Social media has fundamentally changed the way the public interact with brands. Before the advent of Facebook et al., conversation with a brand was very rarely two-way: you’d buy their products and services and that would be it. Now you can hold entire conversations with brands instantly over the internet. Companies can see their reputations destroyed with a single social media blunder or perhaps create a genius marketing campaign that goes viral and is viewed by millions.


It’s usually only these huge failures and successes that you hear about, but in reality, most social media marketing efforts fall somewhere in the middle. Many marketing agencies will tell you that social media marketing is essential for today’s businesses – and with no costs associated with posting to Facebook or tweeting on Twitter, it can seem a no-brainer.

Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that your social media efforts will be successful, and the time spent maintaining your social media accounts can distract from working on your core business. How can merchants get social media right?


Know your audience and know your limits


Go back to the target markets you identified in your initial marketing strategy. Compare them with the typical users of each of the main social networks. If you’re not sure which social network best aligns with your audience, Facebook is the safe option as about half of the UK population use it regularly. Twitter tends to be better for B2B marketing and quick customer service, and Pinterest is ideal for sharing images. Instagram is another great option if your market is youthful. LinkedIn may work for you if you’re targeting other businesses.

Next, consider how much time you have to spare to devote to social media each week. Even a single hour can be enough to get results, but here’s the important thing: don’t overstretch yourself. It’s far better to maintain one up-to-date Facebook account with good quality content than it is to start profiles on four different services and leave them to gather dust.


What to post


Different types of content perform better on different social networks, but these basic rules hold true for most platforms:

·         Images reach more people than text alone. Photos and graphics are eye-catching. When a user is scrolling through their feed, they will be more likely to pause at an image.

·         Be personal. Show your followers photos or videos of what goes on behind the scenes at your business. Profile new staff, share photos of staff birthday cakes, and post amusing or inspiring anecdotes.

·         Don’t sell too often. Social media isn’t direct mail. You aren’t using it to sell, you’re using it to gain loyalty and brand awareness (and then sell). Only 10-20% of your posts should be about products or sales, the rest should be reposts of other articles or content you think your audience will enjoy, as well as the more light-hearted personal content we mentioned above.

·         Don’t spam. Spamming is hated by everyone on the internet. You may think that you need to post the same message five times to be heard over the hubbub of every other Facebook or Twitter user out there, but it’ll only lose you followers. By all means, repeat some of your more successful tweets or posts, but give it at least 24 hours before you do so.

·         A regular posting schedule is better than frequent posts. Similarly, it’s more important to focus on the quality of your posts rather than quantity. It’s wise to aim for a certain number of posts per week. Ensure you post at least once a month – it doesn’t reflect well on your business if a potential new user stumbles across an inactive Facebook account.

·         Respond to queries and mentions. Your followers expect you to notice when they ask you a question through social media. Take a couple of minutes each day to see if you have any mentions and respond ASAP. If you’re a small business, you may only have to deal with a couple of queries each week.

·         Join conversations. Get involved with hashtags and discussions that are indirectly related to your business. For example, if you’re a timber merchant, you could tweet an article about sustainable timber and ask your followers for their thoughts.

We could write thousands of words on social media best practice, but we hope we’ve given you a useful primer in this short blog post. Remember that every company’s social media audience will respond differently to the content you share, so find out what works for your company and your followers. Learn from your mistakes and work steadily to build up Likes and Followers.

Social media profiles are important measures of your online reputation – but they aren’t the only part of your online presence that you need to manage carefully. Our next digital marketing article will help you understand how to keep your digital shop window tidy.