We could go on and on and on and on about executing a successful social media strategy for your business. There’s so much to know, and social media tactics are always evolving. But when you really break down a social media strategy, there are a very short list of bare bone elements, or must haves, to make social media work for your business. It’s up to you to use your knowledge and experience to turn those must haves into a successful and unique social media strategy for your business (or to choose a company that can).
A good social media plan uses knowledge of two key factors: your audience and business calendar (i.e. what products sell during what seasons, what events book during certain times of the year, etc.). We cannot emphasize how much the first factor is essential to social media success. Knowing your target audience facilitates 1) choosing what social media networks to utilize so you don’t waste your efforts on social media networks where your target audience is not; 2) determining your tone so you are speaking to your target audience; 3) dictating the content you create and post that suits your audience.
Another sign of a good social media plan is a strategic hybrid of promotional and relevant content, of pre-planned and flexible posts that reflect current events. Today’s customers don’t want to be barraged by advertisements and sales pitches. Use the 80/20 guide. Try to schedule 20% promotional and 80% posts that are entertaining (if appropriate), relevant and valuable to your customers.
To execute a stellar social media plan and efficiently use your time, select a good scheduling tool, such as Hootsuite and Buffer that can save you time by scheduling quality posts. Don’t schedule too far ahead of time so you can stay on top of trending topics, and be flexible with your plan when needed. Share relevant content from other sources, and mix posts with links to your original content in to your social media plan.
On select social media channels, such as Twitter and Instagram, hash tags are not optional —at least not for anyone looking for results. Posts with relevant hash tags can expose your post to potential followers interested in your industry or topic. To be honest, sometimes we wonder why people aren’t using hash tags; they are an essential part of any marketing strategy. With hash tags comes a very strong word of caution, though: don’t go overboard. Using more than four hash tags can sabotage your results.
Hash tags are also invaluable when starting a conversation, running a photo contest, promoting an event, or executing a social media campaign. Select original hash tags without any “online baggage” (i.e. used before with negative connotations or feedback, taken from a competitor) and promote them through an integrated marketing campaign that includes online and offline marketing efforts.
Even if you use channels that don’t count characters, a URL shortening tool such as bitly or ow.ly gives your social media posts focus—so your audience isn’t distracted by your long, long website link URL. Most social media management tools include a URL shortener that you can use when you schedule posts.
Statistic after statistic has shown that social media posts with images receive significantly more engagement than posts without. If you use images, note the ‘great’ in our headline; amateur-looking, mediocre or blurry photos or videos won’t cut it. Use this handy cheat sheet to create images optimal for your social media network, and be very selective about the images you create or choose.
If you utilize Pinterest or Instagram, don’t just worry about size; worry about the quality of your images. These social media networks are visual networks, and you won’t get results unless you have high-quality images and attention-grabbing text.
Executing a successful social media plan does not just happen; a well-thought out social media plan requires a great deal of time. Statistics have repeatedly shown that companies have higher levels of engagement if they regularly post to social media. What is the definition of “regular”? The answer depends on the social media network you use, and your target audience; on some social media networks, such as Facebook, your efforts can actually backfire if you post too much. On the other hand, on Twitter, the more you tweet, the more opportunities you create because of the short life span of the average tweet. Whatever schedule you find works for your company and social media strategy, choose quality over quantity. Twenty ‘junk’ tweets won’t get you results (except for bogus followers) if your tweets aren’t valuable and relevant. If you don’t have time to produce and find quality posts, outsource your efforts to the experts for optimal social media results.