I found my legs in writing for social media at my first job, working for the marketing department of a major publishing house. In 2009 social media was an established marketing tool, but one that many businesses were still wary of and unsure how to utilise.

I didn’t have much in the way of experience, but I gained a huge amount of satisfaction from teaching myself the basics. I learned by trial and error what worked, and what didn’t. I discovered the thrill of creating the perfect post that resonated with people, rather than just pushing a product and telling them to buy it.

Anyone will tell you that’s a lot of what social media marketing is: Experimenting. Learning from mistakes. Absorbing the knowledge around you and listening to the people in your industry who are doing it well.

But therein lies the question: how exactly can small and emerging businesses do social media well? What are the rules, the do’s and don’ts, the magical one-size-fits-all guide to Doing It Right?

Bearing in mind that social media platforms are constantly changing, if you Google ‘social media tips for businesses’ you’re likely to feel a bit overwhelmed with the sheer amount of information that often contradicts itself. Here are a few of the basics I’ve learned over the years.

DO

  1. Establish why you’re on social media in the first place. How can it support your business objectives? What are you trying to achieve? Whether that’s increase brand awareness (tell more people about your products/services), drive conversion (bring in new customers/clients) or maintain your industry reputation (benefit your relationships with current customers/clients), you need to be able to answer this question before you can figure out which social media platforms are the right fit for you.
     
  2. Have two-sided conversations. Spend a designated period of time each day listening and engaging with customers, clients, industry leaders, partners and competitors. Use Twitter’s search function to find out what people are saying about your brand or the products or services you offer. Use the @ function to tag people and organisations in your tweets, and retweet content that will be valuable to your followers. And above all, try to reply or at least acknowledge every mention and direct message.
     
  3. Use visual content. This is may seem like a no-brainer, but so many businesses opt to post chunks of plain text with nothing visually interesting to break it up. Content with images gets 94% more views than content without, so it’s worth the extra time to find a high-quality and relevant image that will stand out in a newsfeed. And if you haven’t already heard, video content is the future of social marketing – Facebook alone gets an average of 8 billion views every day.
     
  4. Use hashtags. (But don’t go overboard – too many can make your account look like spam. One or two per post is plenty.) Find a relevant trending hashtag, and join the conversation in a way that’s meaningful to your business or organisation. Just make sure to say something that adds value, rather than contributing to the noise.

DON’T

  1. Give ‘em the hard sell. That is, at least not until you’ve established a solid following and have put in some effort to build a rapport with your audience. Social media is first and foremost about making authentic connections. If you join a platform like Twitter and immediately start pushing your product/service without doing any of the groundwork, you’re going to quickly become acquainted with your new friends ‘Unfollow’ and ‘Mute’.
     
  2. Try to say too much in a single post. You’re likely familiar with the TL;DR mentality of the internet – you’re writing for a majority of skim readers. So don’t be afraid to slash and burn those unnecessary filler words and gratuitous details. Then consider whether your message needs more information (spoiler alert: it usually doesn’t). Twitter’s 140-character limit is helpful in forcing you to boil down your message to its essential details, but even less is more when it comes to Facebook – research shows that posts with less than 50 characters get the most engagement. Experiment and see what works for your audience. This infographic by Kevan Lee is a great guide to learn about the optimum post length for various social platforms.
     
  3. Overdo it with industry or operational jargon. Don’t assume your audience is operating on your level of expertise. Keep your language simple and accessible – in other words, talk like a human! Do the work FOR your potential readers, rather than making them work to understand what you’re saying.
     
  4. Create a Twitter account only to auto publish posts from Facebook. Twitter users HATE this, and you can see why – Facebook and Twitter are very different platforms, and nobody follows a business on Twitter to see links to their Facebook posts. In the same vein, don’t make the mistake of posting the exact same content on each social media platform you’re using. A one-size-fits-all approach may save you time initially, but what works on Instagram probably isn’t going to work for your audience on LinkedIn.

Do you have any other social media tips for businesses? Let us know in the comments!

 

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