I’ve been meaning to do this braindump for a while now. After more than 20 years of working in Web development, Intranet community building, and social media, I think it’s time I just pour some of these things out into one long blog post.
My intent is to update the post continually, as more questions and feedback come in. I would love for you to contribute your tips and experience, as well, so feel free to comment at the bottom of the post or send me your tips via my contact form. I’ll be sure to attribute them if I add them to the post.
NOTE: This post was originally posted in February of 2013 and has seen many additions/subtractions as platforms have changed. I work hard to keep it up-to-date, so let me know if you see something that isn’t applicable.
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 we go. My thoughts on 18 different topics, with some social media humor sprinkled in.
General Insights About Social Media
1) Social Networking Is All About The Relationship – If you’re going to engage in social media, focus on building relationships not spamming the social-sphere with your marketing message.
2) You Get Out What You Put In – 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) Consider The Person On The Other Side Of The Screen – People should come first when it comes to how you engage in the social media world. 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.There is no single recipe for social media success. You need to understand the needs of your audience and learn how to engage with them. Click To Tweet
6) Don’t Start On A Channel If You Don’t Intend To Use It – 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) Your Audience Should Dictate The Channels That You Use – 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) Social Media Has It’s Own Syntax – 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) When It Comes To Content, It’s All About Quality – 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) Be Prepared To Adapt As The Channels Change – 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 – Don’t just learn it…abide by it. “Momma says…if you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”
12) Partner With A Professional To Manage Your Channels – Before hiring a social media consultant, familiarize yourself with these 10 questions.
13) Don’t Promote A Bad Product – 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) Tactics Are Not A Strategy – 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) Listen And Learn – 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, take the time to respond to it.When it comes to social media, listening is as important as the content you create. Your content should be designed to help your target audience. Click To Tweet
17) Treat Social Media Like The Serious Communication Opportunity That It Is – 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) Your Intern Should Not Run Your Social Strategy – The development and execution of your social media strategy should not be left to your intern. Don’t assign your intern to manage your channels, just as you wouldn’t assign them to other marketing channels that reflect on the reputation of your company. They are rarely qualified to understand your business and serve the needs of your customers.
19) If You Have Facebook Fans, Then Respond To Them – 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) Ask Questions And Understand The Answers – 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) Understand That Facebook Is A Business – 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) Social Networking Is NOT All About Facebook – Facebook is not the end-all-be-all of social media. Don’t ignore blogging, tweeting, pinning, and developing content for YouTube. Facebook is good, but it is very much a walled garden and your messages might not have as much exposure as they will with open networks like Twitter, YouTube and blogs.
23) Know The Best Practices For Posting – There is such a thing as posting too often on Facebook. Don’t be a chatty Cathy and post more than once per hour. As I mentioned earlier, you’ll need to do some testing to find the right volume and timing to reach and engage your audience.
24) Size Your Content Properly For Both Desktop And Mobile – The vast majority of Facebook users engage via their mobile devices, so make sure your images and videos are displaying properly in both desktop and mobile browsers and via the Facebook app.
25) Never, Ever, Ever Buy Facebook Fans – This goes for other channels, as well.
26) Use Social Contests To Attract AND Engage – 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? Know the rules about running Facebook contests and be sure you follow them.
27) Building A Twitter Audience Takes Work – Twitter is not just about people eating oatmeal and sharing food photos. If you doubt that, read my Twitter feed…not an oatmeal tweet to be found. Twitter is a huge, dynamic community…some civil and others unruly. Be prepared to sift through some of the nuttiness, strange behavior, adult content, and silliness to find your community. They are there…find them.
28) Resist The #AutoFollow or #FollowBack Temptation – 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) Find The Right Tools For Twitter – 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) User Twitter To Engage – As much as possible, engage in conversations with people on Twitter. Ask questions, answer questions…make it a conversation. Don’t just retweet articles that you didn’t take the time to read.
32) There Is Power In Common Ideas – Join a TweetChat or two. They’re a great way to meet people who have similar interests. Here is a great list of TweetChats. To follow along, use the Tchat.io tool.
