It’s not nearly enough today for businesses to simply have a website. To realize the full potential of reaching out to your customers and clients online, you also need to have a very active presence on social media. In this article, we will dive into the world of social media marketing best practices.
What is Social Media Marketing?
Social media marketing involves the use of various social media platforms to promote a brand, product, or service. It encompasses creating and sharing content, engaging with followers, and using analytics to measure the success of campaigns.
When starting an online business, you may think that posting to social media is very easy. After all, you just need a message you want to get out to followers and then post it. Unfortunately, you need more than just that.
Every social media network is different. They all have their own guidelines, and different types of posts will be very successful on one site, while the same posts may not perform as well on other social media platforms.
To really make the most of social media, you must be informed about all the different sites and have a familiarity with their own guidelines.
You need to know what audiences use different social media platforms and how to grab their attention with your posts. It can all be quite overwhelming.
Fortunately, this article outlines the best practices to follow when posting to social media so you can make the most out of all the different platforms.
Set Goals for Your Social Media Posts
You may know that when marketing your company, the goals you set are of the utmost importance.
However, too many businesses forget that whatever they do, they are essentially marketing it to customers and clients.
This holds true for social media posts, too. You should never post to social media without having a goal for that particular post. The best goals are those that are:
- Specific: You must set clear and specific goals in order to know if you have actually achieved them. For example, maybe you want engagement on your social media profiles and pages to increase by five percent. That may mean getting more likes, comments, retweets, and shares on your posts. Whatever your goal is, make sure it is specific.
- Measurable: Also, just like with other aspects of marketing, your goals should be measurable. This means you must have a metric in mind that will allow you to track the progress you have made towards your goal.
- Aspirational: Setting goals is sometimes tricky. While you want to stretch your capabilities and perhaps outperform the last goal you reached, any goal you set for yourself also has to be realistic. If your goals are not aspirational, there’s really no point in having a goal at all. On the other hand, if your goals are unrealistic, you will only become frustrated and may end up giving up altogether.
- Relevant: Having a goal that is relevant simply means that achieving the goal will place your business in a better position. After all, if your goal is not going to help your business, why have it at all?
- Time-based: You should also outline a deadline by which time you must achieve your goal. Without a deadline, there is no sense of urgency and therefore, you may never reach your ultimate goal.
Use a Social Media Calendar for Posting
Once you start posting regularly to social media, you’ll start to see that keeping it organized is a Herculean task.
You need to have a social media calendar that will allow you to stay organized, and not miss any important posts or dates. In addition to simply being more organized, using a social media calendar has many other benefits, too.
Creating a social media calendar allows you to plan ahead of time. This means you will always know what you are going to post and you will not have to waste time searching for content or thinking about what to publish.
By spending a few minutes simply filling out your calendar, you will always know what is going to be posted next, so you barely have to think about it.
Having a calendar your whole team can use also has many benefits. Regular reminders of the posts that are coming up and what is to be published helps keep everyone on track and mindful of what they are doing now and in the future.
For example, the holidays may be coming up and you may want to send out a holiday post at the last minute, which may or may not be successful.
Or, you could have implemented a series of posts scheduled on the calendar leading up to the holidays, boosting brand awareness and giving your followers a storyline to follow that ultimately ends up benefiting your business.
Using a social media calendar allows you to be more strategic with what you post, which will result in more engagement and a stronger social media presence.
Use Images Properly in Your Social Media Posts
Social media users today respond far better to images than they do texts. Unfortunately, just like with so many other aspects of social media posting, it is not only a matter of attaching an image to a post and being done with it.
All social media sites have their own image sizes you must adhere to so your picture and post will display properly. Some social media sites also use different types of pictures, all of which also have their own sizing guidelines.
Below is a handy cheat sheet you can use that will ensure you are using the proper sizes.
There are five different types of images you can post to Facebook and they all have different sizing requirements. These are as follows:
- Profile picture: 180 by 180 pixels
- Cover photo: 820 by 312 pixels
- Highlighted image: 1200 by 717 pixels
- Event image: 1920 by 1080 pixels
- Social posts: 1200 by 630 pixels
On Facebook, you should use multiple images whenever possible. You should also include a link within the photo that can redirect users back to your website, blog, or promotion page.
