Last Updated 15 April 2017 | By:

Social Media Guide 101

(& Top Resources)

Social Media Guide 101 For Your Startup

Any business that ignores social media is, well, somewhat crazy. According to eMarketer back in 2015, “Nearly half the world’s population will have regular access to the web by 2018.” Furthermore, predictions indicate mobile access to the internet will take over and both are coming true!

Although, these statistics aren’t specific to social networks, they’re indicative of people, your potential customers, being online. For data supporting social media use as a means to reach your clients and potential clients, you’ll find more than enough data, starting with Social Media Examiner’s 2014 Social Media Marketing Industry Report.

With that out of the way, let’s move on to highlighting some of the benefits you can expect to come of maintaining a social media presence.

  • Increased brand visibility
  • Vetting target audience wants & needs
  • Long-term relationship building
  • Sales, or generating revenue

Truth is though, you have to invest long-term in your social media to see results. Don’t go in thinking you’ll triple your sales overnight, or even in the first year.

  • Your competition is online and consequently you need at least a minimal presence.
  • You want to build your brand and engage with your target audience to develop a long-term relationship.
  • Your investment in those relationships is what brings about continuous sales and success.
  • Understand your offering (product or service), do the math, and know your industry.

Platforms & Your Target Audience

With limited time to manage social media, you can’t possibly be on every platform and in every network. Focus on where your targets are, where they spend their time online. If you’ve done your research right, you already know who you’re talking to.

Some of the demographics you want to have include: age, gender, education, interests, income, role (decision maker, manager, student, mother, etc.). The more specific you can get, the easier it will be for you to know where you need to be within the social sphere.

After defining your target audience, move to the demographics of different social media channels. Start the process by taking a look at key demographic data like the 2015 Pew Research Center Report.

Just keep in mind what type of content is ideal within your community. Do they prefer video, pictures, conversation, or a combo? Most likely, a bit of everything and luckily the most popular social media networks are modifying accordingly.

  • Twitter, for example, allows you to include images and videos in your tweets.
  • Facebook recently integrated video and uploading videos directly on Facebook.How about Facebook Live?

Of course, the social networks are do for user-retention, but it’s good for businesses who want to invest their time on one or two social media channels.

Important Note: You want to keep up with the demographic changes of the social media channels. Time leads to change and the same goes for who’s online and where. One notable change in the online world is the increased presence of adults.

For example, Instagram’s users have gone up in age since they started out. This makes Instagram more appealing to those businesses with that age group as their target audience.

Monitoring industry trends and changes will determine if your newly formed business stays or goes. This is a given, but the same applies to your online marketing activity.

Social Media Strategy

Moving on to the next most important part of your social media: your strategy, the development of which should include things like:

  • Primary Content
  • Core Goals & Objective
  • Measuring & Tracking
  • Review & Tweaking

 

Primary Content

If you think about the companies you follow on social media, what’s the first reason you decided to follow them (especially when it’s a less popular brand)?  Is it safe to say that something they shared caught your eye?

A tweet or Facebook post included something that interested you and/or helped you with a problem, question or need (personal or business related)?

Point being, you didn’t follow them because of unoriginal and boring content. This is why content is first on your social media strategy list. For your content to be of interest you should:

  • Know what your target audience wants to see and read.
  • Make a list of reliable industry sites and blogs that share content your audience finds interesting and valuable.
  • Make a list of your own content.

By list we mean to create a document or excel sheet where you list the URLs of the sites you want to share content from, and your own website. This allows you to continuously add to your external sources and easily get to them when looking for content to share. For your own content, a list allows you to keep your URLs organized, create different titles for individual URLs, and update new content.

 

Content Organization Tips
  • To save time, subscribe to the website’s RSS feeds and use a feed aggregator (an example would be NetVibes) so that you can easily view the new content published to these sites.  It’s also easier to find interesting articles since they’re listed by title versus having to go to the website and manually search.

Depending on budget, consider investing in a content marketing and social media curation tool such as BundlePost.

This platform is even better than subscribing to RSS feeds because you have a section for your outside content (where you insert those RSS feeds) and a separate section for your own content.  Additionally, it allows you to export your content for scheduling on various social media management systems like Hootsuite.

Goals, Measuring, Reviewing

Without goals you can’t understand if your social media efforts are producing results. Goals help you measure and keep you focused on objectives.  After all, each company’s goals differ in what they want to achieve through social media. Goals can include:

  • Link Clicks & Click-throughs
  • Community Growth
  • Engagement – tweets, likes, comments, retweets, reshares, etc.
  • Expanding Reach

Once you’ve set your social media goals you can measure and track results. Most social networks analytics for you to check and they’re pretty straightforward. Typically you’ll be able to see things like your reach, clicks, and number of followers.

