Best Practices for Social Media Usage [2019 Update]

Social media is growing!

If I were to look at numbers for growth, I would see that the number of social media users worldwide in 2018 is 3.196 billion, up 13 percent year-on-year, which is more than the growth in numbers of internet and mobile phone users put together.

digital in 2018

Brands have continued investing more in social media. While most of the social platforms have grown, a few of them saw a downfall as well, for instance, recent news around Stumble Upon which is now called Mix.

Globally, with the Facebook Cambridge Analytical Scandal being well known, there is a lot more user awareness and checks, and the need to bring in regulations for social media usage has been well recognized.

Brands need to approach social media a bit differently than last year. Read more about last year’s best Practices of Social Media.

In this blog, we will discuss the best practices a brand/company can adopt to succeed with social media.

Choice of Social Media Platforms

I have noticed multiple times that startups and founders try to create a social media profile as the very first step after a website has been developed. While it’s good to be omnipresent, choose only what is relevant to your business. You should have a clear vision and strategy for social media, which must be well drafted in advance, probably with your business plan itself. For example, a B2B company selling data center services may not need Instagram, as 61% of the platform users are between 18-34 years for instance. On the other hand, it’s good to have if you are in a B2C business selling clothing to youngsters.

Best Way to Use Hashtags

Hashtags are being used prominently, even outside of Twitter. Short and sweet ones with a direct message to your audience tend to perform better than longer ones. Adding a brand hashtag to social media posts is a great way to get attention and drive engagement.

To learn more about hashtags, check out:

Use relevant hashtags One on LinkedIn and 2 to 3 on Twitter trend well. Hashtags also trend differently across a season or even a day. Additionally, one must look at using the trending hashtag that matters to the seasonal/weekly business basis, or that is trending on Twitter trends.

Extend your hashtags across all marketing channels. Be it retail stores, your website, campaigns, or newsletters, it will only add to your brand recall and eventually can become a hashtag you own.

Avoid distracting hashtags, Your call to action should be simple without too many hashtags to drive intended user behavior.

You can also tell the complete story using hashtags alone on Instagram—certainly not on Twitter or LinkedIn—so feel free to use more of them on Instagram (and a few of them for better context setting on LinkedIn and Twitter). Here is an example from my Instagram feed to tell a story using 8 hashtags.tagneeraj instagram hashtags

Length of Social Media Posts

Tweet Copy: 280 characters or less is the official limit. Each link, which is the usual way of posting, reduces the character count by 24 characters, leaving 256 characters for the tweet copy.

LinkedIn: The headline has a text limit of 120 characters maximum, and company updates can be 700 characters long. Your Summary/About Us section has a limit of 2,000 characters. While posting organic or paid advertising related posts, try to keep the posts under 150 characters to display the content across multiple devices—longer posts get truncated on tablets or mobile screens.

If you would like to learn more about character limits across social media platforms, check out Know Your Limit, The Ideal Length of Every Social Media Post.

Organic and Paid Social Media Mix

Organic social media as a focus can be a good start for startups or businesses not ready to spend money. They should do regular postings and develop an organic follower and fan base. This is otherwise called “owned media,” as in the image posted below. Once they have a sound understanding of what works vs. what doesn’t, they can consider spending money on paid media.digital marketing trifecta

Nevertheless, paid social media is of the utmost importance, as it gives you reach and you are not limited by the number of organic followers on a social platform. For instance, when you advertise on Twitter, you decide where and what to advertise; it’s not Twitter who decides your organic follower base. I have seen the reach/impressions increase by 3X in my experience, which can be a significant number for any startup looking for wins without waiting months and years to build an organic follower base. Organic success is a long journey anyway. Therefore, I would recommend using paid social media to get quick wins, despite having a new business or a website.

Online Reputation Management

• Always hear the social media; have a team who does social media listening. You could also look at setting up a social analytics team or using tools like Brand Watch.  Since social media is very dynamic, public sentiments being unheard can cost you money. Leading consumer brands like Dell and Google today use this for sentiment analysis; they research what’s being said on social media, and product teams devise their product strategy based on what they hear. Chech out my guide on best social media listening tools to monitor your reputation online.

Quick pro tip: If you analyze this carefully, you can quickly guess what’s wrong with your customer satisfaction at any given point in time.

• Engaging with users and responding to them on time and across your social media channels is also significant. You can also look at adopting a social media tool like commun.it or socialpilot to start monitoring and managing your followers on social media.

Corporate Social Media Policy

If you haven’t already, employers must have a corporate social media policy encompassing details around what employees, stakeholders, and your business partners can post. In the long run, it can help to defend against legal trouble and security risks and it will also empower your employees to extend company messaging further, as needed.

Find out more about “How to Write a Social Media Policy for Your Company

Best Practices for Posts on Social Media

  1. Content is king in marketing as always, so try to categorize your posts based on buyers; intent or buyers’ journey. One basic way to look at organizing your posts can be AIDA model, or breaking your posts across your marketing campaign by Activities, Interest, Desire, and Action.

2. Focus on the best time and frequency to post. One way to look at it is the industry standard way, which I discussed in my blog about social media best practices last year. The other way to look at it is your social media data—what works best and when. Please be careful if you use a publishing tool or post 4 times a day with defined time intervals as this method won’t yield results.

3. People love urgency, so adopting a “limited time offer” or “incentives to download” can be a good try.

4. This is well known and very relevant to advertising on social media: Posts with images or videos perform better than text alone. HubSpot stated something similar earlier this year (32% of marketers say visual images are the most important form of content for their business).

5. Posts with images or visuals of human faces perform better than posts with any other images, at least in advertising.

6. For video content, be smart and simple. Lesser duration and anything with screen supers works better. Last year, Google tested out a  6-second video for YouTube Bumper ads. On LinkedIn, a video of 15 seconds or less works best.

7. Repurpose your social content to gain a better understanding of your content performance. Sometimes a good post performs differently on a weekday than on a weekend. Pilot, test, run, and adopt what works best for you.

8. You may be surprised, but people love letters in caps, which is prevelant across search/PPC and social media marketing. Text with first letters in caps performs better than small letters.

9. Social mentions are very important and must be done carefully—that is, only when needed, as most of it is in public. I have seen people using it on LinkedIn as a new trend since last year, and it has gotten to the point that employees tag their bosses without context or reason. Businesses should know that every follower knows what you post in their news feeds; users also have the option of following you without even being your connection. As such, choose whom to mention for what very wisely. This also applies to individual profiles across social media.

Businesses can also look at using social media automation tools such SproutSocial or Crowdfire to publish and analyze social media performance as such.

Over to You

Do you have any suggestions or learnings for social media best practices this year? Let me know in the comments section below.

Disclosure: We may receive compensation for links to products on this website.

Author

Author

Neeraj is a Marketing Professional and Director at StepToInbound.

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