Saying that businesses of all sizes can benefit from a strong social media presence is an understatement. In 2005, just 5 percent of American adults used social media. That number has since climbed to 69 percent and shows no signs of slowing.
Determining where to begin or what step to take next in your social media marketing efforts can be challenging. You may have numerous objectives, from increasing traffic to your site to boosting conversions to building brand awareness and more, but how do you know what works and where your focus should be?
There is no better source for sound, solid advice than those who have accomplished what you are aiming to achieve. To help you reach your social media marketing goals in the coming year, we turned to the pros. These expert tips provide insight and guidance that can put you on the path to success.
1. Ephemeral Content“Ephemeral content is a great technique of getting a quick interaction/win with your social media/marketing.
“The one thing it does is it creates a Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) to the audience. It is usually short, sharp and to the point with a limited time for engagement.
“The likes of Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat have this nailed down with the stories feature, and in 2018 you are only going to see more and more brands utilize these features.”
Follow Traffic Jam Media on Twitter @trafficjammedia
2. Show Off Endorsements“If you are running a small business in a traditional area, you are unlikely to get an endorsement from Tom Hanks but if the mayor drops in to buy your traditional cookies, take his picture and get it out on social media.
“Endorsements by prominent local figures and experts will add to your social proof.”
Follow Clark, Inc. on Twitter @clarke_inc
3. Have The Right Mindset“Most people I know go into social with the goal of driving sales. They want to sell, promote their products, offer discounts and link to their website. However, that is a short-term strategy.
“The goal of social media is to build a following and you don’t build a following by selling. You build a following by resonating with your target audience and to do that you need to be constantly driving a message.
“Just look at RedBull. In their Facebook page, there is NOTHING about their drink. It is all about driving a message that resonates with their target audience.”
Follow Stan on Twitter @stanleyreporb
4. Study The Best“Look at what the companies, brands and influencers that are doing the best job in your niche are doing. See what content they post that gets a strong reaction from their audience.
“Don’t just study other companies. Also look at humor accounts, influencers and more that are related to your niche.”
Follow Sydney on Twitter @Sydney_Liu_sl
5. Be Goal Driven“First off, you need to have a solid objective in place that you can work towards. In most cases, it’ll be one of the following:
- Build brand awareness
- Drive traffic/leads
- Build a community
- Audience research
“Audit your brand’s online presence and determine where improvements can potentially have the biggest effect. i.e. What goal, if achieved, would benefit your company the most at this point in time? The chosen goal will then be the basis of what strategies to adopt and what metrics to track.
“Then, stick to your goals and only invest resources into driving metrics that are specific to those goals. If your goal is to drive traffic/leads, the metrics to target would be referral page views and referral conversions.
“You shouldn’t necessarily care too much about things like ‘share of voice’ because that won’t directly drive website visits/conversions.
“So, before you dive headfirst into social media marketing, make sure you’ve got a clear goal in mind and you know how to effectively track your performance. Being goal-driven will optimize resource expenditure and reduce unnecessary distractions.”
Follow Pierre on Twitter @PierredeBraux
6. Find Inspiration“Find Inspiration: Refer your competitor’s account, see how they are posting, how different they are as compare to you? Why do they have more followers than you, why are their posts are getting more engagement than your post?
“Do social listening, what people are talking about your brand, what your audience is talking about your brand? Are they speaking positive or negative if they are speaking negatively than ask them about their problems and resolve them.”
Follow Boni on Twitter @bonirulzz
7. Leverage Hashtags To Create A Community“Contrary to popular belief, hashtags are still an important aspect of any social media marketing strategy. This is due to the fact that it helps to bolster a brand’s message, as hashtags can be used across multiple social platforms and can create a loyal following.
“For example, the #ALSIceBucketChallenge campaign went viral in just 24 hours and raised awareness for a very dire disease, due to the importance of the messaging and content distributed by the ALS Association. In this way, hashtags help to form a sense of community among a niche group of consumers, and incentives, such as discounts or tagging others, can cause consumers to use the hashtag.
“In order to capitalize on consumers that are looking to join a movement or community, hashtags should still be utilized across a brand’s social channels for a cohesive and strong marketing campaign. Although there will be small growth at first, it might end up making a huge impact.”
