The Golden Rules to effective social media

When developing social media accounts for business there are Golden Rules to follow. Once you’ve read through the list of rules there is a downloadable checklist at the end of this page for you to use to see how your social media accounts are doing. There is also another download that presents the most popular social media platforms and who generally uses them. Warning: You can use this list to help you boil down the one or two platforms that may suit your audience, but nothing will replace you doing your own research to find out which platforms your target market prefers.

1. Go to where your client is – not where you’d like them to be

To focus time and effort, only the most appropriate social media platform(s) should be used for your business. Learn about your target audience first and then pick the platform(s) that they use most eg Snap Chat may not be the best option for a target audience of creative female entrepreneurs over 30 years old – that would more likely be Pinterest or Instagram. Usually you will find that your target audience enjoy more than one platform, so that you can choose the one you also enjoy (see Rule 2).
Tip: To learn more about the most common social media platforms, download the PDF at the bottom of this page.

2. Pick a platform you’ll also enjoy

Doing social media well can take work. If you are using a platform you don’t enjoy, it will turn into a chore. If you try Twitter for example but become stressed by the sheer volume of posts that are appearing in your feed, think about switching to something like a Facebook business account where you can control what you see more easily. Alternatively, if you are creative, you could jump straight into an image based platform like Instagram or a video one like YouTube and avoid the other platforms altogether. Obviously, stay true to Rule 1 to maximise your ability to be on the best platform for your audience.

3. Fully leverage images

Images are key to social media success so should be included in every post for every platform – including Twitter. Remember though to optimize images: size them correctly for your chosen platform, use quality images, brand them and use text on not more than 20% of the image area.
Tip: Whenever you can, choose images to accompany your posts that include pictures of people or create emotional resonance in your viewer.

4. Social media is about socialising

When we socialise in “real” life, we don’t just push our own experiences all the time during conversation, we listen to questions and others’ opinions, and give replies. A social media account that spams its followers with repetitive links to their website, or a constant push to “buy my stuff!” will be blocked. Only about 10-20% of posts should be about YOUR business, the rest should be a mixture of interesting social commentary about your industry, news/events, quizzes, competitions, funny posts and helpful information.

5. Remember to be useful

Question every post before you send it to check that it fits the “useful criteria” as specified in the excellent book by Jay Baer, Youtility 1. Be a resource 2. Be inquisitive 3. Be a listener 4. Be radically transparent 5. Be patient 6. Be wise 7. Be trustworthy.
Tip: Investing in Jay’s book, or other business marketing resource that emphasizes a business being “useful” to their customers, is highly recommended to truly understand this concept.

6. Remember to be human

No one wants to interact with a nameless corporation. Give your social media account a real name or let the administrator sign off their posts with one ie “from Becky”. Include pictures of staff doing everyday things or commenting on the things that impact them locally. A tweet that says “Finding it hard to get through the day without a chocolate bar” may not be about business, but it shows Becky as human and approachable. A few like that and she may be “followed” so that when she then says a little later, “Come and check out our new latte flavours! Which is your favourite?” she will be remembered as that chocolate-eating-helpful-human who now just happens to be selling latte today – and they may just click on your link or answer your question.

7. For each social media platform you use, create the following best practices:

  1. Post at the right time. When are your posts most popular? Figure it out and stick to a schedule.
  2. Post the right amount. How many times do you post before the responses fall off? Don’t overdo it.
  3. Post the right thing. Which posts are the most popular? Do more of that.

8. Respond to your followers and other business accounts

There’s nothing worse than a social media account that never acknowledges their followers or responds to their posts. The main objective for business on social media is to create and encourage interaction to instill KLT factors. Always respond to comments, criticisms and questions in an objective, friendly and non-defensive manner. You never know how many other people are reading and learning from your replies.
Tip: That said, there will always be someone who wants to complain and will not allow you to put it right. If you receive a public complaint which you can reply to simply and appropriately, do so. If they look like they are going to engage you in a slanging-match or long, drawn-out dialogue, take it offline as quickly as you can by offering to talk to them privately: “Hey XX, If you’d like to send your number or email to me, I’ll give you a call to discuss further and see how we can get this sorted out for you.” This response is as much about displaying to others who are reading that you are a human-being or wants to help. If it is someone who consistently complains or appears to be deliberately trolling your account, block or ban them.

9. Don’t be afraid to take a position if it suits your business ethos

There will always be restrictions around commenting on subjects such as politics or religion, or maybe avoiding endorsements for certain products or services, but there are still lots of human-interest stories where you can offer a non-aggressive, non-controversial opinion. Not everyone needs to agree with you to respect your standpoint and the business will gain the reputation of having strong values around honesty and integrity, that encourages respectful discussion. An example might be: “A local nature reserve is being redeveloped for low-income housing and the community is trying to save it – what do you think?” – with a link to the article or other post. As long as the discussion maintains a respectful tone (and don’t be afraid to remind the thread that you expect everyone to be respectful in their replies) this will provide interesting, educational, and non-fluff content for your audience to sink their teeth into.

10. Comment on trending topics

Most social media platforms now have a “Trending” section where you can see what the most talked about topics are. When relevant, creating a post around those trending topics as they happen – and hash-tagging appropriately – will result in a lot more shares and comments for your post. Often with these you can use inoffensive humour especially with celebrity trends like the outrage at the final episode from last season’s Game of Thrones where a main character was surprisingly killed. Alternatively you can quickly create an image post that sums up the feeling of your business towards a certain topic eg the recent number of rainbow images spontaneously created to celebrate marriage equality in the USA.

11. Learn how to use hash-tags

Some social media platforms support the use of hash-tags to classify posts and for searches to be performed. Know if the platform you are using does, and when relevant, include them in your posts.
Tip: If you are launching on a new social media platform for the first time, get to know it first. Create an account, follow some key contributors, and observe how things are done. Learn about hashtag use (for that platform), tone, social niceties, length of posts, inside jokes, are all different dependent on which platform you are on.

12. Reciprocity wins

Ensure your own account is sharing or retweeting posts from others and that you are liking or following other profiles yourself. Do your bit to share good, useful information that your followers will like and support those who are doing likewise. Once other accounts see you doing this, they will, in turn, like, follow, share your stuff and everyone wins. So how do you know what social media platform to use? Download the pdf below and see what ones match your client demographic and business type.  There’s also a checklist for your to download to see how you stack up against the Golden Rules above. 




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