If your business or department doesn’t have a social media account yet, it’s probably on your to-do list. Or perhaps you’re considering an additional platform. The numbers are tempting: 79 percent of internet users use Facebook, according to the Pew Research Center.
But too often I talk with people who haven’t thought through the “social” part or a content strategy. “We’re going to use Facebook as a blog or newsletter,” they say.
At best, these accounts may look unprofessional and amateurish. At worst, the administrators will abandon them, creating a poor experience for customers who try to follow them or reach out.
Before you start, think through these questions.
1. Does the platform match your target audience?
If you’re going to have just one account, Facebook might seem obvious. But many of us use Facebook to keep up with family and friends, not to make professional connections. If you’re an academic department or targeting other businesses, it might be a bad fit.
Twitter’s open feel and easy sharing make it a go-to for those looking to connect with others in their industry. Instagram, on the other hand, skews younger and can be a good fit if you’ve got visual content and want to grow local followers.
2. How does the platform’s timeline work?
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have moved away from default feeds that show users every post from every account they follow, in chronological order. Instead, they prioritize:
- How much engagement — reactions, comments and shares — a post got, and how quickly
- Users’ past engagement — users who frequently engage with your posts are more likely to see new ones
Facebook’s algorithm is incredibly complex and changes frequently, but these are the basics. The bottom line: If you have 1,000 followers, you can’t count on all of them, or even half of them, seeing your posts. Don’t rely on social media alone for important announcements.
3. What’s your budget?
Since you can’t assume all your followers will see your content, or that your loyal customers will find your account, you may want to think about paid promotions. These might be:
- A Facebook boost to promote event attendance
- A promoted tweet to get more people to read an important article
- A boosted Instagram video to help you grow engagement and followers
Fortunately, social media advertising, especially Facebook, is flexible and relatively inexpensive. One well-targeted $100 Facebook boost per month can go a long way toward growing your engagement and ultimately your business.
4. Does your content match the platform?
Video and images are increasingly dominating. For example:
- Video gets more organic (free) reach on Facebook than any other kind of status.
- Facebook users watch 100 million hours of video every day.
- Twitter’s image-heavy article previews dominate feeds, burying and minimizing text-only tweets.
If you only post text, your posts are unlikely to do well. Fortunately, you can create video and photos yourself with just your smartphone. Or consider one of these free stock photo sources.
And for those people who really want to use Facebook as their blog? Facebook gives you about 400 characters before it truncates your post, requiring users to click the “see more” option. If you think your updates need to be longer, get a real blog and share post links on your social account.
5. Does your content look as good as it could?
Until recently, vertically-oriented people photos were the bane of my existence, because timelines cropped them to horizontal dimensions, effectively decapitating the subjects.
While Facebook now offers multiple ways to display photo posts, some features are less flexible. And Twitter and Instagram still favor the horizontal and square formats.
Your posts will look and perform better if you consider your platforms when creating and sharing your content.
Links and Photos
Shared Facebook links should display nicely, like this:
The site’s photo size, meta description and page title all affect the default Facebook display. But you’re not stuck with these — you can edit the headline and the text under it and even upload a larger or different photo.
As for photos, use social media size guides, such as this frequently-updated Hubspot one, to ensure they display without cropping awkwardly or pixelating.
At the end of the day, social media sites exist to make money. They want to keep you on their sites, not send you elsewhere. That’s why you should upload your video directly instead of linking to YouTube or another site. Consider this Search Engine Journal comparison — the embedded video clearly won.
Facebook will even let you automatically add and edit captions to your video after you’ve uploaded it, essential since many social media users watch video with the sound off.
6. When will you post?
Search for “the best times to post on social media” or “how often should I post on social media?” and you’ll find dozens of articles, many of them contradicting each other.
With timeline algorithms, posting quality content is much more beneficial than finding the perfect time or posting unrelated, uninteresting content just to post something. But you also don’t want to go on a posting spree, then ignore your account for two weeks.
Fortunately, tools like Hootsuite or Facebook’s scheduling feature allow you to plan at your convenience. Create a content calendar and take advantage of these features to ensure consistent content delivery.
7. Are you prepared to constantly monitor and respond?
One study found that among people who contacted a company through social media for customer support, 32 percent expected a response within 30 minutes, and 42 percent expected a response within an hour. Facebook reinforces through its Messenger chat platform, rewarding companies that respond quickly with a “Very responsive to messages” badge.
Ready to Move Forward?
These resources can help you get started:
- Forbes’ Definitive Guide to Marketing Your Business on Facebook
- Business News Daily’s Instagram For Business: Everything You Need to KnowMomthisishowtwitterworks — older but a great breakdown of the basics
- Providing Great Customer Service Through Social Media
About the Author
Megan Rowe is an online marketing specialist at the University of Virginia Health System. She does the strategy and day-to-day management for the Health System’s patient-facing social media accounts and Healthy Balance blog. Megan graduated from Virginia Tech and dabbled in newspapers before coming to work at UVA ten years ago, where she decided to try a new microblogging site called Twitter. When she’s not on social media, she’s usually figure skating, reading, cooking, or parenting her two cats.