Best Practices for Optimizing Your Business’ Social Media Presence
As social media continues to play a larger and larger role in the life of a typical consumer, it’s important for brands to consider their organic social and holistic social media strategy. At AUDIENCEX, we recommend taking an integrated approach to both paid and organic social media to ensure a balanced and consistent presence.
While changes such as new iOS 14 policies are currently influencing paid social – more information about that can be found in the recording of our recent webinar – this article will focus on the sometimes overlooked side of the equation, organic social.
Why is Optimizing Your Social So Important?
The answer to this question can be effectively answered with this quote from Sprout Social’s State of Social Media Investment Report: “Invest in social media, or get left behind.”
This report states that 80% of business executives think that it is either “very important” or “absolutely essential” for their company to invest additional resources in social media. They also found that 90% of business executives agree that social will be the primary communication channel for companies for both their existing and potential customers moving forward.
While brand awareness is the most common application for organic social media, it can be used for a variety of business outcomes and is also very effective for lower-funnel goals like increasing conversions and sales. Social gives your brand a unique opportunity to foster community, staying top-of-mind for consumers and allowing them to form a meaningful connection.This type of connection can help your brand find the right customers and foster a relationship that leads to long-term loyalists with a considerably higher lifetime value to the brand.
Social media is rapidly becoming the most popular communications channel. 84% of executives expect that brands’ social usage is going to increase over the next three years, and almost one in two businesses consider it to be their primary channel right now. 91% of business professionals say that their budgets for social are going to increase over the next three years, and over half say that their budget will increase by over 50%.
Conducting a Social Media Audit
The first step in optimizing your social media activity is to perform a brand positioning review, otherwise called a social media audit. This is just the act of going through your brand’s data to thoroughly assess opportunities for improvement across all your social channels.
Gather Your Existing Profiles: The first step is going to be identifying all of the platforms where your brand has a social profile. Take the time to find any profiles that your company has, including ones that may be essentially forgotten – maybe there’s a Pinterest account that was set up but hasn’t been touched in years.
This is going to be your opportunity to just make sure that all of your own assets are under your control and that you have access to every social media channel. You might uncover some opportunities to use platforms in new ways or bring profiles back to the forefront of your strategy.
Evaluate Branding and Tone: Next, you are going to evaluate your branding and tone of voice for consistency. This may feel like an easy step, but keep in mind that each platform has different requirements in terms of character restrictions for the bio section, cover photo options, and more. Be sure to check all of the information that is filled out across fields and across platforms to ensure consistency and accuracy. Remember to look at the bio, any “about” information, profile images, banner images, branded hashtags and URLs.
Define Your Goals: Next you’re going to define your goals. What do you want out of each platform? Are you looking to increase brand awareness or generate more sales? Increase engagement? Grow your audience? Increase site traffic? There are a ton of options, but this will help to determine which metrics are the most important to monitor for each platform going forward.
Take a Data Deep Dive: Working from those goals, take it a step further and look into which metrics you’re evaluating and identify whether you’re on the right track, or if you need to make some adjustments for improvement.
Identify Top Performing Posts for Each Platform: Next, dig into which posts on which specific platforms are top performers. This will tell you what content is resonating with your audience and inform what you should be focusing on moving forward. For example, does your audience engage with educational content or are they more focused on entertainment focused content? Do they prefer images or videos? Are there certain calls to action that get higher engagement?
Evaluate Your Demographic Data: Look into and evaluate your audience’s demographic data. This will tell you exactly who you’re speaking to, and it should inform what kind of content is being created and how you’re communicating to your audience. You wouldn’t necessarily push out the same content for Boomers that you would create for Gen Z, for instance.
Watch for Emerging Platforms: As is par for the course in the world of social, there’s always something new happening. Make sure that you take note of any new and emerging platforms and consider adding them into your strategy if they’re a good fit for your brand.
Once that internal audit is complete, it’s wise to take the time to perform a competitive analysis as well. Begin by identifying your competitors, find where they are on which social platforms, and compare their data to yours. To do this, you will need to pull a competitor report that outlines all major metrics. After completing all those steps, you’re going to take the information you’ve compiled and use it to your advantage to improve your social strategy and make more informed decisions moving forward.
Algorithms and Tips
You’re probably already familiar with social algorithms even if you haven’t necessarily given them much thought. Algorithms are a way of sorting posts in a user’s feed based on relevancy rather than simply showing all the content that’s been posted in chronological order. Each social media platform has its own unique algorithm that is constantly changing and evolving as they continually work to optimize their user experience. That means each one takes a slightly different approach.
