For many businesses, social media seems like it should be easy. Put up a Facebook post here, a LinkedIn post there, Tweet and hashtag, and you’re all set to grow your audience and make a bunch of that Internet money, right?
Ehh… Not so much.
While that might be a brash oversimplification, you’d be surprised how many companies act like showing up is all that’s necessary to succeed—and it’s one of the biggest social media mistakes your business can make. But what’s also commonly overlooked is that having an impact isn’t the same thing as having a positive impact. There should be a strong distinction between the two.
Social media is great for many things: being a vehicle for driving content, a direct connection to partners and customers, and a platform for getting a variety of your messages out there. But like any other facet of marketing, it shouldn’t be taken lightly.
It takes a highly tailored strategy to be successful, so if you’re still not convinced you’ve got it all down—or maybe even if you do—here are some tips on how to get the most out of social media.
Plan for the long-term
Many businesses enter the social media game thinking they can grow their accounts to generate thousands of followers, likes or retweets overnight and are often disappointed when those expectations fall flat. The fact of the matter is, regardless of platform, social media are networks, which means cultivating them should focus on quality over quantity and growing naturally over time.
Now, that’s not to say you shouldn’t set your goals high. In fact, your goals should include expanding your audience exponentially but to achieve that, your social media strategy should focus on a well-developed, long-term plan first.
For instance, your long-term goals could be to gain brand awareness, increase site traffic or generate new leads, whatever will help you succeed in your industry or niche—just make sure they’re SMART goals so you can measure them appropriately and that you can easily integrate them into your larger marketing strategy.
…and be dynamic in the short-term
In the short-term: be dynamic. While your long-term social media strategy may have you using your buyer personas and buyer’s journey steps to develop and promote content through various social channels, your short-term strategy can focus on capitalizing on current trends.
Hashtags, topics, and other industry-related trends are constantly changing. Learning to take advantage of them can help your brand blossom sooner than later.
What you don’t want to do, however, is overutilize your channels in a short amount of time. This tends to turn off potential customers, annoy or alienate current followers, and show that you’re trying too hard or don’t fully understand the cultural rules of the platform.
By contrast, if you’re able to combine short-term dynamism with a well-planned long game, you’ll be primed to better understand your audience over time and sustain consistent growth.
Leverage each platform differently
Despite the similarities that might exist between various social media platforms, each one has its own set of advantages and challenges, which is exactly why a one-size-fits-all approach to social media isn’t a wise approach.
For instance, Twitter’s immediacy is fantastic for capitalizing on trends like relevant hashtags, delivering links to current content, reaching customers and prospects directly, and leveraging industry influencers. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most volatile platforms, which means any mistakes you make publicly can go viral in an instant.
LinkedIn is fantastic for professional networking. It’s not only the best platform for lead generation but is also a great place to post thought-leadership pieces, make connections with other industry professionals, and present yourself and your business with a Company Page much better than you can on Twitter or even Facebook.
Facebook itself is particularly good at two things: engagement and social proof. It also happens to provide some pretty compelling metrics, so not only can you see how your posts are doing, but it allows you to see who is engaging, how, whether or not they are fans, their basic demographic information, and you can even analyze other businesses with similar audiences to illustrate what posts are generating the most engagement.
Use your social media networks for customer feedback—and stay positive!
While many companies just provide updates, promote their products or services, or even just post random thoughts on social media, much of it can come across as self-centered or even tone deaf when there’s an obvious lack of engagement.
As a business, you should use social media networks to gather feedback from your audience, as it’s one of the cheapest and easiest ways to make improvements to your products, services, and even your brand. Interacting with prospects and customers alike can exemplify your brand’s accessibility, create community, inspire conversation, and better yet, provide valuable insight into what you’re doing right—and wrong.
Accept the feedback you receive openly, and more than anything, stay positive! No matter what message you’re putting out there, whether it’s a random thought or a response to a critical review, you want to have a positive association with your business.
Don’t let social media become the focal point of your marketing efforts
There is no denying that social media is a powerful tool, but it shouldn’t be the only one in your toolbox. In the big picture, whatever channels you decide to use should be complementary to your other inbound marketing strategies. When you have a well-built website, strong content, successful email campaigns, and top-notch sales, marketing, and customer service teams to manage it all, social media becomes that much more impactful.
As you can see, just showing up isn’t enough, so don’t make that big, all-too-common social media mistake. As long as you keep your social media presence active, leverage each platform individually, plan for the short- and long-term, and keep engaging your audience, you should be able to sustainably grow your accounts and have a long-lasting, positive impact.