Twitter has four different types of images you can post and they too, all have different size guidelines. They are as follows:
- Profile picture: 400 by 400 pixels
- Header photo: 1500 by 500 pixels
- In-stream photo: 506 by 253 pixels
- Social posts: 506 by 253 pixels
On Twitter, you should include an image with every tweet you send.
LinkedIn has a whopping six different types of images you can post. These include:
- Profile picture: 400 by 400 pixels
- Background image: 1000 by 425 pixels
- Social posting images: 531 pixels wide
- Banner images: 646 by 220 pixels
- Standard logo: 400 by 400 pixels
- Shared images: 350 pixels wide
Like other social media sites, it is best to use images in every single post.
Due to the fact that Pinterest is so heavily focused on photos, it is especially important that you adhere to the proper photo sizing guidelines. The seven types of photos allowed on Pinterest are as follows:
- Profile picture: 165 by 165 pixels
- Large thumbnail on pin board: 222 by 150 pixels
- Small thumbnail on pin board: 55 by 55 pixels
- Pins on main page: 236 pixels wide
- Pins expanded: 600 pixels wide
- Enlarged pin: 500 pixels wide
- Social posting: 600 by 1002 pixels
On Pinterest, it is also particularly important that you include a link back to your content with every picture you post.
Another social media site that is image-heavy, Instagram has five different types of pictures you can post. The sizing guidelines for these are:
- Profile picture: 110 by 110 pixels
- Photo thumbnails: 161 by 161 pixels
- In app thumbnail: 1080 by 1080 pixels
- Ads: 1080 by 1080 pixels
- Social posting: 1080 pixels wide
For the highest resolution, you should always use images that are 1080 pixels wide. Like on Pinterest, you should also include a link to your content with every picture.
You only have a limited amount of space to capture your audience’s attention, so make sure you use every pixel you are given!
Know Proper Times for Posting
There is a lot to think about when you consider posting to social media for your business.
Most business owners focus on the actual content that they want to share. However, when you post is just as important as what you post.
Just like everything else with social media, the best days and times for posting also vary depending on the type of social media network you are using.
The best times to post on the different platforms are as follows:
- Facebook: Saturdays or Sundays between 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m.
- Twitter: Wednesday between 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. or between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.
- LinkedIn: Midweek between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.
- Pinterest: Saturday between 8:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m.
- Instagram: Monday between 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. or between 8:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.
The times above generally indicate when users are most often on specific platforms. By posting at these times, you will make sure your message reaches the broadest audience.
Of course, you also need to ensure that any posts you publish will grab the attention of users, include images, and have a clear and strong message.
All of these elements combined will ensure that your posts help you achieve your social goals.
Develop a Content Strategy for Every Social Platform
What works on one social media platform might not work on another.
For example, posting pictures of memes that include a lot of text on Pinterest will not likely be a very successful social media strategy for that site. However, you can post these types of pictures on Facebook and expect fairly good results.
Clearly, it is important to develop a separate content strategy for every different social media network.
One of the benefits of having a strategy for each different platform is that you will know what you are doing before you even start.
For example, you may create an Instagram profile for your business. Without a strategy, you may wonder what you should post and waste a lot of time looking for and thinking about the content you will create.
If you had a strategy beforehand though, you can jump right in and start working towards your goals immediately.
Having a strategy will also help you better understand why your social media posts are working, or not working.
For example, you may spend some time researching what platforms your audience uses most. Once you have determined this, your strategy can then focus on using the networks your customers use.
If you did not have this strategy in place, you might be wasting time posting to sites that your customers and clients don’t see and therefore, those posts will not be effective.
Lastly, implementing a strong social media strategy will also bolster your social media posting efforts overall.
Instead of going in blind with each and every post you publish, you will have a strategy, or a plan, that will help you find success.
Choose the Best Social Media Platforms for Your Business
The truth is, it is highly unlikely that your business needs to be on every social media platform. A better approach is to focus on the platforms that present the most opportunity for your business.
To determine which social networks are best for your business, you should start by reviewing the purpose and strength of each platform.
Facebook is a social media website that is geared toward both entertainment and news content. As such, it may be the right platform for you if you want to share news about your company, including certain promotions, as well as fun posts.
For example, one day you could post about a sale that is currently happening. The next day, you might post pictures from your staff barbecue.