33) Know The Character Limitations – Take some time to understand the character limitations on Twitter. Sure, every tweet is limited to 280 characters, but best practices say that your tweet should never exceed 175 characters, so the majority of your message will be displayed without the user having to expand it to read it.
34) Fill Out Your Profile – Complete your Twitter profile with useful information about you. No one trusts an egg.
35) Be YOU – 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. Share articles that you find interesting. Explain why you like them. Share images and photos that might be relevant to your audience.
36) Never, Ever, Ever Buy Twitter Followers.
BONUS) TrueTwit Validation Will Get You Unfollowed – If you are so scared of new follower that you force them to us validation tools like TrueTwit, you’re going to lose followers. Someone please explain to me exactly what value TrueTwit provides you? Please and thank you.
37) Don’t Ignore YouTube – YouTube is the second largest search engine on the planet (only second to Google). Ignore that at your own peril.
38) Evaluate Whether The Effort Is Worth The Projected Outcome – 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. Keep in mind that every YouTube video you publish doesn’t have to be super high-quality. Sometimes, raw videos from your mobile device show a much more personal and intimate side of you or your business.
39) Embed Is Your Friend, Especially For Your Blog – Take time to learn what the “Embed” setting means. It’s important to understand whether you want your content displayed on other sites and how it can hurt your traffic if you don’t enable it. By turning on the embed feature, you allow yourself and others the ability to place your videos in blog articles and web pages. This can really amplify your message, but can also cause challenges if your content is embedded in a message that doesn’t align with your brand.
40) Shorter Is Better, Most Of The Time – Don’t post 20 minute videos unless you know that your audience really wants to see them. Start with 30-60 second videos and expand on them. Monitor your metrics and you’ll see whether people are staying with you for longer videos.
41) On YouTube, You Have To Pay To Get The Cool Toys – 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) Don’t Re-purpose Boring Content – Your YouTube videos should be unique and interesting to your audience. Don’t post a boring, 20 minute instructional video and expect everyone to watch it. Trust me, I have had clients who did this with little success 😉
43) Pick The Right Platform – 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 if you are hosted on Blogger and WordPress.com
44) Commit To Creating Content – 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) Focus On Quality Content That Solved Problems For Your Readers – 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. Start by knowing your audience and the challenges they face. Then, write posts that solve problems.
46) Think About Keywords And SEO, But Write For Your Readers – Blog content can be gold for the search engines, but you shouldn’t write your articles based on what the search engines want, write for your readers. Be careful not to stuff keywords or engage in tactics that the search engines might consider spammy and penalize your for.If you want your blog to succeed, stop writing content that is optimized for search engines and start writing content that solves problems that your readers are experiencing. Click To Tweet
47) Learn How To Find Underserved Content Opportunities – 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) Know The Difference Between Timely Content And Timeless Content – 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- 12 months.
50) Get Technical With Your Blog – Spend time learning about plugins, themes and widgets. You need them. Take time to understand how they work. You need to understand how concepts like content delivery networks, caching plugins, and image optimization tools can speed up your blog load times.
51) Don’t Skimp On A Free Or Cheap Theme – 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. Trust me, I have worked on too many blogs where my client chose the cheap or free theme, only to have it abandoned by the theme creator. No support means no updates to the theme in the future, which could lead to security issues or outages. Do your research and purchase a good theme.
52) Create The Right Pages To Help Readers Learn About You – 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) Maintenance Is Just As Important As Writing – 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) Know How To Create External Hyperlinks – Links outside your blog should open in a new tab or window. Links to articles within your blog should stay in the same tab or 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. Be sure you are running an anti-spam plugin that filters out junk comments. A couple of good options are Akismet and Anti-Spam Bee.
56) When You Receive A Comment, Do Your Best To Reply – 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. Negative comments help your readers see different points of view and can actually help your SEO if they introduce new keywords.
