From startups to Fortune 100 companies, everyone is using social media these days as part of their overall marketing strategy. For active monthly users, Facebook reported 2.19 billion users, Twitter reported 336 million users, LinkedIn reported 250 million users and Instagram reported 800 million users. But are you maximizing your social media channels?

Posting content for a brand is very different than posting content on your own personal social channels. If your content can’t break through the sea of status updates, competing content, and pictures of kittens and puppies (OK if we’re being honest, nothing really competes with kitten and puppy pictures), then it just gets lost in the abyss of social media.

Let’s take a look at some strategic steps to have in place to help maximize your social media channels as part of your overall marketing efforts.

Set your goals

Social media not only serves as an avenue for building relationships with your audience, but it can also help with increasing revenue, reach and ROI. To do that make sure you are tracking the right social media metrics (KPIs) beyond just growing fans or gaining likes. 4 key goals that your KPIs should be focusing on are:

  1. Reach – how many people are seeing your content
  2. Engagement – how many likes, comments, shares, mentions is your content getting
  3. Leads – how many of fans/followers are looking at your products or services
  4. Conversions – how many of your fans/followers have become actual customers

While we’ve identified these key KPIs, not every social media KPI is relevant to every social platform that you may be active on. Determine your goals based on what is most relevant to your brand and your audience.

Identify your brand voice

Your social channels are another medium to share who you are with your audience, but to do that effectively you need to have an identified brand voice. Your brand voice is your personality if your company were an actual person. Are you a friendly company? Are you a fun company? Are you experts? By identifying this, you can create guidelines to have a consistent voice that connects with your audience regardless of which platform you are posting on or even who is writing your content.

Plan out your content strategy

Having a well-thought-out content calendar that is tied into your identified KPIs is an integral component to having a successful social media strategy. You can’t just post when you want to. You need to have a consistent cadence and mix of content. Nothing is worse for social media marketing efforts than irregular posting.

Create a content calendar to plan out your mix of content types by category buckets (such as promotional posts, educational posts, thought leadership, culture, etc.), cadence of posts per week and which platforms you are posting on. Remember, not all your content should go on every platform; for example a company culture post might be great for Facebook and Instagram, but maybe not for LinkedIn. And consistency is the key. Once you have this content strategy in place then you can move into creating your content.

Content, Content, Content

Your posts need to be polished while also being conversational enough to reach and engage your audience. After all, what good is content if nobody sees it.

A common misconception with social media is that all that matters is getting your content seen by as many people as possible. Reaching a lot of people is good, but that’s not enough. Having your target audience engage with your content through likes, comments and shares is even better, as it organically amplifies your content through the social network of your fans. And it is particularly important if you are going to put any spend behind certain content for promoted posts. Posts that drive strong engagement are more worthy of your media dollars. But good post copy isn’t all that you need. Good visuals are a vital component to make your post even stronger. Content may be king, but like the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Strong, engaging visuals play a significant role in social media, as they can effectively capture the attention of your target audience quickly. People are visual beings, and if you are able to present your information in a way that grabs their attention while also allowing them to process the information quicker, your content will more likely be remembered. Visual elements also help increase views and engagement with your content, as they will be more likely to generate likes, shares and comments than a plain text post will.

Don’t forget about customer service

Last but not least, have a social care plan in place. What’s social care? Think of it as your customer service support for your social channels. You may at times receive questions or comments on your posts, particularly if you are in the world of consumer goods or services. And no, you can’t just ignore them, especially if it is a negative comment because those can spread like wildfire in the digital world. Have a plan in place for how to address comments as they come in. Here are some key components to have as part of your social care plan:

Step 1: Build a FAQ as a reference guide on how to address common questions or comments that you see over time. You don’t want to address them with off-the-cuff responses as that can quickly backfire on you.

Step 2: Have an escalation plan in place for comments or questions that arise that may require input from additional people within your company in order to determine the appropriate response.

Step 3: Have a dedicated schedule for when you are checking your social pages after you post new content. That could be anything from once a day at a set time to multiple times per day. It really varies on how often you are posting content, what type of content you are posting and how active your audience is.

Now for the don’ts

Managing a social strategy isn’t easy, as there’s a lot that goes into it in order for it to be an effective component of your overall marketing strategy. As you embark on this social marketing journey, here are some pitfalls to avoid (particularly if this is new for your company):

  • Don’t just re-share content that’s already out there. That’s not to say sharing content is bad, but find the balance and add your own message to the post about why this would be important or relevant to your audience.
  • Don’t post or engage in content that is controversial (e.g., politics, religion, etc.). We’ve all seen how this can hurt more than it can help companies when they have gone down this path.
  • Don’t have multiple people posting to your account. Remember, this is a part of your company’s digital presence, and you don’t want rogue content posted that doesn’t follow the social strategy you put in place. Additionally, it’s easy for someone to accidentally forget to switch accounts and post something on the account that wasn’t intended to be there. Keep your professional and personal accounts separate.

To wrap this all up, these days social media is a critical component of marketing for companies. With millions and millions of monthly users on various platforms, you can see why it’s important to have social media as part of your overall marketing strategy. But at the same time you also see why it’s important to make sure you have a strategy in place to help you maximize the effectiveness of your social media channels.