I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of social media however I will agree that if used correctly it can definitely be a good thing for your business.
The problem though is that most companies don’t use it correctly and are ultimately just wasting their time and resources.
One of the biggest mistakes companies make is treating social media the same way they would use traditional advertising mediums like radio, television or print.
Social media is not the place to sell your products or services and if you constantly post about the latest sale no one is going to want to follow you.
Nobody wants to be advertised to on social media.
People use social media because they get value out of it. Whether that value is in the form of a quick break from the stresses of the day, entertainment or news, connecting with friends or receiving validation for their feelings and experiences.
Therefore your posts on social media have to provide value to your followers. You have to think about them first, not yourself.
Not only that but you also have to remember that you’re not just competing for attention with other businesses, you’re competing for attention with people’s friends and family for space in their news feed.
Whatever you’re going to post has to stand out if you want to have any sort of chance of getting attention.
Beware of Social Media Gurus
With the rise of social media platforms in the last several years an entire industry of social media gurus and services has sprung up alongside it.
This industry preys on people who don’t know any better and because social media is changing all the time it’s not difficult for them to find people to take advantage of.
These people will use their own terms like “engagement” or “building a community” but they won’t ever really define what they mean by that or how it’s ultimately going to help your business.
They also love to show examples of companies that raised a massive following and had all kinds of successes through social media.
These companies are usually in completely different industries than you are and probably have a lot more money and resources to sink in social media as well. What they did isn’t really relevant to your situation.
You’re probably not going to be anywhere near as successful as them ever.
Social media gurus are also always promoting the latest social network site that pops up. One minute everyone needs to start using Vine, the next minute it’s Snap Chat and then everyone’s using Periscope.
You have limited time and you’re not going to be wasting it trying to put stuff out on whatever the latest social network happens to be.
Another thing to look out for is when someone says “well this network has X million number of users, you need to get on there or you’re going to miss out on all kinds of business!”
While these networks might indeed have a ton of users that doesn’t mean that any of them are going to care about what you have to say. Furthermore, if you have a local business it doesn’t matter if there’s a billion users on that site if only a tiny fraction of them live in your city.
When you start your business you’ll most likely receive all kinds of emails and phone calls from social media companies trying to sell you their services. Ignore all these people.
You know your business and audience way better than they ever will and you can do a much better job managing your social media than them too.
What Should You Post on Social Media?
Social media is for providing value to your customers and fans, engaging with your followers and for telling your story.
In the very excellent book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook author Gary Vaynerchuk describes social media as a boxing match.
You want to constantly be putting out little pieces of content that bring value to your followers, fun images, jokes, articles, whatever. These are the jabs.
Then after putting out a series of successful jabs you throw your right hook which is your sales message.
If you constantly post about your products or services (constantly put out right hooks) as mentioned before, no one will want to follow you. If you constantly put out bits of valuable content however when you occasionally throw in a sales message people are much more tolerant and might even be interested.
Social media is also for engaging with your followers, asking them questions, finding out how you can help them and what they need.
And finally social media is great for telling your company or brand’s story.
If you’re a blogger who travels the world post photos of interesting things you see.
If your company is involved in charity work post about how you’re helping others and making the world a better place.
If your employees are doing something fun and quirky at work take a picture and post it up.
If a customer had a fantastic experience and wrote you an amazing testimonial share it.
Anything that humanizes yourself or your company and helps you relate to your followers is great.
The biggest thing to remember here is that social media isn’t about you, it’s about your followers and what value you can provide them.
The Major Social Media Sites
There are tons of social media sites and you probably don’t have the time or resources to be on all of them.
I recommend you pick a small number of sites and focus on those. Don’t constantly chase the latest social media sites and don’t try to be everywhere at once.
If you do decide that you want to pursue a social media strategy the networks I recommend are Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest or Instagram.
Pick whichever ones of those that you feel would most benefit your own business.
Facebook is by far the largest of all the social media sites. If you had to just pick one I’d recommend you go with Facebook.
With Facebook you can create a business page and then invite people to like or follow your page to see your updates.
The major problem with Facebook though is that only a tiny fraction of your followers see your posts.
There was once a time when all your followers would see all your posts but Facebook wants to sell their advertising services and they’ve gradually made it so less and less people see what you post unless you pay to promote your posts.
That being said there are still some tricks you can use to get more people to see and interact with what you post and you can still get some decent traction from Facebook without spending any money.
If you do decide to buy advertising Facebook has one of the absolute best advertising platforms out there.
