Improve your social media results.

Get social media tips delivered straight to you inbox!

Powered by ConvertKit

How to Always be Effective at Social Media

How to Always be Effective at Social Media

This post is a part of the “Back to Basics” series,  which covers things you need to know to get started with social media. It’s also written towards intermediate social media for business users who are stuck and want to be more effective. It’s been my experience that when in doubt, go back to the basics and make sure you have those down, then you can move onto more advanced tactics and strategies.

We’ve all been there… slaving away at posting to our social media accounts day after day, following and using tactics from the “experts”, and crossing our fingers that the needle moves soon. Even a little bit of improvement would be better than this stagnant crap. Instead, we are forced to sit there, staring at our screens, feeling depressed that all the time and effort we’ve put in has been for nothing.

Whenever this happens, I pull out this list and start at the top. Whenever I ignore this list, my results have plummeted.  

These are not tactics. They are not even strategies. They are rules.

Like a painting, using this list will give you the broad brushstrokes you need to start building your own social media work of art. Don’t be mistaken, social media is an art. It may have certain steps you need to take like a science experiment or an instruction manual. In the end, though, you are really just talking to people, and that, my friends, is truly an art form.

It’s not an art form that’s hard to learn, though. It just takes time.

Understand What Your Audience Wants, Needs, or Desires

The most important thing you can do today for your social media results is to understand what your audience wants, and not what you think they want. That may sound harsh, but it’s true. Your audience may want something completely different than you’re delivering to them. A quick hint: they’re probably not looking directly for your service or product. At least not that they know of.

That’s where listening comes in. There are many different ways to listen. You can listen to your own customers when they tell you why they used your product, or how it helped improve their life. You can poll your customers (if they’re not telling you these things). You can set up keyword searches surrounding the thing that your product helps to improve (or the pain point). You can set up these searches through Google Alerts, or by using Hootsuite or other social media listening services to actually gather what people are saying on their social media accounts right now. You can see how your competitors are positioning their products. No matter how you decide to implement this, you must listen to really start to understand.

Also, listen to what else your audience is talking about, and how they are talking about it. This will give you ideas on the other content you can post to your page.

Listening is not a one-time activity, either. As your customer base grows and evolves, so will the ways they use your products and what they think about them. You need to always have your ear to the ground, observing what your customers are saying, and sometimes, what they’re not saying.

Define How Your Audience’s Needs and Desires Align With What Your Brand Offers

Understanding what your audience wants or needs in their lives is only half the battle. Now, you need to figure out if or how your product fulfills those wants and needs. The most elegant way I’ve ever seen it put is this: “Publications don’t sell horse saddles. Publications sell the idea of horseback riding.” Steve Bryant, who wrote this brilliant post is referring to how magazines sell their products (which for them is ad space and actual copies of their product), but it applies to social media as well. In fact, as he points out, it applies to many other types of content.

You are not selling what product you’re offering, but what that product can do for someone. How your product can save someone time or money, or even how your product can change someone’s life.

The key is to find out how your product delivers a solution to what your customer needs, and why they would choose your product over another to fulfill that need. That’s how you will start to develop your slogan, marketing copy, and graphics. That’s also how you develop the language that you use to interact with your customers online.

I can’t tell you what your language will be, although you are welcome to contact me if you want help with that. All I can tell you is that your language will likely be unique. In fact, it needs to be your own, especially if you want to stand out from the pack.

Learn How to Use the Social Media Platforms

Don’t know how to schedule a post to Facebook? Don’t understand why a post with an image performs better than a post with just text? Then your results are likely suffering. Understanding how the different social media platforms work, what works on them, and how your brand in particular can use those tools is paramount to your success in social media.

Picture this. You walk into a job interview for a management position wearing an old tank top, jeans, and flip flops. You haven’t taken the time to really understand what the position is about, or what you bring to the table that will help the company not only fill their staffing need, but also help them improve the area you would be working in. Not surprisingly, after a short interview, you don’t get the job.

Why? Because job interviews have rules. So do social media platforms. They work a certain way, and you are expected to work within them. Do things outside those rules and you risk the consequences: mediocre results or, worse, getting kicked off the platform entirely.