Facebook is also the social media network that sends more traffic to external websites (such as your company’s) than any other. Keeping this in mind, you may want to focus on using Facebook for your business if you are trying to drive traffic back to your website.
Even though Meta owns Instagram, the latter is not known for redirecting traffic to external websites in the same way Facebook does.
Still, Instagram is a highly visual network on which short videos and static images perform best. As such, it is a very useful social media platform for businesses that are strongly visual.
Twitter is largely viewed as both a news platform, as well as a social media network. In the App Store, the website is even listed as a news app.
Retweeting and content curation are both encouraged on the website so you may find it useful to share blog posts or to promote content on your website.
You can also find like-minded industries that are not direct competitors and retweet their content to further engage your audience.
For example, your company may sell plant-based food. You could create content about your product and the benefits it brings, while retweeting recipes that could include the food you sell.
Pinterest focuses on strong imagery and it is often used to find inspiration for projects.
Companies who create products that help with projects, such as scrapbooking material, will often find many potential clients on Pinterest.
Even if you do not manufacture such products, you can still post to Pinterest as long as your posts are highly visual and engaging to the audience.
LinkedIn is a professional network so it is important that your content reflects this. This aspect also makes LinkedIn a very good fit for businesses that are more professional.
For example, if you are a business-to-business company, you may find that your audience engages more on LinkedIn than your posts on Instagram.
General professional content, as well as industry articles, are some of the best types of content to share on LinkedIn.
In addition to knowing what the different social media networks do, and the focus of each, you can also ask yourself certain questions that can help you better determine which platform is right for you.
These may include:
- What are your broader business objectives? Do you want to drive sales, increase brand awareness, establish authority, or something else altogether? Also ask yourself what your tactical goals are, such as increasing conversions or driving traffic to your website.
- Which network will help you best achieve your goals? For example, if your goal is to drive traffic to your website, Instagram may not be the best option for you.
- Would your customers expect you to be on a certain platform? You can often answer this question by determining which social media networks your competitors are on, and how they are performing on them.
Once you understand which social media platforms are the best fit for your business, you can start utilizing them to your advantage!
Define Your Voice and Tone
Have you ever read one of your friend’s or family member’s social media post and heard their voice as you read it? Followers should be able to do the same thing with your business page.
When they read your posts, they should be able to envision your business and what you stand for. So, how do you do this?
Start by determining the tone of your business. Is it sarcastic or funny? Or is it more professional?
For example, a store that sells rock band t-shirts is going to have a much different tone than that of a law firm. Determine what your tone is, and then you can determine what your voice is, and how to use it.
One way to start establishing your voice is to use the same language as your customers. Determine what language your audience uses so you can reflect that in your social media posts.
This will make it easier for your audience to relate to you and understand where you are coming from. It is then that you will be the only one they want to buy from.
Respond to Negative Comments with Grace and Respect
It’s bound to happen. Once you put yourself out there on social media, you open yourself up to criticism and unwelcome comments.
Of course, if someone is being outright belligerent or rude, you can block them from your social media profiles. In most cases though, it is best to respond to negative comments with grace and respect.
First and foremost, when responding to a negative comment left by a user, show empathy. Tell them how sorry you are that they had a negative experience and that you want to do whatever you can to correct the situation.
Then tell your customer what action to take next that will help you fix it for them. You can tell them to send you a direct message or give them an email address or phone number they can use to get in touch with you.
It’s important to remember that it’s easy to read and respond to good comments about your business. It’s much harder to see negative things being said about your company.
However, it is just as important, if not more so, to respond to them. If you ignore negative comments, it may show others that you don’t care about what your customers have to say and that you don’t want to try and make it right.
On the other hand, if you do respond to negative comments and show that you want to provide positive experiences, it makes other people more likely to view your company positively and want to use you in the future.
Focus On Quality, Not Quantity
Just like every other aspect of your business, when posting to social media, you need to focus on the quality of what you publish and not the quantity you publish.
It’s true that there are some social media networks that require you to remain quite active to be seen. Twitter and Pinterest are two of these.
Still, it is important to remember that while you may have to post more often on these websites, you still need to focus on the quality and not the quantity.
This is one reason it is so important to create a plan and establish goals. Any time you want to post anything to your social media profiles, have your goals in mind. Then determine if the post you want to publish is in line with those goals.
