You have a great product, idea or service. You’ve invested in putting together a solid website. Social media marketing is important, so you have Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts – maybe even a Tumblr account too. You know social sharing is a key element of success online, but you want the results of your efforts to improve.
Follow these ten guidelines to use those social media channels to engage with customers and draw traffic like never before.
1. When – and how often – to share
Think about how you interact with different types of content on the web. Unless you run across your dream customer/employer, you’re probably not poring over their tweets from months ago – or even last week. And what about how people interact with content that you post? After a couple days, that adorable picture of your kid/dog/car probably isn’t generating new ‘Likes’ on Facebook anymore – no matter how cute you know it is.
Tweet often, as tweets have a short shelf-life. Facebook posts last somewhat longer, but similarly get lost in the shuffle after only 4-5 hours. Blog posts provided longer-lasting, searchable content – more on that later.
In addition to how often, the question is when you should post. People tend to associate Facebook with down-time or socializing, and they use it accordingly: lunch hours and afternoon lulls are good, evenings are better, and weekends are the best (if your definition of weekend doesn’t include Thursday and Friday nights, it totally should).
Twitter provides a revolutionary form of news consumption – personal, social, topical, scatalogical. Engagement mimics how people consume other news sources, spiking when people typically commute, take breaks from work, and go home for the evening.
While there are best practices for each social platform, you’ll be best served by experimenting with what works best for your social networks. Diving into social analytics information gives you answers for your specific readership. Services like Tweriod, ManageFlitter and Buffer + Followerwonk give you the data and the tools to tailor your posting times for optimal reach.
Get to know the unique blend of needs, habits and personalities that typify your customers, and share content on a timetable that encourages them to interact. Best practices for a knitting needle company and a designer vodka will look quite different, regardless of where on the web you’re posting.
2. Use the limited space of social postings effectively
Engagement, content, and a call to action – all in as little space as possible. That’s the game with social sharing. Twitter made brevity the hallmark of its platform, but Facebook users also reward character conservation: posts under 80 characters get 66% more engagement.
You want customers to do something with what you share – you want them to act and continue the viral spread of your content. Opportunities for action and engagement include questions, contests, requests (“please RT”), hashtags, and even a simple link. Give your customers a way to interact productively without ever leaving your post.
Unless you want them to leave for a particular destination; then send them there. Either way, tell people – clearly, invitingly and with personality – what you want them to do. Dan Zarella at Hubspot has ample research showing that specific calls to “comment,” “share,” and “retweet” posts produce exactly the desired effect, increasing the requested engagement by as much as 100%. A visitor to a social site or your website only spends milliseconds deciding if they want to respond to your content. Make this decision an easy one.
3. Maximize the size and visibility of your posts
If eyeball attention and space are so precious on social media, than any way to claim additional real estate must be incredibly valuable. It is. Facebook continues to tinker with its News Feed formula and presentation. Recently, it has expanded the space given to a link preview post, from 154×154 pixels to now displaying previews x3.5 times larger. This has turned the previous best-practice of sharing photos with commented links on its head.
Preliminary research shows that these new link-preview posts dominate photos on engagement metrics. Considering that clicking on the picture, link or caption all direct readers to your linked website, this is no surprise. Don’t send your customers clicking away to a jpeg – post links and send them to your site.
Either way, the value of including images in posts in undeniable: posts with images receive almost 40% more interaction than those without. This holds true on Twitter as well: images make up 20% more of the links on Twitter than the next-closest content type, and they similarly dominate engagement stats.
4. Get to know your customer
Social sharing gives you the chance to say whatever you want, to the entire world. Do you want the world to know you’re out of milk? Or do you really want the audience that cares that you’re out of milk? Maybe you do, especially if you’re a Kardashian/Jenner spawn the public hasn’t had the fortune of meeting yet.
Everyone is a brand now. From massive corporations to a lonely pre-teen, everyone has a personality and presence to cultivate online. Consider your audience when identifying popular social content to repost on your own social channels. It’s great that you’re interested in something you’ve seen online, but take a second to make sure it fits the tone and focus of your brand. How thoughtful would you be if you had to prepare a speech to give in front of 1,000 of your closest friends? Or 100,000 strangers? Pause that ‘RT’ click a second – is this post consistent with your overall message?
Think backwards from your customer: is the person who will click on what you’re sharing a person you want visiting your site? Is that person going to be pleased to end up on your site? If you can answer ‘Yes’ to those 2 questions, share freely and prepare to welcome additional traffic to your site.
Even if you’re not online to make money, it’s reasonable to call your audience ‘customers’. They’re spending their time, clicks, and advertising eyeballs on your content, so reward them with value in return. Use analytics tools to learn about your followers on each of your networks and track the performance of various styles of posts and types of content.
5. Benefits of (regular) blogging
Your tweets will disappear, buried under a mountain of billions of fresher, sub-140 character messages. Any message on another medium is just that: not fully your own. Your blog benefits you in search, gives you a platform to become a reputable source, garners links to your work, and drives traffic directly where you want it: your website. Choose compelling images to accompany your posts. As with posts directly on social media platforms, this increases engagement and makes your content virally shareable on various networks.
So, do it. Blog regularly. Current research indicates that blogging 15 or more times per month can increase traffic by 5X. Even if you’re a small organization, make this a part of someone’s job description. If you’re part of an even smaller enterprise, then find a way to make blogging work for you – the same research shows your business stands to benefit the most in terms of traffic increase.
If you’re not already posting frequently, these numbers may seem daunting. Don’t worry, there are ample resources for blog post ideas. Post a weekly round-up of the most important news in your industry. Compose a How-To article related to the work you do, and shop it around to other content sites. Write a profile/review on a company you admire (maybe one you’re interested in working with/for), and link to their site. Share this on your social channels, also tagging their appropriate profiles. You get to associate with an established player in your industry. And maybe they’ll return the favor by sharing your work with their followers.
Finally, remind your readers of the excellent content you’ve already created. Do a post highlighting your most engaging content of the month or build posts that reference some of your most successful previous pieces. Blog content is longer-lasting, but this is still the internet – it takes concerted effort to get your desired content onto your customers’ screens. Focus that effort on promoting your best work.