Eight Key Steps Down the Path to Social Media Mastery
By Mark Gilboard | August 5, 2020
Choose Your Platforms. Different Social Media Channels have different target audiences. Some are better for bigger, more generalized audiences (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube) while some are better for niche, or more targeted audiences (Pinterest, LinkedIn, Snapchat). There is no definitive rule on which platform is right for your business or marketing goals, however thinking about the pros and cons of each, or even the best qualities and worst qualities of each of the social media platforms can help you narrow your marketing strategy and achieve your goals. Here’s a great article on how to choose which might be right for your target market. Pew Research also does Social Media surveys periodically that provide great insights for people looking to learn about the qualities of each. (You DO know who your target market is, right? If not, look here for a quick and simple valuable resource)
Choose Your Handles. This is more important and trickier than one might first think. Having a “shorthand” for your business is an important aspect of your social media identity, mainly on Instagram and Twitter (and perhaps YouTube). Facebook, LinkedIn, and most other platforms place less importance on them, or lack “handles” altogether. Your social media handle is the way people recognize your business quickly in a world where many, many entities can have the same name. It is important for you to first research the other social media accounts that might share your business name or are very close to yours. I encourage small business owners to think outside the box if your desired name is taken, by inserting a short call to action, or a local identifier like “ABQ” or “NM”. For example, if your business is Edo Coffee (a pretend coffee shop I just made up) but there’s already a few Instagram accounts with that name, then you might want to choose a handle like “@drinkedo” or “@edocoffeenm”, as two quick examples. Another example of how to successfully navigate this is what local Albuquerque tattoo shop Star Tattoo did with their Instagram handle, “@startattooer”, because there are already a number of “Star Tattoo” accounts in existence. One final thought about handles – make sure you type them out before you finalize it, as many times innocent or seemingly easy to understand handles get transformed into odd (or even inappropriate things!) when they are “squished together” as handles will become when read or pronounced as one word after the @ symbol… Imagine the most obvious Twitter handle for a baseball memorabilia store with the name “Jim’s Hit Machine” – @jimshi… ????
Make Goals for Each Platform. Use a SMART goals (we can provide you with a template if you need one!) to clearly outline what it is that you are trying to accomplish in your use of social media for marketing your products and services. These may be simple things like, Gain 250 Followers by September 30, or Generate 25% More Leads/”Clickthrus” to my Website, or even something simple and internal like, Post Three Photos of my Products Each Week for 6 Weeks Straight. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound (have a deadline). The important thing with setting these goals is that they help you avoid the biggest trap of Social Media Marketing – wasted time just scrolling and scrolling, and then posting with no purpose, plan or strategy involved.
Determine Tone & Style for Your Platforms. It is important when writing for social media that you remember your business’ BRAND VOICE. Even if you’ve never heard that phrase before. All brand voice means is that when writing as your business on social media, you take a slightly more measured and careful tone with the words and sentences. Have you done any brand building work in your small business? For example, your logo, color scheme, or tagline? Do they portray a certain style, attitude, or personality? If so, then make sure your posts reflect this. Do you run a fancy, third-wave coffee shop that prides itself on its expertise? Then your social media posts can have captions like, “Who’s ready to start their day with nutty undertones of pecan and jammy hints of blackberry in their morning cup of joe? The aroma reveals the equatorial origins of these beans from Burundi.” But if your crocheted animals side hustle is more kid-oriented and happy, then your captions will reflect that marketing stance. Check out this brand voice from Williams Sonoma on Instagram:
Create a Content Calendar. There are MANY resources out there for creating a schedule for your posting to social media. The primary basic rule is that consistency is more important than frequency. It is more important to be steady and measured with your social media than it is to be posting all the time. It is better to post once a month with consistency even if that’s less than many of your competitors are posting, than it is to post three pictures on a Monday morning, then not post or engage with followers at all for 10 days, then post a stream of four short diatribes on the benefits of your product or service, than not log back into your account for 5 more days. For starters, one of those “printable monthly calendars” that many of us use for family schedules, or to put on the fridge to remind us of upcoming appointments, etc. can be used to great effect. At WESST, we have a simple Excel – based grid we will happily provide for our clients anytime. There are also many resources available for free or at a low cost on social media marketing sites such as Hubspot, Later Media, Buffer, and Agorapulse, to name just a few of many.
Create Content. This is the FUN part. Step One is to choose 5-10 ”content areas” to draw from that relate to your business. With this guiding principal, idea generation for you to capably post more often becomes easier. Let’s say you own a yoga studio. Your 5 “content areas might be: 1. Types of Yoga (restorative, ashtanga, hatha, kundalini, hot yoga), 2. The intersection of yoga and diet (Ayurveda or vegetarianism, perhaps), 3. Yoga guru profiles from throughout the history of the practice, 4. Relaxing music, 5. Yoga fashion. Once you have broader subjects planned out, writing a variety of content becomes easier, but more importantly more appealing to a wider audience.
Schedule Your Posts. This goes back to Step Five – The Content Calendar. Choose a schedule that works for you. Any of those four links we outlined above in the content calendar section of this blog post also have scheduling software and blog tips for social media practitioners. You might decide to post pictures of your product on Monday afternoons, respond to all comments and likes on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturday mornings, while Sunday afternoons are your weekly time blocks dedicated to writing all your captions for the upcoming week. There’s no right or wrong answer here, the important part is that you set a schedule and execute in such a way that it HELPS your management and is not a burden or a chore. If you need to start slow, by all means start SLOW. Here’s a nifty chart of best times to post on various social media for max engagement.
Use Analytics to Learn How to Improve. Finally, use the tools that come with your social media platforms to see how your posts are performing. After a month or more of using social media in a careful and measured way for your small business, as described above, a business owner should be able to answer most of the following questions:
- Do posts with photos do better (engage more, get more comments, receive more shares or like, etc.) than posts with videos?
- Do posts with 3+ photos perform better than single photo posts?
- Do posts that are “cross-posted” from Instagram to Facebook get the same level of engagement as the posts that are just posted to Facebook alone?
- Which platform does the best job of “sending’ people over to my website?
- Which posts make the most new customers show up at my store, or the Farmer’s Market, or an event I am participating in?
Remember that our GOALS from step three needed to be MEASURABLE to be SMART. This is how we measure how our time and efforts on social media are working. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all have robust, granular tools to measure your ROI in social media marketing. Facebook Pixel is a great feature for you to measure how much impact the social media has on your business’ web traffic, and they all have chats and graphs for boosted and paid posts as well. The best resources for learning more are Facebook for Business and Facebook Blueprint, which both have a lot of self-guided learning for Instagram as well.
With the above eight steps down the path of Social Media Mastery, your time and energy spent scrolling and posting will be more rewarding and focused and can help you grow your potential customer base and impact your sales in a positive way. If you are interested in learning more, you can also register for our upcoming Principles of Social Media Marketing training.
About the Author
Mark Gilboard joins WESST in 2017 after 16+ years as a marketing and advertising research professional with Nielsen Media Research and Clear Channel Outdoor. He focuses on helping people achieve their entrepreneurial dreams with careful and insightful guidance and enthusiasm. Prior to embarking on his corporate career, Mark taught college courses in Media, and Communications, at both CNM and UNM. He has a Master’s Degree in Communication from UNM and Bachelor’s Degrees in both Rhetoric and Spanish from Bates College, in Lewiston, Maine.