For example, your goal for your social media posts may be to drive more traffic back to your website. Any post you publish then, should have that goal in mind.
If you think about posting a picture of an event, that may not drive traffic to your site, therefore not achieving your goal.
On the other hand, if you just published a new blog post and want to post the link to social, that could help you achieve your goal and therefore, is a quality post.
Given the fact that there are so many different types of posts, and each has its own benefit and purpose, determining if a certain post will help you achieve your goal can be tricky.
Ultimately, before you post anything to social media, ask yourself if you’re doing it for a reason, or if you’re doing it just to post. If it’s for the latter, you may want to wait until you have something more effective to publish.
Automate Whenever Possible
Clearly, there is a lot to think about when you consider posting to the different social media channels. You have to determine which ones are right for you, what type of posts you want to publish, and when you should publish to the different sites.
One way to make it all easier for you to manage is to automate the process whenever possible. This is especially helpful when scheduling what you want to post, and when.
For example, the best time to post on Facebook is between 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Many businesses are not operating at these times and so, automating the publishing of posts is a good idea.
Even if your business is open on the weekends, publishing your posts regardless of the site they are going to can keep you and your team focused on other things without worrying about the scheduling.
When you don’t have to worry about when you are publishing to different sites, you also don’t have to be concerned that you will miss any important posts.
Using the Facebook example above, you may want to post about a big promotion you are starting on Monday. If you can automatically schedule that post for Friday afternoon, you don’t have to worry about missing the post.
If you didn’t automate the post, you may forget about it until Monday, which may not give your customers enough time to plan for coming in for the sale.
Automating the posts eliminates this problem so you can always make sure you’re posting what you want to, when you want to.
There are many different websites that offer automation services. HootSuite is one of the most popular, but there are many others, as well.
Mix Up the Type of Content You Post
Yes, you are mainly on social media to promote brand awareness, sell your product or service to new and existing customers, and to get more business.
That’s the reason all businesses are on social media. However, you need to remember that while this may be your goal, internet users don’t want to be sold to all the time.
Your audience is likely following you because they searched out the product or service you offer. Still, that doesn’t mean that your brand is all they ever want to hear about.
According to Hubspot, 45 percent of Internet users unfollow brands because they post too much promotional content all the time.
You need to be able to retain that interest in your company while telling them about yourself without coming off as “advertising” or “promoting” too much.
Remember that Internet users are also very savvy today. When they see something that is “sponsored” or “promotional” they know it’s trying to sell them something. That doesn’t mean that they won’t respond to it, but it does mean they won’t respond to it every time.
To prevent your customers from being turned off by your company because you post too much promotional content, you need to mix up the type of content you post.
Some other types of content you might consider posting include:
- Posts showing your company culture
- Job postings
- Industry news
- Community news, if it’s relevant to your brand or directly related to the community your business is based in
- Branded content
- GIFs and memes
- Informational blog posts
When you can mix up the type of content you share as much as possible, you keep your users interested.
They won’t only see you as a business trying to sell them something, but as a publisher that posts very useful, informational, or entertaining content.
Research Your Competitors Before Posting
You should always know what your competitors are doing. By understanding what your competitors are doing, you can also analyze what is working of them, and what is not.
This is a concept you should move over to your social media posting strategy, too. One of the biggest benefits you will get from researching your competitors is to learn about the kind of posts they are publishing.
Is there a certain topic they posted about that struck a chord with their audience? Did they publish a certain post that sparked discussion and engagement? If so, you can use that to your advantage by creating the same type of content.
You should also research your competitors to determine if they are getting more engagement than you.
If their posts are getting more shares, likes, retweets, and other types of engagement than your posts, it means your competitor is directly drawing potential customers away from your content, and towards theirs.
So, once you know that you should research your competitors, how do you even start doing it? Being by creating a list of your top five competitors and then find them on social media. Then, look at the past six months of their posts.
What type of content are they sharing? How much engagement do they receive for each post? How does their tone and voice compare to that of your business?
This is certainly a time-consuming aspect of making sure you are getting the most out of social media posting. However, it is certainly time well spent and your business will only benefit from it.
Create a Disaster Plan
Social media has a lot of benefits for both individuals and businesses that have a presence on it. Unfortunately, as anyone who has been on a network even once knows, there is also a negative side.
