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Business talk: A no nonsense beginners guide to Social Media

A light loses nothing by lighting another candle - James Keller Recently I’ve been super inspired by a number of social media groups founded by and made for female entrepreneurs who are on a mission to empower and support one another as they start new business, passion projects and career changes.

With all this other crazy, stressful noise going on around us in the world it’s such a delight to see people so willing to help and push other awesome women on their journeys.

I was thinking about how important online communication channels are especially for building communities and starting a business...but also how there’s a TON of information (and companies trying to sell you shit) about how to manage your social media accounts and it can be tricky not knowing where to start or what to focus on.

I never intended to write about Social Media on this blog but, in my career so far, it’s kind of been my jazz and I know 1 or 2 things about it. Now I want to use some of that knowledge to hopefully help others who are maybe just starting out or are not sure what to focus on.

I’ll go through all the main areas to consider and some tips for focusing on high quality, organic growth of your channel. I advise having a comforting hot beverage with you and notepad (I’ll be touching upon A LOT of stuff).

Note: I won’t talk about paid ads/campaigns as it’s a whole other plethora of stuff to consider and my focus is new entrepreneurs just starting out and most likely with little/no budget. Also, if you’re interested in using cheap “growth hacks” and bots then, YO, this is NOT the place for you. GTFO.

Know why to use Social Media

Social Media platforms are potentially the most lucrative marketing and communications channels you can use. They can be a highly cost effective mode of driving brand awareness, website traffic and sales leads.

However, first and foremost they must be treated as community platforms. Your primary intention should always be to facilitate a highly engaged, high quality, relevant audience community that, when needed, you can then successfully activate (over and above just driving clicks and sales).

It is the biggest outward facing voice of your brand. How you choose to treat these platforms will speak volumes to your potential followers and customers.

Know your lingo

For the sake of this post I’ll run through some key words and abbreviations I’ll be using:

-- CTA (Call To Action) - Directing your audience to complete an action through a written or visual cue.

-- ER (Engagement Rate) - A type of measurement that I will go over in more detail soon

-- CTR (Click Through Rate) - The percentage of how many people clicked a link in your post out of everyone who saw it.

-- Reach/Impressions - Between the different platforms these might be measures slightly differently but they denote the amount of people who have seen your post (regardless of whether they interacted with it or not). -- Engagement - An action taken (EG. Like, share, link click, video watch etc etc)

-- SoMe - My lazy way of writing Social Media -- Platform - Referring to the different Social Media sites (EG. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc etc)

-- Organic - A way to describe activity that hasn’t been paid for through boosting or advertising your posts. EG: “Organic reach Vs paid reach” -- TLC (Tender Love and Care <3)

Know your intended audience and messaging

There’s no point going any further or opening any SoMe accounts until you have this down. Whether on a Powerpoint presentation, in your notebook or on sticky notes on the wall, you must be able to answer Who is my audience? What is the core messaging of my brand? What is important to me/the brand (a.k.a your brand values)? What is my voice?”. Go from very broad to as specific as possible.

Everytime you communicate on a SoMe platform you must have all of the above in mind. It will drive all your choices around content, copywriting tone of voice, targeting and everything else in between.

It’s a VERY noisy space out there. The more consistent, succinct and strong your voice is the more likely your message will be heard.

Hint: Spend time researching what others in your industry are doing and how they are saying it. What’s working for them? How can you differentiate yourself?

Know which platforms to start with

“I want to be on lots of platforms to get as much reach as possible” is NOT the way to go.

They’re all different spaces with different algorithms, communities and voices so must be treated as such. Each require their own content planning considerations and all around TLC.

Based on your above decisions on target audience prioritise one or two channels that will serve you best in terms of reaching those people and communicating what you need to.

Once you have established these, have a good rhythm and when, and ONLY when, you know you can allocate more resources, you can look into expanding to more channels.

Time and time again I have seen brands excitedly open new SoMe profiles only to abandon them months later when they realise they have taken for granted the resources and specific content needed for each platform.

This is an AWFUL customer journey. Opening up a communication channel and asking people to invest in your content only to ditch them later is NOT cool.

Know what to measure

Let’s be clear, when dealing with building a community of real people, there is no one set of numeric measurements that will adequately give you the full picture of what is happening on your channel.

This is why we hire those who are highly invested in our brand (or do it ourselves) and will take the time to really get to know your community and listen, through many means, as to how things are progressing and constantly adjust accordingly.

For example, you might be gaining a tremendous amount of followers but how engaged actually are they? And when engaging with your posts, is it a high quality engagement that is positive?

Having said that, like with any resource investment for your brand/business, you MUST track performance over time. Is my channel healthy? Is my content performing? Is this investment paying off?

The often go-to metrics are Followers and/or Reach (ie. how many people follow the page and how many people are seeing our posts). These are important health indicators, yes, BUT arguably too much focus is put on these and, when viewed alone, are quite frankly vanity metrics.

