Social media can be a powerful tool to engage with your audience, build brand recognition, and generate sales—but only if you use it properly.
Many businesses use social media and some do it well, but most have a lot of room to improve. The good news is that it’s not complicated, it just takes some hard work. And anything worth doing is worth doing well, right?
In this article, I’m going to share with you 9 ways to take your social media to the next level so that you can engage with your audience, build a brand people recognize, and earn the income you deserve.
Create and follow a plan
It’s easy to lose focus without a plan—especially when it comes to social media.
Without a plan, you end up frantically looking for useful and engaging content to share at the last-minute. Often, this leads to getting lost down the social media hole, and after hours of digging through Facebook or Twitter, you realize you haven’t accomplished anything.
A plan enables you to find the perfect content to share and craft the ideal message to go along with it—efficiently and ahead of time.
I like to plan out social posts for a 12 month period based on strategic goals, existing and new content themes, holidays, and relevant industry events, leaving some room for last-minute additions.
Tailor posts for each network
Each social network has its own nuances and what works for one may not work for another, so forget about just posting the same thing everywhere. You need to tailor your posts specifically for each network, both in terms of frequency and content.
Users (individuals or businesses) follow each other and interact on Twitter in 140 character messages. This leads to rapid-fire posting in an informal setting. You can reach a very broad audience, but also have the ability to interact with an incredibly specific audience through the use of hashtags or searching for specific keywords or users. While sharing valuable content and engaging with your followers is important, it is also important to post frequently because the sheer volume of posts on Twitter means each one is buried quickly.
Individuals use a personal profile while businesses and other organizations use pages. Facebook users are usually more selective about the pages they interact with, so quality is paramount—especially since the level of engagement has a direct impact on how many followers see your posts. If few followers like, share, or comment on your posts, they will display in the news feed less frequently. Try to focus on crafting your posts in a way that encourages people to engage, such as posting a question, something controversial, or a valuable resource.
You’ll find a lot of the same functionality on Google+ as you will on Facebook, but this network tends to draw in a mostly male, tech-oriented audience as found in the gaming, SEO, and maker communities.
While Google+ is more male-oriented, Pinterest leans heavily in the opposite direction, appealing more to women-focused markets like crafts, interior design, and fashion. This is an underrated social network that can, in many niches, drive obscene amounts of traffic to your website with little competition. The key is to create appealing images to go along with your pins. Posting frequency can be higher than Facebook due to how they are displayed, but your emphasis should still remain on quality.
Much like Facebook, users on LinkedIn interact from personal profiles. Similarly, it offers pages for business, but they are virtually useless. (You should still secure yours, but don’t waste a lot of effort on it.) LinkedIn is generally slower-paced, more formal than other networks, and geared towards individuals interacting directly, so take it easy.
Imagine being able to Facetime with your entire audience—that’s what Periscope is all about. Unlike other social networks, your posts on Periscope are automatically deleted after 24 hours, which kind of sucks, but the fact that your audience can see and interact with you live in real-time makes up for that. This takes engagement to a whole new level and helps you to build trust with your audience. The most important thing is to be yourself and share something valuable.
Look outside your industry
It makes sense to watch other companies in your industry, for several reasons, but emulating their social media strategy is not one of them. If you copy your competitors’ strategy, how can you expect to differentiate yourself from them?
Instead, look at companies who are crushing it in completely unrelated industries. For example, if your company sells drug testing, you might try looking at what people in the fitness industry are doing on Instagram for a totally fresh perspective. Remember, your goal is to stand out and create brand recognition, and you can only do that if you’re doing things differently than the other people in your industry.
Use hashtags properly
A few days ago, a client asked me to explain hashtags. I told him to think of it like a description that people can use to find posts related to a particular topic. They can use the search feature to find all posts with the same hashtag, or they can even click on a hashtag and be taken to a page with all posts containing that hashtag. His response was “Oh, then should I just use a hashtag on every word in a post?”
