Written by Rivka Hodgkinson
New to the world of social media marketing or just need to ensure you’ve got the basics down? Here’s your informative walk-through of social media marketing.
Social media can be overwhelming at times. There are so many platforms to use—Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, and so on. Each social media platform feels like it requires its own strategies, too.
So, whether you are just getting started in social media marketing or just want to make sure all your bases are covered, this guide will be a good place to start.
- Create your social media strategy
- Free tools to make social media easier
- Resources for social media success
- Productivity tips and tricks for social media
Before you get started using social media, you must have a strategy. What are your goals? Which social media platforms will you be using? What types of content do you want to create?
If you launch a social media campaign without a strategy, you end up spending more time and getting fewer results. And no one wants that!
Set your social media goals
Do you know why you are using social media?
Sure, everyone would like more fans and followers, but not every business is reaching for the same primary goal on social media. Having a deep understanding of this goal will improve every other decision moving forward.
Take some time to understand the three different primary goals of social media and which one is most important to you. And keep account of how much your social media budget is going to be and what is possible for your agency.
I find keeping the goals visible to be helpful.
- Write out your goals.
- Have a clear idea of how to measure this outcome.
- Post your goals near your work station
- Or create a visual poster you can hang up for your whole team to keep an eye on.
- Update it with your achievements as you go.
Social media is notorious for sucking our attention in all different directions. To use social media for business, being focused is critical.
Choose your social media platforms
You may be tempted to be on all the social media platforms. The more places you are the better, right?
Usually, the person saying that doesn’t realize just how many social media platforms exist! For example, are you familiar with VIBER, LINE, or Telegram? They all have similar user numbers to the more widely known Pinterest. Should you use Pinterest or Instagram? Both? Neither? Will you use Periscope at some point?
Rather than try to be on every platform, figure out which one is the best fit for you and your business. It’s better to do a great job on specific social media platforms than spread yourself too thin and not be effective anywhere.
- Time. Plan to spend at least 15 minutes per day per platform (more if you are a bigger brand).
- Your clients. Based on their demographics, which social media platforms are they using? Where are they?
- Content. Where is your content the best fit for the online culture?
- Skill/training. Which social media platforms do you know how to use effectively?
Every year, Pew Research does a review of the demographics of who uses social media. This review is a great resource to better understand the nuances of the major social media platforms.
And don’t be afraid to ask your customers what they use. You might discover a new social media opportunity that you never knew existed.
Develop your social media voice
What is a social media voice? It is the tone of your communication.
We naturally switch “voice” in public settings whether on social media or in our personal life. For example, we all understand some topics of conversation are appropriate for a family dinner and others are not appropriate at a corporate board meeting.
In business, having a consistent voice lends credibility to your posts and helps people feel more connected to the brand. (After social media is about making connections, not about disconnecting from fans and followers.)
When you post on your own social media, voice is much easier to capture. But often when you create social media content as a business or as part of an agency, a consistent brand voice can be more challenging. That may be because multiple team members are often sharing the job of social media content creation.
Consider a variety of things when you craft your social media presence:
- Types of language that are acceptable (including slang)
- Level of formal vs. informal communication
- If and how emojis will be used
- How to respond to negative posts or events
- Whether to use singular or plural pronouns
Consistency is a key component of any platform for social media marketing. You must know:
- What logo to use and in what contexts
- The brand colors
- Fonts used for corporate branding
- Policies around image use and what image assets are available
Take the time to write your social media policy and guidelines and share them with your organization. You’ll also want to consider different scenarios and how your organization will hand social media during a crisis. (After all, that’s when social media managers are desperately needed.)
Doing so will make communication between your team easier and help prevent issues from coming up later.
Create content for social media
Some things you should never post on social media. But most of the time, social media managers have a harder time coming up with content to post than avoiding the danger zones.
Create a variety of different types of content, including:
- User-generated content
- Image posts (check out resources for this later in this article)
- Videos (both live and prerecorded)
- Text-based posts
- Twitter polls and questions
Some content you will be able to use on multiple social media platforms. (You can also harness the power of influencers to share your content as well. If that sounds daunting, we’ve got tips on how to find influencers with ease.)
However, you will get the best results if you consider the unique options of each social media platform. For example, you have several options for publishing your videos on Facebook that you won’t have on Instagram or Twitter.
You probably have more content at your fingertips than you realize.
Need some ideas to get you started in social media marketing? Let these posts inspire you:
- 4 Inspiring Tips and Examples for Your Non-Profit’s Social Media Marketing
- 7 Instagram Content Ideas for Creatively Blocked Social Media Managers
- Good Things to Post on Instagram (Besides Your Coffee Art)
- Your Content Recipe for YouTube Videos Your Audience Will Love
- Grab Some Inspiration for Your Fall Social Media Content Calendar
Ideally, most or all of your content should be telling a story. Not sure how to make that work in the real world? Check out these 5 brands that are doing it well.
