Social media is everywhere. Millions of users, seemingly almost as many networks, and many agencies touting that they have mastered the zen-like secrets to social media and can bring incredible traction.

While social media has had undeniable benefits to many, it has also been contorted and twisted in awkward ways. For every elegant, well deliver social account there are countless blatant attention-grabbing efforts.

While I am by no means a social media expert, over the years I have picked up some techniques and approaches that I have found useful with the communities, companies, and clients I have worked with. My goal has always been to strike a good balance between quality, engagement, and humility.

I haven’t always succeeded, but here are 10 things I recommend you do if you want to do social media well:

1. Focus on Your Core Networks

There are loads of social media networks out there. For some organizations there is an inherent temptation to grow an audience on all of them. More audiences mean more people, right?

Well, not really.

As with most things in life, it is better to have focus and deliver quality than to spread yourself too thin. So, pick a few core networks and focus on them. Focus on delivering great content, growing your audience, and engaging well.

My personal recommendations are to focus n Twitter and Facebook for sure, as they have significant traction, but also Instagram and Google+ are good targets too. It is really up to you though for what works best for your organization/goals.

2. Configure Your Accounts Well

Every social media network has some options for choosing an avatar, banner, and adding a little text. It is important to get this right.

Put yourself in the position of your audience. Imagine they don’t know who you are and they stumble on your profile. Sure, a picture of a care bear and a quote from The Big Lebowski may look cool, but it doesn’t help the reader.

Their reading of this content is going to result in a judgement call about you. So, reflect yourself accurately. Want to be a professional? Look and write professionally. Want to be a movie fan who believes in magical bears? Well, erm, I guess you know what to do.

It is also important to do this for SEO (Search Engine Optimization). If you want more Google juice for your name/organization, be sure to incorporate it in your profiles and content.

3. Quality vs. Quantity

A while back I spent a bit of time working with some folks who were really into social media. They had all kinds of theories about how the Facebook and Twitter algorithms prioritize content, hide it from users, and only display certain types of content to others. Of course this is not an exact science as these algorithms are typically confidential to those networks.

There is no doubt that social networks have to make some kind of judgement on what to show – there is just too much material to show it all. So, we want to be mindful of these restrictions, but also be wary that a lot of this is guessing.

The trick here is simple: focus on delivering high quality content and just don’t overdo it. Posting 50 tweets in a day is not going to help – it will be too much and probably not high quality (likely due to the quantity). Even if your audience sees it all, it will just seem spammy.

Now, you may be asking what high quality content would look like? Fundamentally I see it as understanding your audience, how they communicate, and mirroring those interests and tonality. Some examples:

  • Well written content that is concise, loose, and fun.
  • Interesting thoughts, ideas, and discussions.
  • Links to interesting articles, data, and other material.
  • Interesting embedded pictures, videos, and other content.

Speaking of embedding…

4. Embed Smartly

All the networks allow you to embed pictures and videos in your social posts.

Where possible, always embed something. It typically results in higher performing posts both in terms of views and click-rate.

Video has proven to do very well on social media networks. People are naturally curious and click the video to see it. Be mindful here though – posting a 45 minute documentary isn’t going to work well. A 2 minute clip will work great though.

Also, check how different networks display videos. For example, on Twitter and Google+, YouTube videos get a decent sized thumbnail and are simple to play. On Facebook though, YouTube videos are noticeably smaller (likely because Facebook doesn’t want people embedding YouTube videos). So, when posting on Facebook, uploading a native video might be best.

Pictures are an interesting one. A few tips:

  • Square pictures work especially well. They resize well in most social interfaces to take up the maximum amount of space.
  • The ideal size is 505×505 pixels on Facebook. I have found this size to work well on other networks too.
  • Images that work particularly well are high contrast and have large letters. They stand out more in a feed and make people want to click them. An example of an image I am using for my Reddit AMA next week:

Social Media

Authenticity is essential in any human communication. As humans we are constantly advertised to, sold, and marketed at, and thus evolution has increasingly expanded our bullshit radar.

