Let’s look at some statistics to start off. Exciting, right? There are more than 4.4 billion people using social media worldwide, and one-third of all time spent online is on social media platforms.
It’s clear that people have made social media an integral part of their web experience. But what does that mean for a business seeking to make it in the cutthroat world of online marketing?
Plainly put, it means that doing the bare minimum is no longer acceptable. It used to be that all you had to do was use the same messaging you had from print or TV and cut it down to size—but that doesn’t fly nowadays.
Today we’ve got some tips that serve as a sort of social media best practices cheat code. Master these, and we can assure you that your social media marketing game will take a huge step up.
Know your audience
This is one of the basics—after all, you can’t market to someone before you know who they are. But do you know who exactly you’re marketing to?
Simply knowing who you’re trying to reach isn’t enough because it has a top-down effect on your entire social media approach. You need to know what traits, techniques, and approaches will appeal to them.
Let’s take a look at one example: Deus Ex Machina is a retro-styled motorcycle/surf brand that mainly has a freewheeling, outdoorsy audience. So, Deus Ex Machina has dialed in their messaging, their color palette, and their content to match.
Deux Ex Machina knows exactly what subject matter and colors they should be using for their audience
Source: Deus Ex Machina
Another facet of this research is looking into what your audience is talking about: their likes and dislikes, the challenges they face, and their opinion of your brand. Having all of this information at hand can prepare you to offer solutions faster than anyone else—that’s not just useful for marketing, that’s useful for your entire business. And this information can only be found through user research.
Target specific platforms and networks
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to try to be everywhere at once. Spreading yourself thin doesn’t help nearly as much as putting your effort into a couple of carefully chosen platforms.
That’s where your audience research comes in—it lets you know where your audience is spending their time. Researching the demographics of each platform will also become necessary. For example, Instagram trends younger (18–24-year-olds making up the biggest segment) than Facebook (more 25–34-year-olds).
Keep track of the platforms you’re targeting by creating a social media calendar. This will help you know what to publish where, and when. Your posts will be consistent and your strategy will align with where your audience is engaged.
Like we said before, statistics are exciting—especially when they let you pinpoint exactly where you should be looking to convert a new audience and retain your existing one.
For online businesses, global adoption of social media means more opportunities as it helps boost their key metrics, resulting in increased web traffic as well as higher retention and lower bounce rates ultimately leading to increase in sales.
Know your goals
It’s not enough to have a message and send it out into the world without knowing how to measure your achievements. Do you want more online sales or are you trying to drive traffic to your brand? Do you want more viewers to live stream your event? Are you trying to hit a follower or share milestone?
Not having an end goal means all of that carefully crafted content is pretty much a shot in the dark. Don’t get us wrong—there’s ample opportunity to experiment with social media marketing, but that shouldn’t be the bulk of what you’re doing!
Follows, comments, link clicks—all these aren’t just for social media cachet, they’re how you know that you’re on the right track. Having a strategy means you can figure out whether every post or comment is achieving what you set out to do. Simply tracking your metrics can reveal a lot about the effect your content is having on your audience.
Review, revise, and iterate
This is where you get to try new things. Once you have a good idea of what effect your posts have on your audience, then you can try to create content that has a specific effect.
Are you a youth-oriented brand with memes and reaction gifs that seem to be killing it on Twitter? Try crafting your own viral trends and see if they achieve the intended effect, then tweak and repeat.
Now, this cycle of creating content and reviewing its effects can take a while, so don’t expect instant gratification here. It can be months of tweaking and refining your approach before you unlock your brand’s formula for success. Just keep at it and trust your metrics!
Be sure to engage
What’s the most frustrating thing for a customer or client? We wager it’s not being heard. A one-sided conversation is the last thing you want out of your social media accounts.
This is why you need to go through all the comments and responses your posts receive—whether or not they’re positive. Yes, it can be incredibly time-consuming and difficult, but that’s the nature of social media. Every voice needs acknowledgment in some form.
Arc’teryx turning user feedback into positive noise for other campaigns
Being able to face down criticism or outright hostility can be a valuable asset when you’re managing your social media account. Take the high road and respond in a way that’s in line with your brand’s messaging and you can easily win over the rest of your audience . While we’ve seen that it’s mostly a vocal minority that tends to make the most noise in the comments section, you can be sure that others are watching to see what you do from the sidelines.
The upshot of this is that you can respond, in real-time, to your audience’s pain points and address them. It used to take months, possibly even years, for brands to get information from clients and users. Now, you can do so almost immediately.
This is also an opportunity for you to identify your brand ambassadors and advocates, or even turn users into advocates outright. Simply thanking people for their support and interest in your message shows that you actively listen to and value their feedback. This kind of personal, attentive messaging is what creates a loyal, die-hard following that can become your core audience for years to come. To avoid missing any messages, set up notifications to email you directly whenever there’s an update. If you’re a Windows user, there’s several apps you can use to ensure you get all emails in one place. As a bonus, several of these apps also let you create automated response templates so you can reply even when you’re away
Advanced marketers leverage the power of valuable tools for social media monitoring. Powered by artificial intelligence, the tools are capable of analyzing social media posts and comments, detecting positive and negative words, and assigning negative, positive, or neutral labels.
This can help make better decisions in terms of social media campaigns and strategy.