58) Load Times And Mobile Display Are Critical – If your blog is slow to load or not mobile-responsive, you have problems. Learn how to speed up your blog and ensure the theme you are using is mobile responsive.
59) Start Small And Be Choosy – 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.
60) Complete That Personal Profile – Be sure that your personal profile is complete, accurate and easy-to-read. Be sure to include your work experience, as well as examples of your project work.
61) Your Company Needs A Page – Set up a company page for your organization. Update it frequently (e.g. monthly) with information about your products, employees, and events.
62) Participate In Groups – Join a few groups that relate to your job. Don’t join every group on LinkedIn. Answer questions and share your experience and knowledge. Learn from others who have knowledge to share.
63) Don’t Spam The Channel – DON’T use LinkedIn as a marketing channel to tell everyone how great your products/services are. Also, don’t post Facebook quiz-like content on LinkedIn. It’s a different platform, specifically for business.
64) Know Your Audience And Share Relevant Content – Post links to articles that are business-related and would be relevant to those in your network.
65) Be Prudent With Your Endorsements – Be selective about those that your endorse and don’t have any expectation that someone will endorse you back.
66) Rest In Peace Google+ – Google+ is pretty much dead and Google will be closing the doors on the social network. Don’t spend any time here and remove the social sharing buttons from your blog if you have them.
67) Another Social Network That Sold Out And Died – Sure, FourSquare is technically still alive, but it’s likely not going to help you in your social network growth or driving traffic to your blog.
68) We Miss You, Tom – Just had to say it. Here’s what Tom is up to, these days.
69) Complete And Utter Wastes Of Time, Which Is Why They Died – Klout and Kred are not measures of social media influence. They were ways for social media “gurus” to try to explain to their clients how important they were. They didn’t measure any sort of influence, so they didn’t provide any value…which is why they died.
70) Avoid The Klout Braggarts – If a social media “expert” brags about their Klout score…run away.
71) Know The Pinterest Community – Before even considering Pinterest as a tactic, be sure that your target audience is using the site. If you are marketing hammers, they had better be hammers that are attractive to women as consumers. The vast majority of the Pinterest community is female, although that is gradually shifting. Therefore, be sure that the content you have to offer would appeal to the target demographic for the site.
73) Know How Pinterest Works – Pinterest can drive a lot of traffic to your blog…if your articles have images that are “pin-worthy”. Make sure each of your articles has a pinnable image that would be attractive to the female-dominated demographic. Be sure that those images align with the size and orientation of those images that perform the best on Pinterest.
74) Learn About Tailwind – The Pinterest algorithm rewards engagement. That means you need to be constantly contributing content to the platform in order to really generate traffic. Tailwind can help you do that, if you take the time to learn how it works.
75) Keep Up With The Changes – As Pinterest grows and evolves, you’ll need to be prepared to adapt and change your strategies. The addition of hashtags and communities to Pinterest are two changes that could significantly impact your content. Learn how to embrace them.
76) Focus Your Boards On Specific Content – Create pin boards that are topical and valuable to your target audience. If your pin board is called “Cool House Projects”, it’s not really focusing on helping others. Rename that pin board to something like “Amazing DIY Projects That First Time Home Buyers Can Do”. It’s more descriptive and focuses on your audience.
77) Engage, Engage, Engage – Pin frequently, repin others’ content just as frequently.
78) Have A Target Audience In Mind For Your Content – You should be able to clearly articulate who will benefit from the pin board you are creating. What do they want? What do they need? How will your content help them?
79) Reply To Those Who Comment – Respond to comments on your Pinboards, when appropriate.
Social Bookmarking Sites (Digg, Delicious, Technorati, etc..)
80) Forget them – They are dead and aren’t worth your energy. There are so many other places to spend your time.
Content Syndication Engines (eHow, eZine Articles, etc…)
81) Leverage Them Only 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. Honestly, I stay away from them unless I feel like creating a unique piece of content that will ONLY live on those platforms and will link to my blog content.