Pretty much any information anyone has ever entered into Facebook can be used to target ads to them so you can only show your ads to the exact target demographic you’re interested in.
Twitter is probably my favourite of all the social networks out there and is probably the second largest one after Facebook.
Twitter lets you post short 140 character messages called tweets for the whole Internet to see.
What I really love about Twitter is that you can do searches for things like your company name or your products and services and see in real time what people are saying.
You can then tweet at these people and usually people respond pretty well, it’s not usually considered spam or anything like you might think.
Unfortunately Twitter is definitely having some problems right now. For one it’s not making any money and as a result its stock price has been falling for some time and a ton of the top level executives have left the company.
To make matters worse Twitter has started implementing many controversial features such as “shadow banning”, unverifying or outright banning people with political opinions different from the people running Twitter.
Shadow banning is when you make a post but only you can see it. Other people don’t see your post and you have no idea that other people aren’t seeing your post. It was originally designed to stop spammers.
These actions are further hurting the site and causing their stock value to fall even lower as a lot of people don’t like the stance the company is taking on free speech.
Twitter is still a great network to use for your business though and you should definitely take advantage of it as it’s very easy to use.
Out of all the social networks this one is probably the easiest way to connect with individual customers, prospects or fans.
Just keep in mind that if current trends continue this network might not be around for much longer.
I personally like Google+, especially for personal use. I even prefer it to Facebook. I think the design is much better and I like how you have to option to share your posts with specific groups of people instead of everyone at once.
The big problem with Google+ though is that there’s very few people on it. Google went and created Google+ profiles for everyone who had a Gmail account so they could inflate their user numbers but because there’s so few people on the site you probably shouldn’t waste too much time on it.
You should definitely still pay attention to Google+ though and here’s why, Google+ integrates with the Google search results.
If you create a Google+ business page much like a Facebook business page you can link the page to your website and additional information will show up in the search results when people search for you or your business.
If you have a local business than Google might also display a map with your location and contact information. You might even see the latest posts you made on Google+ appear in the sidebar beside the search results as well.
Therefore you should definitely create a Google+ page for your business, set everything up properly and link it to your website.
You don’t need to spend as much time posting things to Google+ but any time you make a new blog post or update it definitely doesn’t hurt to throw it up on your Google+ page.
If you’re creating any sort of original video content then you definitely want to be on YouTube.
You can basically post unlimited videos to YouTube and never have to worry about hosting or bandwidth.
Plus videos seem to get a bit of a boost in the search engine rankings so if you properly fill out all the information for your videos (titles, description, etc.) with the keywords you want to rank for you can get your videos ranking decently high on Google without much effort.
YouTube videos can also be embedded in your own site and you don’t have to worry about hosting them yourself.
The only really negative thing I have to say about YouTube is about their copyright claim system.
Pretty much anyone at any time can flag any of your videos for copyright which removes them right away and then you have to prove they don’t violate any copyrights to get them back.
Even if you’re 100% in the right your video or even entire channel can be taken down for weeks until the claim is sorted out.
This is especially an issue if you plan to do any sort of commentary or reviews of things like movies or video games. Even though you’re free to use footage from movies or games under Fair Use companies are constantly flagging videos and the content creators have to fight to get them back.
Because anyone can make a claim at any time there have also been many instances of people making claims against people they don’t like to hurt them as their videos or channels will be taken down for a while until the claim is sorted out.
Don’t let this scare you though, YouTube is still an absolutely fantastic site if you’re producing video content. Just be aware that you might run into some frustrations if you plan on making reviews or commentaries. If you’re making your own completely original videos you should run into any problems.
Pinterest is a site where people can create what are basically virtual pin boards and pin things from around the Internet to them.
Pinterest is primarily used by women and a large amount of the content is related to things like craft projects, cooking, interior decorating, weddings etc.
If your business is in an industry or niche like this then Pinterest is absolutely perfect for you.
The best kind of content to post on Pinterest is beautiful or glamorous photos so if you have content like this then Pinterest is an excellent choice for your social media strategy.
You can also include a link back to your website with any of your pins and use Pinterest to drive traffic to your website.
I’ve also found that Pinterest doesn’t require quite the same amount of effort as other social media sites so you can probably fit Pinterest into your social media strategy without too much trouble.
Instagram is another very visual social network where people share “artistic” looking photos.
Instagram lets you upload photos from your mobile device and then give them filters or other artistic touches.
I find Instagram a little bit more frustrating to use than the other social networks because you have to do everything from a mobile app and I prefer to work on a computer.
