A handy list of do’s and don’ts, for achieving social media success in 2016.

1. Don’t rely on organic reach.

It should be no shock that organic reach on Facebook, Twitter, and their ilk is on a steady decline. When developing social media content, and planning your social media marketing campaigns, it’s crucial that you set aside budget for promoting that content. To succeed, social media content must reach the right users, at the right time, and with the right message. Facebook (and now Instagram) offer unprecedented targeting parameters for online advertisements. You want to hit the 1,000 people outside Omaha who eat Oreos, watch Supergirl, listen to Kanye and spent money online in the past 30 days? You got it, dude. Set aside part of your production budget, to promote the content you’re creating. You’ve spent time and money crafting a story; it should be told the right way.

2. Do think from the user’s point of view.

Thumb Up SignYour content, as beautiful and engaging as it may be, is adrift with thousands of photos/videos/stories/etc. on a sea sailed by thousands of other people/brands/etc. You have under 1 second to grab their attention, as they scroll through feed after feed. Visuals need to inspire immediate, emotional response. If you’re lucky enough to grab their attention with a strong visual, your copy needs to be brief, and substantive. Tell fact-based stories. Include a direct call to action. Stand out, against the sea of sameness.

3. Don’t be wordy.

Think like a playwright. Every word you use must be out of absolute necessity. If you can say it in three words, don’t use five. A favorite play of mine includes a line about brevity being the soul of wit. Problematic Polonius aside, the paraphrase proves a point. Write plainly.

4. Do use platform-specific content.

Your photographer has just turned in the most compelling photographs you’ve ever seen, from a recent assignment in Alaska. All of them are wide-angle. All of them are arresting enough, that you’re ready to put the bulk of your promotional budget behind them on Facebook & Instagram. Danger, Will Robinson! Consider taking those photos, and creating platform-specific versions to maximize engagement. Mobile screens – even the larger Samsung Note & iPhone 6+ – won’t afford much real-estate to a large, wide angle shot. You might have the best photo of Denali ever taken, but if you don’t have a version that works on the mobile screen (even one that just teases the full-frame, by showing a cropped highlight) it’s not likely to stop a user in their feed.

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5. Don’t overshare.

Brand engagement, driven to levels beyond reason for some of the world’s most iconic names, remains a distant second to personal connection. No matter how much your audience (heart emoji) you, they love and trust the people in their lives even more. Don’t inundate their feeds with ads and messaging, with offers and deals. Be mindful of the frequency with which your content is delivered, and track unsubscribe / hide / block numbers carefully. It’s up to you to determine how much is too much, and suss out how often is too often, to inject your brand into your audience’s daily life. If you’re not thoughtful about this, the audience will be one to tell you enough is enough.

6. Do set attainable goals.

Before engaging in any social media marketing activity, our team goes through every bit of due diligence to understand your brand’s business goals. What are the success drivers? What are the key performance indicators (KPIs) that matter to you? What “moves the needle”? (If you prefer other jargon, please re-read and substitute your own patter.) Social media is not a panacea for your marketing and branding efforts, however it is an increasingly-essential arrow in the quiver of a holistic sales and marketing plan. Virtually any budget level can produce a measurable, marked result. Start by identifying the specific goal(s) you want to achieve. Then work back and identity what pieces of data from a social network might contribute to your success. A brand introducing itself to a new metropolitan market might consider impressions or video views, combined with ad frequency and recall metrics, as the primary things to measure during their launch. A local auto body shop may consider deal redemptions (e.g. Facebook Offers), when promoting an discounted oil change to their surrounding community. Identify the metrics you’ll judge yourself on, up front. Thank yourself later.

7. Don’t forget about community management.

Social media has transformed marketing; it’s a dialogue, not a monologue. One-to-one, a brand can now converse with almost any consumer, almost anywhere, at almost any time. Be responsive when your audience reaches out on social media. If they tweet you, tweet back. If they comment on your Facebook video, respond. If they message you on WeChat, reply. That dialogue is the currency you trade in, no matter what you’re buying and selling.

8. Do hold yourself accountable.

As with any marketing activity, social media must be held accountable. If marketing your brand on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. isn’t the right thing to do, our team will be the first to say so. We have a long-standing track record of withdrawing from projects, if we don’t believe that social media marketing can produce success. Be vigilant in the revision of the metrics you track, and be brutally honest about your performance. Social media is a place where you can waste a lot of money, very quickly. If on day 10, your 30 day campaign shows no signs of life, it’s time to take a beat.

Conclusion

There it is. This list is by no means comprehensive, nor is it intended as canon. Our goal is to help you ask the right questions, when planning to invest in marketing on social media. If you have questions, disagree and want to debate, or just want to say HEY, send an email to ed@pandemiclabs.com

Written by Ed Gazarian
Ed is the Managing Partner of Pandemic Labs, where he occasionally does some work in-between deep discussions of both Shakespeare and Star Wars.