While the number of social media platforms out there can be overwhelming, stick to this simple, tried-and-true checklist and succeed on any platform this year.
Social media is everywhere. Just last year, over 3 billion people around the world used social media. In the United States alone, more than 81 percent of the population has a social media profile, and these numbers show no sign of slowing down. If you have put off social media for your business until now, or if you have tried before and didn’t see any results, it is time to put together a social media gameplan for your organization and grow your audience online this year.
Here are a few basic steps on how to get started on any social media platform which I hope will help you to provide the information your audience is looking for, maximize your time online, and ensure social media is an effective marketing tool for you.
Research your audience
Before you start posting on any social media platform, it is important to determine who your audience is. You may already have done this when starting your business or while creating a marketing plan, but it is still good practice to identify the group of individuals you are targeting with each post. And be as specific as possible! This will also help tremendously if you decide to run an ad campaign, as you will already have your target demographic data available.
This information also helps when picking your primary social media platform – this detailed article from Sprout Social can help you determine where your target audience spends most of their time online.
Pick your primary platform
One big mistake that many businesses make is stretching themselves too thin and attempting to post to every big social media platform in existence. In addition to being ineffective, this will also lead to rapid burnout and will not produce the results you are looking for. Unless you have a large team that can dedicate the time and resources needed to post (and be engaged!) as frequently as required (which, if you’re just starting, is probably not you – it’s not me either!), focus on one social media platform that – based on your audience research – would be the most effective for you.
If you are just starting out, I’d also recommend creating an account on any social media platforms you may use in the future – checkusernames.com is a great resource to see if your desired username is available and to quickly register on the platform.
Make a game plan
After determining your platform and audience, don’t go and make a post just yet! Plan out your strategy for the next month and write down answers to the following:* What topics will you be posting about?
- What type of posts does your audience expect to see on the platform (image- or text-heavy, short snippets or detailed information, etc.)
- How frequently will you be posting (see the next step for suggestions)?
It is helpful to create an outline of the month ahead (or multiple months if you are really ambitious) so you have an idea of what to focus on and you can begin to plan out post ideas.
Create a consistent posting schedule
As each social media platform is different, there are also expectations on the type and amount of content one should be generating or posting on each platform. The closer you stick to these numbers, the faster your audience will grow and your engagement rate will begin to snowball.
- Facebook – 2 posts/day
- Twitter – 3 posts/day
- Instagram – 2 posts/day
- Pinterest – 5 posts/day
- Google+ – 3 posts/day
- Blog – 2 posts/week
If finding the time to sit down and write a post every day is difficult, try using a scheduling app like Buffer or HootSuite; these sites give you the ability to schedule posts days (or weeks) in advance, which frees up time in the long run and allows you to deliver relevant content in a more structured manner.
Depending on how detailed you want to get (and how frequently you are posting), here are two different resources from HootSuite that can help you plan your content so you are posting frequently enough and have a consistent message across all platforms.
Only post meaningful, useful information
This is sometimes the hardest step to follow: only post what you think your audience will find useful, meaningful or interesting. It is tempting, especially after months of posting content, to just post something because you “have to.” This is why it is so important to try and plan your social media strategy and schedule content ahead of time; you want to provide value to your audience with every post you make.
Here’s a good way to think about this: is what you are posting interesting enough for you to want to click and read it? If not, don’t post it.
Talk with your audience
No one knows the daily struggles and questions your audience has better than your audience. When planning the content you will be posting or writing about, go directly to the source. Spending time with your audience can provide useful insight into what they actually want to read about on a daily basis – a 15-minute phone conversation could provide you with months of content.
The easiest way to initiate the conversation is to send a quick email asking them if they have a few minutes to talk. Once you are on the phone with them, don’t ask them if they have ideas on what to post (that’s your job to figure out).
Rather, ask them:
- What motivates you to get out of bed every morning?
- What are some of your current problems in your niche?
- What would you like to know more about our business?
- What made you decide to follow/subscribe/purchase from me? What was the final deciding factor?
These questions could look a little different if your audience consists of other organizations or businesses. If this is the case, you should also ask:
- What their day-to-day operation looks like
- Who their customers are
- What kind of issues they deal with on a daily basis
- What questions they have that they wish they had the answer to, and
- What knowledge they wish someone would have told them when starting out
Obviously, you should tailor your questions to your audience, depending on what your business does. But talking with your customers is the best (and sometimes easiest) way to generate a ton of new post ideas.
Prioritize your time
Finally, before diving headfirst into social media, you should ensure you are prioritizing your time. Depending on your audience, industry, and the number of individuals you have working with you, it may not be worth your time to spend hours on social media. This is not to say that you shouldn’t be on social media at all, but it may be better to start slow (but consistently) and focus on other areas of your marketing strategy before jumping into the social media pool. Should you be focusing on growing your newsletter, beefing up your website, or starting a blog instead? Look at what makes sense for your target audience and your mission. If all looks good, you are ready to get started!
One final note: social media can be an invaluable tool, so don’t be afraid to try something else if what you are doing is not generating results. And if a certain platform is truly not working for you, switch things up – just keep trying until something sticks. Good luck!
What worked (or didn’t work) for you? Let me know in the comments!