The 2018 Ultimate Guide to Social Media Best Practices: The Basics

Master Social Media’s Most Popular Channels with these Tips

Social media success isn’t hard; it just takes hard work. How do you know which social media channels are right for you, your brand, or your client? And when you identify these, what can you do to achieve your goals?

Ask yourself why you are using each individual channel. Is it for conversion? Is it for engagement? Is it to drive website traffic? Having a purpose is critical.

There are basics that apply to every social media channel, and there are some basics that apply to individual channels. Our goal here is to cover both. This month, we start with basics that can apply to every channel. Then, each month throughout 2018, we’ll focus on best practices for the most popular individual social channels such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, and more.

Grab yourself a sweet tea and a notepad. It’s time to get down to business!

Social Media 101: the Basics

To be successful in constructing a skyscraper, you must first have blueprints and a foundation. The same goes for communicating in social media: Have a plan, then build the foundation. What do we mean by that? We mean that you should determine your purpose, strategy, audience, and voice (message and tone) for each channel before you even get started.

Facebook Reactions

Plan Your Channel Purpose

A purpose, by definition, is the reason for which something is created or for which something exists. Ask yourself why you are using each individual channel. Is it for conversion? Is it for engagement? Is it to drive website traffic? Having a purpose is critical. Without knowing your channel purpose, you can’t create the proper strategy to achieve your marketing goals. Plus, you won’t be able to tell if your strategy is successful without the ability to measure performance against a goal.

Draft Your Strategy

Once you have determined each channel’s purpose, you can create channel-specific strategies. Each social media channel works differently, so you need to construct a unique strategy for each channel. The strategy should harness each channel’s strengths and native features in order to achieve your goals. For example, a brand trying to reach business professionals might choose LinkedIn for communicating its message. A visual industry, such as fashion, design, or photography, might choose Instagram as an avenue to show off its products or work. Use each channel’s strengths to your advantage to connect with your audience in a unique, effective way.

Instagram Stories

Know Your Audience

One area that brands often don’t spend enough planning time on is mapping out target audiences. You wouldn’t communicate the same way to a 70-year old woman as you would a 22-year old man in real life, would you? It is important to know not only who you want your audience to be but also who it currently is. Do these differ? Start by looking at each channel’s native analytics features to see who exactly makes up your existing audience. Some channels, like Facebook, are very robust when it comes to reporting these demographics. They remove much of the guesswork. Once you have the data, spend some time digging into it and understanding it. It may surprise you to find out who your audience is, where they are located, when they are online, and more.

The stories feature works best when used for storytelling. Show what happens behind the scenes, offer exclusive content, or even offer timely topical content that only makes sense in the moment.

Once you know who your audience is, it’s important to determine the most effective way to reach them. Do you know when they are online? Do you know when they are more likely to engage with your brand and channel? How about what kinds of content they tend to engage with most? Facebook reports this data for brand pages. Other channels might require a third-party service, such as Buffer and Rival IQ, to help determine these content performance indicators.

LinkedIn Connections

If you are unable to find out when your audience is online, there’s always the tried-and-true method that our ancestors used: trial and error. Post at various times throughout the day and week, then review to see which times are effective for reaching your audience and engaging them.

Craft Your Brand Voice

Next, you need to add brand voice into the mix. What is the tone of the brand? Is it professional or snarky? Is it conversational or more formal? Keeping a consistent voice through tone and message is one key to social media success. It helps your brand appear genuine and real. In a world where consumer trust is lacking, it is important to sound authentic. Taking that idea a step further, humanize your brand. Don’t post updates about a sale or product without making it sound conversational. Otherwise, it will come off too “salesy,” which could turn your audience off (or, worse yet, get them to unfollow you). Social channels give us enough space for ads in our feed. Instead, give followers something to connect with emotionally or informationally.

Notes on Interaction, Native Features, and More

It is important to post on a consistent basis. Create a content calendar to balance time, content, and channels. If you want followers to see and engage with your content, there must be content for them to see when they are online. You can’t expect people to respond to your content if you aren’t “open for business” on a regular basis.

When followers interact with you, interact back. Thank them for commenting or following and continue the conversation. Keep it positive and create brand loyalty through these engaged followers. Happy, satisfied, vocal followers can become invaluable brand advocates who help spread your content reach for you for free. When you have a conversation with a follower, you are no longer talking at them, you are creating an opportunity to build a relationship. Take advantage of that opportunity.

Twitter Features

It is also important to be timely with your interaction. If you wait three days to respond to a follower, it doesn’t show that you are grateful that they took time out of their day to interact with your brand. Whether the interaction is positive or negative, it looks like you are ignoring them and they aren’t important to you. Remember, it’s called social media. Don’t forget the ”social” part.

Make sure your channel setup is complete. As a user, it can be frustrating to visit a Facebook page for an address, phone number, or product information and not find anything. This is an opportunity for a consumer to learn more about your brand and become a customer. Provide all your information, including your hours, website, and a description. Fill out every detail so that you can capitalize on every opportunity.

When you have a conversation with a follower, you are no longer talking at them, you are creating an opportunity to build a relationship.

Bonus: Consider pinning or highlighting a post that performed well or is especially applicable to those discovering your profile for the first time. Video and photo content is also prime for pinning or highlighting.

Since almost every platform—Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Messenger, WhatsApp, and Medium—now has a stories feature, it is important to understand what these are, how they work, and applicable best practices. The stories feature on most platforms is ephemeral, meaning that stories disappear (in these cases, after 24 hours). Some have a time limit for content. For example, Snapchat allows users to create a post up to 10 seconds in length. Most stories also include filters, stickers, and lenses (such as a face mask). The stories feature works best when used for storytelling. Show what happens behind the scenes, offer exclusive content, or even offer timely topical content that only makes sense in the moment (since it will disappear).

Needless to say, that is a lot of information! We’re just getting started. Now that we’ve covered some of the basics that apply to every channel, we can break down each channel’s ultimate best practices. In the coming months, we’ll feature a different channel for you or your brand to master. Following these best practices can move the needle from good results to great results.

Photos: BMDG and Shutterstock

Dave Goode

Dave Goode

My name is Dave B. Goode (yes, it is my real name). If it sounds like a radio name, it is—well, it was. I had a 22-year radio-broadcasting career as a brand manager and morning-show host. I’m an amateur photographer. I love to cook. I am obsessed with social media. I have come to the realization that Chia Pet seeds do not work on a human head and that it is OK to be bald.

Meet Dave Goode