A quick Google search reveals that there are thousands of people online who want to give you advice about how to run your social media program.
They have opinions about whether or not to follow back, which platforms are right for your business, how many times a day to post, when to post on which platforms, and whether or not paid posts are a worthwhile investment.
I will not be weighing in on any of these specific topics.
Instead, I spoke with two of my savviest social media friends in order to get their thoughts on the basics of establishing a social media program for your business.
1. Keep it short, sweet and saucy
The first rule of thumb for any social media program is that when it comes to social media, less is always more, and—to the extent that it makes sense for your brand— it’s best to keep content “saucy,” says Amy Vosters, a social media and growth marketing strategist.
“You’ve got 140 characters to work with on Twitter, but tweets of 100 characters or fewer are ideal, as that leaves room for people to add their two cents or hashtags to yours before reposting,” says Vosters.
2. Adhere to the dos and don’ts of engagement
Do ask questions, and use trending hashtags.
Vosters recommends Hashtagify to explore the ecosystem of hashtags relevant to your company and suggests including a maximum of three in any given post. If you include more, your posts will look cluttered and unreadable.
The list of don’ts is a bit more extensive, however:
- Don’t be overly loud or competitive. Avoid being too aggressive.
- Don’t use too many exclamation points. Nobody likes a shouter.
- Don’t congratulate top engagers. As Vosters puts it, “Keep the cheese to a minimum.”
- Don’t send new followers automatic messages. However, actual messages—when appropriate—are fine.
- Don’t do “ask me anythings.” They go wrong far more often than they go right.
It is also best to avoid contests, generally speaking, and “fluff.” People have enough garbage in their feed. You want to offer them some value. If you don’t have anything smart or interesting to say, it’s probably best not to post at all.
3. A quote card is worth a thousand words
It goes without saying that images should be a crucial element of your social media strategy. If you don’t have the budget to pay for a subscription to Getty or Shutterstock, there are many less expensive options, including a handful of free sites that may or may not be useful, depending on what sort of imagery your content requires.
A handful that have proven helpful to me at various points in time include:
- Pixabay — a great, searchable database of stock photos
- Unsplash — when you need something moodier or artier
- New Old Stock — vintage photos from public archives
- Pic Jumbo — another great free resource with a very affordable paid premium tier
- Free Images — largest repository on the web, with both free and paid photo options
- Pexels — another searchable option for arty photos
- Foter — 335 million free photos that you can search or browse by category
But quote cards are another effective visual element to keep in your social arsenal and are a great way to highlight company credos or CEO quotes. There are a few online tools available to easily create them. Ruben Ramirez, longtime social media guru and current Bospar account director, has a distinct preference:
“Use Canva. Its platform is very user-friendly, and you have all the tools you need to make a great quote card quickly and easily.”
4. Do a little addition and subtraction
Of course, the primary function of your social program is to be reaching your core audience, so you want your follower base to always be growing. But doing it organically can be pretty slow-going, and thousands of follower bots aren’t going to help you achieve your purpose, either. So what’s the best way to keep growing your follower base?
There are services—like Socedo—that will help you strategically gain followers, but you can also just do it yourself.
“Look at who is following your competitors on Twitter and strategically follow their followers,” said Vosters. “Every so often, go through and unfollow those who haven’t followed you back. You can do this 15 minutes a day or while you’re watching TV in the evening. It’s easy work and very effective.”
However, gaining new followers on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram is a bit more complicated.
Says Ramirez, “Here’s one lesson that translates directly from real life to social media: you never want to be the party guest that others find dull and boring. If you’re thinking about posting or sharing, be sure that it’s something you find interesting. Chances are that others will, too. People want to follow interesting feeds.”
5. Brand your abbreviated link
This last point is a bit higher level.
You’ll notice that when you use Bitly to abbreviate a New York Times article, instead of getting a regular Bitly link, you’ll get this: http://nyti.ms/ — a branded abbreviated link.
“This is a simple step that you can take towards garnering additional positivity around your brand and overall company mindshare,” Vosters explained. “ While subtle, it will subconsciously move the perception of your brand towards being more credible with your viewers.”
Mashable wrote a helpful article on the topic, but you’ll need to involve your webmaster to make sure your branded abbreviated link shows up everywhere.
If you don’t have a webmaster, you can use Bitly to customize your links.
“Even with a free account, you can shorten or change the title of the article and, more importantly, the end of the shortened URL,” explains Ramirez. “Bitly will auto-populate a combination of letters and numbers, but it’s more effective if you customize the URL so people know what they are clicking on—for example, ‘http://bit.ly/DigitalAdROI.’ You want to keep the link short but still give enough information so people know what it’s about.”
Of course, your social program is going to be an ongoing project. You can sink an amazing amount of time and energy into your social strategy, and, arguably, you should. In the best case scenario, you have a dedicated social person to run the whole show.
If you don’t, these five steps can help take your social media program to the next level.