Many entrepreneurs or other professionals tasked with marketing for their company know they need a good social media strategy. But they may not know where to start. If you’re wondering how to begin, you probably have lots of questions. How do you build an audience and get followers? Do you need a YouTube channel? What about TikTok? Where can you buy IG likes for cheap? Should you spend more time on Twitter or Facebook?
To help clear the confusion, we’ve put together some tips on how to use social media effectively for your business:
Understand and Plan
Before planning your social strategy, you need to understand your target market. Learn everything possible about them. Who are they, what do they do, where do they go, how much income do they have, what are there hobbies and interests, etc. Then, look up the demographic makeup of the social media sites you want to use. In general, Facebook skews somewhat older while TikTok and Instagram skew younger, and Pinterest reaches a majority female audience. However, there are many factors to consider. Ideally, you want to focus more of your time and budget on platforms that best fit with the demographics and psychographics of your ideal consumer.
Once you have an idea of which social sites you want to focus on, make a list of objectives you want to accomplish. These should be specific, measurable, and have an end point. They should also be realistic. For example, “Increase Twitter following by ten percent in the next six months,” is a good objective because it gives a specific, measurable goal, and a date it needs to be done by.
The Evaluation Process
Next, evaluate your competitors. If you’re running a bakery, what do other bakeries in your community do on social media? While you can’t copy someone else’s tweets, you might be able to use elements of their style, such as humor or posting a lot of drool-worthy food pics on Instagram. If you think a competitor is missing something in their social strategy, that could be an opportunity for you, as well.
Some self-introspection is also in order. If your company already has social accounts, study them to figure out what you could improve on. One option is to use planning tools like Hootsuite or Buffer to analyze previous posts and see which ones were the most engaged. Do your most popular posts have anything in common? Did most of them include a video or a joke? Were they usually posted on Tuesday afternoon? These insights can show you your strengths, and what you need to focus on, as well as things that you should leave behind.
Start a Social Calendar
There are many of these around, and most will allow you to schedule tweets from the same place. You could, for example, schedule a post about cupcakes for next Tuesday, and one about bread for next Thursday. Then you can get back to baking instead of trying to remember to post regularly, or at times that are inconvenient to you.
So when is a good time to post? This depends somewhat on the platforms you use, but in general, afternoons and early evenings are times when people are often on social media. You can also look up the best time to post on each specific network you use and schedule accordingly. You may also be able to find the best times to post for a specific industry, such as finance or nonprofits.
There are two important things to remember when using a social planning calendar. First, don’t “set it and forget it.” Just because you can schedule a month’s worth of tweets at a time, doesn’t mean you should log off Twitter and expect your social presence to grow itself.
Social platforms are about being social. You can schedule posts to go out at a certain time, but you should still check in at least every other day (ideally at least once a day) to see what replies or comments you’ve gotten. Taking a few minutes each day, or as many days as you can, to have a conversation with people who have chosen to interact with you will go a long way in building your brand. Tools like Hootsuite allow you to easily see replies, mentions, etc., in specific columns within the app, which can help save you time. If you get lucky and receive a large number of comments on something, and don’t have time to respond to each one, you can add a general reply to everyone, such as, “Thanks to everyone who liked this cake, I can’t believe it’s so popular!”
The 80/20 Rule
The other important thing to remember when planning social media is that you don’t want to be that annoying person or business who posts nothing but promotional stuff. Remember that time you had to unfollow a friend because they literally posted about nothing but their weight loss journey with that new diet shake product that they’re now selling? Don’t be that person. No more than 20% of your posts should be promotional/trying to sell something.
So what should you post 80% of the time? Aim to entertain or inform. You should post things that would be of interest to your audience, and this is a good reminder of why you need to start with target market research. You can post about things directly related to your product—such as an interesting video you watched about cake decorating. You could add your own comments about the types of tools to use for specific looks when decorating a cake. Or you might post a funny scene from the latest episode of that baking reality show.
You can also post about unrelated things that might appeal to your audience, especially if they are funny, surprising, and or educational. Humorous posts do well, and generally posts with pictures or videos get more engagement.
Even if you’re not selling in your post, you can still include a call to action—for engagement. You might wrap up a post by asking “What do you think?” or add a poll for viewers to share their opinions. Improvements in interaction will let the social site’s algorithm know to show your content to more people.
Monitor Relevant Hashtags and Topics
Staying on top of what’s happening in your industry is important for many reasons, including opportunities to engage on social media—even with people who have never seen your profile. If there’s a big story about a baking competition, or a famous bakery closing its doors, you can comment on the main post, congratulating the winner, sharing memories of the time you visited the bakery that’s closing, etc. This gets your profile in front of people who are interested in baking, without an annoying promotional post turning them off. Often people will decide to follow a person or entity on social media because they noticed a comment they liked or agreed with.
Consider Paid Promotion
If you still need more help increasing your followers and engagement, each platform offers paid promotional options. Most networks allow you to target by demographics and psychographics of your audience. Some also have additional options. Twitter, for example, lets you target by hashtag. So you could choose to advertise to people who follow a “shop local” hashtag for your city. Strategically, this is a better idea for a local bakery than targeting people who follow #baking, because most of those people don’t live in your area. On the other hand, if your company ships specialty cakes all over the country, you might think about targeting people following #cake.
The sooner you start building your social presence, the sooner you can build a following that will help grow your business. Remember that authenticity is always important in the social sphere—once you get people’s attention, be genuine and try to connect with them person to person.