Follow GuidedChoice on Twitter @GuidedChoice
8. Pick A Platform“Small to medium businesses have more opportunities to connect with potential customers and share their message than ever before.
“But a bounty of low-barrier features and tools doesn’t mean that every business should produce a livestream show, or fill people’s feeds with spontaneous –or staged– photographs. It’s about choosing the mix of strategies and features that make the most sense for the business –operationally– and the brand’s audience.
“Learn where your audience is: LinkedIn? Instagram? Facebook? Twitter? Snapchat? Determine which features that platform(s) has that your business can leverage with quality and consistency. Commit using only that platform(s), and maximizing quality of content and delivery, rather than spreading your message across multiple platforms.
“Do not put your teenage niece or nephew in charge of your social media. Do not schedule months of content and leave it on auto-feed (again: be responsive). Do not use poor photography and ill-made graphics – hire the right creative.”
Kristine Neil, Founder and Creative Director at Markon Brands
Follow Kristine on Twitter @Thekneil
9. Connect With Influencers“I would tell small business owners to worry less about follower counts and more about connecting with local influencers and people who are actually going to buy your product.
“A handful of dedicated followers and influencers can do more to promote your brand than the guy who has 100,000 followers that he obtained using some sort of scheme to artificially increase his follower count.
“I also advise them to start taking control of their channels outside of social media; create a blog or a newsletter where you can funnel your followers. Having followers on social media is great, but they need to remember the social network owns that relationship and can at any time change the rules about how often your followers actually see your message.
“By creating your own mini-social network, where you engage your followers in something like the comments section of your blog, you own the relationship and can control what and how often your follower sees your content.”
Robert Richardson, President of Richardson Marketing
Follow Richardson Marketing on Twitter @RichardsonMKTG
10. Plan Ahead“Create a content strategy. This plan will give you a guide to follow, laying out which platforms you’ll focus on, which days and times of day you’ll publish updates and what types of content you’ll share.
“This is also a great place to note any noteworthy events or holidays you want to promote.
“Write updates all at once. Sit down and write a week’s worth of updates atone and then schedule them out using a tool like HootSuite. This way you don’t have to worry about creating fresh content multiple times throughout the day.”
Follow Three Girls Media on Twitter @ThreeGirlsMedia
11. Twitter Is Underrated“With my experience on Twitter, your brand’s growth on twitter boils down to this:
“Interesting content + interaction + consistency = Twitter success.
“So, the first thing is great content. Find only the best and interesting content to tweet. These can be your brand’s story, behind the scenes, blog posts, videos, expert quotes, news (pertaining your industry), etc.
“There are a lot of ways you can add value to your target audience through tweets. Just find what your audience resonates with and compress it into 280 characters.
“The second is interaction. Research by Socialbakers shows that the more you interact with users on social media, the more website traffic you’re likely to get.
“Twitter also ran a survey and found that users reported that they are more likely to recommend a brand after they have a nice (& fast) interaction on Twitter. So spend good time finding and interacting with your target market (audience).
“Interacting with users will do more good to your Twitter brand than you’ll ever imagine.”
12. Use Varying Instagram Hashtags“There’s a new obstacle diminishing post interaction for tons of users more and more every day. Yes, unfortunately, the rumors of ‘shadow-ban’ are true.
“Using the same hashtags on your photos over and over can cause your photos to eventually not show up under those select hashtags. You can easily avoid shadow-ban by using varying hashtags per post. This will help keep your hashtags more specific to your changing photos as well!
“For example, when posting food pics, use food-related hashtags. Music posts = music hashtags. Sports = sports hashtags. You get the idea. Get in the habit of posting photo-specific and customized hashtags to avoid shadow-ban from decreasing your posts’ engagements.”
Follow Tree Frog on Twitter @TreeFrogSocial
13. Be Consistent Across All Channels“Make sure your profiles tell a consistent story. When you try to be cool/a partier on Facebook/Instagram and very buttoned up on LinkedIn, it may raise a question as to who you really are. Authenticity is key personally and professionally.”
Follow Mavens & Moguls on Twitter @mavenmoguls
14. Get On The Carousel“In my experience, Carousel Ads receive 50% + more engagement than static ads. From products to services, this format allows SMBs to showcase an experience and invite users to learn more about their business in a more engaging way.”
