I’ve been meaning to do this braindump for a while now. I get a lot of questions via Facebook, Twitter and my email contact form and many of the items listed below come straight from those questions, my experience in social media strategy, years of researching platforms and best practices and…well…tinkering with social media. Since the whole purpose of this blog is to share my thoughts and experiences, I thought it might be a good exercise to just dump out the items that come to mind first on certain topics.
So, here they are. My thoughts on 18 different topics, with some social media humor sprinkled in. I’d love to hear feedback (even if you disagree) on any of these. I learn from your experience too.
NOTE: These are all original insights from my years of experience as a professional working in social media and corporate collaboration platforms like intranets. If they are similar to a thought you have published previously…I’m glad we think alike, but these aren’t quotes stolen from anywhere else. If you do like what I have to say and want to quote me, feel free to do so as long as you attribute the quote to me and link back to this post.
General Insights About Social Media
1) If you’re going to engage in social media, focus on building relationships not spamming the social-sphere with your marketing message.
2) What you put into social media and social networking is directly proportional to what you will get out of it. Social media takes time and energy. It’s a long-term commitment, not a short-term campaign.
3) Social media is about people. If you want to find ways to meet the needs of your customers or clients, social channels can be a great way to learn more.
4) People are not robots. If they were, predicting their behaviors would be easy. Luckily, people do things and say things that are wholly unpredictable which make trying to understand their behaviors even more fun. I (nor anyone else) can predict how someone will react to a comment or what content will “Go Viral”.
5) There is no single recipe for success in social media. There is no “best time to tweet”, no “ideal Facebook post” and no blog topic that will automatically drive thousands of page views. You are going to need to spend time learning about your potential audience and determine when the best time to tweet that works for them. Then, listen to their social media activity and determine what content would meet their needs….not yours.
6) Setting up channels, placing links to them on your Website and then ignoring the social channels is a really good way to piss people off in the social space. Don’t set an expectation that you’re going to participate and then retreat back into your .com world.
7) Everyone does not need a Facebook page, just like everyone doesn’t need a Pinterest account. Find out where your audience is engaging and then focus on those channels. Don’t try to be everywhere, you’ll spread yourself too thin and accomplish little. One outstanding channel is better than 20 crappy ones.
8) Take some time to learn the lingo of social media. It’s “YouTube” not “The YouTube”. It’s Twitter not “The Tweeterboard”. You don’t “Twit” things on Twitter, you “Tweet” them. Just like learning any language, you won’t be taken seriously if you don’t speak correctly.
9) Social media is about quality NOT quantity. Strive for 500 really engaged followers, as opposed to 5,000 followers who don’t give a crap about your message.
10) Social media channels like Facebook and YouTube are constantly evolving. If you don’t like change and aren’t ready to evolve your strategy based on their changes, stick with print and radio.
11) Learn Thumper’s Rule and abide by it. “Momma says…if you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”
12) Before hiring a social media consultant, familiarize yourself with these 10 questions.
13) Before you engage in social media, be sure you have a product or service that people like. If they hate your company, your product or your service, that will be amplified online. Fix your product problems BEFORE you get involved with social.
Social Media Strategy
14) Learn the difference between a social media strategy and a social media tactic. Seriously…most social media “experts, gurus and wizards” out there don’t know the difference between the two.
HINT: Launching a Facebook page and Twitter handle are NOT a social media strategy.
15) Your social media strategy is never set in stone. It should evolve from quarter-to-quarter (or even month-to-month) and you should consistently measure whether your audience is responding to your content.
16) You can learn as much from negative feedback as you can from positive feedback. Don’t dismiss it and certainly don’t delete it. If someone took the time to write it, respond to it.
17) Your social media strategy should consist of some core elements that should include (but not be limited to):
- An overall objective, or set of objectives. These should align with your overall company or brand marketing and customer service plan.
- A set of tactics that can be measured.
- A measurement plan.
- An organic engagement plan.