Free Tools to Make Social Media Easier
Social media can be time-consuming. Fortunately, many tools can help make it easier, from sites to get free social media images to tools for video creation. Learning which tools are best for you and how to use them is well worth the effort.
Start by getting the essentials—graphics, content creation, and hashtags—covered.
Graphics social media tools
Creating your own branded graphics will help set you apart on social media and ensure you are not inadvertently breaking any copyright laws.
Doing this can seem intimidating for those without a graphic design degree. Here are three of the top resources that I use most frequently.
Canva is a powerhouse tool. It has a free version, or upgrade to its paid plan for even more flexibility.
It features correctly sized templates for social media graphics, access to free photos, text, and graphic elements, and easy editing. This is the tool I rely on the most for social media content creation. It also scales well, including team and sharing functions.
Need an image? Don’t do a Google image search. Many of those images are subject to copyright.
Instead, find what you need on Pixabay. You might have to get creative with your searches from time to time, but you can usually find an appropriate image for your social media post.
Pixabay is also integrated with Canva, so you can pull the images directly into your designs.
If you are still looking for that perfect image for your post, check out Unsplash.
One of the nice features of this site (in addition to creative images) is the ability to pull pictures into collections that you can come back to later. It works really well when you want to look at several options before you make a final decision or when you seek related or stylistically similar images for a project.
Content tools for creating social media posts
If you have been paying attention, you will notice that LIVE video is all the rage on social media right now. (It beat up Periscope fairly soundly, but Periscope’s still alive and kicking!)And it is not going anywhere. While you can go LIVE directly from your device, BeLive is a fantastic tool to take your LIVE broadcasts to the next level.
The best feature is the ability to do a video with people in other locations at the same time. You can get a lot out of the free version, or upgrade to add your own branding and have more features available to you.
Do you want to be able to share the latest news about subjects that are important to your audience? Google Alerts makes it easy to stay on top of what is new. You can set up searches and choose whether to receive them in a digest once a day or as they happen.
Some good ideas for Google Alerts to receive are …
- Your business name
- Subjects your audience is interested in
- News about your top competitors
- Your product or service name(s)
Set-up only takes about 5 minutes. Once it is set up, all the new content will come straight to your email, so you can easily turn it into social media content.
Video is an important part of your social media content, and almost everyone can benefit from using video. However, not everyone feels comfortable going LIVE on their social media accounts.
There are many paid tools available for video, but if you want to start without having to get approval from your boss to spend money, give Adobe Spark a try. It is free and intuitive to use to start creating social media videos.
Analytics tools to measure your social media results
Analytics is like the body language of social media. It shows you how people are responding to your content, so you can adjust and improve to reach your goals.
Built-in Platform Analytics
All the major social media platforms have their own analytics built into the platform as long as you use the correct type of account.
For Facebook, log into your business page, and then select “Insights.” You will be able to see page views, reach, what actions were taken on the page, video views, and many other things.
You can only view statistics from the past 28 days, so make sure you export the data that you need regularly.
Like Facebook, Instagram requires you to have a business account to view analytical data. You can also only view this information from the mobile view, not on your desktop.
If you need to switch to a business account, this is easy to do. However, you will only get data from the date that you switched and not before.
Twitter, on the other hand, does not differentiate between business and personal accounts. Instead, once you are logged into your account go to analytics.twitter.com to view statics like reach, top Tweet, and impressions. This will only measure actions directly related to your account, not any hashtag activity. You will need to use another tool for that.
Another important thing you might want to track is what happens after your audience sees you on social media. Where are they clicking on your links? Bitly is a perfect tool for this.
You can create a unique link for each of your social media platforms, or even for specific posts or campaigns. The Bitly dashboard will let you track exactly how many people click through on that link so you can see which posts and/or platforms are being most effective at driving traffic to your goal.
Tools to find social media hashtags
These tools can help you find some hashtags to try on your social media platforms.
Do you want to see how your branded hashtag is being used on Twitter? Or get ideas for other similar hashtags?
Hashtagify does both. It can also show you the usage of a hashtag over time, who the top accounts are that are using that hashtag, and more. You can get a good surface-level view with the free version, or get the paid version for deeper insights.
Tweetreach is another tool that will let you analyze Twitter hashtags. Its free report shows the total reach as well as the total impressions. You can also see which accounts are using the hashtag, and which Tweets are getting the most reTweets. It can also be used as a great way to find influencers on a topic.
When you use Instagram on your mobile device, you can start typing a hashtag, and Instagram will give you a list of auto-complete options and the number of posts with that hashtag.
Ingramer takes that to the next level.
