Do-it-yourself business owners quickly learn that social media marketing is deceptively difficult. Of course there’s nothing overly complex about creating a Facebook page and sending out a post, but it’s not so easy to find the huge results you’ve been reading about on your favourite marketing blog. Getting your business on social media is easy. Effective social media marketing is something entirely different. If you’re looking to start tapping into this powerful marketing tool in an effective way, we’ve put together this starter kit to get you off in the right direction.

Determine Your Intent

The first step is to figure out your purpose for being on social media. If you have a narrow and well-defined focus, there’ll be less floundering and inconsistency, and you’ll be far more effective. Here are some of the ways a business might use social media:

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  • to drive traffic to a website
  • to boost the SEO of a website
  • to build relationships and loyalty with consumers
  • to be available for troubleshooting, support, and to answer questions
  • to build a brand
  • to reach new customers
  • to collect customer data
  • to increase ecommerce sales or capture leads

Choose one of these as the primary focus of your social media activities, and maybe select one more as your secondary purpose. Then audit all of your posts against this newfound social mission. If your post doesn’t serve the purpose you’ve chosen, don’t post it!

Choose Your Platform

It is always best to do a great job managing a social media profile on one platform than to have a weak presence on a number of platforms. Don’t spread yourself thin! Bad social content is worse than no content at all. If you feel like you’re killing it on one platform, then you can consider becoming active on a second.

In most cases, Facebook will be the first platform to consider. It’s the most popular in terms of users (2 billion), so your potential audience is larger. It’s also the most powerful in terms of targeting and analytics. The one downside is that posts have a short shelf life; once they’ve aged a few days, they’re lost in the deep, dark pit of Facebook oblivion.

Instagram is usually the second-most popular choice. With over 500 million users and now under Facebook ownership, it is also backed by powerful targeting and analytics. Instagram is also the best platform for engagement. A post on this photo-sharing platform gets for more audience engagement on average than anywhere else. However, accounts are limited to just one link -- the one on your profile. You can’t put links in your posts, which can be a huge downfall for some businesses.

Beyond those two, TwitterLinkedInYouTubeSnapchatPinterest, and others might be worth considering. But take a look at how they’re used, who is active there, and whether they can be used to serve the intent you set above.

Maintain a Content Calendar

For consistency and time efficiency, a content calendar is essential. Take an hour once a week and plan out all of your social content for the week ahead rather than wasting half an hour every day trying to think of what to post.

You can also use the schedule function on Facebook to post a week’s worth of content at once. Just set each post for when you want it to publish. And make sure you’re publishing at times where your audience is online and engaging. You can find that data in your “Insights”, but it is usually in pretty predictable patterns like early morning, lunchtime, after work, and late evening, which are the times most people are checking their social feeds.

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Choose an Inbound Marketing Approach

Social media should be just that: social! Taking an advertising strategy to social media is not going to get you satisfying results. Most, if not all, of your posts should be inbound marketing.

Inbound marketing (a.k.a. content marketing) is a marketing strategy that provides the consumer with valuable content and builds a relationship with them rather than just trying to sell them something (outbound or interruption marketing).

People have to choose to follow your social media account. Why would they want to follow an account that just looks like a stream of advertisements? Post content they want to see and share and engage with and you’ll be rewarded with brand loyalty and followers becoming brand ambassadors.

 Create Effective Content

For content to be effective, it needs to be engaging. Before you hit publish, make sure your post is something your audience is likely to stop to click on, comment, like, or share. There are three types of posts that social media users find valuable: how, now, and wow. Your content should always be at least one of them.

  • How: These posts are informative or instructive. You’re an expert in your industry; share some of that knowledge!
  • Now: This is timely content that relates to something very current. It could be something in the news, a development in your industry or business, or something people are celebrating.
  • Wow: These posts are entertaining or exciting or inspiring. They stop your audience as they scroll through their feed and command their attention.
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This is the content that your audience will enjoy seeing in their timeline. If it feels like a high standard to uphold, only post as often as you can without sacrificing quality. You can only create a post of this calibre once a week? Perfect. Only post to social media once a week.

Every business and industry will be a bit different in what works for you. Your best strategy is to routinely look back at your best-performing posts and replicate that. So what is some of the most successful social content you’ve ever posted?

Originally published on the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce blog.