I could discuss all day (yes, I should probably get some more hobbies) about why too much focus is on the above but in short: I would rather have 1000 highly engaged followers than 10,000 passive ones.

Below are, in order, the types of metrics you should focus on (Twitter, Facebook Instagram & LinkedIn):

Engagement Rate (ER) Which is, in my opinion, the best indicator of performance and channel health you should be looking at. It shows the percentage of engagements out of everyone who saw your post (ie. out of everyone who saw this, who actually felt compelled to do something with it?) and is calculated as follows:

Twitter calculates this for you. If click on your profile icon at the top right > Analytics > Tweets (top menu): It’s the percentage in the 3rd column

Facebook is a little trickier (possibly behind the times I reckon!). Go to Insights > Posts. Scroll down and there you’ll see all your published posts with lots of stats. In the top right click the dropdown icon and you’ll see an option to select Engagement Rate:

For Instagram it is calculated in exactly the same but instead of reach/impressions you just use the number of followers you have at the time of posting.

Organic followers and reach Is your communications drawing in new people each week? Don’t worry too much about steep inclines. Instead, focus on steady, consistent organic growth over time.

Content-specific metrics Whether it’s a video (watch rate & length watched), poll (total votes), link to website (CTR) or a post which has a specific CTA such as asking people to Share, Like, Comment etc. When we post different types of content we’re asking our audience to do different things with it (and we spend varying amounts of resources creating it) and thus it should be measured accordingly. Tip: This is also why it’s important to make sure each post has, where possible, only ONE clear CTA. If you have a video post which also asks people to share AND click a link then the success will be harder to measure (and often lower anyway).

Know how to benchmark

So, what’s a good ER anyway? I get asked this a lot and can often see the disappointment in people’s eyes when I start with “Well, it’s not as simple as that.” I’ve seen many articles quote that anything above 0.99% on Facebook and 1% on Twitter is “good” which...ok...fine, you can start at that.

But the truth is that ER is industry, content and channel-size specific.

So, for example, I would expect a homelessness charity organisation with fewer followers to be aiming for around 8% ER. Whereas a big international tech company with hundreds of thousands of followers to maybe be satisfied with half of that. Remember, the more followers you have the more difficult (and impressive!) it is to maintain a high ER. You constantly have to adjust.

This is why internal benchmarking (to measure against your own performance over time) is so so important. Remember, you are building a community of people and so need to adjust your content by what performs well with your audience specifically.

Internal benchmarking is also the best way for looking at your followers, especially as a new company/brand. Brands who spend too long comparing vanity metrics such as overall follower numbers with their competitors might as well be having a pissing competition (or male organ measuring, if you will).

Know how to keep track and adjust

If you’re just doing this on your own or a small team then a simple spreadsheet might suffice. Simply track ER and organic followers each week. Also make note of your top performing posts and, as with any reporting, it’s crucial you note what your next steps are based on what you have learnt. There’s no point measuring anything if we don’t adjust our plans accordingly.

Know when you need to use tools

‘Cus I’ll tell you right now, as much as the tool-selling companies might tell you otherwise, you need them much less than you think.

Most of the SoMe platforms come with their own, free, comprehensive analytics pages for you. Their biggest issue may be that they give “too much” information or it’s presented in a not-so-obvious way, which is where some 3rd party tools step in to simplify. But remember: 3rd party tools simply take what information you can already get (for free) and present it in a different format for you. This can make life easier at times sure but, when it comes to your bottom dollar, I’d always err on the side of reluctance when forking over money for this.

I’ve used A LOT of social media tools and can honestly say that, beyond a little convenience, I’ve never been super impressed with the worth and 90% of the time still return to using the native SoMe platforms for posting.

Also, every time a SoMe platform adds a new feature, the 3rd party tool always lags behind updating to include it so you can actually end up REMOVING functionality from your SoMe management.

However, when it comes to customer service and responding to followers comments etc this is a different story. When the conversation traffic on your page reaches a certain threshold and you are committed to responding to people then a SoMe customer service tool is essential.

In summary: Depending on the size of your account, teams and reporting needs a 3rd party tool may not be necessary. YOU know your account the best and what its needs are, not a 3rd party tool or automation system.

Know how to create a content calendar

There’s a lot of debate out there about how much you should plan in your content in advance and I’ve settled for a mix of short-term, long-term and daily finger-on-the-pulse adjustments for the accounts I manage.

To create high quality content you need to plan in resource allocation and of course prepare for relevant events for your audiences. BUT accounting for unexpected events, new trends, viral content and generally reading the ripples of what’s happening in your industry that day and week is crucial. Apart from big events which can be months in advance, I generally plan in and schedule posts at the start of the week. Then every day I am monitoring and adjusting what I’ve planned in. This means I always know something will go out but I have the flexibility to change.