You can check your analytics daily, but it’s best to track them on a weekly basis. You want to give your social media content time to get enough interaction and views. Not much information can be gathered if they haven’t been online a bit.

For your weekly tracking you want to:

  • Create a weekly summary where you list key indicators.
  • Update with your findings for each social media channel.
  • If you have a budget set aside for reporting tools, there are plenty for you to choose from like Hootsuite’s reporting tool, Raven or Sendible. They make life much easier!

For example, if you notice a lot of engagement on a specific post, you should share something similar. If the heightened engagement remains such, you’ve identified a topic of great interest to your fans.

The same mechanism works for the type of content you share, which varies between videos, photos, articles, text, and podcasts. If you’ve noticed a higher reach for your videos, this is an indication that your audience prefers video-type content.

Reviewing your findings on a continuous basis helps ensure your social media always grabs the attention of your community.

As long as you’re paying attention to feedback from your reports, and through follower responses and engagement, you can’t go wrong. It’s only if you put your social media on autopilot without investing in the relationship with your audience that you could fail in your efforts.

 

Time Management & Other Considerations

Let’s switch gears and jump into implementation. Executing an effective social media plan is half art, and half science, so don’t take it too hard on yourself or your team as you get in there, get your digital sleeves dirty, and evolve. The three things to focus on are:

  • Time
  • Consistency
  • Long-Term Plans

Doing social media right isn’t about being on every social network or present 24/7.

Yes, it’s being online that leads to higher visibility and greater reach, but the most important piece to your success is your uniqueness… the value you offer your audience. Cut through the noise by making an impact. It’s the infamous quantity versus quality debate.

Part of making that difference is showing consistency, therefore, schedule around your schedule! How can you do this?  Well, it all depends on you.

If you’re solo you have to objectively look at how much time you can allocate to your social media activity. Although you can schedule your social content, you still need to engage with your audience, create your content, and review your analytics to make necessary changes.

  • Based on the time you have, decide how often to post per week and the number of posts you can schedule and/or send out on those days.
  • Be on the social networks that you know your potential clients are on – two or three social media channels are reasonable to maintain effectiveness with a limited amount of time.

Personal assistants and social media managers really help here, obviously.  They provide more flexibility in terms of time and you can be on more channels (if needed). Just remember: be consistent!

It’s like the blogs you follow –  you know when the blogger will be posting a new blog and those blogs that post sporadically you’ve stopped following a long time ago, right?!

3 Critical Facts

If you’re one of the many entrepreneurs out there who want to handle their brand’s social media presence to save money or whatever your reason, make sure you can commit to what’s needed before you embark on the online marketing journey.

Here are three social media realities you need to consider before posting a single update or tweet.

 

Reality #1)Your Campaigns Need Time

Be precise about the time you have for social media management and plan accordingly. Since you’ve already got a lot on your plate (an entire business to run), taking care of your online presence shouldn’t be #1 on your ‘to do’ list.

If for example, you have an hour a week that’ll be enough to schedule content for maybe two or three platforms. You might even have a little time left over for engagement, it really depends on what networks you’re engaging on. Some social media channels, like LinkedIn, can take up to 30 minutes of your time. Facebook may take less of your time.

Social media management isn’t just random posting, which is why it’s not going to take you 37 seconds to do it. In fact, if you think automating everything on your platforms is doing social media right, you’re wrong.

Sure, being active and sharing valuable content is better than having your no presence, but content is only one piece of a social media strategy. It’s about dedicating time to connecting with your customers.

 

Reality #2) You Must Track, Track, Track!

There’s a reason why social media managers exist, and it’s because managing and tracking results takes time. More time than you have while also running your newly established business. However, it can be done if you set your expectations accordingly.

If you’re randomly scheduling content with no objectives and you’re not engaging, you can’t expect to see an increase in sales. You can’t expect to see targeted community growth. You can’t expect to know what’s working and what’s not.

With as little as 6 hours a week, the vast majority of marketers (95%+) indicated their social media efforts increased exposure for their businesses.

Sales on the other hand is much more challenging to track and shows improvement after about 3 years of consistent social media presence and management. Check out the 2014 Social Media Marketing Industry Report.

 

Reality #3) Be Realistic

With a good idea of the time you have to manage your networks and consequently what you can expect from that management, you’ll also be able to set realistic objectives. They keep your time focused on the important social media tasks to achieve those goals and allow you to know if you’re reaching objectives or if you need to change something.

As long as you’re realistic with the time you have to manage your accounts and what you can expect to achieve from your efforts you shouldn’t be disappointed. The truth is that social media takes time and a consistent effort. There’s no magic formula or quick fix. Perseverance and patience are extremely important factors when getting started.