When it comes to hashtags, fewer is better. I usually recommend no more than three—and only where it is relevant. For example, on Veterans Day, we tweeted a link to a post about veteran-owned businesses with a killer marketing strategy. Highly relevant because 1.) it was veterans day, and 2.) the article highlighted veteran-owned businesses who had a unique approach to marketing.
— Spartan Media (@SpartanMediaInc) November 11, 2015
You also need to ensure you use hashtags in context. Don’t jump on a trending hashtag just to get your name in front of a lot of eyeballs like Entenmann’s did when they used the #notguitly hashtag, which was trending as a result of Casey Anthony’s “Not Guilty” murder verdict. The resulting PR backlash was not pretty.
Engage with your followers
The whole purpose of social media is to be social—that means communicating with your audience, not just vomiting a steady stream of links to posts on your own website.
Ask questions to find out what they care about, respond to their comments, share their posts when relevant. The idea is to create a two-way dialogue. Think of social media as a way to leverage communication with your entire audience, not to broadcast your message.
Sure it takes time, and it’s not easy, but most of your competitors aren’t doing it, so it will put you that much further ahead of them.
If you need motivation, consider this: all relationships are built on trust, and trust comes from getting to know someone. (Or an organization.) The more your audience trusts you, the more likely they are to do business with you.
P.S. There are also ways to automate some aspects of engagement using IFTTT.
Mix up the content you share
Don’t just share links to posts on your own website. Share links to other websites, ask questions, post content directly instead of linking out, share images…you get the idea.
People generally have a short attention span, so by mixing up the content you post, you keep them interested. You also increase the chances that more people will engage because everyone responds differently to different types of content. For example, I usually prefer text and will rarely play a video, but other people would prefer video over reading. By offering different types of content, you give everyone in your audience a reason to engage.
Batch social media activity
Social media has the ability to suck you in and waste hours of your valuable time if you aren’t careful, which is why I batch any time spent there.
When I see a link worth sharing or have an idea for a post on social media, I simply drop it into our project management system (Basecamp) and when it’s time to work on social, my team posts anything we’ve added. It’s far more efficient than “multitasking” which has been scientifically proven to reduce productivity by up to 40%!
Since we track everything down to the minute, I know exactly how much time this has saved us. Batching social media (and all tasks, for that matter) allows us to perform better in less time. That’s a win for Spartan Media as well as for our clients!
Most small businesses should do just fine by setting aside a block of 15-30 minutes each day to handle social media marketing, as long as you’ve developed a solid plan like we talked about earlier.
Be yourself. Always.
Most people avoid that because they’re afraid of rejection, and if someone rejects them while they are being themselves, they take it as a personal rejection.
Guess what…some people will never like you. No matter what. And that’s OK.
If you try to please everyone, people will think you’re full of shit, and they will be correct. I’m sure you’ve noticed that politicians do exactly that, always trying to stand on both sides of an issue, which is why Congress has had a single-digit approval rating for as long as I can remember.
People have far more respect for someone who unapologetically stands on who they are. Speaking from first hand experience, I have a few friends whose political views are a polar opposite of mine, but I have more respect for them than the people who share my views but hide them.
People decide whether to do business with you based on you as a person, and if you’re trying to put on a show, they will see right through it. Be yourself and the right people will gravitate to you. Pretend to be someone who you aren’t and you’ll attract the wrong people, making business miserable and more difficult.
I’ve outlined some great examples in a previous post titled Your Brand Sucks Because You’re Trying to be Someone Else! You should check it out.
Create a stalker list (But not in a creepy way)
There is a lot of work with little to show in the way of results when you’re first getting started on social media. You can post the most amazing content in the world, but with a small handful of followers, few people will see it. As you incrementally build followers, your reach grows exponentially, but there is a way to leverage other people’s’ audience to jump-start that growth.
Simply create a list of influential people in your industry and make it a point to engage with them in a meaningful way ever day. Answer their questions, share their posts, and offer feedback where appropriate, and before long, you will be on their radar. Nurture this like any other relationship, and you will quickly build a strong ally who can multiply your exposure by sharing and commenting on your posts.
And remember to pay it forward when you strike it big by helping other people just getting started.