There are many, many tutorials out there that explain how some features work on a certain social media platform. Most of the social media platforms even have their own set of help files, or you can hire a business like mine to train you on how to use them.

No matter what, though, you need to understand how they work and how you can work within their rules.

Develop Your Unique Voice

Your voice matters. It’s part of what makes you stand out as a company or brand. Anything you can do to differentiate yourself from your competitors is a good thing.

Developing your unique voice isn’t easy, though, and it almost always takes a while. That’s because your voice is not just what you say, but how you say it. It’s the intersection of how you talk about your product, how and what your customers think about your product, and your experiences trying to have conversations about your product.

Your voice, like most things in marketing, will likely evolve over time. Again, it may take a while before you find your voice. That’s why you have to start now, and you need to be willing to do the things below to make it happen.

  1. Experiment, try stuff out. You never know if something’s going to work until you try it out for yourself. Your situation is unique. What works for someone else may not work for you and vice versa.
  2. Read. Read like your life depends on it. Read stuff by your competitors, by bloggers who inspire you, and by those that don’t. Learn how they talk about stuff and then decide if it will work for you.
  3. Be human. Long gone are the days when people expect companies to sound like robots in their content and when they respond to complaints or feedback. Don’t be afraid to be human. To make some mistakes. That’s the only way you’ll learn and understand what your customer-base expects from you.

Be Consistent

Actually this section should be titled “Be a Scientist”, here’s why. In order to test a theory and prove whether it’s true, scientists run experiments over and over again. If done right, each of these experiments has a core set of steps that need to be followed, or the experiment is invalidated. Your social media strategy will benefit from this approach too.

You have to think of your social media accounts like one big experiment that you’re running. Because they are. Until you’re sure that something works, you are really just running an experiment.

How does consistency play into your big experiment?

Remember that an experiment has lots of steps that are done over and over again throughout each iteration? Well, that’s consistency. It’s all in doing the same things over and over again, so you will start to build your own set of steps that you can test other steps and variables against.

How to be consistent

There are many ways to be consistent. It isn’t just about how much you post, but what you post, what times you post at, what types of content you post on different days, and how you craft those posts.

Why does consistency matter?

Because most social media platforms are either very crowded or have some kind of algorithm that keeps everyone who follows you from seeing your posts. Posting at a number of specific times a week or day means that you have more opportunities for more people to see those posts. Being consistent in what you post means that you can start to understand if it’s working. You can’t try something once and expect to know if it succeeded or failed. Maybe you had an off day, or maybe most of your social media followers were not online that day (for whatever reason).

The point is that you need more data before you can decide if something worked. Data comes from consistently doing the same things over and over again, and only tweaking small bits along the way.

Understand the Difference Between Social Media Strategy and Tactics

This is a big one. Strategies and tactics are not the same. Pause for effect… I’ll say that again. Strategies and tactics are not the same. Unfortunately, these terms get used interchangeably by a lot of people, and that’s dangerous because you have to understand what something is before you can understand why it worked.

First, let’s cover the difference between the two.

A strategy is a set of tactics or a plan that is developed in order to achieve a certain goal. Like the “Be Consistent” rule above, this can be likened to the plan that scientists put in place to prove their theories. Basically, it’s a set of steps or rules that you want to follow to try and create the outcome that you want.

Tactics are the actual actions that you take during the strategy. They’re specific and usually involve a specific way to do something.

For instance, a social media tactic that is popular at the moment, is to create an image with a beautiful background overlaid with a quote in fancy text, rather than just posting the quote as text. A strategy would be deciding that you are going to share these images once/week on your social media accounts (along with other links, images, etc.).

For the most part, I have found that strategies work better than tactics in the long run. That’s because tactics are usually short-lived. Once they gain in popularity, then their effectiveness starts to drop off drastically, mostly, because everybody’s using them. Strategies on the other hand are evolved over time and have been proven to work over and over again. Also, tactics that have been proven to work over and over again, can be added to your overall strategy.

