For many, social media is a mysterious beast. In part because it’s such a new means of communication, but also because the primary social media platforms we all use and love – Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter – can feel like a sea of noise in which developing best practices to engage human users (as opposed to the spam bots) inherently brings with it some challenges. That said, social media marketing in today’s world is a must if you want to engage potential clients, spread the word about what your company is doing, and support your brand with a robust online presence.
Social media marketing best practices, based on measuring trends from those who have seen success, are only now developing. If you think about it, social media is the only communication medium that everyone reading this blog can remember a world without – yet, now it’s nearly impossible to imagine what news, public relations, branding and marketing would look like without it.
Your business needs a social media presence to stay competitive. But, you want to make sure to do it right, lest you risk becoming one of those accounts people ignore – or worse, block completely. Below are five tips for success on any social media platform, as well as information on all-too-common habits to avoid.
Don’t use social media as a soapbox
I have worked in public relations, marketing and branding for a number of years, and this is the most common mistake organizations make. It’s OK to promote yourself on social media, even directly. But, only about 1/3 of the content you post should ever be obviously self-promotional in nature.
The bulk of what is posted on your social media profiles should be third-party content that covers the gamut of what your organization is all about – the services you offer and the issues you’re intimately involved in – in an effort to solidify a “soft” association without being overtly promotional.
It’s awesome to be proud of your company’s solutions and brand image. But, brazen promotion on social media should be kept to a minimum. Unfortunately, no one who isn’t already supporting the work your organization does is interested solely in your brand. The subtle promotion that comes from linking to a good article, or commenting more generally on a specific topic, is what will lure people to follow your profile on social media and share the content they find, which in turn fuels further interest in your organization.
Remember, the goal of social media is largely to get others to promote your organization, and accomplishing that means posting content that is likely to be read and shared. A tweet that acts as an ad is not likely to have that effect, but a link to a great article from a reputable source is going to see some engagement, especially if you add a meaningful comment to the mix.
Know your brand, maintain your voice
The companies in any industry – including healthcare technology – have a wide variety of “voices” they express through their branding. Maybe your organization has a fun, casual image; or perhaps it is the serious type who wants to focus on education. There are no wrong answers. Unless, of course, there’s an issue with consistency.
It’s OK to join in on trending conversations and talk about current events, but you want to be mindful of the tone present in a social media post to ensure each post is supplementing the brand image you want the public to associate with your organization. If your organization has a professional business image and uses social media to highlight social issues, tweeting “Tom Brady is the GOAT! #SuperBowl” is definitely not a good idea, for a variety of reasons.
Sending out a post about the Super Bowl to join a larger conversation is acceptable for any organization, as it’s always good to remind people there are very real people behind corporate walls. However, this should be done in a way that is in harmony with everything else your organization posts on social media, and joining in on trending topics should be done without being controversial and inflammatory. Most importantly, avoid slang and “Internet speak” whenever possible, as this will be seen as disingenuous by those who follow your profile, especially if most of the content you post is of a serious nature.
Don’t #abuse #the #hashtag
If you can naturally fit a #hashtag into a sentence, do it. But never rewrite a good post just to shove some extra hashtags in there. Not only does this fail to fool the automated algorithms that rank posts for display when a certain hashtag is clicked, but you risk looking like spam.
If you’ve been on Twitter recently, you know it’s overrun with spam bots and fake accounts that exist only to gain impressions. Don’t find your organization wrongly associated with that plague by overdoing the hashtags or adding off-topic hashtags to your posts. It won’t work.
Stick with one or two hashtags per post, and if you can’t put them into a sentence without forcing the issue, simply add them to the end, and separate hashtags from your primary message with a “|” whenever possible. For example, “#Ransomware is getting cleverer, not to mention more frightening. This one turns PCs into evil clowns! (Link) | #Cybersecurity”. The hashtag at the end is relevant to post and fine to include, and we avoid a “cluttered” look by separating it with a vertical line.
As for developing custom hashtags for self-promotion: These are crucial to better understanding what people are saying about your organization on social media and driving your own trends. However, the same rules above still apply – don’t overdo it, and make sure hashtags are relevant and fit cleanly into every post.
Avoid private and direct messages
The real title of this tip should probably read “be a social media user yourself,” because if you use social media, you know that direct messages are almost always spam. And regardless of how a private message is worded to a follower, it will be seen as an annoyance.
The act of opening a message box takes away from the natural flow of social media, where someone scrolls on their phone to read a variety of messages. It’s frustrating to have to have to open a box just to make an alert notification go way, especially since 90 percent of the time doing so is going to result in being subjected to spam.
This is not to be confused with an “@” message or a tagging another profile. These practices are fine. Sending someone a message of “thanks” for a follow, or including a media outlet’s Twitter handle when sharing a link to their content, is a great idea. In fact, it’s often the best way to garner more engagement. But, stay away from private messages completely. Since these can’t be shared with others on social media and are such a nuisance, there are few good arguments for sending them.
Engagement is key
Direct and private messages may be a bad idea, but engaging your followers is crucial to success. You want your organization’s profile to feel as if an actual person is behind the keyboard making the posts, and doing that can be as simple as “liking” a reply from a follower, or acknowledging when someone tags your profile by offering a quick “@(Name) Thank you.”
Honestly, little touches like this go a long way in keeping followers and encouraging people to visit your profile, click links, and engage your posts. It fuels a personal connection between followers and your social media profile, one that contains the human touch necessary to make that connection meaningful.
Your engagement level needs to match or exceed that of your profile’s followers. As mentioned previously, social media is loaded with fake accounts and spam bots (Twitter in particular).
Social media users are numb to superficial engagement, such as a tweet directed at them that contains an ad. Avoid that practice.
When you engage followers, keep promotion out of it. And most important of all, if people are directing questions, comments, and concerns towards your profile – answer them. Social media connects the world in a way that is slowly replacing phone support and written feedback.
People like when your organization responds to them, engages them, and interacts with them on a person-to-person basis. Never doubt the power of a reply or a quick acknowledgment of a message, as they could be the key to separating your organization from all of the noise on social media and building a strong presence on any platform.