Instagram Instagram’s algorithm considers a user’s past behavior to evaluate each available post and predict how interesting it might be to that specific user. The content deemed most interesting by Instagram then goes to the top of that user’s feed.
There are a few key factors for this evaluation. One is engagement, in terms of whether the user follows your profile, engages with your content, and whether they actively search for your page. It also considers timeliness, so more recent posts are given preference. Finally, it considers content type and serves users the type of content they most often engage with, such as video or image.
This leaves us with a few key takeaways to work with the Instagram algorithm. First, post consistently. An established and reliable presence is essential to remain top-of-mind, so planning a content calendar is an excellent approach to ensure that you have consistent content planned – this doesn’t necessarily mean a constant stream, the regularity is what’s key. Next, make sure that you’re testing new features that are available. Currently, Reels are a major new feature on Instagram which the platform is actively pushing to users and an effective Reel can significantly increase reach and engagement.
Speaking of engagement, ensure that you’re keeping up your end of this as well. Community management is key, responding to comments and DMs and engaging with and reposting user-generated content. Finally, make sure that you post your content when your audience is online. To get the most reach and take advantage of the algorithm’s preference for recency, you want to be pushing content when they’re present on the app to see and engage with it. Remember that there are tools that will provide this data for your specific audience, rather than peak times for the platform in general, but in general, the best times to post on Instagram are Monday, Tuesday and Friday at 11 AM as well as Tuesday at 2 PM.
Facebook Facebook does not actually use a single algorithm, but rather multiple layers of machine learning models and rankings to predict which posts will be the most valuable and meaningful to each individual user.
By and large, the algorithm will reward your brand with higher rankings, and therefore more reach, if users engage with your content. While there are thousands of ranking signals used, there are a few that are consistently identified as the most important for newsfeed ranking. First is your relationship, measured in terms of how often a user engages with your brand’s profile. Secondly, content type is also considered, based on which types of content a user most frequently engages with. Third is the post’s overall popularity, in terms of how many people are responding to it, sharing it, or saving it. Finally, recency is taken into consideration here as well, as newer content is again ranked more highly.
Our first suggestion here, again, is to engage with your audience. This will help with both your relationship with individual users and post popularity. One of the most effective ways to engage is to humanize your content and offer conversation starters to encourage a response. It’s also vital to foster your community by acknowledging and responding when a user takes the time to engage with your content. A conversation starter can also help to encourage your audience to communicate with one another, which will also increase engagement and popularity. Along this same line of reasoning, we recommend including native videos in your strategy as opposed to linking out to video content on other platforms such as YouTube. Keeping this content within the Facebook feed ensures that responses take place in your comments where they’ll help your rankings.
And, again, you should be posting when as much of your audience is online as possible. With recency a factor, it’s key to ensure that your customers are seeing your content when it’s first posted and, hopefully, getting you started on engagement that will help keep it highly ranked and relevant. On Facebook, the overall best times to post are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday between 10 and 11 AM.
Twitter Like the other social platforms we’ve discussed, Twitter also uses an algorithm that takes multiple criteria into consideration which are also constantly shifting. By default, this algorithm will mix chronological content with algorithmically determined content in a user’s Twitter timeline. However, Twitter is unique in that you can turn off the algorithm and simply view the latest tweets in chronological order.
This makes recency on Twitter of the highest importance, as chronological content is always available either with or without algorithmic content. In addition to recency, content type, media, and activity are important for algorithmic ranking as well. The default algorithmic Twitter timeline will first display the content which is most highly ranked, then an “In case you missed it” section which selects older tweets from accounts that the specific user regularly interacts with, and below that, chronological tweets with the most recent updates.
In terms of recommendations, as you can imagine with a platform that favors recency so heavily, the first and foremost recommendation is to post when your audience is online. On Twitter, the general best time to post is currently Friday between 7 and 9 AM, with 9am showing the peak of activity.
Beyond that, consistency remains key. You always improve your brand’s chances of visibility by posting at regular, steady intervals, rather than in irregular bursts. We also suggest implementing relevant hashtags to help your content find the correct audience, particularly to extend reach beyond your existing followers. Finally, it is always important to respond to users in a timely fashion. Users expect a fast turnaround time and the algorithm rewards those engagements.
LinkedIn The LinkedIn algorithm is a bit different than some of the other platforms we’re discussing, but one consistent aspect is that it favors content which fosters engagement. Its algorithm takes into account whether your post is resonating with your audience, producing relevant connections, and whether they are interacting. This algorithm also prioritizes content which keeps the user on the LinkedIn platform.
