A successful inbound marketing strategy requires an active and effective social media presence. Social media platforms provide a fantastic way to meet your contacts, develop relationships and nurture those contacts along the buyer’s journey. We have put together a list of what we believe to be the 8 best practices to follow as you create and grow a solid and beneficial social media engagement.
1. Select the Right Platform
Choose the right social networks in the context of your buyer personas. Each platform is slightly different. Facebook has 2 billion users and the most regular users, so you will almost always want to include Facebook for sheer reach value. Think of the following:
- Nearly 60% of adult Internet users have a Facebook profile and a large portion of that group access the platform more than once a day.
- 67% of Americans use Facebook as a primary source of news.
- While almost 50% of Facebook users use Facebook more than once each day, only 27% of Instagram users do so. The daily access rate fails to 23% for Twitter users and 6% for LinkedIn users. Given these figures, it is easy to grasp the power of Facebook.
Facebook allows you to have a personal page and a business page but requires businesses to have a business page. A Facebook business page gives you access to analytics, the ability to categorize for search, allows you to add a mission statement and product catalogue, and to ask for client reviews.
Instagram and Messenger are both owned by Facebook. Instagram is the 3rd largest and fastest growing social media platform and is very visual-centric. It is also has the best record for generating engagement with your followers. Almost 90% of Instagram users are under 35 years old. To get a business page on Instagram you must first have a business page on Facebook.
LinkedIn is the largest social networking site for professionals with 467 million users and is an excellent choice for B2B companies. It provides a great way to build thought leadership and drive users to your website.
YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine in the world after Google. There are an estimated 5 billion videos viewed per day and an estimated 300 hours of new video uploaded per hour. YouTube reaches more people in the 18 to 49 age group than any other cable network and 6 in 10 adults prefer YouTube to regular television.
Twitter is a by-the-minute news platform. It is a great place to figure out what is trending and is a great place to nurture organic networking. 500 million tweets are generated daily. Twitter is a great place (along with Facebook) to provide social customer service.
Smaller platforms include Pinterest, which allows users to create thematic bulletin boards. People use Pinterest to get ideas. Snapchat is another platform which has lost some ground recently. Snapchat users are the youngest demographic with most users in the 12 to 24 age group.
With a firm knowledge of your ideal buyer personas, you can identify the right social channels to pursue. Consider starting with Facebook as you monitor engagement and then adding Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, YouTube or Yelp. If you work with an automated marketing software such as HubSpot, it is easy to push out your content simultaneously across many different social media channels.
2. Update Your Social Media Profiles
Maintaining effective and engaging social media profiles is an essential part of setting your business up for success. Here are some best practices when configuring your profile.
- Engaging visuals - Capture attention with bright, vivid images. Your profile picture should be easily recognizable at any size. Your logo is usually the best choice but if it does not display well as a thumbnail, consider creating an adapted version.
- Profile Photos - Update your profile picture. Consider uploading a recent business attire picture to your LinkedIn profile.
- Cover Photos - Upload a cover photo on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to complement your profile picture. The cover photo has a prominent location, so use this space strategically. Cover photos can also be used for call-to-actions.
- Business Description - When optimizing your social media channels, publish a consistent business description across all channels. Company descriptions can encourage clicks. Be sure link to your website as well.
- Be Consistent - Use the same imagery and voice across all of your different social media accounts.
3. Build Relationships, Not Traffic
Fostering an online community is easier, cheaper and provides a better ROI than acquiring new customers. This is often called the 80/20 rule which holds that 80% of your sales will come from the 20% of your contacts that are most loyal to your brand. Your happy customers and followers will promote your brand to others. Posts that include questionnaires, surveys or contests are a great way to encourage interaction. Ask a question to start a discussion. Encourage and respond to feedback. Remember, if someone goes to the effort of commenting on your post, be sure to acknowledge their response.
4. Be Aware of Professional Standards
Most industries have regulating governing bodies that have issued guidelines about the ethical use of social media. Make sure that you follow the recommendations specific to your industry to avoid any issues of misconduct. These are mostly just common sense.
5. Quality Over Quantity Always
Make sure you are actually helping people and not just advertising your services. If you focus on promoting your services, you will lose followers and never gain any social media traction. A solid 80% of everything you put out on social media should have the goal of providing helpful advice. By ensuring that your social media content is helpful, you will gain and keep followers. Also, good quality, helpful content gets shared across social media platforms, which acts to increase your reach. The following are some hints to make sure you maintain high quality posts.
- Be selective - Each piece of content should high quality and reflect best practices. If you think it is filler or fluff, do not use it.
- Shorter, concise information clearly displayed is the most effective.
- Highly visual content is more frequently shared. Use white space, bolding and images.
- Include some curated content (just make sure it is properly sourced) along with your original content. Remember the primary goal is to help your followers. Tip: do not link out to the curated content as you never want to drive followers away from you.
6. Create a Calendar
Your social media posting should align with your overall content creation calendar. The timing of your social media posts should be platform specific. For Facebook, you should post multiple times per week but refrain from posting multiple times per day. An oversaturation of Facebook posts can have a negative effect on your brand. On the other hand, studies have shown that posting up to 15 times per day on Twitter is effective. You can repurpose your posts across different social media platforms but make sure that you alter them somewhat. Nobody wants to see the exact same post in different locations. Also monitor what times of day seem to generate the most engagement with your followers. Some studies have shown posting between 1 and 4 pm results in the best traction, while other studies indicate that weekend posts do well. The following is a rule of thumb:
- Facebook - Post from 1 to 4 pm on weekdays and 12 to 1 pm on weekends
- Instagram - Post on Mondays and Thursdays except 3 to 4 pm. Instagram videos do best if posted between 9 pm and 8 am.
- Twitter - Tweet between 12 and 3 pm and at 5 pm.
- LinkedIn - Post on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 7:30 to 8:30 am, from 5 to 6 pm and at lunch
- Pinterest - Post Saturday evenings from 8 to 11 pm and Fridays around 3 pm
Your audience and your traction will be specific to you, so experiment with the timing of posts until you find your sweet spot and notice an increase in interaction. Also, remember the time zone of your target market. Inside of North America alternate between Eastern and Central.
7. Don’t be Afraid to Pay
Use paid advertising as a critical part of your social media strategy. It works and it will provide the results that you want much faster. This is particularly important in the early stages of your social media strategy. You can be sure that your competition is using and reaping the benefits of paid advertising. People are often worried about the costs associated with paid advertising but that fear is generally unwarranted. Ads on Facebook are not that expensive and can be very effective.
8. Review Your Results
Although it was mentioned above, it bears repeating. Monitor the engagement (comments, shares, etc) that your posts garner and tweak your posts accordingly. The more one on one engagement, the better. Experiment with different forms of content, different platforms, and different timing of posts. Analyze what works and what does not work, and let this analysis guide and inform your future social media steps.
Although it may seem a little daunting at first, social media outreach is very effective and can be a lot of fun. You are meeting your contacts online, engaging with them, helping them, while at the same time positioning your company as a thought leader in your industry. Every successful company needs to be on their social media game. The results are worth the effort.