Guide: Building a social media strategy that works

Jon Payne, technical director at Noisy Little Monkey, discusses how to make your social networking more... sociable

Using social media is a bit like turning up at a house party: if you spend all evening talking about yourself (or sitting in the corner talking to nobody) you’re not likely to make many friends. Being a social media butterfly requires you to be witty, interesting and engaging, or else you’ll find yourself stuck in the digital kitchen with another self obsessed loser. This is our guide to breaking you out of that kitchen!

1) Attract! Entertain! Engage!

Being active on social media doesn’t just mean making noise; you need to be sharing content that captivates your audience. The whole point of social meedz, in a business sense, is to showcase your expertise, exhibit your company culture and give clients/customers a way to engage with you.

Your Twitter feed, Facebook profile, Pinterest board and Instagram accounts have to be fascinating, entertaining and, above all, relevant to your target market, or else no-one will give them the time of day; if you’re not quite sure what will be a hit with your followers, follow some interesting “thought leaders” in your sector (be they brands or people) and get a feel for what they share that seems to gain traction. If you want to know what’s working for your existing output free tools like Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics enable you to learn more about your audience, what interests them and who they are, allowing you to tailor output accordingly.

2) Put the 'fine' into 'defined tone of voice'

Once you’re up and running, you must settle on a tone of voice - your company’s character. The content you produce and the tone you use will dictate how people perceive your business, so you’ve got to make sure you’re communicating in the right way: a funeral parlour with a quirky, irreverent attitude may find that visitors just aren’t engaging with their cheeky behind-the-scenes photos, whereas a digital media start-up might benefit from the same approach.

3) Grab them by the eyeballs!

With the right tone of voice nailed you can start cranking out that sweet content - make use of the huge variety of media on offer to provide visitors with a delicious buffet of tasty internet morsels, packed full of visually stimulating videos, photos and gifs: visual content stands out in the sea of words, garnering up to 94% more views than posts without images according to the boffins at Quicksprout. There are plenty of free, high-quality stock photos available from sites like Pixabay and Death To The Stock Photo, but personal photos are a much better way to build your brand’s identity; most smartphone cameras are perfectly adequate, especially if you touch them up with free editing apps like VSCO and Snapseed. 

Videos require more time and effort to produce, but if you know how to create engaging B2B video content they’re an entertaining and effective way to showcase your business. 

Video tends to be shared far more than other types of media, outperforming both links and images in six out of the seven industries analysed in this case study by Zuum Social. This is likely due to the higher perceived quality of video, and the greater depth of information it conveys, which makes it a great way to acquire those earned media views!

4) Tweet ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen!

You’ve got great content and the perfect tone of voice, but how do you get through to those news feeds in the first place? #Hashtags allow you to latch onto popular trends, but the more popular a hashtag is, the more likely you are to get lost in a swirling vortex of content, so you need to be careful when choosing which once to use. Use a tool like Ritetag to work out which ones will work best for you; it grades tags by suitability, showing you which are too popular, which are too sad and lonely, and which are just right. Think of it as the Goldilocks of hashtag grading.

A properly coded company blog also enables the social networks themselves to make your content more attractive when it’s shared. You may want to talk to your web developers about implementing Open Graph Meta Tags (or you could just send them to this article to learn how to do it).

Don’t underestimate the importance of evergreen content either, as a strong back catalogue of relevant articles will keep visitors returning to your site. Essentially, social needs to work in unison with your own publishing schedule - you want to get people to your site, so make sure you promote and link back to your blog, as long as you’ve got something interesting, relevant and valuable to say.

5) Walk among your people

The most powerful tool at your disposal is the ability to actually engage with your followers: like a magical talking billboard, you can open a discussion, comment on events and answer questions, all of which will help develop your brand identity and, ultimately, win business. If you directly engage with people, they’ll usually respond.

As with all forms of content marketing, your social media strategy should strike a healthy balance between ‘sell’ and ‘tell’; factoring in very few marketing messages to promote your services is fine, but don’t shove them down the collective gullet of your disciples. 

To gain real traction and grow your audience, you need to share interesting, industry-related news stories as well as your own insights, showing that you’re at the top of your game and are a real voice of authority.

6) Make a commitment

Most importantly of all, take social media seriously. I’ve come across too many businesses that flirt with the odd tweet and tease the occasional Facebook update, but let their accounts go dormant and dusty.

Coming up with a schedule is all well and good for staying on track, but they can sometimes stifle creativity so don’t be completely ruled by them. If one person is responsible for your output but is struggling to keep up, it makes sense to share the workload out. Whatever it takes, make it your mantra to post something witty, interesting, insightful and engaging at least once a day. In fact, it needn’t be any of those things - just post something, anything, at least once a day. You’ll soon figure out what works and what doesn’t and build your strategy from there.