A whopping 96 percent of small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) say they use social media in their marketing strategy, according to Social Media Examiner. However, not all of them are using it strategically—and that can translate into lost sales given that today’s consumer expects a company to have an effective social media presence. Ready to up your social media game in 2019? Check out these eight tips that will help you put your best face forward.
1. Have a strategy
You can’t just post whatever comes to mind and call that social media success. So think about your ultimate goals: Are you seeking more interaction with existing customers? Do you want to build your base? Do you want to establish yourself as a thought leader in the space?
Chances are good your goals include a bit of ‘all of the above,’ so you’ll want to take a strategic approach to your social media to make sure all your bases are covered, says Andrew Ruditser, lead technology coordinator for web design agency maxburst.com.
He recommends a content calendar, which will help you stay on track with what content you plan to post, as well as when and where, to make sure you are offering your audience a good mix that supports your social media goals.
It doesn’t have to be overly formal—and it can change if something pressing comes up, but a calendar can help you determine what messages you are sending out and make sure they are consistent.
The good news is that you can set it and forget it. “Tools like Hootsuite allow you to schedule and publish posts so you can stay on track with an active social media presence even when you are busy,” Ruditser says.
2. Pick one platform and master it
The most daunting thing about social media is understanding where to start, which is why your best bet is to pick a platform that you can easily integrate into your day, suggests Katya Allison, marketing manager at Post Modern Marketing.
“Some may choose to check LinkedIn every day to like and share business news or join groups to take part in discussions and answer questions. If Twitter is your platform, find a Twitter chat that covers your expertise and business. And if Facebook is what you know best, start a ‘page’ where you can post content that will be useful for your audience,” she says.
Consider your demographics too; unless your target market is teens, you probably don’t need to master Snapchat.
3. Make it quality content
When you’re stepping into the social media game, remember that it’s not about quantity—it’s about quality. “Post engaging content that your audience will find interesting and shareable,” says Allison Walsh, social media strategist at Combined Insurance.
“The best way to self promote is not to promote at all, but rather to share what you know.”
That means keeping the hard sales pitch posts to a minimum. Allison, recommends a 5:1 ratio where you talk about others five times more than you talk about yourself. “Publicly congratulate colleagues and customers on LinkedIn; help your clients spread great news about their businesses, and cheer on non-profits,” she suggests.
4. Make it a conversation
It’s called “social” media, remember? So make sure you’re offering your audience that social aspect, in the form of interactive content, like contests and games or even a “question of the day,” says Eunice Odillo, social media lead of Spiralytics Performance Marketing.
Continue the conversation by making sure you reply to every single person who leaves a comment on your posts, says Gigi Rodgers, social media and brand marketing manager at Puck’n Khaos. “It may not be a big deal to you, but it’s a big deal to them to get a response from you.” In fact, research shows that 83 percent of consumers expect a response within a day!
It’s important to watch your tone, too, and avoid being stuffy. “Talk to your followers like you would a friend—share your opinion; make jokes; have some fun with it,” says Rodgers.
And the good news is that interaction is not only a great way to build a relationship; the engagement can help elevate your posts. “In 2018 there was a major shift in algorithms on all the social platforms that gave priority to content that makes people tag their family and friends, start a conversation or share something with their close network,” says Hailley Griffis, public relations director at Buffer and co-host of “The Science of Social Media” podcast.
“You want to make a real connection so before posting anything to social media, ask yourself ‘Is this piece of media engaging? Will it make people want to share it or tag their friends?’” she suggests. “When you post content that creates community in your audience, you will be prioritised by the algorithms, and all your posts will start performing better.” Finally, make sure the conversation goes both ways. “Follow the social media channels of customers and industry leaders and comment or re-post their articles to share the love,” recommends Rodgers.
5. Use keywords and hashtags
Keywords are not just for websites, says Odillo. “Think of what your customers are looking up on Google or other search engines, and use those keywords in your posts.”
Using hashtags is another savvy way to extend the conversation, says Bryan Waring who helps with social media accounts at Belmont University in Nashville. He recommends dividing hashtags into three categories: general to the post; more specific with finer detail; and then common—what everyone posts about.
So if you’re a landscaping company posting about preparing to get your garden in shape, you could say #landscaping #spring garden #Mondaymotivation. Search hashtags to find ones that are encouraging engagement, and always search any hashtag to make sure you’re not inadvertently linking to content you don’t want to.
6. Make it move
To avoid having your post be overlooked, a picture (or gif!) is worth 1,000 words. But in 2019, video will become even more dominant, says Chrys Tan, founder of Chrys Media. “Brands that adopt a video-first social media strategy will rise above the noise and connect with their audience,” she says, citing live streaming as a particularly powerful tool.
“Companies can leverage live stream by pulling back the curtain and sharing triumphs and struggles to help connect to your audience on a more personal level.” To keep eyeballs engaged, keep your videos short.
7. Consider pay to play
Many SMBs assume that their audience is scrolling around, just waiting to see their content. But most users view social media sporadically so you might have to spend some money to make sure they see it.
“Putting some budget behind your social presence—even as little as $5 to 10 a day—will help make sure you are getting greater reach,” says Dale Keipert at 3Sixty Interactive.
He recommends businesses use the finely targeted tools that social platforms offer to invest in reach and then aim to convert people to one of your “owned” mediums, like your blog or email list, which will protect you from fluctuating algorithms that can lead to a decline in organic reach.
8. Don’t hide your social media handle
Kristi Porter, founder of marketing firm Signify, says she is amazed at how often companies fail to make sure all their social media accounts are linked on their website. “Someone may visit your website and not yet be ready to purchase from you or work with you, but they might be willing to follow or like you on social media during this early interest stage. So, make sure they can find you wherever they hang out online.”