Be mindful of your content mix on Facebook
Some brands love to self-promote, and that’s not a bad thing. But this approach doesn’t always work—the Facebook algorithm, in particular, is not friendly towards brands that try to push too hard. Your content has to be varied!
We’ve all seen brands that try to promote themselves endlessly, to the point that it seems like their feed is nothing but a sales catalog. What is there to engage with? What conversation are they starting?
The approach we favor is 4/5ths educational or entertaining content, with the other 1/5ths being promotional material. Give your audience lots of content to talk about and engage with, and they’ll be much more receptive to the times when you bring up your product.
RedWhite Apparel posts a ton of informational and user-generated content
Source: RedWhite Apparel
It may seem like a lot of content to make, to only have one post in every five be about marketing. And you’re not wrong, but the benefits definitely outweigh the effort required.
Visual content is the best option
While the plain old Facebook status update has its place, research has overwhelmingly shown that people engage with visual content much better than with text-only posts. Remember, people are scrolling through their feeds, and you need something that jumps out at them.
If your brand is direct-to-consumer like Nimble Made is with their dress shirts, a great photo of your product can be the simplest way to get someone to stop and take a look at your promotion. For an educational or entertaining post, a Facebook video (whether a short announcement or longer-form video) could be the ticket.
Glorious tend to use short videos to tease new releases and create buzz
Source: Glorious PC Gaming
Visual content is also highly shareable—a shortcut to getting brand advocates and creating a sense of community. You can use tools like Canva to easily create shareable visual content.
Make use of Instagram Live on Instagram
Most Instagram users follow hundreds, if not thousands of accounts. So, you have to ask yourself, “how do I stand out on their feed?”
The quickest and easiest way we know to get your brand to the top of your followers’ page is to use Instagram Live. When your account goes live, your followers are alerted and your account is highlighted in the Stories section. That puts your brand at the front and center of your audience’s Instagram experience.
Sarah Todd isn’t just a great chef, she’s also amazing at producing live video content
Source: Sarah Todd
People don’t even have to miss out on your live video since the recording can be saved. Lots of upsides, almost zero downside—it’s a bit more work than a prerecorded story since it’s best to respond to comments as they come in—so we feel it’s absolutely worth it.
Hashtags are key
No, they’re not just a millennial or Gen Z joke—hashtags serve an important purpose on Instagram. They help to organize your photos and videos into the proper hashtag pages.
Using the correct hashtags means anyone looking for that type of content gets to see it. So don’t think of hashtags as a meme, they’re really a useful tool to help your brand reach even more users.
Ultimately, the quality and consistency of your hashtag usage will determine how many new eyes get to see your content. You have a limit of 30 hashtags on a post and 10 hashtags on your stories, but you don’t have to use all of this allocation!
Notice the pared down hashtag list in this post by Carhartt
Source: Carhartt Work In Progress
We’ve all seen the posts—you know the ones—where it’s a tiny sliver of text and then wave after wave of hashtags. Specificity and a targeted approach are your goals here, because going too general means your content gets lost in the shuffle.
Twitter: Reply, reply, reply
The very nature of Twitter means that it’s fast-paced and highly rewards constant engagement. It’s not uncommon to see Twitter threads dozens of replies long—a real conversation just carried out with a 280-character limit.
More than a third of users prefer to contact brands on social media as opposed to websites or hotlines—and Twitter has now become the social media network of choice for brands to reach out directly to customers. So don’t think of Twitter as merely a place to post your announcements, it’s really a forum that you need to participate in. That means you need to go deep.
The North Face takes the time to reply to a lot of customer tweets, day in, day out
Source: The North Face
Yes, having a conversation with users for an hour or two may seem like a lot of work, but that shows a willingness to listen actively and can be the start of a real customer relationship. Remember, it’s not just the user you’re replying to who can see your conversation. Everyone can see your tweets and replies, and people take notice when you make the extra effort.
Don’t forget visual content on Twitter
Yes, Twitter is inherently a text-based platform—but ignoring visual content means there’s little to come back to on your account. Strong visual content means you’ll stand out on users’ feeds.
It’s been shown that Twitter posts with video can garner up to 10 times more engagement than text-only posts. Your video doesn’t need to say everything—in fact, it’s best if it’s less than 20 seconds long. Just draw eyes to your account and then continue the conversation from there.
This tweet from Devolver Digital wouldn’t have nearly the same effect if it was text-only
Source: Devolver Digital
According to research, a third of consumers said that video was the best way that brands stayed on their mind. More traditional marketing methods such as brochures and newsletters are nowhere even close. So, ignore Twitter video content at your own peril.
The golden rule:
At the end of the day, it all comes down to the content you’re putting out on your social media accounts. You want as much varied, high-quality content as you possibly can—all the tips we’ve presented here are dependent on your posts actually getting attention in the first place.
Here are some quick ideas for what you can post:
- Promotions and sales
- User-generated content
- Exceptional customer reviews and testimonials
- Industry news and updates
- Engagement prompts and calls to action
- Memes and timely viral content
That should be more than enough to begin filling up your social media schedule!
Customer engagement as well as customer loyalty isn’t something that happens by chance. You’ll have to put in hard work, be consistent, and be willing to communicate with your audience. Implement the tips presented here today and we believe you’ll be well on your way to having a kickass social media presence.