Wheel in the Sky: Social Media the Journey Way
A couple of weeks ago, Papercut’s resident DJ, Win, started a weekly music series I affectionately call Flashback Fridays, in which she treats us to classic jams from the 70s and 80s. I was working on some ideas for the blog last Friday, and the vintage tunes reminded me of my Magical Mystery Tour post. “Could I do that kind of thing again?” I asked myself. The answer was “You bet,” and here we are. This time, though, the subject is social media and the band is Journey… because social media is important, it’s Friday, and who doesn’t like Journey?
Social media moves in real time and changes constantly, and that can be intimidating. The wheel in the sky keeps on turning, but keeping up isn’t impossible. Social media is everywhere, and participation is growing. Becoming part of the conversation does take time and effort, but it’s worth it. With that in mind, here are a few tips for tackling social media set to my favorite Journey songs.
Open Arms – Get on Board and Strategize
First off, if you’re not on social media, you should be. It’s highly beneficial for brand and community building, and when done correctly, can even lead to conversions. Like any other marketing effort, social media begins with a strategy. So before going all in, take a step back and consider your goals. These could be anything from driving traffic to your website to earning links. Your goals will serve as the backbone of your social media presence and will drive activity on your chosen networks.
Choosing a Network
After you’ve got a list of carefully considered goals, you can begin deciding which networks to join. There are two really important things to consider here: 1) your audience, and 2) the types of content you can realistically produce and share.
Before you create an account on any social network, you need to determine if your customers are there. At this point, Facebook is pretty much a foregone conclusion, as almost everyone has a Facebook page. To get a feel for other places where your audience might be active, I would suggest taking a look at some of your top competitor’s social media accounts and seeing how many followers they have and what their level of engagement is. You could also use your personal social media accounts to do some research on groups, pages, and communities within a certain social network. This is particularly effective on Google+, with its seemingly endless assortment of communities, but it also works well with Twitter, which has Twitter Chats and Popular Accounts categories (found under the Discover menu).
Think About Content
After you’ve figured out which networks your audience uses, think about the types of content you can realistically produce and try to line those up with social networks. For example, if you’ve got an ecommerce site that produces a lot of visual assets, you might want to focus on Pinterest to promote this content. In contrast, if you don’t have the resources to create video content, you probably shouldn’t set up a YouTube account. What you’re looking for here is a network (or group of networks) where you can create accounts that will showcase your brand well and that you can actually maintain.
Any Way You Want It – Post Different Types of Content
Assuming you’ve chosen your social networks and have set up accounts, it’s time to start posting content. Ideally, you should post a variety of content, and at the very least, you’ll need some photos in the mix. Promote your own stuff, and if you want to, share content from other organizations. If you’re a business that relies on your local community, I would definitely encourage using social media to spread the word about local events or to congratulate other businesses and area influencers on important achievements. This is a great way to not only get your name out to a bigger audience but also to increase engagement on your social accounts. If you mention a person or organization by name (in a flattering way, of course), chances are really good that they’ll at least respond with “Hey, thanks!”
Speaking of engagement, I’m also a big fan of using social media to show off your company’s personality and culture. These posts tend to get a lot more exposure, as people are more likely to share, comment, or like this type of content than they are the oft-boring industry stuff. On a business page, I think this kind of post is particularly valuable for showing existing clients and potential clients the people behind the company name. We like to post a lot of this type of stuff on the Papercut Facebook page, including this picture of Jamie Ann wearing a Snuggie, so if you haven’t liked us, check us out. (END OF OBLIGATORY PLUG.)
Lights – Take Advantage of Analytics
Taking advantage of your social analytics goes hand-in-hand with diversifying your content. Almost every social network offers some kind of analytics reporting, and you can even find social media data in Google Analytics. This information can help shed some, er, “Lights” on how your content is being received and how and when your audience is using social media. There are a few crucial things you can do with social analytics that will help guide and direct your campaigns:
- Figure out the right kind of content to post – Facebook Insights is great for this. The reports there show you reach and engagement for each post you make, so it’s easy to figure out which type of content performs well on your page. Google+ Insights also has some handy data, such as actions by post and (even better) actions by content type, that will help you optimize your content efforts there.
- Figure out when to post – In social media, timing is half the battle. Analytics are invaluable when it comes to figuring out the best time to post and making sure your content gets maximum exposure. Again, Facebook analytics are great. You can see exactly when the majority of your audience is online by accessing your Insights page and clicking on posts. You’ll see audience numbers broken out by day of the week, as well as hour of the day. There have been tons of articles and infographics created about the optimum time to post for various social networks, but I truly believe you should do what works for your audience, even if it takes some experimenting to figure that out. And this leads me to my next point…
- Learn about your audience – Analytics is one of the most effective ways to learn about your social media audience. The social reports in Google Analytics (found under Acquisition – Social) will show you which networks are referring the most traffic to your site, as well as the top landing pages and engagement metrics, like average visit duration, for social traffic. Twitter analytics will even show you your audience’s top and most unique interests (great info for content creation), as well as your followers’ locations and gender.
The bottom line about analytics is this: you should use all the information you have at your fingertips to constantly monitor and improve your strategy.
Faithfully – Post Regularly
You should never go radio silent on your social media followers. Find a rhythm that works for you and try to avoid falling off the radar. The trick here is to find a balance between only posting when you have something to say and keeping enough content on your accounts to make them interesting to your followers/fans. If it’s been a few days since you last posted and you’re stuck, I’d suggest checking out some of the top blogs within your industry and finding an interesting article to share. Another place to get inspiration is the Twitter home page. It’s an easy way to discover and join conversations about industry news and local events, and the trends section is always worth checking out.
If you need help keeping up with all of your accounts, you can use an automated posting tool like HootSuite to schedule things out in advance. Be warned, though, that if you go this route, you’ll need to be sensitive to current events and remove your scheduled tweets in the event of an emergency or national crisis. The last thing any brand wants to do is come off as callous and insensitive.
Separate Ways – Don’t Let Lost Followers Get You Down
Everyone is going to lose social media followers from time to time, but you shouldn’t take it as an insult, and you definitely shouldn’t just sit back and wave goodbye. Instead, try to figure out why people are leaving and improve your strategy. Some of the most common reasons people might stop following you include posting boring or irrelevant content, not posting frequently enough, only talking about yourself, and overselling your product or service. If you notice that several followers drop off in a short period of time, step back, take a look at your content, analytics, and voice, then pivot.
Bonus Track – Don’t Stop Believin’
Did you really think I’d write a Journey-themed post and not include this song? When it comes to social media, one of the most important things to remember is to hang in there. The landscape is always changing—new social networks are being developed, and existing ones are constantly adding new features. Read up on best practices and keep up with these new developments to ensure that you stay relevant.
I know I’ve mentioned this once or twice already, but doing social media well means being willing to spend time testing and experimenting. Chances are, you won’t immediately figure out what types of content resonate with your followers or when the best time to post is. You’ll need to invest some time and energy into making sure that you get the most out of your social media accounts. If you don’t stop believing (ba dum dum) the returns can be huge—greater brand awareness, a stronger community, direct interaction with your customers, and a more solid online presence.
These are just a few broad tips to help you get the ball rolling, and they’re just the tip of the iceberg. If you’re a social media guru out there and you’ve got a tip you’d like to add to the list, let me know in the comments!