Now that you know the difference, the next time you come across a social media tip, you should be able to tell which one it is. This will give you an advantage, because you will be able to tell if it’s just a tactic that will give you a “short boost” or a plan that you can use again and again to get great consistent results.

Effectiveness is Measured in Time

Being effective at social media is not always easy, and it’s not always fun. There’s a lot of work involved, and it takes time. But there are things that you can do to boost that effectiveness. Employing these rules is a good place to start when you want to get better.

The Basic System to Rock Any Social Media Platform Part 1: The 3 Phases of Social Media Success

ThreePhasesOfSocialMediaSuccess

Anyone worth their salt as a consultant will tell you that you need a plan to get the most out of social media. This is absolutely crucial to your success. What’s missing from most social media plans, though, is a system. A set of rules, if you will that governs how effective a plan can be. It’s a way to implement the goals that you have and an order to do them in.

I’ve seen and built a lot of social media plans. Some were successful, and some were not. The ones that were successful had one thing in common: they setup their plan with a systemized approach. In other words, everything in the plan is built to fulfill a specific purpose. Nothing in the plan deviates from that purpose.

There is a better word than purpose, though. Some people like to call them “goals”. I like to call them “phases”, because you can have multiple goals within a phase and still be working towards that one purpose.

There’s really only three major phases that you can shoot for in social media. They are:

  1. Building an Audience
  2. Building Engagement
  3. Converting Followers

Want to know what the most successful social media plans had going for them? They tackled these phases one a time and in order.

Phase 1: Build Your Audience

When I first started in social media, the company I was working for didn’t have a social media presence. Since this was my first social media job, I had to learn how to set them up and make them work. I had read a lot of stuff about how social media was so powerful. About how it could increase your sales and popularity far beyond what you could achieve normally. So, I had hope that it would work.

When we first started with Facebook, it was still pretty early for businesses to be jumping on. It was easier to build an audience then. But that’s not what I was focused on. Instead, I was doing all kinds of things. And I didn’t understand why I wasn’t getting the engagement that I had heard about. Or why I wasn’t getting people to bring in the coupons we would post, or respond to our online sales.

It wasn’t until we ran a big “Like Us” contest that I really started to see engagement and conversions on our Page. In fact, our audience grew so much from that contest, that the engagement and conversions had also skyrocketed. It was then, that I understood how social media works.

See, the simple truth is, you have to have an audience that will support the engagement and conversions. If you don’t, it won’t happen. No amount of pie in the sky thinking will deliver that for you.

No matter what platform you’re on, you have to build an audience first. Unfortunately, building an audience is actually one of the hardest parts of the whole process because it’s a step that consists of three separate objectives.

The first objective is to get people to show up. The second is to get them to pay attention. The third is to get them to want to come back and read more. We’ll tackle how to get all of these to work together in a later post. For now, let’s just look at the basic activities you need to do to get started.

  1. Post content consistently.
  2. Use the basic tools of the platform (e.g. Twitter = hashtags, Facebook = shares and likes).
  3. Ask questions.
  4. Be funny.
  5. Be real.
  6. Use what’s working on the platform now (e.g. Facebook = video)
  7. Look outside of the platform for followers (e.g. Facebook Like Button)
  8. Run a Contest or Promotion to generate excitement.
  9. Find your voice.

Phase 2: Build Engagement

The next phase to tackle once you’ve built your audience is to get them engaged. If they’re already engaged, then that just means you have an advantage. But if they’re not, you may have a hard road ahead of you.

My first success had really taught me that you could be achieve your goals with social media if you focused on the right phase at the right time. But, later, I struggled with building engagement on other platforms and social media accounts.

A couple of years after I started doing social media, I started to take on other clients on a freelance basis. I thought I knew what I was doing by that point. After a few months, though, it became clear that I really didn’t.

I used what I knew worked: I focused on building an audience before building engagement. But I wasn’t getting the same results. I didn’t understand why it seemed to only work once. I thought, that must have been a fluke. But I questioned that assumption, because I had read so many articles telling me different. So, I decided to dig deeper and figure out why it had worked so well the first time. I did this by trying a ton of different things to build engagement (including running more contests).