Follow Futurety on Twitter @futuretyhc
15. Quality Not Quantity“It’s important for a brand to focus on the quality of their posts, photos, and content rather than the quantity.
“Be authentic. Now more than ever, it’s important for a brand, company or individual to have their own authentic voice and tone on social media. Not only does this help increase engagement, but it will set your content and your posts apart from the hundreds of millions of active users on social media today.”
Follow Tracy on Twitter @tracymemoli
16. Show Your Brand’s Human Side“When using social media, take it as an opportunity show the human side of your business, it doesn’t always have to be about selling. Ask questions, share industry news and always reply to their comments.”
Caitlin Johnson, Content Editor at Performance Marketer
Follow Caitlin on Twitter @bigwrldsmallgrl
17. Engage With Video“Use social media as a way to share your story and engage with customers rather than just one more platform to talk about a product.
“People are on social media to connect with other people; so frame all your interactions between your business and potential customers to relate to them.
“One of the best ways to do that is through video content. Use a Facebook live video to showcase how your product or service works and literally talk to your potential customers in real time.
“Some stats show that 80 percent of Facebook users would rather watch a video explaining a concept rather than read a blog post about it. Not only does this give your business an added connection with potential customers, but making these videos also positions you as an industry expert.”
Follow Matt on Twitter @MattGarrepy
18. Who Is Your Audience?“My number one tip for small to medium businesses on social media is to know your audience. It will decide everything.
“To be successful on social, you need to know who your audience is, where they hang out online and the types of content that will resonate with them. Once you have this information, you’ll be able to reach the right people with the right messages.”
Follow eCity Interactive on Twitter @eCityInteract
19. Like And Respond“Engage and connect with your audience every day by simply liking their pictures and answering all of their comments.
“This fosters a real connection with your followers that will keep them interested and connected to your page. You can also host contests on IG or Facebook Live where the prizes are engaging enough to gain more likes and more followers.
“It sounds simple, but you have to make sure to track and analyze the results of your social media campaigns thoroughly. You’ll never be able to know what is working best for you unless you measure your results! Many businesses simply do not do this due to their lack of time, but it’s a basic thing that cannot be overlooked.”
Follow Max on Twitter @justsalad
20. Collaborate To Amplify“The key for small to medium-sized businesses is to amplify the reach of their social media content without paying for ads. The most effective way to achieve that goal is to find businesses that have a similar clientele but are not competitors.
“Do you bake wedding cakes? Partner with a photographer, wedding planner, event hall, bridal gown retailer and caterer and promote each other’s content across all your social media platforms to gain the maximum audience.”
Follow Zack on Twitter @zgall1
21. Respond To Comments On Your Ads“In the past, I have run ads without paying attention to the comments. I wasn’t even expecting comments. I expected everyone to understand my ad copy and then make a decision to respond to my call to action or not.
“The thing is, digital marketing isn’t like that. People will ask questions regarding what you’re promoting no matter how simple you think you’ve explained it in the copy. Always expect comments and respond to them honestly and in good time.”
Daniel Bamigboye, Digital Marketer at Firebrick Digital
Follow Firebrick Digital on Twitter @firebrickhq
22. Set Goals And Measure Results“Without a strategic plan for your social media you are flying blind and it’s all guess work. Then you shouldn’t be surprised that you don’t know if it’s working or producing business value.
“It is possible to track and measure results in social media – and you need to go beyond likes, followers and shares. This post has good information on how to do this.”
Sally Falkow APR, author of SMART News
Follow Sally on Twitter @sallyfalkow
23. Social Media Is Not Free Advertising“Small and medium-sized business owners often gravitate towards social media because they think it’s free advertising/marketing. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
“Nothing in this world is free- especially social media marketing. It takes time, strategy and commitment to build a successful campaign. If you’re running a B2C social media marketing campaign across three platforms (e.g.: FB, IG and Pinterest), expect to spend a minimum of an hour a day posting, commenting on posts and networking. This isn’t counting the time spent on content creation, which can take hours every day.
“Content creation can be outsourced and posting can be automated via sites like Hootsuite or Buffer. That said, a business owner or marketing manager will still have to dedicate time to keeping the campaign on track.
