In little more than a decade, social media has become our window to the internet, a non-stop stream of stuff with a tendency to delight and infuriate us in equal measure. A social media presence is essential if you want the world to know about yourself and your work; it's an all-in-one soapbox, design portfolio and messaging service, and if you want it to count then you're going to need a social media strategy.
Don't panic, though; adopting a strategy might seem like a daunting prospect, but really it's a matter of structuring your social presence in a way that gets you the best return on the time and effort spent on your posts. You could spend ages researching the best ways to work with social, but if you want to get started without going too far wrong, these tips will set you well on your way.
01. Choose wisely
While it's tempting to set up accounts on everything so you cover all the social media bases, you don't want to spread yourself too thin. There are new platforms springing up all the time (see our guide, What is Clubhouse?). So rather than have a finger in every social pie, identify the services that fit best with the content you want to post, and which deliver the best engagement.
If you want to showcase imagery then naturally Instagram should be your priority, but if you're talking shareable content then Twitter and Facebook are the way to go. And if you find that a particular service isn't resulting in the shares and likes you'd hoped for, don't be afraid to back off from it to concentrate on the platforms that are doing the business; you don't have to kill underperforming accounts entirely, but it pays to prioritise what's working for you.
02. Post smart
You might have lots to say and share on social media, but if you overdo it then you risk overwhelming and alienating your audience. It's a question of hitting the right balance, and the amount you should probably post varies according to platform.
According to Social Report, Twitter's the best place for posting multiple times per day – three to five times is the sweet spot, while you should aim for three posts a day on Pinterest, once or twice on Instagram and Facebook, and if you're on LinkedIn then once a day should do the trick.
03. Be relevant
You don't have to be on-message all the time. While the aim of your social media accounts may be to promote yourself or your business, a constant hard sell will be a massive turn-off for your followers.
So keep try to keep things relevant by mixing in talk about current affairs – it'll grab people's attention and maybe initiate a conversation, with the added benefit that if you're on Facebook then such posts are more likely to be looked favourably upon by its algorithms and end up in more people's feeds. Try to avoid talking politics, though; that's a sure-fire way to annoy a proportion of your audience.
04. Reply quickly
Social media isn't without its downsides, and one of them is the expectation that every company with a social footprint should be ready to reply to its followers almost instantly. Hell hath no fury like someone on the internet who hasn't had a reply to their complaint, so even if it's a chore you need to be ready to reply promptly to messages. It doesn't have to be instantaneous, but it helps to be reasonably speedy; if you can fire out a reply within an hour then you'll have much happier followers.
05. Engage with stories
Stories – posts that appear for just 24 hours and then disappear forever – might seem self-defeating, but it's big news across social media. The reason why you'd want to spend time on posts that will have vanished by this time tomorrow is that they're the perfect way to reach followers instantly.
In the algorithm-driven ecosystems of Facebook and Instagram where you can't ever be sure that a post will actually be seen, a story is a sure-fire way to get straight to the top of people's feeds. Plus, as an added bonus it brings with it a sense of immediacy that's much more likely to connect with people than an ordinary post.
06. Pick the right tools
Juggling a whole bunch of social media accounts can easily become a nightmare; before too long you're having to manage multiple browser tabs in order to stay on top of things. So it makes sense to look into making your life easier with some helpful tools.
If you want to simplify the business of posting across your various platforms and profiles, you should consider letting Buffer or Hootsuite take some of the strain. They'll both enable you to post across various networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest from within a single interface, and they also make it easy to schedule your posts so that you can be sure your content's getting out there when you need it to.
To be sure your posts are performing, don't forget about analytics; Facebook, Twitter and Instagram each offer their own tools so that you can see what's working and what isn't, and adjust your social media strategy accordingly.