82) Be Part Of The Community – Reddit is a great content sharing tool that can drive traffic, if you have something interesting to share. The key, though, is not to just share your posts. If the only posts you share are your own, the community will sniff that out and view you as only promoting your best interest and will downvote you. Share solutions from others, as well.
83) Upvote, Downvote, and Collaborate – The key to Reddit is to participate. You should focus on participating on the platform first, and sharing content second. Upvote good answers from other people and downvote when appropriate.
Search Engine Optimization
84) Read, Watch, Learn – If you really want to learn about SEO and how to create content that your readers (and Google) will love, spend some time on these site:
- Moz.com – In particular, make it a habit to watch the Whiteboard Friday series.
- NeilPatel.com – Neil and his team do a great job explaining tactics that you can use to improve your content and attract traffic.
- Backlinko.com – Sign up for Brian’s free newlsetter and do anything and everything you can to follow his tips.
- Problogger.com – Darren has been in the content game for quite a while, always focusing on the needs of the reader rather than optimizing for search engines.
Obviously, there are a TON of other SEO and content resources out there, but start with those.
85) Learn The Basics – If you aren’t doing the basics (titles, descriptions and keywords) get going NOW! Don’t focus on the more difficult issues if you don’t have the basics down.
86) Install A Good SEO Plugin – You can’t go wrong with Yoast. It has always worked for me.
87) Make Sure Your Permalink Structure Is Simple – 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.
88) Write From The Heart, Then Optimize For The Reader – Your content should be written before you start shaping it with keywords. Content first…keywords second.
89) Images Are As Important As Words – 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. The rise of visual image search is upon us…is your content ready for it?
90) Snippets Are Important – If you don’t know what Google Snippets are…learn. Yoast can help with that.
91) Don’t Try To Cheat The Algorithms – Gaming the search engine algorithm, also know as black-hat SEO, is a bad idea. Don’t buy inbound links. Don’t hide keywords in your footer. Don’t buy traffic. Write good content and publicize it to your audience.
92) Learn About Penalties – Spend some time reading what Hummingbird, Penguin, and Panda mean for SEO. Keep up to date on the periodic adjustments to the algorithm mean and how they might impact your content or your niche.
93) DON’T PANIC – If you are doing the right thing, creating valuable content and not gaming the system, don’t freak out when an algorithm change negatively impacts your traffic. What Google takes away with one adjustment, they often give back with another.
Social Sharing Tools (e.g. Add To Any, AddThis, Social Warfare, Etc..)
94) Give Your Visitors The Ability To Share – Make it easy for people to share your Web pages and blog posts. Add a social sharing tool to your site, but make sure it is visible on both desktop and mobile.
95) Sometimes You Have To Pay For Features – Social Warfar is great tool, but to get the full features and bells and whistles, you’ll need to upgrade to their pro level.
96) It’s All About That Attribution – 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
97) It’s More Than Sales – If your only measurement of social media is product sales, you’re missing out. There are a TON of ways to measure the ROI of social media activities. Reduced call volume in your call center, increased customer satisfaction, better customer insights regarding your products…it’s a treasure trove of potential payback if you do it right.
98) Find Internal Organizations Who Can Benefit…And Help – 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
99) Get Everyone Involved – Social media can likely help you in all of the above aspects of your business. Find ways to use social media to engage your employees so they can serve your customers better.
100) Leadership Starts At The Top And The Fish Rots At The Head – If your executive team and leaders haven’t embraced social media as a viable digital marketing and social media opportunity, get them on-board as soon as you can. Don’t get stuck with a bunch of social media ostriches.
Social Media Listening Tools
101) Listening Doesn’t Have To Be Expensive – 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
102) For Big Projects, Paid Tools Provide More Insights – There are some good paid social listening tools out there like Radian6, Alterian SM2, and BrandWatch. Each of them have their own strengths, each of them have their own weaknesses.
103) Pick Your Poison – While All Of The Above Are Good…none of them are excellent.
104) And They Can Be Costly To Customize – 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! The more you comment, the more I’ll add based on your feedback 🙂