Ask startups and scaleups about social media and most will tell you it is an important marketing tool to promote their business. Ask why, and the answers may not be as clear. Then, ask how, and that’s when the confusion really begins. 

While it’s natural to feel the pull of making your own posts on social media after watching a brand go viral with a single tweet, it’s not as ‘easy’ or ‘free’ as it may appear. Fear of missing out (FOMO) tends to drive so much of the social media activity that many companies engage in. While most people understand that social media is an excellent way to share content across a network of subscribers, most people also struggle to find the best way to create value from using social media marketing. 

A better approach to successful social media marketing starts with a well-conceived and well-executed social media strategy, and a commitment of time, money, and resources to communicate your messages and create value as part of an overall marketing strategy. There is no single, right way to get social media posts to go viral. There is no single best way to build an audience. It can be very challenging to determine the monetary value of a ‘like’. Instead, follow a framework to guide social media marketing along a path of planned and consistent growth over time that builds value. 

Do Start With A Plan

Because creating a social media post is so easy to do, the value of investing in a social media strategy is often overlooked. Some companies find the value of social media in building awareness through impressions, shares, and likes. Others find value in the leads that can be directly attributed to social media engagement, clicks, and conversions. Like most everything in a successful business, create SMART goals as the foundation of a measurable plan, and identify the necessary resources for achieving goals. Invest in planning to understand what success looks like, and how to get there.

  • Decide on your goals before you start.
  • Determine how you will measure success. 
  • Allocate sufficient resources to succeed.

After a plan is in place, complete with goals, strategies, execution and resources, use metrics to track performance, with a ‘test-measure-learn’ approach to making adjustments along the way to improve outcomes. Social media metrics may include organic and paid reach to build subscribers and awareness, leads measured as clicks and conversions, and a host of other measurable data points. Use social media to complement and amplify existing content and build awareness and engagement with your target audience. The value from a social media plan as a part of a content strategy should align with a more holistic marketing plan that serves the overall business goals of the organization. 

Do Focus On Your Audience 

Social media marketing is about connecting with your audience. When you consider that your audience has invited you into their personal space to communicate with them through a select, one-to-one channel, you more clearly understand that it is your responsibility to use that channel responsibly to provide them with the information they find valuable. It’s not all about selling your product to them, but instead, it’s about connecting with them, providing information of value, and not abusing the relationship. 

  • Know where they engage.
  • Know what matters to them.
  • Give them a reason to stay interested.

Use personas to determine which social media platforms your customers and target audiences utilize the most, so you can communicate with them more effectively. Every industry and every audience is unique once you drill down enough to understand them. Who you are targeting with a social media post will change not only what you post, but how you post it. From a 20-second video message to an insightful question or even a poll, create a targeted message to reach a definitive audience using a specific social media channel. The more you are focused on your audience, the more effective your social media marketing will be.

Do Always Be Authentic

Because no one can be better at ‘being you’ than you can, you need to be genuine and authentic in your social media marketing to attract, engage and build a selective relationship with someone who subscribes to your social media channel. Being authentic on social media allows others to see the value you bring to the relationship, without the ‘sales pitch.’ And for those who aren’t following you yet, if they like what they see, they may decide to take the relationship to the next level and subscribe. It’s how you can use social media to turn strangers into followers, and then into raving fans. 

Use your authentic voice, based on your values and your brand, on all social media posts. Being authentic in both what is said and what is shared on your social media channels creates consistency for your audience and strengthens your credibility and your brand. ‘Off-brand’ messages can create a disconnect with your target audience and cause them to question the trust they have granted you in your social media relationship. 

If following a few key principles of social media marketing can help build a trusted relationship, then knowing a few key principles to avoid on social media can be just as valuable. There are some guidelines to keep in mind when developing and sharing content, in general. They are not absolute rules, but something to consider before you post.

Don’t Talk About Politics and Religion

Don’t. Just don’t! Unless your organization is a political or religious one, its best for your business to just refrain from conversations about politics and religion. Too often, people make assumptions that everyone else thinks the way they think. Just because people spend a lot of time in an echo chamber of ideas doesn’t mean it’s a universal truth. Talking about politics or religion can be a fast road to destroying your brand, your reputation and your ability to reach people, unless that is specifically your business. 

Because social media makes it easy to share thoughts, it requires more discernment to ensure that the right thoughts are getting out there. The old rule of large family gatherings and unfamiliar social situations rings especially true in the digital age, where the wrong message at the wrong time can spread like wildfire. Remember that people don’t come to a business social media account looking for personal beliefs. Although you should always be authentic, you should also be judicious and polite on social media. 

Don’t Make It Self-Serving

Social media is about building a trusted relationship based on sharing value that resonates and engages audiences. A quick way to dismantle those trusted relationships is to use social media as a self-serving tool. While it’s fine to share stories and information about yourself or your business from time to time, remember that people use social media to be informed and build relationships of value. Direct selling as the focus of social media creates a transactional relationship that may or may not bear fruit. Focusing on your audience instead of yourself will keep subscribers engaged and looking for more.

With that said, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ rule for how often a company should use their social media bullhorn for promoting a product or solution, but it’s a good idea to keep ‘sales-y’ posts to a minimum, unless your social media marketing strategy is specifically focused on selling online. Pushing direct sales with too many self-serving posts tells viewers that you are only there for your own benefit. The risk is that your social media channels gain a less than favorable reputation, and may likely commoditize your business or impair the effectiveness of your social media marketing. 

Don’t Randomly Curate Content 

No one can know everything, so there is undeniable value in providing a reliable source of news, information and relevant content that resonates with your target audience. Curating content that was originally generated by someone else is a great way to share knowledge that resonates without having to create an endless stream of all original content. A good starting point for content is:

  • Curate a third of your social media content. 
  • Create a third of your content as original, thought leadership and expertise. 
  • Use a third of your content to create conversations with people on social media.

Remember to give credit when curating content and never try to pass off someone else’s original content as your own. Instead, make curated content ‘on-brand’ with your authentic self by taking the time to add some unique insights or perspective to the content that you’re sharing. This approach provides even more value as a trusted authority and thought leader while giving credit to the content originator.

When it comes to social media marketing, it is easy to get overwhelmed and confused with how to best use the tools to grow your influence and your business. Determine the right tools to use, the right platforms to engage, the right audiences to target, the right schedule to post, the right messages to share, and the right metrics to track so that you can make the most of your investment in social media marketing. It’s not easy, but following a few do’s and don’ts can put you on a path for success.