Social media is a complex and fast-paced environment. Here’s some guidelines to keep you afloat.

Most business these days know that social media is something they should be doing. Or at the very least, they know that it’s a common practice even if they think it doesn’t apply to them.

But even those who are ready and willing to devote more energy to their social media presence feel hesitant to do so on their own. Social media, with celebrities, slang, and hashtags, can feel foreign even to those of us who spend hours every day skimming Facebook or scrolling down our Instagram feed.

And yet, a well-executed social strategy is essential for brand recognition and reputation management. If you want your target audience not just to know you, but to think well of you. When your brand comes up in a conversation, you don’t want them to think “never heard of them,” but “I’ve heard good things.”

It’s not a pipe dream. Here’s how to make it happen.

Do: Maintain channels on major networking sites that are appropriate for your business.

Every business will have different social channels that will make sense for their business. If you’re a B2B company selling apparel, Instagram will be a better investment of your time and energy than LinkedIn.

Don’t: Start an account on every platform and then let it die.

Social media channels make it as frictionless as possible for businesses to sign on to their platform. This means that many businesses set up social accounts on a whim, without thinking through strategy. Then they forget about them, and go back to business as usual. Meanwhile, their customers can still click through to those channels, only to be faced by a dead news feed that hasn’t been active in months.

This looks unprofessional and sends the wrong signal to your viewers. Instead, focus your energy on the platforms where your presence has a purpose.

Do: Research your audience and write to their interests.

It’s easy for businesses to fall out of touch with their audience’s interests. Like any relationship, any time you get busy or stop listening, you’re likely to fall out of sync. Next thing you know, while you’ve focused on breaking into a new market you’ve lost sight of the audience who helped you become a success. Or as you’ve sorted out internal challenges with company culture, you’ve become less customer-oriented, and they’ve taken note and moved elsewhere.

When it comes to social media, keeping your focus on the client is even more critical. Social media is an attention game. If you’re not speaking to their interests, they’ll scroll right past you.

Don’t: Devote your entire channel to self-promotional content.

Do you know the fastest way to drive your customers away from your social media page? Talk only about yourself. Sell hard and often. Push ad spam at them all day long. You’ve heard of ad blockers, right? If people go out of their way to block the ads they don’thave control over, imagine how fast they’ll unsubscribe from the ones they do.

That doesn’t mean you can’t run promotions, or share PR releases about your big business accomplishment. But you need to do it in a way that will be pleasing to the customer. Look at your post and imagine you’re them: does it add value to their social feed? If not, don’t post.

Do: Respond to comments on your channels, both good and bad.

Increasingly customers are foregoing the phone in favor of social media. They won’t dial a number, but they will ask a question on a Facebook post, tag you on Instagram, or @ you on Twitter.

These interactions are mostly public, and that’s part of the point. These customers want your other customers to see how you treat them. If they say something positive, they want you to acknowledge it. If they have a complaint, they want you to address it.

This is an opportunity. Your customers want to talk to you—don’t leave their comments unanswered.

Don’t: Delete negative comments (unless they’re abusive).

Have you ever seen a product with hundreds of perfect five-star reviews and assumed something fishy was going on? You’re not alone. The same is true of comments. If people have the sense that you’re censoring negative reviews, it will damage the credibility of your positive reviews as well. Instead of deleting a negative comment, respond politely and publicly and offer to resolve the complaint privately over email. This will let others see that you care about your customers and are willing to work things out.

The only time you should delete a comment is if it is actually abusive toward you, your business, or other customers on your site.

Do: Create a visual identity for your posts so that they look like they come from you.

As your customers scroll through their social feeds, they are going to encounter numerous brands each with their own style and message. If your social posts don’t have a consistent and recognizable style, then they are going to be lost in the stream of content.

Also, remember that as users like and share content, it may end up going a long way from your original post. By creating an easily recognizable visual identity for your posts, you maintain brand recognition no matter where they end up.

If you’re already producing content, staying active on social media is a piece of cake.

The best thing you can do for your social media strategy is to keep producing rich content on your site. From blogs to videos, these content forms provide endless opportunities to connect with your audience, remind your customers why they chose to work with you, and keep your business front of mind for any other customer who may be on the fence.

Social media is a valuable tool for reaching your customers and drawing them to your website. But it doesn’t replace your website. If you use your website to create anchor content, then social media is your best distribution tool. Just remember that for your social media to do its best work, your website needs to be at its best, too.

Published 06/03/19 by Laura Lynch