Enter a keyword, and it will show you several related keywords and how often they are used. One of the things I love about this tool is that it gives both related hashtags and other suggested hashtags for the same niche. You can easily click on them to make your own copy and paste list.
The one thing you can know about social media is that it is always changing. Staying up to date and getting new ideas are constant efforts when you are a social media manager.
The good news is that there are many resources available to help.
Social media advertising
One of the challenges of the built-in analytics for Facebook is that they can be a little overwhelming. Sometimes, social media managers find it hard to get all the metrics that you need.
Good news: Agorapulse has a helpful tool called AdsReport! This free tool shows you the results of your Facebook ads in simple and easy-to-understand charts.
(You can also use the free tools for Easy Advocacy to help your employees share your social content, Twitter Report Card for evaluating your Twitter profile, and Facebook Page Barometer for grading your Facebook page as a whole.)
Content generation and updates
Sometimes all you need to come up with a new idea is a little creative kickstart. That is where Quora comes in. You can set up spaces around various topics, search for keywords, and even ask your own questions. It can help you get out of your own head and start seeing things from other people’s perspectives.
Want a more streamlined tool to start generating ideas? I love the Portent Idea Generator. You can redo it as many times as you want. Use it to create your social media posts and give you ideas for blogs and articles too. Because it is an automated tool, sometimes, it gives you some funny results. But honestly, a little humor can be a good way to get your creative wheels turning too.
Social Pros Podcast
Need help on a topic you don’t see here? Like listening to podcasts? It is definitely worth checking out the Social Pros Podcast. They have interviewed leading experts in social media on just about any topic you can think of, and give you real-world advice and tips.
Social Media Lab
You can also check out The Social Media Lab’s podcast and get the facts behind social media myths and rumors.
Social Pulse Weekly
Agorapulse’s weekly Facebook Live show hosted by Jennifer Watson features social media experts sharing their tips, tricks, and advice for social media managers and digital agencies.
Now that you know more about the basics for your toolbox, the last thing is to figure out how to make the most of your time. Social media can be time-consuming and overwhelming, which is why organization and strategy are so important.
Build your team
The first step is to know who is responsible for what aspects of social media. People who you might want to consider including in the conversation:
- Customer service
A big part of who is on your team is dependent on the size of your organization. In some cases, you might be responsible for all social media and report to the owner of the company directly. Other times, social media might be part of much bigger efforts.
Start by making a list of what you need (goal setting, graphics, content, ads, etc.) and who is responsible for each of those things. The key is to find a balance between using each person/team’s strengths without having too many proverbial cooks in the kitchen.
Creating a content calendar
Another important time-saving strategy is to create a content calendar.
- Ideal posting frequency
- Scheduling tools
- How to customize for each platform
- When you will update your content
- Whether to use marketing automation
Using all the tools you have for content creation, you can start creating categories of content that you will be able to keep fresh and interesting.
Schedule time into your workday to create and manage your content. And don’t worry, while some people have been concerned that using a scheduling tool will hurt your reach, there is not evidence that is true.
Creating a schedule for your workflow
Depending on whether you are a sole proprietor, on a team, or a social media agency, you may be managing several social media accounts all at once.
I can’t say it enough: Schedule, schedule, schedule!
Schedule not just your content, but time to devote to each aspect of social media.
Here is a recommended schedule to start:
- 1-3 hours per week for content creation and scheduling
- 15-20 minutes per day per platform for responding to comments (more if your accounts are big!)
- 20-30 minutes per day per platform doing outreach and growing your accounts
- 1-2 hours per week reviewing statistics and strategy
- 1 hour per week communicating with your team
- 1-3 hours per week creating and managing your advertising
- 1 hour per week doing research and learning what is new on social media
Those numbers assume that you are a skilled social media professional able to accomplish the basics quickly.
You may need more time if:
- Accounts already well developed and have large followings
- You are in a specialized field
- Doing a lot of video or live shows
Breaking down each type of task helps you see realistically how much time it will take.
Track your time for one week and see how long it actually takes you to manage social media. Where can you benefit from more time? Where is your time unproductive?
Taking the time to self-analyze is a worthwhile way to improve your results.
Managing comments and messages
Remember that social media should be a conversation. You want to encourage people to interact, and you want to reward that interaction by continuing the dialogue.
You have many tools at your disposal to make this work.
- Management tools. If you want to save time on social media, using a tool with an inbox will make a big difference!
- Block and mute. You don’t want to overuse these tools, but sometimes the best strategy is to shut down a conversation that is being harmful. Just be clear that you are not avoiding dealing with an important issue.
- Saved replies. Using a tool with saved replies can save time, especially for larger companies
There is a saying that says “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
You might feel like you are too late to the game to make a difference in social media. Or that it is more work than it is worth. But if you start applying these best practices now, you can still see results.
The most important thing is to stay consistent over time, take time to understand your audience, and engage in meaningful ways.