The Secrets of Social Media Strategy
Every start up or small business knows they are supposed to be using social media; very few, however, have any clue how to go about it. The sprawling size, increasing number and insane pace of these networks — from old-timers like Facebook, Twitter to newcomers such as Snapchat — can be off-putting. If you know the right tricks, however, you can turn plenty of these services to your advantage.
Get the mix right and the potential benefits are huge: a vastly increased audience, a flood of new customers and an army of supporters doing your own marketing work for you. No matter what your area or industry, bear these social media secrets in mind as you plan your social strategy.
1. Do your homework – Know the medium.
It’s tempting to simply cross-post your content across multiple social networks in the same format — it’s certainly much less work — but you’ll see better results if you use your accounts independently. For example, you might want to use Twitter for breaking news and time-sensitive giveaways, Instagram to showcase your products and Facebook for support requests. Not only does this approach utilise each network’s distinctive characteristics, it also encourages your followers to subscribe to all of your feeds and accounts, rather than just one.
No matter how unique you try to be, the chances are that someone’s tried one of your social media ideas before. Consider what it is that makes your services stand out and try and push the boundaries of the networks you’re using. Social media moves so quickly that any temporary failures will be quickly forgotten, and you can use analytics tools to learn what works and what doesn’t. Of course, badly thought-out experiments can backfire — there are many famous examples of big corporations who have misjudged a campaign — so while experimentation is important, consider all angles before clicking “Publish.”
3. Post timings and frequency.
Post regularly and post often — you don’t want to be firing out all of your updates during the same 30 minute window every day, for example. If you don’t have the time, or the staff, to be monitoring all of your accounts all of the time, use one of the many scheduling tools that are available — Twitter’s official TweetDeck client is one application that can schedule tweets to be published at some point in the future. A social media account that’s infrequently used, or which hasn’t been updated in months, isn’t going to appear very enticing to potential followers.
4. Prioritise social.
There are few customer or user experiences worse than contacting a company over social media and receiving no response or one that takes days to arrive. If you’re going to set up accounts on Facebook, Twitter and other networks, make sure they are monitored and adequately staffed. If you don’t have the resources, make sure users know what to expect: use a Twitter bio that says “Product announcements only — see Facebook for support”, for example, or have clearly defined ‘opening hours’ that are listed in a prominent place, so that people have an understanding of when a response may arrive.
5. Don’t worry about numbers.
Don’t spend too much time staring at your follower count, waiting for it to rise. Focus instead on creating interesting and useful content that benefits your followers, and which they are likely to share; the numbers will follow in due course. Just like get-rich-quick schemes, any get-followers-fast idea is likely to fail or last for a very short time. Building up a substantial number of followers on most social networks is a long process, but if you put in the time and effort required to get to a tipping point, it’ll then get easier.
6. Add value.
Always give your followers reasons to subscribe to your feeds and reasons to keep following. It’s not enough to simply rely on their loyalty to your product or service: use a mixture of exclusive content, promotions and giveaways, interesting photos, videos and links, breaking news and other material to keep people engaged.
And remember: social media is supposed to be enjoyable. As Richard Branson once said to Mashable, regarding Virgin’s approach to social networks:
“Be authentic and organic. It can’t be forced or it won’t work. And most importantly, have fun.”