Nine steps for social media success

As a communications strategy consultant who works with small businesses, I get asked about how to be successful on social media a lot. Here are my nine steps for social media success.

1. Define your goal

What business goal are you trying to accomplish by being on social media? Get specific! Are you trying to increase revenue in a particular area of your business, build trust to drive higher sales, or increase brand awareness of your company? Start with the big picture business goal first and then get specific about your social media goals.

2. Know your audience

Who are you trying to reach on social media? Define the demographics (age, gender, income level, location, etc.) as well as the psychographics (what matters to them, what keeps them up at night, and so on). Your audience is going to drive what you say on social media and where you say it. Some pretty quick online research can give you the basic demographics of each social media channel to help ensure you’re using the right ones.

3. Find your voice

What’s your brand voice overall? Fun, quirky, geeky, serious, stable? Something else? Look at your website, print materials, and how you talk about your business and make sure your voice on social media is in line with your overall brand voice.

4. Share helpful and informative content

Ever run into that person at a networking event who only talks about themselves? How much do you really want to hang out with that person? You don’t want to be that person on social media! Yes, some of your content can promote your brand, but you don’t want to be overly promotional. Think about what information you can share with your audience that’s helpful or informative. You can still share your own content, such as blogs, but focus on helpful and informative content primarily.

5. Be consistent

There’s an algorithm behind every social media platform, and there are a lot of factors that go into it, but consistency is definitely one of them. Decide how often you can feasibly post content on social media and stick to it! At minimum, try to post something every other day.

6. Plan ahead

Let’s talk about prescheduling content. Some people are for it, and some people are against it. I’m a fan if it’s done right. You can write an entire month’s worth of content in advance and schedule it to post to each of your social platforms on designated days and times through a scheduling platform like Hootsuite, Buffer, or Social Pilot. But, you have to monitor it throughout the month! Try looking at your scheduled content at the beginning of each week so you know what’s coming up, and be sure to check your scheduled content if major local or national events happen.

7. Get visual

While Instagram and Snapchat are the most visual social media platforms, you can get visual with some of your posts on every platform. Make sure some of your posts are images, whether photos you purchase or images you create yourself.

8. Keep it legal

Speaking of images, don’t use images you don’t have the rights to use! I see small businesses make this mistake all the time. They’ll go search for an image online and use it on their social media, but that can get your business in serious trouble. Always use licensed images! DepositPhotos and Shutterstock are a couple good stock photo resources, but there are some others out there as well.

Also know the terms of service for the social media platforms you’re using! I see lots of businesses promote their Facebook page by running a contest that requires people to share the post or tag a friend to enter to win something for free. Did you know that’s a violation of Facebook’s rules for business pages? Well, it is! And it can get your page shut down. (Click here and scroll to “Promotions on Pages, Groups and Events” for information.)

9. Evaluate and adjust

Keep an eye on your metrics using each platform’s metrics reports or the metrics reports available through your scheduling tool. What’s working? What’s not working? Monitor the metrics over time, see what posts people engage with, and then adjust your content accordingly. Rinse and repeat!

Now, those nine steps might seem like a lot if you’re just getting started in social media, but I promise the results will be worth it!

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