I’m not going to harp on about the need to be on social media if you own a business, as I’m sure you already know that. In this article, I’ll delve a little deeper into how you can optimise your social media presence and use it to effectively boost brand awareness and business. If you’re struggling to get your social media efforts off the ground, this will help.

Choose the right social media platforms

Don’t think you have to be on everything all at once. Too many businesses see others using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, SnapChat and Tumblr and think they have to be on them all too. Unless you have a) a crack social media team b) lots of time or c) a really varied target audience, you definitely don’t want to be on them all. Keeping all platforms updated effectively and monitoring audience interaction will be nigh-on impossible.

Instead, take the time to research where your target audience spends most time or where your competitors are investing their efforts. By focusing in on the places where your audience are most active, you’ve got a much better chance of getting your brand noticed by the right people.

By all means try a few different platforms if you think they could be worth exploring but if you’ve given it a really good go and you aren’t seeing the results you were hoping for, there’s no shame in giving it up. Sometimes you’ll have something to post that you think will run better on Twitter; other times, you might want to use Facebook to take advantage of the unlimited word count or photo album function. Don’t worry if you’re struggling to decide which content to post from where, you’re not alone…

What do you want to achieve from your social media activity?

True, social media use is good for a range of objectives, but it’s worth really thinking about which platforms are most useful for you and your business. Do you want more people to know about you? Do you want to drive leads? Or maybe you want to use it to connect with other businesses? As well as identifying your audience, identifying your goals is really key to helping you choose the right platforms to focus on.

Scenario A:

You’re a small independent shop wanting to raise brand awareness and showcase your products to a target audience of parents of young children.

Plan:

Facebook and Instagram are great for showcasing products. Facebook is also for displaying key business information such as location and opening hours, as well as replying to customers’ product queries.

Scenario B:

You’re a manufacturer of machine parts wanting to find local businesses to sell to.

Plan:

Find local business communities on LinkedIn and use Twitter to hone in on key industry influencers and businesses. Hashtags and Twitter lists are a great way to find and segment audiences that are from a particular industry or who are talking about a certain subject.

Build your strategy

However big or small your efforts on social media are, it’s important to have a strategy. Personally, I’m a planning queen, but I appreciate some people are a lot more wing and a prayer. Having a social media strategy will help you to define how you’re going to use social media to achieve your aims and which metrics you’ll use to measure your success.

Part of this strategy should also include your content planning. Social media tools such as Hootsuite or Sprout Social are invaluable in helping you schedule your content and both also have analytics capabilities that help you monitor your accounts’ performance. Scheduling content can be a huge time saver but make sure you monitor the performance of each post before you schedule similar content.

It’s important to be able to be reactive though too. Leave room to post ‘in the moment’ content that ensures your business remains current and relevant. A recent example of this is Peter Andre’s social media team who had scheduled a post to go out about his work with Slimming World. Unfortunately they weren’t reactive enough and the post went out in the midst of the Manchester Arena attack which was understandably deemed highly inappropriate. Andre apologised and explained that it had been a scheduled post.

Create and share great content

There are no magic numbers when it comes to posting social media content. There are articles out there telling you that one, five or seven posts a day are best, but in truth, it’s all so dependent on what you’re posting about and what your audience wants.

So what’s the magic formula? Only share content that is truly valuable.

One day you might post only once but that one post generates incredible engagement and significantly drives website referrals. The next day, there might be a lot of breaking news in your industry that you think sharing will benefit your business. The key thing is to constantly refer to your analytics and check your strategy to see if your efforts are helping you achieve your goals.

There are also tools out there that help you work out when your audience is most likely to be online. Use these to plan your evergreen content in order to maximise its exposure. (Evergreen content is stuff that is timeless and can usually be scheduled in advance). Again, if you’ve got one eye on your analytics you may start seeing correlations between times content is posted and engagement rate.

You’ll find a lot of brands will post during key commuting times and less throughout the working day. Food brands and bloggers tend to post around 5pm when people will be planning what to have for dinner. Ecommerce brands often promote offers or incentives on lunch breaks when people are in the mood for online browsing. Use your initiative to reach out to your target audience at opportune times.

REMINDER. You could time things to a tee, but if your content isn’t very good then you may as well chuck your timings in the bin. People only have time for content that is interesting, relevant or engaging. If you’re posting something because you haven’t in a while,  just don’t. It’s a waste of your time and will weaken your brand. The minute people start to disengage or get annoyed with your content, they won’t hesitate to unfollow you. That may not mean they don’t remain a customer, but it certainly won’t do you any favours. A social media follower has the potential to become a free of charge brand ambassador. Don’t waste this opportunity.

Sort out your tone

I’ve frequently seen businesses projecting mixed messages on social media. It’s important to establish your tone of voice  from the get-go and make sure it syncs with your brand.

Individuals get followed because they post in a certain way and brands should really be no different. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to make your business cool. Just be natural. If your business lends itself to that vibe then great, but if not, you might want to work on your ‘professional’ voice.  

Also, remember your business is a business. It’s rarely a good idea to cross your personal thoughts with your business account, no matter how hands-on with the business you are. “Behind the scenes” style content or posts that showcase staff or office activity can often go down really well with audiences as it makes your brand seem more real, but be wary about crossing the line and damaging your professionalism.

A need for speed

Dear reader, please respond to your audience. With 50{2dccc6f52880b37d2d746d3abc02a4b8b9b58e2d7071b0dd811a90f113bde9b0} of audiences expecting to hear back from a business on social media within the hour, keep on your toes. Prompt response could be the difference between nurturing or losing a (cheap) lead. Build a relationship with your audience and it will work wonders for you.

Hopefully you won’t experience too much of this, but don’t be tempted to ignore the negative reviews or comments either. Take a breath and compose a professional, balanced reply – no matter how much you want to tell them where to go.

Have a go at advertising

If you’re still struggling to gain traffic but know who your target market is, it may be worth trialling social media advertising. If you’re new to this, I’d recommend going to Facebook first – it’s by far the most advanced platform and allows small businesses to test a small amount of budget on generating results, whether that be site traffic, post engagement or page likes.

(Psst. don’t be tempted to go for page likes. 9 times out of 10, getting people to see your content or sending them to your site is going to be far more beneficial in the long-run than a few page likes).

Through Facebook advertising you can make sure your content gets delivered right into the timelines of your target audience. Used carefully, it can bring you hugely beneficial results with full tracking allowing you to establish clear ROI.

Test, analyse, refine, implement (repeat)

Finally, do the above. This is pretty much what is says on the tin.

Always analyse your content’s performance, refine your strategy and progress based on what you’ve learnt. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn provide good business analytics platforms to help you out with the monitoring and reporting side of things, so don’t go thinking you have to splash out on expensive tools; these are fine to start with. With the right content on the right platforms at the right frequency, you should be well on your way to social media successes.

And if you need some extra help, or you’re ready to step things up a gear, you know where to find us.