Because of that algorithmic preference, we recommend striving for a healthy balance of posts that drive traffic to your brand’s website alongside posts with content that is viewable on LinkedIn itself, such as images and videos without an external link. To help with engagement and increase reach, adding relevant hashtags will make the post searchable. Commenting also increases visibility, so starting a conversation is a great approach to increase your post’s engagement and improve its reach.
Once again, it’s also important to post your content when your audience is online. Recency is a factor on LinkedIn as well, and content posted far outside your audience’s peak active hours will be likely to see low initial engagement and get algorithmically buried by the time your audience is online to see it. In general, the best times to post on LinkedIn are Wednesday at 3 PM, Thursday between 9 and 10 AM, and Friday from 11 AM to noon.
TikTok The TikTok algorithm serves content to users based primarily on interaction. While this does take into consideration how often a user engages with an account, the strongest factor on TikTok is the video completion rate. If a user watches a video to completion, it is then more likely to appear on other users’ For You pages. Beyond this metric, the algorithm also prioritizes content that uses trending hashtags and sounds, and also takes into account device settings such as language preference.
For TikTok, the strongest recommendation that we have is to create content that holds users’ attention so you have a better chance of attaining a high completion rate. While this can certainly be a challenge, particularly for a brand, there are certain tactics you can employ. First, consider making shorter videos. An engaging 15 second video will likely have a much higher completion rate than a full 60 second video. Adding an intriguing caption and ensuring that the beginning of your video grabs attention helps as well, making it more likely that a user will stop and view it.
Finally, as always, ensure that you’re posting when your audience is online. With a TikTok Pro account, it’s actually possible to view your followers’ most active times, so when you post your content should be based off of that data to maximize the chances that they’ll see and engage with it. And as always, of course, make sure that you’re engaging with those users that engage with your content. It is always vital that your community on any social media platform feels heard and recognized.
Create Content Users Want to See
Regardless of what platform you’re on, there are some things that are true across the board. It is always important to create content that your users want to see. While it will vary a bit from one platform to another, and one audience to another, there is some overall data to take into consideration.
Currently, 68% of users want to engage with images, followed by video, text-based posts, and stories. The takeaway from this is that users overall want to see a healthy mix of content, so a sound strategy should include a variety of placements and formats to ensure that your users have the wide variety of content that they see and expect on a daily basis.
Posts that entertain, inspire, and teach have been found to be most likely to result in a user liking and sharing the content. That means that your strategy should include all of these different content pillars, in ways that are authentic to your brand and tailored to your audience. This should lead to an increase in engagement as you promote content that a user wants to see.
We have also seen Lives becoming an important factor in 2021 and beyond. After lockdown, these came to the forefront of many strategies to create an in-the-moment connection. Facebook live viewing increased by 50% during lockdown and Instagram live viewing increased by 70%.
Another prominent theme is corporate social responsibility and transparency. Increasingly, consumers want to buy from brands that they trust and identify as sharing their values. Any brands that give back or have other CSR initiatives integrated into their strategy already should be certain to highlight those efforts and their impacts on social media.
In that same vein, we have sustainability. Currently, 81% of consumers feel strongly that companies should help improve the environment, giving brands that are conscious about their environmental impact a clear advantage. Again, if this is already a pillar for your business, it should be highlighted on social channels so that it’s clear to the consumer.
Representation and inclusivity are also of increasingly high importance. 41% of shoppers are shifting away from retailers that don’t reflect their views on identity and diversity, and 29% are willing to switch brands completely if they don’t show enough diversity. This gives brands a clear opportunity to build deeper connections with their consumers by showcasing authentic involvement.
Finally, it’s important to use data to continually inform and improve your content strategy. At AUDIENCEX, we currently use the Sprout Social platform for our platforms, as well as for our organic social clients. This platform offers robust reporting capabilities, which we use to determine how successful our campaigns are and what’s working well within our strategy, designated goals, and KPIs.
There are a wide variety of other social tools out there that your company or client may be using, many of which we have prior experience with as well, such as Hootsuite and Falcon. Which platform you use just depends on what works best for your team, size, and budget. There are always native analytics tools within each platform as well, but it is our recommendation to utilize additional software that fits best for your needs. In the long run, having this data available will save you time and money by helping you refine your strategy more effectively.
While this can certainly be a lot of information to take in, the important thing is to get started thinking about your brand’s social presence more holistically and strategically. If you’d like more information on how AUDIENCEX can help with your approach to social media, contact us. Our social strategists are happy to answer your questions and help you start figuring out how to refine your brand’s social presence.