- A content plan.
- A distribution plan.
- A paid media plan.
- A crisis management plan.
- An exit plan.
- An evaluation plan.
18) The development and execution of your social media strategy should not be left to your intern. They are rarely qualified to understand your business and serve the needs of your customers.
19) The vast majority of post/comments made by visitors to a Facebook page go unanswered. Don’t be that business. If you’re going to launch a Facebook page, be prepared to actively monitor it and respond to those who take the time to leave you feedback.
20) One good way to learn from your Facebook audience is to simply ask them questions. Something as simple as “What do you think about when you’re mowing the lawn” can gain amazing insights into how your fans think.
21) No matter what Facebook says, they are not in it to change the world or build a better human experience. They are in the business to make money and, as a company, you had better plan to pay them for traffic. If you haven’t budgeted for Facebook ads, think again.
22) Facebook is not the end-all-be-all of social media. Don’t ignore blogging, tweeting and developing content for YouTube. Facebook is good, but it is a very walled garden and your messages won’t have as much exposure as they will with Twitter, YouTube and blogs.
23) There is such a thing as posting too often on Facebook. Don’t be a chatty Cathy and post more than once per hour.
24) If part of your mobile/social strategy is to build a Facebook application, just remember that Facebook apps can’t be accessed via the Facebook mobile app. This is important because a large percentage of Facebook users access it from their mobile device, rather than via the desktop application.
25) Never, ever, ever buy Facebook fans.
26) So you want to run a contest on Facebook so you can get 10,000 people to like your page. What will you do with those 10,000 fans once the contest is over? Will you have content to keep them from unliking your page?
27) Twitter is not just about people eating oatmeal and sharing where they checked in on FourSquare. If you doubt that, read my Twitter feed…not an oatmeal tweet to be found.
28) Follow people who are meaningful to you. Avoid the temptation to auto-follow people back. Just because someone is interested in what you have to say doesn’t necessarily mean you are interested in what they have to say.
29) Learn how to use engagement tools like HootSuite. They can make your life easier by segmenting the conversations that you care about.
30) DO NOT auto-respond to people via direct message. This is the Twitter equivalent of spam and is one of the main reasons people ignore their Twitter inboxes.
31) As much as possible, engage in conversations with people on Twitter. Ask questions, answer questions…make it a conversation.
32) Join a TweetChat or two. They’re a great way to meet people who have similar interests. Here is a great list of TweetChats
33) Take some time to understand the character limitations on Twitter. Sure, every tweet is limited to 140 characters, but best practices say that your tweet should never exceed 125 characters, so those who want to retweet it can have characters to do so.
34) Complete your Twitter profile with useful information about you. No one trusts an egg.
35) Add meaningful, UNIQUE content to the conversation. Don’t just retweet everyone else or tweet quotes from famous people. That’s just a quick way to irritate people on Twitter.
36) Never, ever, ever buy Twitter followers.
37) YouTube is the second largest search engine on the planet (only second to Google). Ignore that at your own peril.
38) YouTube is time-intensive because of the effort required to make good, high-quality videos. It is, however, worth the effort if you have great content that lends itself to video
39) Take time to learn what the “Embed” setting means. It’s important to understand whether you want your contend displayed on other sites and how it can hurt your traffic if you don’t enable it.
40) There is a bug in YouTube regarding video titles. Once you upload a video, the original title is set forever when it comes to sharing on Facebook. Even if you change the title on YouTube, Facebook will always share the original title. I have talked to Facebook reps and Google/YouTube reps. Each one blames the other.
41) On YouTube, free channels are easy but you have limited control over your content display and you don’t get access to some of the cool, custom gadgets offered by YouTube. If you really want to create a great channel, call YouTube and tell them you want to spend some money on advertising revenue. Doing so, will get you some additional features and tools. Be prepared to spend about $35K or more in ad revenue, though.
