Using social media isn’t a challenge. Using it correctly is. But that’s easier said than done in the shadowy universe of algorithms, platform updates without notice or detail, ambiguous guidelines, and many times, complete lack of transparency and best-practice direction from these platforms. Despite this, there are some tried-and-true best practices for social that our agency employs and recommends to all of our clients.
However, many times brands need to go beyond conventional wisdom and understand what not to do if they hope to compete for impressions and engagement. In this guide, we’ll cover some of the more overlooked considerations marketers should reflect on to maintain forward progress on social media, regardless of platform.
One of the most common mistakes brands make is being inconsistent with content creation. Being consistent doesn’t necessarily mean posting all day every day, but it does mean that marketers should maintain some sort of schedule on any platform they hope to grow a following. This could mean posting once per day, three times per day or three times per week. The quantity of posts is entirely dependent on your brand and whether you’re able to generate enough content that your target audience would genuinely be willing to engage with.
Regardless of the quantity, marketers should find what I like to call a “cadence of content creation” that enables you, the marketer, to set your own expectations about what needs to be done. At the same time, establishing a cadence also begins to set the expectations of both your target audience and the platform’s algorithm.
If you’re having trouble staying on track, consider creating a simple content calendar with a spreadsheet. Alternatively, collaborative cloud services like Airtable have clean interfaces to generate social calendars with ease.
Come up with your topics and body content before the start of each month, decide which platform(s) you plan to post to, set the dates and/or times you plan to post, and include links and creative within the document so they’re ready to go.
Being consistent is just one aspect of a successful social growth strategy. However, probably the most overlooked necessity for the growth of any social account is engagement. Brands need to be present in a variety of ways, and they need to be there almost 24/7 if they really want to see exponential growth.
Engaging on social media often falls by the wayside not because it’s hard, but because it’s so time consuming. It’s difficult to spend the majority of your day staring at your phone, especially while other tasks are typically lying in wait throughout the work day. It can also become monotonous, and marketers need to be creative and quick thinkers to really improve a brand’s presence.
Successful audience engagement essentially entails a three-fold approach. First, after you post a piece of content on a platform, you need to respond to every single comment (with the exception of spam), and respond ideally within minutes. By responding, I don’t mean simply using a smiley face emoji. Respond to all comments with thought (if they warrant it). Maintain a consistent voice when responding to comments, but more importantly, keep it human and keep it valuable. If your post is about a new recipe, for instance, and a commenter has a question about adding an ingredient, take the time to answer their question in detail. This lets your followers see that your brand isn’t robotic, but that there are humans behind it, and it provides value. Those still weighing whether to follow your brand will also be more likely to commit and click the Follow button when they see your level of engagement. Your audience will remember the effort and will be more likely to re-engage on future posts. At the same time, the algorithms take note of this, and future content will have a higher chance of being shown on follower feeds.
Second, take the time to go out and explore your own content feed. Whether it’s Instagram, Facebook, or LinkedIn, go out, like and comment on the posts of those you follow. Taking the extra minute to write a thoughtful comment on someone’s post gets your brand name and logo out there, while leaving a mental imprint and creating a lasting opportunity to attract new followers.
Third, explore your niche more broadly and go outside of your feed. If it’s Instagram, search for hashtags relevant to your brand and like, comment and follow users. Many will follow you back, explore your page and engage with your posts. While time consuming, this is one of the fastest organic ways to grow a large loyal follower base.
Engagement can also come in the form of calls to action, and I’m not referring to driving people to click through to your website. Calls to action can also be used to get a conversation going in your social comment section. Instead of always posting new content or commenting from an informational perspective, ask your audience questions periodically. If you’re a healthcare brand, for example, lead a new post by asking whether patients have experience with a certain condition and what their treatment experience has been like. If you’re a restaurant, search for customers who posted pictures of their dining experience and ask what they enjoyed most about it. Better yet, ask what you could do to make it even more memorable next time. Being creative and inquisitive with your questions, regardless of niche, will undoubtedly grow your following and improve engagement metrics as time goes on.
Lastly, many brands fall victim to overthinking when it comes to publishing content on social media. Should there be an underlying strategy behind what’s being published? Of course. Should you spend more than 30 minutes deliberating on what verbiage and filter to use? Absolutely not. If it’s taking you that long to come up with content to post, you need to reassess the kind of content you’re posting. As I mentioned earlier on, content calendars can help streamline the creative process and minimize the amount of time it takes to post on social.
At the end of the day, what’s most important for growing a social following is being present. Post helpful and informative content for your audience consistently and take the time to engage in creative ways. Before long, you’ll see significant organic growth and the process will only become more enjoyable over time.