My conclusion was this: in those early days we had grown our audience so fast by harnessing the excitement that a contest produces. This meant that our audience was already engaged. It gave us a leg up when it was time to move to this next phase. Because we were also posting consistently to Facebook, and we understood what was working on the platform, we were able to keep that engagement going.

Once I understood that, I knew that the key to getting more engagement was to give it a kick-start. Contests work well for this purpose, but they’re not the only answer. Sometimes, they’re not even the right answer for the client.

There are lots of activities that build engagement. Most of these same activities you’ll notice are also ones that are used to build an audience. That’s because the same characteristics of social media that build connections, also help spread those connections farther than they would normally go.

Below are a list of activities that you can use to build engagement.

  1. Post content consistently.
  2. Run a Contest or Promotion to generate excitement. In fact, run these multiple times throughout the year to get the most benefit out of them.
  3. Ask questions.
  4. Be funny.
  5. Be real.
  6. Find your voice.
  7. Connect with your audience.
  8. Use tools outside of the platform (e.g. share buttons on your blog)
  9. Use the basic tools of the platform (e.g. Twitter = hashtags, Facebook = shares and likes).
  10. Use what’s working on the platform now (e.g. Facebook = video, Twitter = Twitter chats)
  11. Bring them into your sales funnel.

Step 3: Convert

Conversions matter in social media. It’s the return part of “Return on Investment” that we’ve been hoping for. That doesn’t mean that we don’t enjoy the warm fuzzy feeling and the connections we make with our community. Those are important, too, and can keep us going when the conversions aren’t happening like they should. But most of us want to get something more out of it. Most of us want to be able to justify the time we’re spending talking with people, researching content, posting, spending money on ads, and the hundreds of other things you need to do to keep up with your social media accounts.

Conversions are tough to achieve, especially on social media. That’s mostly to do with a glaring difference between a business’ motivation and a person’s motivation on social media. People get on social media to connect, or to find out what’s going on, or even just to unwind. Businesses on the other hand want to connect with their customers, but they also want to make the sale. Those motivations just don’t line up. Often times, this means that social media posts by businesses can be seen as an intrusion. Or at the very least, they can seem out of place.

So if conversions are our goal, then how do we go about getting them?

Some of the same things you do to build an audience and build engagement also work for making conversions on social media. Again, this is because of the way social media works. The main thing that companies who make conversions on social media do, though, is they connect with their followers. They learn what their audience likes to hear, and what they like to talk about. Then they take that information and they apply it to how they sell their product. That’s why these same activities can work for conversions, just as well as building an audience and engagement.

Here’s the list of activities that will help convert your followers into customers:

  1. Post Consistently (tired of seeing that yet?)
  2. Post a sale or a promotion
  3. Run a contest (yep, contests can even be used for conversions!)
  4. Ask questions.
  5. Be funny.
  6. Be real.
  7. Find your voice.
  8. Connect with your audience.
  9. Use the basic tools of the platform (e.g. Twitter = hashtags, Facebook = shares and likes).
  10. Use what’s working on the platform now (e.g. Facebook = video, Twitter = Twitter chats)
  11. Ask for the sale
  12. Run ads or use other promotional tools.
  13. Bring them into your sales funnel.

As you can see, the main difference in most of these phases isn’t the activities, it’s the intention and execution. It’s the focus of the conversation.

I have been successful and have seen others be successful in social media from following other systems. But I’ve achieved the most success when I followed this system step-by-step.

Your turn. Have you found a system that works for you? Are you having trouble building an audience, your engagement, or your conversions? Have you seen success when you focused on one goal at a time? Let me know in the comments below.

Buying Facebook Likes Doesn’t Buy Engagement or Sales

I know you’ve seen the ads, or even just hBuying Facebook Likes Doesn't Buy Engagement Or Saleseard about “buying Likes”. At first it sounds like a good idea, especially if you’re having a hard time building those fans. Why not plunk down $25, $50, maybe even $200 if it will get you a bunch more fans all of a sudden? Wouldn’t that mean that more people are willing to Like your page, because they see that a lot of other people already Like you? While this is certainly true, the cost of buying those Likes goes way beyond the initial payment you made. Let me tell you a story as an example.