42) Your YouTube videos should be interesting to your audience. Don’t post a boring, 20 minute instructional video and expect everyone to watch it.
43) If you’re serious about blogging, get a self-hosted WordPress blog. Don’t mess around with blogger or WordPress.com. If your blog gets big, you’ll want to monetize it (even if it’s just to support the costs/time) and you’ll have a harder time with that on Blogger and WordPress.com
44) Blogging takes time and commitment. Plan on blogging at a minimum once a week. If you really want traffic, you’ll need to blog daily.
45) Your content had better be good. You are competing against millions of other blogs for the eyeballs of your readers. Before you waste any time on SEO, link-building, and social media promotion, you had better make sure your content is worth reading.
46) Blog content can be gold for the search engines, but you should write your articles based on what the search engines want, write for your readers.
47) Understand how Google’s Adwords tool works. It can help you find ideas for blog posts where content doesn’t currently exist.
48) Build relationships with other bloggers. Ask them questions. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Bloggers are generally willing to share their experiences. #BlogChat is one of my favorite tweetchats and is a great place to learn.
49) Blogging is what is known as a “long-tail” activity. It’s fine to write content that serves an immediate need, but you also need to write content that will be meaningful to people searching in 6 months.
50) Spend time learning about plugins, themes and widgets. You need them. You need to understand how they work.
51) WordPress themes are like everything else in this world. You get what you pay for. If you want a cheap blog, use a free theme. If you want to be viewed as a professional and want traffic, pay for a premium theme.
52) Be sure that your blog contains an “About Us” page and a “Contact Us” page. Also, be sure to include links to your social channels (e.g. Facebook and Twitter) as long as you are actively participating in those channels.
53) Be sure to periodically do some Spring cleaning of your blog. Go back to older articles and link them to newer articles. Always be sure to link from newer to older when you write articles that are related.
54) Links outside your blog should open in a new window. Links to articles within your blog should stay in the same window. (I know others may disagree…this is my guidance)
55) Allow for comments on your posts. If you must, moderate them but be sure to do it frequently.
56) Respond to comments on your posts as frequently as possible. Good AND bad.
57) Don’t delete negative comments. Only ever delete spam or abusive comments and be judicious in deleting those.
58) Start by building a network with people you know. Don’t go crazy inviting everyone you have ever met to connect on LinkedIn. Think of it as your professional list of contacts.
59) Be sure that your personal profile is complete, accurate and easy-to-read.
60) Set up a company page for your organization. Update it frequently (e.g. monthly)
61) Answer Questions in the “Answers” section of LinkedIn. It’s a great way to share your experience and knowledge.
62) DON’T use the “Answers” section as a marketing channel to tell everyone how great your products/services are.
63) Post links to articles that are business-related and would be relevant to those in your network.
64) Be selective about those that your endorse and don’t have any expectation that someone will endorse you back.
65) Google+ has yet to hit its stride, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to go the way of GoogleWave.
66) While Google+ is primarily populated by tech-focused folks (primarily men), the fact that Google hasn’t given up on it yet should tell you not to ignore it.
67) As the Android OS takes off, it’s likely that Google+ sharing and hangouts will likely become more prominent core components to the operating system for mobile devices and tablets.
68) Google is reshaping YouTube to look a lot more like Google+. This signals a pretty clear future integration of the two channels.
69) Google+, +1 and personalized search integration should signal that Google has a long-game in store for the integration of all their channels. The best way to take advantage of that is to ensure that you are keeping abreast of the changes/integration and are prepared with solid, shareable content.
70) Please don’t publish every check-in to Twitter and Facebook. It’s incredibly annoying and it exposes your personal whereabouts to those who might be willing to stop by your house while you are gone and relieve you of your flatscreen TV.
71) If you don’t know someone personally, don’t ask to follow them on FourSquare. It’s creepy.
72) Add comments to your check-ins that will help others. Don’t just check-in, tell others why they should (or shouldn’t) check-in to that place in the future.