“As for buying followers on sites like Twitter and IG- I don’t recommend it. You end up paying money for low-quality followers, with no allegiance to your brand or product who will unfollow you quite quickly.”
Follow Mary Clare on Twitter @mary_clare299
24. Send Out Invites“We all know how effective Facebook is as a digital marketing tool. With 2 billion active users it has by far the largest potential audience for your brand.
“How to access this audience and get them to like your page can be tricky though. As well as opportunity, there is an equal amount of competition. There are many ways to leverage your current audience to get them engaged with your Facebook page: website/social media integrations, call to actions etc.
“One that’s often overlooked though is Facebook’s built-in ability to invite users to like your page using their email address. If you’re serious about digital marketing, and it’s clear that you are since you’re reading this, you will have already built up a healthy email subscriber list.
“You can import this into Facebook by logging in to your business page, clicking on the ellipsis button (…) then on ‘Suggest Page’ and upload your contacts here. This will then send out invites to like your page. While not everyone will accept the invitation, you’re certain to get a number more likes to your page and a valuable new avenue for engaging with your audience.”
Follow Jordan on Twitter @InteriorGoods
25. Create And Experiment“Make sure you have profiles in the giant platforms of today – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, Path and other networks.
“Don’t forget to make use of their rarely used features, because they can actually give you unexpectedly huge results, making your brand stand out.
“For example: LinkedIn Groups (giving you expanded access to more people, with whom you share a connection), Slide Share (which can be uploaded as a PDF and immediately shared to your connections, or embedded in your profile sections), Facebook’s brand new reactions feature, or Pinterest’s Analytics to get more info about people who engage with your business what boards from your profile they love most and what other business they follow.”
Follow Amazing Wristbands on Twitter @AMZG_Wristbands
26. Make Use Of Polls“Polls are growing in popularity across a number of platforms, so get in on the action! A poll is a great way to conduct fun customer research as well as offering an interactive piece of content that people will be interested in.
“Keep things as simple as possible – people will be more likely to take part if they don’t have to think too hard! Polls are meant to be fun, so don’t focus too much on the data side of things (even though some of your findings could be considered as useful data).”
Follow Blinds Direct on Twitter @BlindsDirectGB
27. Don’t Be Too Corporate“Social media is all about creating a line of communication between the customer and the company. There should be evidence of human touch; social media is not suitable for faceless companies.
“There are many ways to overcome this, including:
- Updating customers on day-to-day life at the business through pictures and videos. This shows your followers your company’s culture and makes them feel more connected to you.
- Replying to all customer interactions (good or bad) in a personalised and informal way, rather than with something that sounds like it was put together by the PR department.
Giordy Viviani, Social Media Manager at Find Me a Gift
Follow Find Me a Gift on Twitter @findmeagift
28. Invest In Tools“SMBs usually cannot afford a full-fledged social media department so using the right tools can save your company time and money.
“I would say that content creation tools and social media management apps should come first on the list of the products you might want to investigate.”
Anastasia Melet, Communications Manager at Wave.video
Follow Wave.video on Twitter @wave_video
29. Measure, Test And Boost“Measure and test new types of content and the lengths of your caption. Every potential audience is different and you should try out all types of content and headlines to measure the response.
“Be open to boosting your post. If you have a post performing particularly well, add a few dollars behind it on Facebook to continue to grow its visibility.”
Follow Mandy on Twitter @mandymenaker
30. Make Targeted Use Of Facebook Advertising“Used correctly, Facebook advertising is a powerful tool, used poorly, it’s a sinkhole.
“Spend time and effort when setting the targeted audience for your ads, experiment with different criteria and most importantly, keep checking how the campaign is going; the relevancy score and CPC are good indicators. Keep optimizing your ads and audience till you hit your match.”
Follow Minance on Twitter @askminance
31. Take Advantage Of Your Instagram Stories“Post short videos asking your potential customers to take action. You can provide links and also request emails to be DM’d (direct messaged) to you so they can be informed. This helps to build your mailing list.
“If you have at minimum of 10k following, Instagram allows you to use an additional feature that allows viewers to ‘swipe up’ and be directed to a link. It is interactive and fun. This is a great feature to engage your potential clients.”