When I went out on my own for the first time it took me a while before I got an actual “social media management” client. I had taken other jobs, but no one wanted to pay me the money to manage their posting and engagement. This type of work requires a high-level of trust. Even though, I had four years experience doing this for multiple companies, I hadn’t been networking long enough to convince someone to take this over. Finally, though, I landed my first client. We talked over strategy and what types of posts I’d be running, as well as ideas on how the business could help to supply some of that content, since they were out doing the job every day. We agreed on a number of posts per month and the type of content that would run. I was stoked. After so long pitching and not getting anything, the actual “strategy session” was a breeze.

So, off I went. Like a good little social media manager, I grabbed content from other sites and their own, mixing it together in the right combination like a wizard mixing a potion. Then I scheduled the posts and waited for the engagement to happen. I wasn’t worried about the engagement. After all, I could see how many Likes they had. From my previous experience, I knew that this was a very good number for engagement. I also knew that it might take a little time for the engagement to pick back up since they hadn’t posted in a while. I checked the Page everyday and all I heard was crickets. There were a few Likes here and there, and even a comment, but nothing like what I expected. At the end of the month, I reported the stats and mentioned in my report that it would take a little time for the engagement to pick back up.

During the second month, the same thing happened. We got a bit more engagement, but, again, it was not what I expected. I also checked the reach of the posts and noticed that it was much lower than I anticipated. My second month’s report looked pretty much the same as the first. The business owner didn’t say anything. For the third month’s content I really dug into what was getting the most engagement, and when it was getting the most engagement, and tried to recreate that. Again, though, the same thing happened. I was devastated. This had never happened before. I had always been able to create content that people responded to and build on that.

So, before I delivered my third month’s report, I asked the business owner if we could meet. When we sat down I explained the problem to him. I outlined what had happened and why it was such a weird issue. Then I asked the question, “Did you pay for some of your Likes in the past?”

The owner paused for a second and said, “Yes, is that bad?”

Why Buying Likes Doesn’t Buy Engagement or Sales

Those Likes that you buy are sold by companies who do two different things: they create bots that act like real humans which create Facebook accounts and then Like pages, or they are actual human beings that are paid to click Like. Oftentimes these Likes come from countries such as Indonesia. If you’re a small business owner in the Midwest who only has a brick and mortar location and no online store, are people from that country really interested in what you sell?

Don’t be fooled by the ones who say that they are selling you “real Likes”. Even if a human is clicking Like on your business page, it doesn’t mean that they are interested in your product. Be smart, and get Likes that will become part of your customer base.

And the last reason that buying likes is bad for your business, is that many of these likes will never engage with your Page, so you’re getting nothing out of them. How does it look if someone comes to your Page, sees you have 1,000 likes, but only a few likes, comments, and shares on your posts over the last month? Seems pretty weird, huh?

Is there a Way to Legitimately Buy Likes?

Yes, there is. Facebook has a specific ad type that aids you in getting more Likes for your Page. If you know what you’re doing with the targeting you can even target those people who are going to be more interested in your product or service. This is one of the best ways to “buy” Likes. Don’t, however, buy them off some guy on Fiverr or another site that is promising x number of Likes. Those sites are likely using Like Farms to get you those Likes.

What About Other Ways to Get Facebook Likes?

There’s a ton, actually. You can install a Like button on your website where visitors can Like your Facebook Page without ever leaving. You can invite your friends and business colleagues to Like your Page. You can, even, promote your Page on your business cards or other print marketing pieces. Here are 20 more ways you can legitimately get Facebook Likes.

The bottom line: don’t be tempted to build your Facebook Page by buying Likes. You are only hurting yourself in the long run, especially if you want to get more out of it (like sales).

Why Voice is So Important in Your Social Media Plan

Your voice matters. I can’t say that enough. In fact, let me say it again. Your. Voice. Matters. When you separate out the words like that, it not only looks more important, it sounds different. There’s a reason for this. Each word means something all by itself. Let’s tackle them one by one to get a deeper meaning.

