how each works, and have excellent PR and communications skills. The number of people on your team depends on your goals and budget. If you’re a more prominent company that generates several leads or receives a lot of inquiries from customers every day, you’ll need a bigger team. Small companies can probably get away with hiring a single person to manage their social media accounts, recognizing that they may need to add more people to the team as the business grows.
Here are the primarily roles to fill:
- Social media manager
- Content creator
- Customer Service
- Social Media Analyst
This doesn’t mean you need a team of five people – one person can take on more than one role, even all of them if that’s all your budget will allow for. As the company grows, however, you’ll likely need to add new team members to properly manage the growing workload.
4. Establish Your Brand Voice
In the process of building a social media presence, you have to consider what your brand’s voice is. This is everything from the actual words and language you use, to the way you approach customer communications. What is your tone? Are you a brand that uses humor to interact with customers? Do you inject comedy into all your posts and comments? Are you snarky? More serious? Do you prioritize visual aesthetic? Are you very vocal about social issues you support?
Establishing your unique brand voice communicates your company’s personality and values, but also creates consistency throughout your interactions across all platforms. Consistency creates reliability which creates trust.
If your company hasn’t established its brand voice yet, it’s best to lay out some ground rules on your social media policy that your team can use in interacting with your followers. One good practice is to ask yourself how you want your audience to view your brand. Consider your brand’s core mission and values, and how you’d like your customers to feel when communicating with you. Your business’ social media is an extension of your brand, which is why it’s essential to ensure that your messaging aligns with your company’s vision.
5. Study Your Competition
As with any other business marketing strategies, studying your competitors’ social media strategies is one of the best ways to stay ahead. It’s likely that you have similar target audiences so looking at what campaigns have worked, or not worked for them, can be just as effective as analyzing your own efforts.
When researching your competition, start by looking at which brands have the most audience engagement. Take note of what they are doing to earn that engagement. There are a number of tools like Sprout Social, Phalanx, SEMRush, or MozBar that you can use to perform competitor audits.
6. Plot Out Your Social Media Calendar Ahead of Time
Social media is incredibly fast-paced. Creating a schedule for your posts ahead of time is the best way to keep up and stay consistent. First off, creating quality original content takes time – especially if your account is video heavy. The further out you plan, the more time you have to create your content and ensure that it will resonate with your target audience. Scheduling your posts is also a great way to stay organized and keep all team members aligned and on the same page.
Other benefits of planning your social media calendar ahead of time include:
- Keeping each member of the team accountable. With a planned out social media calendar, each member of your team will be aware of the deadlines they have to meet.
- Strategic posting. A social media calendar helps you and your team determine what content is best posted at a specific time. For instance, limited promotions that run on certain dates – like Black Friday or Cyber Monday specials – or content that leverages trending pop culture moments like the Oscars or a Presidential election.
- Post Scheduling. Once you have your content, you can then schedule it using social media content scheduling tools like Sprout Social, HootSuite, or Zoho. Preparing your posts ahead reduces the chance of you forgetting to post relevant content on a specific day.
7. Find out the Best Times to Post on Social Media
When running a social media marketing campaign, you have to know when the optimum time is to post your content. This ensures that you’ll maximize the number of people who will see your posts.
According to Hootsuite, the best time to post on social media is from Mondays to Wednesdays between 9 to 12 a.m. EST. They further provided a breakdown of the best times to post your content on different social media platforms.
- For B2B companies, the best time to post on Facebook is between 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. during Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. For B2C, marketers should post content on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays at noon.
- Twitter. One important thing to note when using Twitter is that a tweet only lasts for about 18 minutes before it goes down to where people won’t see it. With that, it’s better to get your post live on the platform between 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays if you’re a B2B company, and 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. if you’re a B2C company.
- For Instagram, the best time to post content is Mondays through Fridays between 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.
While these are good general rules of thumb, you should take the steps to research when your specific audience is most active on your target platforms. Once you have your data, you can optimize your schedule to maximize your social media reach.
8. Respond to Customers as Quickly as You Can
One of the biggest benefits of social media is that it allows brands to interact with and communicate with customers directly either via direct messages or through comments on posts. It’s important that you leverage this opportunity and respond to comments and messages in a timely manner. This applies to positive comments, messages and brand mentions, but even more so negative ones. Don’t ignore these types of interactions, address them professionally – answer any questions the customers may have, alleviate concerns and direct them towards solutions to their issues. The bigger your audience, the more comments each post will receive which is why it’s advised to have someone on your team whose role is to manage communications via the various platforms. Engagement with your audience shows you value them and that you’re listening.
Social media is one of the best places to reach your target audience and is definitely a worthwhile investment for your business. If you’re new to social media marketing, utilize these practices to get your accounts up and running. It is worth noting that changes happen continually in social media. While these may be the best practices today, new ones could arise in the future, so it’s important to keep your finger on the pulse of new features, trends and strategies. Do your research, adjust your goals based on your findings, and optimize your campaigns to make the most out of your social media marketing efforts.