Social Media Marketing Myths

There are plenty of myths surrounding social media. It’s important to learn them. Let’s take a look at the most destructive, and ironically, at the same time the most common.

 

Myth #1: It’s About Quick & Easy and Going Viral

Sure, on paper it seems like some businesses pop up out of nowhere, but reality shows differently. Typically, there’s a lot of behind the scenes work that you don’t know about and that the headlines won’t cover. Why?

Because “quick” sells. As an entrepreneur you know quick isn’t part of the startup journey or at best, that it’s rare.  What is part of the journey – plenty of business planning, perseverance, and motivation to name a few.

That’s not to say it takes 80 hours a week to manage your social media presence, but it won’t take you just a couple either. Keep this in mind if you’re managing your accounts solo, and get an idea of how much time you’re spending daily. Then rework your tasks to diminish efforts spent on social media if you find it’s taking too many resources.

 

Myth #2: ROI Is Difficult to Track

Of course there are “studies” out there that attempt to show how challenging it is for social media managers and online marketers to track ROI. This myth is busted depending on your idea of ROI.

  • If engagement is a goal, social analytics show engagement of each post. Some will have higher reach, click-through rates, and community interactions than others.
  • If another goal is branding, the # of followers per social channel, community interaction, website views, and influencer interaction are indicators that can measure branding ROI.

However, if ROI is tied to a number like money, then yes that’s hard to track because you can’t always directly correlate social media activity to a set amount of dollars.

Suggestions include assigning a dollar value to your posts, specifically posts that get followers to a lead generation page and/or a sales or product page. You can also set up a way to track how many people come to your store or restaurant as a result of social media activity.

As long as you have goals and/or a set monetary value for your social media activity and channels, you can track ROI. But the latter is harder which is why this myth is split 50/50 depending on your idea of ROI.

 

Myth #3 No Planning Required

If you’re deciding how to finance your business you don’t just wing it, do you? Or how about preparing for business taxes or deciding on a brand story? I’m pretty sure there’s at least a little planning, research and guidance that goes into each. Well, the same goes for social media.

Your plan doesn’t have to be super-detailed, especially if you don’t have the time, but a minimum of social media planning is a must.

You can always expand on it as you get more familiar with doing social media for your business or if you hire a marketing professional. What do you need for your social media plan you ask? Three things:

  1. A specific, defined target audience or market.
  2. Specific social media-based goals/definitions of ROI.
  3. Good content from outside sources in addition to your own.

This is the minimum so don’t expect to be the most effective immediately, but at least you have a direction and you know who you’re talking to, as well as what valuable content you’ll share to attract their attention and keep them coming back.

Tips To Get Your Content Seen

Today, most new businesses have an online presence and as online marketing becomes a bigger part of their strategy, so does the role of content.

As a business you’re fighting to get seen. So how can you increase visibility and share-ability? How can you get in front of all the content noise? Here are three suggestions that’ll help.

 

Tip #1) Add Share Buttons

Share buttons are very important to the visibility of your content. They make it easier for readers to distribute what they read on your website across their networks. You probably already guessed this, but how can you optimize those share buttons?

  • Consider which share buttons are the best for your website and page designs.
  • Opt for all-inclusive plugins like ShareThis.
  • You can get specific share buttons from each social platform.
  • Customize your share buttons to say what you want them to. For example, you can make sure when your content is shared that your Twitter handle (Ex: @StartupSavant) shows or only the title of the article.
  • The placement of your share buttons is important. Typically placing them at the top of your content is the best choice because they’re immediately visible to your readers.

 

Tip #2) Make Meta-Data Appealing

Meta-data is important for SEO, but also for your social posts. The two parts that you need to concern yourself with are the Title & Description of your website page/article.

  • On Facebook you have the option to change titles and descriptions when it creates the preview to your post (whether you’re posting from Facebook or for example, from Hootsuite). With other social networks like Google+, that’s not an option.
  • They should entice your audience, but also reflect what they’re going to read.
  • The shorter your title, the better. The optimal characters for social posts, words and spaces, are less than 100 characters. The description should be less than 250 characters.
  • Remember to keep keywords in mind when posting them to your website since they’ll keep you visible in the main feeds, but also when someone’s searching for something on the social network. If you don’t know where to start with keywords, Google’s free Keyword Planner can help.

 

Tip #3) Use Quality Imagery

The quality of your images makes your website and content more appealing. They also affect how shareable you are across social streams. Never forget that images may look good on your website, but not with your social posts.

  • To maximize quality, test the web page you’re planning on sharing by creating a social post with the URL of the page. Don’t post it, get the preview and look at how the image shows looks first. It may need cropping or resizing if it’s too close or cut in the preview.
  • Square horizontal (vs. tall and vertical) images seem to look the best across any social channel, but become familiar with each platform’s preferred sizes.
  • Make sure your pictures are always high-quality resolution, not blurry or stretched, whether on your website or within social networks.

