According to Forbes, social media is considered the single most effective way to reach audiences. People use social media for many different reasons; to express themselves, stay connected with friends and family and catch up on news and pop culture. With an extensive reach at your brand’s fingertips, establishing and managing a comprehensive social media program that follows today’s best practices is crucial for online success.
Establish a Goal
The first step in social media management is to understand your end goal. What are you trying to achieve through your social media channels? Is your goal to increase brand awareness, drive online sales, provide instant customer service or create a loyal fan base? Determining a goal and referencing it as you build your strategy will set you up for social media success.
Find Your Audience
After establishing your goal, refine who you’re talking to. Start by identifying your customer demographics. In conjunction with internal business analytics, you can find your social media audience with monitoring tools like Hootsuite, Sprout Social or Simply Measured. These software tools can help analyze your channels and provide follower demographics. Understanding your audience is key to reaching the right people, at the right time, in the right way. When you start implementing a paid social media strategy, you’ll want to be sure your brand appears in the newsfeed of the target consumer.
With a goal and target consumer in mind, the next step is to create content relevant to your brand identity. The most successful brands on social media are consistently sharing engaging images, videos and stories which tie back to the initial goal. Your content might be informative, promotional, calling users to action, driving website traffic or user-generated.
Social media serves as a fast and easy outlet to deliver product news, how-to information and customer service. Contests or giveaways can boost engagement, but it’s necessary to find the perfect balance between relevant content and being overly promotional. Another way to garner engagement is to call users to action – ask users to retweet, share the post or provide an opinion. Incorporating links in your content can drive website traffic and give users the option to read more information on the topic.
Sharing content across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can be a challenge, as each channel serves a different purpose. So what type of content should a brand put where – and how much of it? According to Sprout Social, Facebook content is most successful when posts are less than 80 characters, with little to no hashtags and concentrated on videos, external content and links. On Twitter, it is suggested to stay under 100 characters per tweet, with frequent images, GIFs and videos. Instagram is the hub for video and vibrant images, with captions under 125 characters. Hashtags are more successful on Instagram and Twitter than Facebook, if kept clear and concise.
Uploading stories to Instagram (or Snapchat if appropriate for your brand) is an increasingly popular way to show authenticity and give consumers a personal experience. Your Instagram feed should generally feature your best, high-quality content, while stories should feature more real-time content. Since content on Instagram stories disappears within 24 hours, it’s best to create a strategy around sharing stories in order to reach an untapped area of your audience.
Develop a Schedule
Managing the many layers of your content can be overwhelming – the best strategy is to create a schedule. Depending on your industry, consumers are online at different times. Social media management tools can analyze your channels’ data and identify when your audience is most active.
How often should you post content? Forbes generalizes businesses should post on Facebook once per day, incorporating shares from relevant industry outlets. For optimal engagement, businesses should tweet 1-5 times per day. Consistency is key on Instagram. Whether it’s twice a day or twice a week, make sure to maintain your frequency.
When is the best time to share content? Sprout Social found that on Facebook, people tune in more later in the week, Thursday through Sunday, in the early mornings and late evenings. Instagram follows suit with users being most active in the mornings and evenings, but draws the most users during the week. Twitter users are online for shorter periods of time to get quick updates; typically, during the week while on their lunch break. Audiences will differ so analyze your own channels with a measurement tool to find what strategy works best for you.
Promote Your Content
The last step in managing your social media program is establishing a budget. Promoting social media content is essential with today’s Facebook algorithm. Exploring different strategies for each outlet and creating a sustainable plan to promote posts will ensure you meet your goals. Don’t let your research and planning go to waste! Inc.com says that organic reach is becoming impossible, but with proper execution and budget allocation, your brand will thrive on social media.