Over the past decade social media has changed the face of communication. Everyone from your mailman to your grandma has a Facebook account, and probably an Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter account. Social media’s no longer relegated to younger users or certain circles–everyone’s hashtagging, tweeting, liking and sharing. There can be a tendency as a small business to feel the need to jump on ALL of the social media platforms and start creating accounts; to get your slice of the engagement pie. While it’s smart to connect with your customers on social media, biting off more than you can chew is counter-productive. Active, consistent engagement is key, along with relevant fresh content. It’s much better to plan and use smart strategies to keep your social media updates on schedule and ensure your customers are not getting radio silence when they try to tune into your message.
Decide which Platform (or Platforms) Fit Your Needs
There are a dizzying array of social media platforms, and each comes with it’s own audience, set of rules and social media etiquette. Familiarizing yourself with each can help you judge which platform is best for your company. For professional content, LinkedIn is the way to connect with other members of your industry. Rather than sharing vacation photos and pop culture snippets, you can read professional articles, chat and network with others in your industry and receive endorsements. LinkedIn is B2B and professionally focused, so while you may network with your fellow cohorts you probably won’t connect as widely with your customers. The great thing about LinkedIn is once you’ve created your company profile, you can choose to update regularly, or largely “set it and forget it.” To engage with your customers, Facebook offers (mostly) seamless ad integration, and analytics making it easy to see how your audience is being reached. It’s estimated 61% of Millennials use Facebook as their primary source of political news. With the ability to easily share posts, sheer numbers of potential audience members, and user-friendliness, Facebook sets the standard for most small business social media. The best thing about Facebook is, while unique content is great, you can simply share relevant articles, videos and photos to keep your audience regularly interacting with you (and stay in their news feeds). Similar to Facebook, Google Plus has grown in relevance over the past few years, and offers great features including Google Hangouts (video conferencing and chats with document sharing). The ability to interact and connect with your customers, along with the integration with the rest of your Google applications including Gmail, Google Calendar, Drive, makes sharing and meeting a breeze. Twitter offers less visual, more targeted content. Tweets are kept to 140 characters of small sound bites—witty, smart and concise content. Expect to see a lot of @’s and #’s, and if you’re not entertaining or engaging, you won’t get shared. Instagram is visual, and mobile-based—photos and short video snippets only. This platform works for artsy and visual trendsetting companies like clothing and food retailers, restaurants and creative media companies. You can easily update and share content with your mobile device. With Instagram, the more likes and comments you respond to, the more likes and comments you’ll receive, generally speaking. Also on the visual side of the spectrum is PInterest. Users “pin” content from the web they like and want to refer back to. Paid advertisements can stick out, but some businesses have found success with infographics—the hot way of packaging information to be pinned and shared. There are other social media platforms (and it seems a new one opens up each day), but those are the top billers. So the question is—do you need them all, and if so, how do you keep up with them
Post Regular Updates
There are several apps available to give you the ability to manage all of your content in one place. HootSuite and Buffer are just two of the many programs you can use to schedule and manage cross-platform posts. If you have a blog or weekly newsletter, chances are you have content you can repurpose. Programs like MailChimp offer social sharing and the ability to post your email updates and newsletters right to your social media platforms. You can share on Facebook, link to it on Twitter, and instantly post on other social media sites. There are some guidelines as to the number of posts per day you need to keep your audience engaged. Generally speaking, Twitter is 3+ times per day, Facebook is 2, LinkedIn is 1, Instagram 1-2, and Google Plus is 2-3. Pinterest engagement hits the sweet spot at around five posts per day, and if you have a blog, you’ll want to post at least twice a week.
Keep it Relevant and Interesting
Relevance is key to any social media engagement. Visual content, humorous, interesting or shareable will keep your audience interacting with you. The more your audience interacts (likes, comments and shares), the more the algorithm to get you in their news feed will pick you up. So how do you create “viral content”? There’s no hard and fast rule, and anyone who tells you differently is probably trying to sell you something. Aim for content that speaks to your audience. Tell them something interesting about your product. Showcase something your product does with a video clip. Share some facts about your industry. Share relevant articles to your industry and talk to your audience—respond to comments and answer questions. That said if there’s a relevant topic trending, it’s totally okay and encouraged for you to weigh in on it (avoid politics, unless it’s your industry). Is the dress blue or brown? Did you do the ice bucket challenge? Some pieces of content can just be silly, but making content relate to current events can be a great way to get you in on your audiences conversations.
Only Use What You Can Handle There’s a tendency for companies to spread their social media umbrella too wide. Unfortunately, if you can’t keep up with your regular posts, you will lose followers and become less relevant. People may even start to wonder what’s going on with your company. It’s far better to post once a week, regularly then it is to post daily for a week and then disappear for six months (or until you hire a new social media savvy intern). Take some baby steps to select your platforms. First try Facebook, and a blog. When it’s going well, repurpose content and cross-post to Google Plus and LinkedIn. Once your audience has built up there for a few months, add Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest to the mix. Insightly offers social media CRM integration, which means you can see, and connect with your customers on their social media platforms! Consider your industry as well. If you have a staff of up-and-coming comedians or photographers, post away. However, if you’re a small business trying to do it all, it’s okay to skip the platforms that don’t fit with your company, or represent your demographic. Furnace repair might not make compelling photos for Instagram (it COULD, but probably won’t). Alternatively, if you’re an artist or own an architecture firm, you’d get further with visual posts than with Twitter.
Keep It Fun
If social media feels like drudgery, then you’re doing it wrong. Posts should be light, fun and entertaining. If you deal with heavy topics in your line of work, keep things uplifting, educational or interesting. Compelling human-interest stories, showing the impact of your work can really make audiences think about you in a new way. It’s important to follow analytics and ensure you’re reaching your audience, but don’t live and die by your numbers. Social media is about much faster interactions than your website, or even your blog. You can start to A/B test posts and tailor them to your audience, but your staff (and intern) will probably become overwhelmed. It’s far better to aim for fun, consistent content rather than trying to be perfect. Get engaged and involved. Post as often as you can manage, keep things visual, keep them entertaining, and get awesome content to your waiting audience!