This radar gets triggered when we see inauthentic content. Examples of this include content trying to be overly peppy, material that requires too many commitments (e.g. registrations), or clickbait. A classic example from our friends at Microsoft:

Social Media

Social media is fundamentally about sharing and discussion and representing content and tonality that matches your audience. Make sure that you do both authentically.

Share openly, and discuss openly. Act and talk like a human, not a business book, don’t try to be someone you are not, and you will find your audience enjoys your content and finds your efforts rewarding.

6. Connect and Schedule Your Content

Managing all these social media networks is a pain. Of course, there are many tools that you can use for extensive analytics, content delivery, and team collaboration. While these are handy for professional social media people, for many people they are not particularly necessary.

What I do recommend for everyone though is Buffer.

The idea is simple. Buffer lets you fill a giant bucket full of social media posts that will hit the major networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+ (pages), and Instagram. You then set a schedule for when these posts should go out and Buffer will take care of sending them for you at an optimal chosen time.

Part of the reason I love this is that if you have a busy week and forget to post on social media, you know that you are always sharing content. Speaking personally, I often line up my posts on a Sunday night and then periodically post during the week.

Speaking of optimal times…

7. Timing Is Everything

If you want your content to get a decent number of views and clicks, there are definitely better times than others to post.

Much of this depends on your audience and where you are geographically. As an example, while I have a fairly global audience for my work, a significant number of people are based in US. As such, I have found that the best time for my content is in the morning between 8am and 9am Pacific. This then still hits Europe and out towards India.

To figure out the best time for you, post some social posts and look at the analytics to see which times work best. Each social network has analytics available and Buffer provides a nice analytics view too, although the nicer stats require a professional plan.

Knowing what is the best time to post combined with the scheduled posting capabilities of Buffer is a great combo.

8. Deliver Structured Campaigns

You might also want to explore some structured campaigns for your social media efforts. These are essentially themed campaigns designed to get people interested or involved.

A few examples:

  • Twitter Chats – here you simply choose a hashtag and some guests, announce the chat, and then invite your guests to answer the questions via Twitter and for the audience to respond. They can be rather fun.
  • Calls For Action – again, choose a hashtag, and ask your audience for feedback to certain questions. This could be questions, suggestions, content, and more.
  • Thematic Content – here you post a series of posts with similar images or videos attached.

You are only limited by your imagination, but remember, be authentic. Social media is riddled with cheesy last-breath attempts at engagement. Don’t be one of those people.

9. Don’t Take Yourself too Seriously

There has much various studies to suggest social media encourages narcissism. There is certainly observational evidence that backs this up.

You should be proud of your work, proud of your projects, and focus on doing great things. Always try to ensure that you are down to earth though, and demonstrate a grounded demeanor in your posts. No one likes ego, and it is more tempting than ever to use social media as a platform for a confidence boost and increasingly post ego-drive narcissistic content.

Let’s be honest, we have all made this mistake from time to time. I know I have. We are human beings, after all.

As I mentioned earlier, you always want to try to match your tonality to your audience. For some global audiences though it can be tempting to err on the side of caution and be a little too buttoned up. This often ends up being just boring. Be professional, sure, but surprise your audience in your humanity, your humility, and that there is a real person behind the tweet or post.

10. What Not To Do

Social media can be a lot of fun and with some simple steps (such as these) you can perform some successful and rewarding work. There are a few things I would recommend you don’t do though:

  • Unless you want to be a professional provocateur, avoid deliberately fighting with your audience. You will almost certainly disagree with many of your followers on some political stances – picking fights won’t get you anywhere.
  • Don’t go and follow everyone for the purposes of getting followed back. When I see that Joe Bloggs has 5,434 followers and is following 5,654 people, it smacks of this behavior. 😉
  • Don’t be overtly crass. I know some folks online, and even worked with some people, who just can’t help dropping F bombs, crass jokes, and more online. Be fun, be a little edgy, but keep it classy, people.

So, that’s it. Just a few little tips and tricks I have learned over the years. I hope some of this helps. If you found it handy, click those social buttons on the side and practice what you preach and share this post. 🙂

I would love to learn from you though. What approaches, methods, and techniques have you found for doing social media better? Share your ideas in the comment box and let’s have a discussion…

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