Follow Raeka Beauty on Twitter @raekabeauty
32. Create Relationships“Social media marketing needs to be understood as sharing entertaining and informative content that connects a company’s targeted audiences with the company. It does not mean using social media updates only as a sales tool.
“That’s the number one tip that all businesses must understand about social media — create relationship, don’t try to SELL constantly.”
Follow Phyllis on Twitter @ZimblerMiller
33. Share Your Passion“Struggling to post engaging information that isn’t all about sales or product pitches? Why not share your passion (or employees’) about a hobby or cause? Ideally, something that shows off some great personal qualities.
“For example, if you’re a runner, that demonstrates persistence. If you volunteer at a local shelter, that shows community spirit. It will build your personal brand and promote your business.”
Follow Beth on Twitter @BethBridges
34. Get In On Trends“Discover what’s trending and get in on the action ASAP.
“There are great websites that can help you find out what’s trending on the different social media platforms, but one of the easiest ways to find out is by looking at the trending links in Facebook. Find topics that your business can somehow relate to and start a conversation about it.”
Chris Coopman, Media Specialist at Agent Media
Follow Agent Media on Twitter @mediaforagents
35. Let Your Audience Shine“Social media is a ‘Look at me!’ platform, so cater to your target audience’s ego.
“When running a SMM campaign, I like to bring current and potential customers into the conversation. Instead of simply trying to jam yet another product or service down people’s throats, ask them a question. Make them the expert. Give them their perceived 15 minutes.”
Follow Tim on Twitter @timmyb1976
36. Consider Less Business-ish Networks, Like Snapchat“Businesses often just think about the big four: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter, when considering social media marketing. But the other social networks can help you meet a niche that other businesses are ignoring.
“If your target market skewers younger, then consider Snapchat. Only cater to a very localized audience? Becoming active on Foursquare and Google Local Guides is essential. By playing in these less competitive markets, you’ll have an easier chance of making yourself stand out.”
Follow Flynn on Twitter @FlynnZaiger
37. Insights And Analytics“Providing analytics and insights that empower brands to monitor their performances, Followers Pro is the most popular app for Instagram community management.
“You can use their free version to catch who unfollowed you and to track your new followers. There is also a paid version where you can track your user engagement, discover your best and worst parts and gain information with user insights so this way you can beat the algorithm.
“Also, there is a version that you can use for Twitter or alternatively you can use Crowdfire which is another great app and will be your smart marketing sidekick for your social media channels.”
Follow Haystack on Twitter @TeamHaystack
38. Get Into The Comments“One of the most forgotten, yet most important, keys to maintaining a successful social media presence is to engage with followers through comments.
“Whether they are commenting on your page or talking about your brand on their own account, you should always be looking to engage actual text driven communication with these people.
“By doing so, you not only show that there are people behind the account but that the brand actually cares about what people have to say on social media. This looks great to both the person making the comment and any prospective followers who are socially validating your brand.”
Follow Benjamin on Twitter @bnjmnsrmn
39. Employ UGC“One tip for SMBs is to make use of user-generated content, but in a more organic way.
“What I mean by this is that instead of just being a content curator (retweeting or regramming), SMBs should find a way to weave UGC into their storytelling process. By interjecting their own personality with the customer’s shared content, it’ll allow for a more organic and authentic connection between the business and its customers.”
Follow Josh on Twitter @joshabrown00
40. Go Live“Facebook’s organic reach is dying. The best way to increase reach and engagement is to go LIVE to your business Page. Facebook favors video, and especially live video.
“Don’t worry about perfection… people expect raw video. All you need is your cell phone and your personality. Get into a habit of going live at the same day/time every week – and keep it up – even if you have very few (or zero) people watching live… people will see the replay!”
Follow EIEIO Marketing on Twitter @EIEIOMarketing
41. Do Unto Others“If you’re a small business, the fastest way to fast track your social media marketing is by helping other people and businesses. Take the time to find and follow other complementary and local businesses. Find relevant conversations and contribute to them.
“Run contests and share content that doesn’t come directly from your blog. And most importantly, put whatever you’re selling on the back burner until you’ve earned the respect and attention of an audience.”
Joe Goldstein, Lead SEO & Operations Manager at Contractor Calls
Follow Joe on Twitter @JoeAdamG
42. Don’t Forget About The 3 V’s Of Social Media“Video: You can use your cell phone to create short clips, gifs, live streams or mini product videos. Behind the scenes into your business will also play extremely well with your audience.