Your.

This is an obvious word, but does bare a deeper look. First of all your voice will be different than anyone else’s. I think this should go without saying, but sometimes saying it helps us to understand that each of us has something unique to say. Let’s look at an example. We have two different business owners: Steve and Bob. Steve and Bob are the same age. They both grew up in the same small town. They went to the same school, and they had (for the most part) the same friends. They graduated in the same year and went to the same college in a neighboring city. Early on, they both realized that they loved to cook. So, when they got out of college they both started restaurants. But Steve and Bob are different people. Steve’s family life was not so great. He had a brother and a sister, and a mother and father who fought a lot. So, he learned to cook at an early age because that was his job and it was how he kept his family together. Bob is an only child. His parents were like a dream come true. In fact, they are his best friends. Bob learned to cook from his uncle who was a chef and used to visit in between trips around the world. Bob was fascinated by the dishes his uncle prepared, which were often exotic. Bob grew up trying to imitate the dishes his uncle would create during his visits. Steve’s necessity in cooking grew into a love of providing food to bring people closer together. Bob’s love of cooking grew into a passion for introducing exotic food to his small town. Can you start to see how each of these two men would not only open a different kind of restaurant but how they might have a completely different opinion on what to serve in those restaurants? Now imagine what each of these men’s blogs would be about. Do you think they would be different? Do you think they might even cover different subjects? Maybe Steve would write about his own budding family and how he is teaching his children to cook and prepare meals in a family setting. Maybe Bob would showcase a different meal he’s prepared each week.

The point is that each person is different for many different reasons. And that’s a good thing, because that means that content written by each person would not be a carbon-copy of someone else’s. Can you imagine what it would be like if you landed on a blog about cooking and found that it was almost exactly like another blog that you read about cooking? How boring and annoying would that be?

Find out what sets you apart or makes you different, and then put that into whatever you write.

Voice.

Voice itself is important because voice, sometimes even more than opinion, is what sets you apart from someone else. This can be influenced by opinion, but is more to do with your writing style and the words you use. I write in a more conversational tone. Someone else might write in a more formal one. Even if we wrote an article about the same subject, it would read in a completely different way because we used different words. You should choose a voice that feels comfortable to you when you write. If you like to tell jokes, then make sure you put jokes in your writing. It will make it much easier to produce content because it comes more naturally to you. Whatever you do, make sure your voice is consistent. That doesn’t mean that you can’t deviate occasionally. What it does mean is that your content will be recognizable to people across different platforms (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, your blog). It also means that someone who is used to reading what you write does not have to work as hard to understand what you’re saying. When you remove that obstacle, it makes reading much more enjoyable and they will be more likely to come back for more.

Matters.

Your voice does matter. What you say matters. The way you say it matters. And if you want to do something that matters, then using your unique voice to talk about it is the only way to connect with people. You don’t have to change the world to do something that matters. You just need to do something that matters to you. Once you know what that is, making sure that it shows up in your writing is key. In other words, write whatever you are passionate about. Writing about things that matter to you will also make the writing easier, because you already know and are excited about the subject. People also connect better with someone who writes passionately about a subject, because they can read that in your writing.

How Can You Apply This to Your Social Media Plan?

There is nothing better you can do for your social media plan than to find your unique voice and subject matter. It is one of the main things that will make you stand out from your competitors. Just posting is not enough you have to stand out. Use these three steps below to create content for your social media plan and you’ll see results.

1. Find your.

Figure out what makes you different. Write those facts down and use that angle to make what you say unique to you.

2. Your Voice.

Choose a voice that you’re comfortable with. You don’t need to win a Pulitzer with your voice. That would be awesome, though, right? You just need to find a voice that fits you and your audience.

3. What Matters.

Even with their similarities, the two men in the example above had different things that mattered to them. It’s part of what would set their different content apart. Find out what matters to you and make sure you write about it.

I’d like to know your results.

If you will or have implemented these steps, let me know what your results are in the comments below.