Again, good ol’ Excel sheets to the rescue. Creating your own means you can include the channels and information most relevant for your planning. All of us have different visual preferences too so it’s nice to be able to find what works for you. Here’s an example I use for one of my clients, for one Facebook page:

For every day I have a theme/event that I want to talk about and a section for adding details (copy, links to images/articles etc). I also colour coordinate the themes so that, over a month, I can quickly see that I’m getting a good balance of different types of content.

No one wants to follow an account who just talk about themselves so I like to include a good mix of brand promotion, industry news and purely fun engagement posts. Also a good range of CTA’s. For other clients I may have several SoMe channels which I can in a new row for (rather than on separate sheets) and get a total overview.

Quality over Quantity

Says it all really.

You want to aim for consistent, relevant, high quality posting over effectively spamming your followers. Don’t get too stressed about “filling” your content calendar, some gaps of a day or two are fine so long as you come back with something worthwhile to your followers. Algorithms over Timing

You’ll see A LOT of advice online about when to post to your followers. There are, for those with particularly specific audience demographics, sweet spots in the day that can help your posts be seen. Top tip: Again, no tools needed! Facebook gives you this information under Post Insights.

But, you guessed it, it isn’t as simple as that any more. Platforms are shifting away from showing posts in chronological order, so the sweet spots of time seem less valuable. When you go to your feed the posts that you see at the top are ones that the platform has decided what you want to see (ok ok, what THEY want you to see). So, how do you make sure your post is one that gets seen?

Just like with SEO you need to be mindful of the algorithms the platform uses to decide what it shows to people. Of course they are not always explicit about this and the point isn’t to “hack” your way to the top, it’s simply about being mindful of what works best.

For example, video content is king across most platforms. Facebook weighs Reactions over Likes and Twitter loves it if you get an influencer to interact with your post. These type of things change constantly as the platform changes so you need to spend a little time reading up on them. I recommend following someone like Matt Navara who’s a great source of quick snippets of platform updates.

Facebook and Twitter also have blogs where they announce changes, I just keep these pinned in my browser. A pretty safe rule of thumb is that the platforms will boost content that uses their latest features and updates.

Also, keep going back to the mantra of quality content trumping all. Seriously. All the “hacks” (eurgh I hate that word) in the world cannot outweigh this.

Random tip: Set up a private/hidden account for testing posts to make sure the content shows how you intend it to. Also great for practicing live streams.

Organic ways to boost followers

OK I get it, you’ve started a new page and you’re spending a ton of time producing great content. So, where are the followers? Keeping patient when you’re putting so much effort in can be difficult but here are some tips to help boost your follower rate over time:

-- Channel cross-promotion (your SoMe is clearly linked to on your website and other places)

-- Get tagging! Tagging other profiles, especially influencers is a great way to bring others in to the conversation and boost enagagement.

-- Hashtags, similar to above, research them and use them

-- Partner with influencers for campaigns

-- Use Share and Tag CTA’s in your posts and have your audience help bring others in

-- Patience, patience, patience.

(A quick note on hashtags: I never really use them on Facebook, use 2 AT MOST on Twitter and then use as many as I can on Instagram. Each of them I take the time to research super relevant hashtags that have a lot of use but aren’t over saturated...think of them like rooms you enter to shout your message. You want enough people to hear you but not too much you get lost in the noise).

Respond to comments

Sounds obvious but, more and more, brands responding to their audience is creating content that is just as engaging as the posts themselves. So, do it. Do it in a timely fashion and always remember your tone of voice.

A word on SoMe copywriting

I could write forever about this and it looks like you’ve already read enough from me for now. So I’ll just leave a note on how important this is. Each of your platforms and audiences needs its own copy considerations. Being a native speaker, a proficient writer, having a good tone and, when appropriate humour, is gosh darned so important. There are optimal character lengths for all, use of negative/white space is still a thing here and emojis really are the body language of SoMe communication. Don’t be afraid to use them.

Some other useful free stuff:

As someone who spends a ton of time copywriting and blog writing I always have the Thesaurus website open. No shame.

Keep track of your SoMe copy character count with Download the free Facebook Business app so you can manage on the go and keep your personal account separate.

Know when to switch off.

Like I said, it’s a noisy space out there. So, no matter if you’re the busiest SoMe manager in the world, make sure you compartmentalise and take the time to switch off from SoMe land. Coming back to things after clearing your headspace can be great for creativity but also you need to be mindful of mental health. I recently deleted most of my SoMe apps from my phone (the digital marketing Gods surely gasp in horror) because I check things on my laptop throughout the day and have comms in place for emergencies. Your work needs to be organised and timely, not obsessive and constant. SoMe never sleeps but we need to. Phew! I hope this has been of some use. Feel free to pass it on and share with others. I’m all about the “knowledge is power” vibe right now.