Why You Need A Social Media Strategy
No Social Media Strategy Is Still a Strategy...
Maya Angelou famously said, "When someone tells you who they are, listen." She said this in the context of friendship, reacting to the fact that we often overlook blatant "red flags" people give us showing us that they are irresponsible, or uncaring, or simply don't respect us.
But I think we could carry this message over to our businesses and use it to think about a "what if" scenario: what if people actually made decisions based on the first impression they get from you? And what if people get first (and second...) impressions from your social media accounts?
What are you telling them about you (and your business)?
There are any number of articles out there telling you how to do social media. (I'd like to suggest this awesome one about tuning up your social media for spring.) They all have some merit. The fact is, your social media presence is your "face" on the Internet. Social media strategy should match who you are as a company.And when your strategy lines up with who you are, it works. When it doesn't, watch out.
Social Media Strategy Should Match Your Branding
When you don't have a strategy, or when your "strategy" is hiring some intern to throw out posts and tweets and status updates on a whim, or when your strategy is you making bi-monthly resolutions to do a better job and then throwing up 7 great posts followed by another 6 weeks of silence… or when your strategy is deciding you don't need to be on social media at all… well, you are telling people who you are.
And if you want to have a reputation for carelessness or mania or being a non-entity, then great. You've achieved your goal.
But think about it. Who are you? What message do you want to give your clients, your competitors, your colleagues?
I can't tell you that. I can't tell you who you are. (As Marshall, the limo driver in Joe Versus the Volcano says, "They just pay me to drive the limo, sir. I'm not here to tell you who you are.")
I can tell you that you need to know who you are as a business, and then make absolutely sure that your social media reflects that.
You are giving your clients, competitors and colleagues a message whether you want to or not. You may as well make that message something you are proud of, that you can stand behind.
Rule of Thirds
The latest iteration for how often you should talk about yourself on social media is "the rule of thirds." Basically, you should not talk about yourself as often as you share other people's stuff and listen to what other people are saying (and then reply to them or share their stuff).
Most likely, just like in "real life" the thing that is going to make you irresistible to your customers and clients is being pro-social. Being normal. Being human. Most humans, the ones with friends, don't talk about themselves non-stop. They build real relationships. They focus on what their friends are interested in and share stuff with them.
Honestly, whatever ratio you use, the majority of what you post should align with your broader marketing goals and brand development. You can sell, but offer something valuable to your audience, beyond simply selling your product to them.
Consistency is hugely important in social media. If you think about this a bit, you can see that it makes a lot of sense. Just as much as with any relationship, people feel more comfortable knowing what to expect.
Generally, you want to post around once or twice a day on Facebook and LinkedIn, three or four times a day on Twitter and Google+.
Choose something within this range, adjust based on feedback you get from your audience and stick with it.
Similarly, the Wharton School of Business reminds us to "bypass biases" in social media. That is, stick with your message. Don't get derailed by overly emotional "sensational" content nor by minority opinions. Stay consistent with your message, speak to your audience, and keep listening to the majority of your audience.
Here again, you can think about being a good friend. Don't make it all about yourself. And when you share, share stuff that you know your audience will be interested in. If you want to be seen as intelligent, as a thought leader, share things from well-respected places.
Use good quality images. Do your research and make sure, whenever possible, that the images are sized correctly.
Start With Your Editorial Calendar
You do have an editorial calendar by now, don't you? If not, you may want to reread this post on why you need an editorial calendar. It's okay, I'll wait here.
Once you have an editorial calendar filled out, what you will find is that you know your business that much better.
You will have had to define marketing goals for your business, and then come up with relevant monthly themes, and weekly themes. You will have slotted in blog post titles. Some suggest that you need to plot out future posts in your editorial calendar. You might decide that this is an important step for you.
I would argue it's probably not necessary. Once you have monthly and weekly themes lined up with blog titles and corresponding to your marketing goals, most companies probably have enough information.
Decide Where Your Audience Is
And then concentrate on those social media channels. There are several great infographics to help you match up what you have found from making your editorial calendar -- and from persona development. Basically, each social media channel has a personality. You don't need a presence on each one. Choosing three channels is a good rule of thumb. Choose the ones that fit your audience best.
If you want to, you can do an audit of your web content and social media content so far, too. This can help you see clearly whether you have gaps, where your gaps are, and help you realize what type of content you need to fill those gaps.
Social Media Isn't Rocket Science
If you feel overwhelmed by it, you're probably over thinking things. Once you have a solid editorial calendar and you feel comfortable with who your audience is, choose three channels and go be social on them.
Focus on consistency and quality and don't talk too much about yourself. You'll do fine.