Social Media is an essential element of your overall business marketing strategy, but it can be difficult to know where to begin and, once you have begun, difficult to know how to proceed.

The exact actions you should be taking will vary depending on your business. Pinning down exactly what works best for your business will come over time, with trial and error, but there are certain things that every business should be doing.

These social media must haves will get you up and running in no time, and see to it that your social media efforts are always working in the best interests of your business.

1. Be strategic

As with any aspect of business your social media efforts should be planned, ideally ahead of time. Once you have this nailed everything else becomes a lot easier! Whether you’re just starting out on social media, or already have an established platform, a plan is essential. Be as brief or as detailed as you like, but be sure to include the following):

  • Which social media sites are going to work best for you and your business? Remember, this isn’t about you, it’s about your ideal clients. Which sites are they on? Check out your competition – which platforms work best for them? Do some market research.
  • What will your main platform be? You will exhaust yourself trying to have a prominent presence on every Focus your main efforts on one platform at a time. Base this choice on your research.
  • Which additional platforms will you have a small presence on? If your main platform will be Facebook, but a lot of your ideal clients are obsessed with Instagram, it’s worth having an Instagram presence. Devote minimal time to it initially. When your main account is strong enough, switch your focus and build a second main platform.
  • What form kind of content will you create for social media? This will largely depend on the main platform you are focusing on – YouTube needs videos, Facebook increasingly requires video content, Instagram and Pinterest are all about images, Twitter is about short, snappy Tweets. Memes are eternally popular. Don’t limit yourself, you can use many forms!
  • How frequently will you post? Once you’ve determined what kind of content you will post, decide how frequently you will post each kind of content. This will be different for different types of content and different platforms. Some content may go out daily, such as Tweets, status updates, memes, and questions, and other content weekly, or monthly, such as videos and articles.
  • How much time and resources you will dedicate to your social media? You need to think about this very carefully. If you’re not careful social media will swiftly monopolise a massive amount of your time, or your money if you’re paying someone else to do it for you. Set clear guidelines – how many hours/week? How much money/month? You can reassess this regularly but you need to know what you can afford.

2. Know your numbers

It’s very important to track your numbers so you know what is working and what isn’t. This is more than simply monitoring how many likes or followers you have. These numbers are generally called metrics.

For example, your reach is the number of people seeing your content on a monthly, weekly, and daily basis. All social media platforms come with analytics of some kind that help you analyse metrics, use them! Create a simple spreadsheet that lists each of the metrics you want to track, for each platform you are on, and update it regularly – once a month at a minimum.

You don’t need to track everything. There are a lot of different metrics and not all will be relevant for you. Figure out which give you a meaning indicator of how well your platform is doing and use those – it may vary from platform to platform.

You can use analytics to see which of your posts are the most popular, and which didn’t go over as well. They will also tell you the best times of day, and best days of the week to post on.

Mastering analytics takes time, but it’s worth it! Use the information to shape your strategy moving forward – ditch the posts that don’t work and do more of the ones that do!

3. Build engagement

Your social media platform is of no use unless people are actively engaging with your content. The number of likes or followers you have isn’t as important as the number of people liking, commenting on, and sharing your posts, or the number of views on a video.

You need to invest in your engagement in order to build a platform that will actively help your business. This may mean advertising, or it may mean spending extra time responding to comments and messages, networking, and engaging with other people’s content. The key is remembering people will not engage with you without help.

You need to prompt them to engage with your content. Be proactive in your efforts and ensure you are posting content regularly and frequently (the ideal number of posts in a day changes depending on the platform, check what’s best for your platform before you start!).

To build engagement you must be engaging. Post enigmatic, interesting, informative, and inspiring content, and keep asking questions, even if nobody answers at first!

You must also ensure you listen and engage yourself. If someone comments, reply! Reply to every single comment for as long as you can – you will eventually get so many it’s impossible to keep up, but even then, keep commenting, just accept that you are no longer able to reply to every single comment.

Talk to your followers and they will talk to you.

4. Outsource your social media management

At some point you are going to have to outsource at least some of your social media management.

The bigger your online presence gets, the more time consuming it will become, and there are certain things you may simply not know how to do. Effective advertising, analysing analytics, creating memes, scheduling posts, and uploading videos can get a bit technical.

You may know how to do it all, but is that really the best use of your time?

You may be able to learn how to do it all, but do you really need to know?

Weigh up how much your time is worth and how much it will cost you to hire a good social media manager. Even the basics of sharing regular links to your blog posts is very time consuming. As business owners we are notoriously time poor. Social media management is one thing you absolutely do not have to do all by yourself!

5. Boost your website traffic

You should have links to your blog and other content on your website going out daily. Promote your blog posts regularly and consistently, not just on the day you post them, but at frequent intervals after that. You will have ‘evergreen’ posts that will always be popular, and others that will attract less attention. Link to your evergreen content on a regular basis, rotating which you share to ensure people don’t see only one, or the same few over and over again.

Depending on your platform you will need to vary how and when you promote blog posts. On Twitter aim to Tweet a new post 5-6 times the day it goes live, then once a day for a week after. Other platforms – in particular the image-based ones like Instagram or Pinterest – need far fewer posts. Post an image with a clear link included in the comments on the day the post goes live, and occasionally repost to keep people going back.

Website analytics will be able to tell you where your traffic is coming from, so you will know what’s working and what isn’t!

6. Schedule everything

If you can’t outsource, use scheduling software – it will save you an unbelievable amount of time. Most come with free trials, use them! If you’re a regular blogger it’s worth investing in a blog and social media scheduling application like CoSchedule, which allows you to schedule as many links to blog posts as you like, as frequently as you like, as well as giving you many options for posts across Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and Pinterest. You can schedule Instagram posts using Schedugr.am, and other applications such as Buffer and Hootsuite are very useful.

7. Use short links

This one is really simple but so useful. Use an application like Bit.ly to shorten your URLs. This makes them neat and allows you to track how many people click them. Some scheduling applications allow you to integrate Bit.ly, or automatically shorten links for you. Take advantage of this!

8. Learn how to use #hashtags

Hashtags are increasingly important across all social media. Originally the province of Twitter, these genius little tags are now being used on everything from Instagram and Pinterest to Facebook. They are how people will find you and they are completely free to use. But, be careful – you may think you understand them, but they are more complex than most people realise. Check out our Hashtag School post for more detailed information.

Ready to conquer social media? You are now!

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