Cancel culture is sadly a very real thing in today’s world and while sometimes it is warranted, there are times when a single misstep could destroy your online reputation.
It’s for this reason you need to have a disaster plan in place in case the worst happens.
By having a disaster plan in place, you can rest assured that cooler heads will prevail in the event that the worst does in fact, happen.
Instead of panicking and sending out posts that could ultimately further hurt your reputation, you can take steps that will help repair it. Instead of being seen negatively, you can actually turn it into a positive that can help your business.
When preparing a disaster plan, you first have to identify the parties who will be notified in the event that a social media disaster occurs. Depending on your business, these parties could include:
- Your PR team
- Your customer service team
- Your social media team
You should also know the specific steps you will take in the event that a social media disaster does happen. These may include:
- Drafting standard apologizes and responses to common issues that may crop up. Remember these should be templates that don’t make you or your company sound like a robot. You need to be able to personalize and customize them to a specific situation.
- Draft a list of press contacts, in case you need to take control of the narrative of the story.
- Create a list that shows all of your social media account login information, including your social publishing calendar, so the entire team can view it and pause any content that is scheduled to be published.
No one wants to plan for disaster to happening to them on social media. On the other hand, no one wants to think that they will become involved in a car accident either, yet most people still purchase auto insurance.
Having a disaster plan will make sure you are prepared for the worst. Hopefully, you never have to use it.
Claim Your Name on Channels You Aren’t Using
No, you don’t have to appear on every social media platform. Still, even when you know that you likely won’t use another channel very often, you should still claim your name on that channel.
Social media is becoming more and more popular every day and there is a very good chance that at some point, someone else will claim your name.
If you decide to try posting on a channel that wasn’t in your initial plan, it may be too late and you might find that someone else already has a profile under your name.
By claiming your name on as many social media networks as possible, you can rest assured that your name will always be there in case you decide to start posting to a certain platform that wasn’t initially on your radar.
When using this strategy, it is important to know that some social media sites will deactivate or delete your account if you are not active on it for a certain amount of time.
Due to this, after you create your account on certain websites and platforms, you will have to post to it from time to time.
If you are not relying on these platforms for a major part of your social media posting strategy, you don’t have to put too much thought into these posts.
You can simply say something that is fun or entertaining, or that otherwise represents your brand. Then say something that directs then to the social media platforms you are focusing on.
For example, you could say, “Want to see more content like this? Check us out on Twitter!” Then leave a link to your Twitter profile and you may just start to see more engagement on the platforms you are utilizing the most!
Use Contests Effectively
Contests are a great way to utilize social media posting. Internet users become very competitive with each other and everyone loves to get something for free.
Although running a contest is a great way to improve your brand awareness, and promote your business, there are certain things to keep in mind when doing it. These include:
- Choose the right channel: Remember that the people who use Twitter may not have the same ideals as those that use Pinterest. Identify the audience you are trying to reach and their priorities, and that will help you determine which channel is best to run your contest on.
- Identify your giveaway and create graphics: Of course, if you’re going to run a contest, you have to give something away. Determine what is valuable to your customers and potential customers and what you can afford to give away. Then, consult with your graphics team or a graphics designer who can develop an image that effectively shows what is on offer.
- Set a deadline: No contest should be open-ended. You need to set a deadline so that you, and your customers and potential customers, can understand when the contest is over.
- Schedule your posts: Any contest you run on social media will rely on your social media posts. To ensure you don’t miss any, and confuse any potential contestants, schedule your posts to ensure they publish automatically.
- Keep a spreadsheet: You need to keep track of all participants in the contest so create a spreadsheet that will help keep you organized.
- Announce the winner: Once the deadline has passed, collect all the results. Then determine the winner and announce it across all the social media channels you promoted the contest across.
Social media posting is a very important aspect of any business’ marketing plan. Unfortunately, it is not just a simple matter of posting whatever you want, whenever you want.
Just like any other promotional aspect of your business, you must give serious thought to the type of content you will post, when you will post it, and where you will post it.
These are just a few of the things you will have to consider when you start to utilize social media posting for your business.
Fortunately, by following the above tips, you can utilize social media to the fullest for your business and really see your online presence flourish!