73) Klout and Kred are games. Klout and Kred are not measures of social media influence. If you treat them like they are a game, fine. If you treat them like they are the end-all-be-all of social media evaluation, you should stop using social media.
74) Do not EVER ask someone what there Klout score is. It makes you look like an absolute social media Noob.
75) If a social media “expert” touts their Klout score…run away.
76) Klout and Kred give away some free stuff to people who play the game well, if you’re in to that.
77) Before even considering Pinterest as a tactic, be sure that your target audience is using the side. If you are marketing hammers, they had better be hammers that are attractive to women as consumers.
79) Pinterest can drive a lot of traffic to your blog…if your articles have images that are “pin-worthy”.
80) Create pinboards that are topical and valuable to your target audience.
81) Pin frequently, repin others’ content just as frequently.
82) Respond to comments on your Pinboards, when appropriate.
Social Bookmarking Sites (Digg, Delicious, Technorati, etc..)
83) Forget them…they are dead and aren’t worth your time. There are so many other places to spend your time.
Content Syndication Engines (eHow, eZine Articles, etc…)
84) These are fine to leverage IF you have unique content to publish. Don’t try to republish the articles from your blog on these channels as doing so might cause you to be penalized in the search engines.
85) Both of these content sharing tools can drive traffic, if you have something interesting to share.
86) The key to both of these channels is to participate. Don’t just share your content, share others more frequently than you share your own.
Search Engine Optimization
87) If you aren’t doing the basics (titles, descriptions and keywords) get going NOW!
88) You need to be looking at your URL permalinks. If the address of your article looks like http://yourdomain.com?pageid=2344 then you need to do some research on permalinks, why they are important and what you should change.
89) Your content should be written before you start shaping it with keywords. Content first…keywords second.
90) Your images are as important as the text of your blog post. Make sure each post has relevant images and they are tagged with the appropriate meta data.
91) If you don’t know what Google Author Rank is…learn.
92) Black-hat SEO is a bad idea. Don’t buy inbound links. Don’t hide keywords in your footer. Don’t buy traffic.
93) Spend some time reading what Penguin and Panda mean for SEO.
Social Sharing Tools (e.g. ShareBar, DiggDigg, AddThis, Etc..)
94) Make it easy for people to share your Web pages and blog posts. Add a social sharing tool to your site.
95) ShareBar is great tool, but it hasn’t been updated for quite a while and some are reporting issues with it.
96) DiggDigg is a great alternative and is the tool used on Mashable.com, so hopefully it will be around for a while.
97) When configuring your social sharing tool, be sure to include your Twitter handle in the settings so it adds “via @yourusername” at the end of the tweet.
Social Media Return on Investment
98) If your only measurement of social media is product sales, you’re missing out.
99) Before you establish how to measure return on your social media investment, look across your organization and determine how you measure departments within your company. Some examples might be:
- Customer Service – Reduced call volume
- Business Development – New contacts and potential customers
- Research and Development – New ideas and innovations
- Human Resources – New candidates, strong talent and employee retention
- Sales – Product or services sales
- Operations – Knowledge management and information sharing
100) Social media can likely help you in all of the above aspects of your business. Find ways to use social media to serve your customers and employees better.
Social Media Listening
101) Many companies can engage in social listening without little fiscal investment. Tools to consider include:
- Hootsuite for Twitter
- Google Alerts for your company name, brands, competitors, and industry keywords
103) None of them are excellent.
104) Some are more easily tuned than others, be sure to ask your sales rep about what it takes to configure them and whether you can do it yourself or whether it requires assistance (a.k.a consulting fees) from the company.
So there you have it! 101+ tips, best practices and experiences when it comes to social media for business. Have tips you’d like to add or disagree with one of my suggestions? Leave a comment!
Update: I asked the folks who like my Facebook page for their tips/hints and continue to get some great insights there. If this 101+ list wasn’t enough for you, definitely check out this post on Facebook.