The more visible and shareable your content, the more exposure your business gains increasing brand awareness and a higher chance of sales.

Successful Social Media Habits

When you’re just starting out you have limited time and resources at your disposal to implement successful tactics. But, here are at least four habits that’ll help pave the road to prosperity for your startup’s social media efforts.

 

Knowing Your Limits

Whether you’re solo or a part of a team, understand the limits you have to spend on social media marketing. Is it worthwhile? Yes. Can you track dollars and cents? It’s tough.

Just set out exactly what you’re willing to invest and then stick to it (this helps with consistency big time from your audience’s perspective).

 

Getting Help When You Need It

Sooner or later everyone needs help. If you find yourself unable to keep up with your social media tasks and demands, it’s time to get help.

It doesn’t always mean hiring someone to do more work, especially if you don’t have the resources, but there are ways to reduce workload and avoid getting overwhelming. Software tools like Hootsuite or Buffer can help by allowing you to schedule (automate) content distribution across your social networks for free.

 

Managing Expectations

Conscientious entrepreneurs make a plan and set goals to measure what’s working or not. They most certainly don’t go into social media expecting success overnight. Instead of setting unrealistic expectations, do your research and set realistic goals.

An example of bad expectations would be a startup that’s been around for less than a year and wants to compare their social media results to a competitor’s results that’s been around a decade with an established following, customer base, and product.

 

Focusing on Solutions

One of the biggest differentiators between business owners who succeed and those who struggle endlessly is their ability to focus on solutions when problems arise. When you encounter an obstacle there’s always going to be a way around it.

A perfect example for this would be LinkedIn’s change in the options you have available to connect with individuals. Although you can no longer make requests to connect with connections that share LinkedIn groups with you, you can use different functions within LinkedIn or you can search for those individuals on other platforms (like Twitter or Google+) and connect with them from there.

The solution may not be the speediest compared to having the option to connect with them from LinkedIn, but it’s a solution since you’re still pursuing the connections you wanted to make.

If you’re going to use social media for your startup’s growth, you want to get it right. Campaigns and strategy alone won’t cut it – habits make all the difference.

Best Social Media Resources

You’ll need help minimizing the time you spend on management and staying up to date on latest news and trends. Both are important to keep your efforts at their best.

To maximize time, you’re going to want a set of tools that allow you to organize, plan, and analyze your social media activities. Let’s go through some of the more popular options.

 

Content Distribution

For content distribution, platforms that enable you to schedule are essential. One of the most widely known and used tools is Hootsuite.

It’s a social relationship platform that gives you the possibility to have a free account and manage up to three social profiles. It also enables you to engage with your Twitter followers and influencers in a user-friendly organized way.

Another resource you’ll want is an RSS feed aggregator, such as Netvibes, so you can spot valuable content to schedule without having to open each website separately. You can also use sites like Right Relevance or ContentGems and search topics with keywords.

 

Social Media Analytics

Most networks have an internal analytics section that shares info on followers gained, clicks, and reach. Basically, your overall social network performance.

However, there are also reporting tools that you can choose from to gather those analytics on one platform. Hootsuite has an analytics and reporting option, but there’s also Sendible and Simply Measured, to name a few.

 

For Best Practices & News

Stay informed by making a list of industry websites to visit on a daily/weekly basis – you can opt to add them to your RSS Feed aggregator to make them all the more accessible. To get your list started, here are five websites that offer valuable insight and are always on top of the latest news in the social media and online marketing realms.

Bonus Tool: For those in need of a graphic design tool to improve visual content, Canva is a great choice. It’s simple, drag-and-drop, free online design software. Their social media templates can be used on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram.

Once you get used to using the tools and resources you choose, it’ll get easier and easier for you to actively pursue a consistent online presence with your content distribution. This means you’ll have enough time to take care of the most important part of your social media marketing: engagement. You’ll also save time, leaving more room for your core business activities. After all, your business needs you if it’s going to grow.

Meet The Authors

Maria Florio is a passionate entrepreneur with various specialties and interests: writer, copywriter, inbound marketer, Italy travel specialist and event planner. Her biggest passions are life and humanity. Get to know her professionally on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Ali Schwanke is an independent marketing consultant with a focus on content, strategy, and analytics. After failing in the pursuit of a startup idea, she now sees everything as an opportunity to A/B test her theories. With roots in Nebraska and Alaska, she enjoy being outdoors with her family, running, home remodel projects, and geeking out on her favorite podcasts and audiobooks. Get in touch with her on Twitter and her website!