Social media is a pervasive part of our society that offers, for many, a love-hate relationship. While the individuals can decide, if they want, to buck the trends, to stay away from social media, businesses don’t always have that option. Business owners top the list of those who struggle to love social media but know they, most likely, can’t ignore it as a channel. To add challenge to the elusiveness (or as I like to call it – insult to injury), the rules of the social media game change frequently. The good news is marketing geeks are obsessed with learning all the social media tips, trends and tricks – and we’re happy to pass our intel along.
The Insiders’ Guide To The Current State Of Social Media
- Who, What, When + Where To Hashtag – Hashtags are powerful tools that can add more umph to your social media posts, but many don’t understand the basics of hashtags (or don’t realize things have changed regarding hashtags).
- What is a hashtag? Getting back to basics, hashtags are essentially search tools that tie social media topics together. For example, if you want to see all the posts related to the Boston Red Sox, you can type in #RedSox to find it everything you want to know about the reigning MLB champs. The benefit of using hashtags and that you can reach a larger audience (the audience looking for information on the “hashtagged” topic).
- Where to use hashtags? It’s important to understand that hashtags work differently based on the social media platform you are posting on.
- Hashtags on Instagram – Your hashtag should be related to your picture, since that’s what Instagram is all about! There is a max of 30 hashtags allowed but if you go that far, you might get tapped for being spammy by the IG gods. Best practices would be 10-15 relevant hashtags. The bang for your hashtag buck is big on Instagram as Instagram allows users to follow hashtags, which can help expand your reach.
- Hashtags on Facebook – To hashtag on Facebook or not to hashtag on Facebook, that is a highly-debated question lately. Most marketing experts go with, “it may not help, but it won’t hurt” philosophy. If you follow this best practice on Facebook, it is recommended to limit your hashtags to a maximum of three per social media post.
- Hashtags on LinkedIn – LinkedIn has had a bumpy ride with its hashtag history, but currently is an excellent place to include hashtags. You can add three to five relevant hashtags in a post, add hashtags in your individual or business profiles and even seek out conversations to join using hashtags.
- Hashtags on Twitter – The Twitter hashtag is one of the most valuable and impactful due to the short, sweet nature of tweets. They help to explain the context and start conversations. Best practices for hashtags on Twitter dictate that you use relevant hashtags efficiently in the range of two per tweet.
- Don’t Hang Your Hat On Organic Reach – Organic reach on Facebook has plummeted in recent years due to Facebook’s algorithm changes designed to provide less sales-driven media and focus more on individuals connecting with one another. Organic posts were estimated to have dropped 16% as compared to pre-change activity. To truly find effectiveness on Facebook, you have to find the perfect mix of meaningful, targeted and timely content as well as paid media.
- Remember, You Can’t Be Everything To Everyone – Incorporating social media into your marketing mix may or may not make sense. You have to look at your unique business and your customers’ behaviors. If your customers don’t use social media, your energies are likely better spent elsewhere. Along the same lines, if your customers don’t frequent a particular platform, it is best to skip that one altogether. In fact, I typically recommend choosing one to two social media outlets and placing all efforts there as a starting point.
- Post Length – Post length is a critical part of social media and a much-debated topic. When your social media becomes established with baseline metrics, you may explore testing post lengths – here are some rules of thumb to follow in the meantime. Twitter recently increased its character limit to 280, but the most common character length is 33 characters. Facebook, on the other, hand has an ideal post length of 40 and 80 characters. The optimal length for your Instagram caption is in the range of 150 characters. To avoid your LinkedIn post getting cut off and having your call to action substituted by an ellipsis, stay within approximately 210 characters.
- Tell Your Story – The stories feature on social media are bringing in user numbers that can’t be ignored. Those five to 15-second videos that disappear in 24 hours should be a real consideration as you create your social media strategy. Longer videos and live events may also be worth considering based on your audience and the social media platforms.
- Paying Attention To The Details Pays Off – “It’s Mother’s Day, shouldn’t we be posting something about Mother’s Day?” Keep in mind when you ask a question like this that every company on the planet is posting something about Mother’s Day, so it’s a crowded space. And, unless the majority of you’re selling a product targeted to moms, does it really matter to your audience that you post a Happy Mother’s Day image with a bouquet of flowers. Breaking through the noise and truly engaging on social media requires quality, unique and authentic content – nothing more, nothing less.
To sum it up, creating a viable social media initiative takes time and effort. Some businesses make the mistake of slapping posts up with not forethought, strategy, follow up or measurement. And, of course, they often wonder why their social media channel fell flat. The details matter. Best practices should be followed unless of course, you find that your metrics support doing something else. It’s not rocket science, but there is some strategy that needs to be applied. The good news is if you are ready to drill down on your business’s social media strategy, I’m here to help. I can help you audit what you’re currently doing, assess what makes the most sense for your current industry and budget and help you execute!