It wasn’t so long ago that message boards, chat rooms, and email were the only possible outlets for casual social interaction online. The scope and variety of social media we take for granted today simply didn’t exist. Even in high-tech cities like San Francisco, businesses still relied firmly on traditional advertising to reach the masses.

By today’s standards, that seems positively antique. We’ve reached, and passed, a tipping point, when it comes to social media marketing. It is critical that any business maintain a strong social media presence. Despite this, there’s often a great deal of confusion and misinformation when it comes to the best social media marketing practices.

That’s not to say that there’s only one right answer, despite what you might have read in any number of digital marketing clickbait headlines. The social media strategies that will work best for your business will be unique to your particular niche and demographic. Still, approaching the question from the other direction, it’s possible to find common errors in social media marketing strategies that can derail any social media campaign.

So, while we can’t offer you the social media golden ticket, we can tell you the mistakes and pitfalls to avoid when building your business’s successful social media presence. If you’re planning to launch a social media campaign, or if you’d like a check-up, Colibri Digital Marketing can offer you a free digital marketing strategy session. For now, make sure you’re following these 7 tips in order to stay on top of your social media game!

#7 You’ve Got to Pay to Play

In the early days of social media, it wasn’t difficult to cultivate a followership. It was like the American Frontier, with plenty of open space to go around. These days, things are a little more crowded. With so many businesses trying to get eyes on their content, and with such a strong incentive for social media platforms to capitalize on the increased traffic, paid advertising options are the new norm.

This shift has certainly ruffled a few feathers, especially when businesses are often already paying for digital marketing agencies or members of their staff to manage their social media outreach. We’re not going to sugar coat it: there’s no such thing as a free lunch. But there’s a silver lining!

Unlike print, television, or radio, social media advertising shows a massive return on investment. Since it’s interactive, and results can be tracked in real time, every aspect of your social media marketing can be tweaked on the fly, making sure your advertising dollars are working hard for you.

#6 Don’t Go Too Long between Updates

Every social media platform has its own set of standards and expectations, and so each can be a different kind of tool for your business. For instance, Facebook is virtually an extension of your website. Twitter is a rapid-fire conversation platform, and a first point of contact for many users, while Instagram is a showcase for your brand, heavy on visual appeal and light on written content.

With each of these different networks, the type and frequency of your updates should be consistent with audience expectation. You’ll produce far more tweets than YouTube videos, for example, but each should be updated regularly. It looks amateurish, even unprofessional, for a business to go dark on social media.

#5 Choose the Right Platforms

Not all platforms will be right for every business. Some might thrive on Facebook and Twitter, while others might see better success on Instagram or Pinterest. It all depends on your particular business and customer base.

Having said that, there’s always room for creative uses of an existing platform. As a San Francisco digital marketing agency, we tend to use Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of primarily text-based social media for our marketing efforts. With web design such a core part of user experience, we might see success leveraging Instagram, or other more visual social media platforms, to showcase screenshots of our work.

Your safest bet for picking platforms is to follow your audience. If they tweet, so should you be. If they’re using Vine, make sure you’re visible. Just figure out their social media habits, and be sure to meet them.

#4 Don’t Make Social Media Marketing All About You

Social media has the word “social” right there in the name. It’s more than just a podium. Not that we don’t understand the conundrum – you’re investing in a social media presence to promote your brand, so why shouldn’t your business be the focus? But that attitude is better spent on more traditional forms of advertising. Since social media is so interactive, why not take proper advantage of that?

More often than you might think, you’ll get better results by making your social media outreach about your audience. That can be as simple as calling for feedback, posting questions or thoughtful quotations, or sharing an article pertaining to your industry. We’ve seen a lot of happy engagement from the #motivationalmonday hashtag, for instance.

Your best bet is to draw on your inner extrovert. Develop strategic partnerships, create a buzz with exciting posts, lead discussions by posting engaging content, and keep everything open for discourse. Basically, be social.

We often cite the 70/30 rule. Only about 30% of your social media outreach should directly promote your service, product, or brand. The remaining 70% should be spent on content, engagement, discourse, and so on.

#3 Use Hashtags

It’s surreal, but hashtags — the humble hyperlinks used to track tweets and content related to a particular theme — have been around for a full decade. Their use has transcended Twitter, to Facebook, Flickr, Google+, Instagram, Tumblr, and even, bewilderingly, casual conversation. They are wholly ubiquitous in the way we use social media, and the way we conceive of the sharing of content in general.

Essentially, they’re a way of cross-linking content. Tracking trending hashtags is a variant of keyword research. You’ll need to stay abreast of the favorite phrases and particular expressions for tagging any content. They come in fads, so it may be worth retagging or amending old content as the whims of your audience evolve.

#2 Optimize Your Social Media Posts

This here is the most important tip of the lot. Even if you’ve avoided every other trap on this list, if you haven’t optimized your social media posts, it will all be for naught. Our three major takeaways for social media post optimization are: catchy headline, creative description, and stunning visuals (which are properly sized for their particular platform!).

#1 Understand the Requirements of Each Platform

On that last note, each platform has different requirements for images and video, for things like size, fidelity, and dimension. And, just to keep you on your toes, those requirements and specifications change relatively frequently, so you should check in from time to time to make sure your content is still in compliance.

Post optimization may seem frustrating, but it’s essential for social media marketing success. Studies have found that brightly colored visuals increase readership of a piece by a full 80% (put another way, it nearly doubles). Facebook’s statistics indicate that videos need to make an impression within the first three seconds, or people scroll past (think of it like a bounce rate).

Social Media is the first point of contact many of your customers will have with your business. This all may sound like a lot to take in, so if you’d like any assistance avoiding these, or other social media marketing mistakes, reach out to us for a free social media marketing session and we’ll be glad to help!

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