You also only get one link to your website that you put in the bio of your profile. You can’t add links in the photo description so if you’re trying to get traffic back to your site from your photos you have to add in a message like “visit the link in our bio” or “copy and paste this URL”.
Still, Instagram is a great way to connect with people especially if they’re of the Millennial or younger generations as they make up the bulk of Instagram’s user base.
What Metrics to Measure with Social Media?
If you’re going to be spending time working with social media then you need to have some way to measure success and to know that you’re not wasting your time.
Metrics like the number of likes you have on Facebook, the number of followers you have on Twitter or post engagement don’t mean anything if you’re not somehow making money for your business from all this.
The best suggestion I have for you is to use social media to drive traffic to your website. You can track how much traffic you’re getting from the different social networks through Google Analytics. Any other analytics software can probably track this as well but I prefer Google Analytics.
The more traffic (and the higher quality that traffic is) from a social network your website is getting the better.
If you chose to run advertising on sites like Facebook you have a few more options and can use tracking codes on your website to figure out things like how many conversions or sales you’re receiving from those ads.
How to Manage Multiple Social Media Networks
Once you decide which social networks you want to focus your time and energy on there are various tools that make managing your social media accounts much easier.
Hootsuite lets you manage and post to multiple social networks all from one dashboard.
It also lets you schedule social media posts in advance so you don’t have to worry about posting things on social media every day. This can save you a great deal of time and is my preferred way of managing social media.
You can also create various feeds from different social networks in your Hootsuite dashboard and see all your notifications, updates and twitter searches in one place.
You can create a free account with Hootsuite and manage a couple of social networks or for $10 a month you can manage as much as you want.
If you’re going to be spending time on multiple social networks I highly recommend you check out Hootsuite as it’ll make your life considerably easier.
Another absolutely fantastic and free tool is If This, Then That. IFTTT lets you link up different social networks and create if then recipes with them.
For example you could set up a recipe that says every time you post something to Twitter it automatically gets posted to Facebook too.
I have a site where I post a ton of different Flickr photos to its social media pages. I have IFTTT set up so if I ever favourite a photo on Flickr it automatically gets posted to the site’s Facebook page, Twitter page, a Pinterest board, a Tumblr blog and a subreddit I created.
You can create recipes for almost everything so definitely check it out as it can make your social media management much easier.
Branding Across Multiple Social Networks
If you are going to be using multiple social networks make sure you use consistent branding across all of them.
What this means is use the same profile image, same header image, same information, etc. so you have a consistent look across all your social media sites and don’t cause confusion and look much more professional.
Social Media for Search Engine Optimization
The amounts of likes, retweets, pins and whatnot you receive don’t affect your site’s search engine optimization however links back to your site do.
Because social media accounts are free to set up it doesn’t hurt to set them up on each network and add a link back to your site in the profile.
Even if you don’t plan to post anything to any of them in the future having that link back to your site helps your search engine rankings.
It’s also a good idea to throw your latest blog posts onto these networks so you get backlinks from those as well.
The last thing I’ll touch on is the topic of buying followers.
You can go to sites like Fiverr and buy followers for your social network. For example you could buy about 1000 Facebook likes for $5.
This can be very tempting when you’re just starting off because people will be more impressed with and probably more likely to follow someone who has a ton of followers rather than someone with none.
There are pros and cons to doing this.
If you’re a business that doesn’t really care about getting traffic from social media then buying a ton of followers can make you seem much more popular and in demand if anyone ever checks out your social media pages.
If you do care about getting traffic from social media then it’s best that you don’t buy followers.
Facebook for example has an algorithm that determines how many people see your posts.
If you buy a 1000 random followers and none of them like or comment on your post then Facebook will determine that the post was low quality and any future posts you make will be shown to less people.
The more real people who actually want to follow you then the more likes and comments you’ll receive for your posts which will result in more people seeing future posts you make.
Also on this same subject don’t try to buy followers with bribes and contests. Lots of companies will post things such as “Like us for a 10% off coupon or a free whatever”.
This doesn’t get you real fans, it just gets people who want free stuff. They’re not going to interact with your real posts and Facebook will decide to show future posts to less people who might actually be interested.
Hopefully this post helps you decide how you want to use social media and which sites you want to be on.
In the future I’ll be making detailed posts for each network showing how to set up accounts, pages and make high quality posts.
Look forward to that and in the mean time if you have any social media related questions or comments let me know below in the comment section.
I also highly recommend you check out Gary Vaynerchuk’s excellent book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World. It’ll explain more about the various social networks and provide examples of both good and bad posts to give you a good idea of what kind of content works on each network.