“Visuals: Photos, graphics, even a quote with a colored background will do. Not only do people process visuals faster than text, but it will keep their eyes on the post longer than a wall of text.
“Value: What value are you providing to your audience? Are you giving them a deal? Making them feel something? Teaching something? Each post should have a value to it; otherwise, your post is just another thing to scroll by.”
RaShea Drake, B2B Analyst at Verizon
Follow RaShea on Twitter @sheadrakephoto
43. Time It Right“Make sure that you post on the right days and at the right times. You want to post at the times that your audience is most engaged on social media, because you will be increasing your chances of people engaging in your posts.
“If you are posting while everyone is at work, then most likely they won’t even see it.”
Follow Samantha on Twitter @samanthawitmk
44. Create Content Themes When Appropriate“To help guide the content you’re posting, you can create weekly/monthly/quarterly themes. This helps you stay on track and allows other employees or outside marketing companies to assist with social media posting.
“When everyone is on the same page and knows what the goal of your content is, it will create a more cohesive posting strategy.”
Follow Ignite Visibility on Twitter @IgniteV
45. Install Facebook Pixel“Time and time again, I see small businesses without Facebook Pixels installed on their website! This is a must, as it’s Facebook’s way of determining who has been on your website and what actions they’ve taken, so that ultimately you can remarket to them and secure any lost leads!
“It also will help you to create similar audiences based on your best customers, so that you no longer have to mess around with interest-based targeting! We’ve written a blog post all around what the Pixel is, and how to install it here.”
Morgan McGregor, Photography & Online Content Specialist at Hyped
Follow Hyped on Twitter @HypedLtdNZ
46. Customize Ads“The most important thing is to always customize your social media ads when targeting, especially on Facebook. The default path through Facebook’s ad network is not usually a fruitful one.
“If you press the boost button and don’t change any of the settings you’ll end up with too broad of an audience and won’t get the ROI you expect. By narrowing your reach to just your audience you’ll increase your conversion rates.”
Stephen Gibson, Founder of Vyteo
Follow Vyteo on Twitter @vyteopro
47. Give People The Appropriate Reasons To Follow You“A question which you should be constantly asking yourself is ‘Why should people follow you or your company?’ You can’t answer this unless you think from their perspective. Out of innumerable choices, you should be able to offer relevant reasons to make them follow you.
“You can add values to your image by sharing behind the scenes content on Facebook and Instagram:
- sharing coupons and discount codes exclusively with your followers
- curating and sharing the best user-generated content
- offering real-time help desk and support”
Follow Darshit on Twitter @darshit_parmar
48. Be Yourself And Be Authentic“Social media is not formal, so write the way you talk. A conversational tone is inviting. It is a place to show more of yourself to your audience and build a relationship with them.”
Follow Redstart Creative on Twitter @redstartcreativ
49. Budget Boosts“While posting on social media is free, if you want your posts to have a significant reach, you need to consider setting aside a social media budget to boost your posts.
“Boosting your posts not only drastically improve visibility, which will likely lead to follower growth, but it also allows you to do a deeper dive into your post’s performance, since most platforms, like Facebook and Instagram, give you extra insights when you put money behind it.
“Don’t have the budget to boost your posts on social media yet? In the meantime, use hashtags to drive more reach. On Instagram, you can see which hashtags were used the most that day, which will help you narrow down which ones will be most effective.”
Follow Vistaprint on Twitter @Vistaprint
50. Set Google Alerts“Here’s a handy secret tool you may not know about. Go to Google Alerts and set up a free account to track anything published about yourself, your company, your industry, potential customers, even topics you are interested in.
“You can register up to 10 free names, keywords, or domain names. You will receive an email whenever your listed name or keyword is mentioned in any media or online post anywhere.
“Armed with this hot-off-the-presses information, you can proactively reach out to prospective customers or vendors immediately, mentioning the content of the news story, so they know you are really connected, alert, and on the cutting edge — just the kind of business partner they are looking for!”
Follow Diane on Twitter @brandyouguide
Writer, editor and client advocate specializing in reputation management, content marketing, technology and non-profit topics.