Free Social Media Training Course:
Welcome to “Intro to Social Media for Business Growth”.
We’re so glad you’re here.
Congratulations on making this decision to learn more about social media marketing so that you can grow your business online. And grow you will!
We’ve taken our popular social media course for business owners and put it here: online, all-in-one-place, and completely free!
Together, over the course of 8 Chapters, we’ll work through the important task of creating a simple, custom social strategy for your business and learn how to social post, boost and engage your way to success.
Social Media Marketing Success
We don’t need to tell you about the value of social media marketing for entrepreneurs and businesses — you’re here after all. But if you are wondering or worrying about the value you’ll get from investing your time into training like this, just stop. There is value — we promise.
Social media marketing done well will help you to build your brand, reach your target market, grow your following, improve engagement, become a thought-leader in your industry, drive targeted traffic to your website or online store, and — ultimately — increase leads and sales.
Here’s what each Chapter will cover:
- Learn about the benefits of a social media marketing strategy and begin to create your own
- Define your social media marketing goals (You can’t reach ‘em if you don’t know what they are!)
- Craft (or review and perfect) your business’s brand messaging
- Nail down the details of your target market and target audience(s)
- Understand target audience segments
- Create audience personas and a social persona for your business
- Set-up (or audit) your business’s social accounts following best practices
- Get the goods on how to write great social posts (in Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn)
- Create a custom Social Post Editorial Calendar
- Learn about boosting, promoting and sponsoring social posts to increase reach and visibility
- Understand best practices engagement to further brand building, follower growth and meaningful interactions
- Set measures of success and create a custom Success Scorecard to monitor progress
- Create a custom Roll-Out Plan to help move from theory to action
Now, you could set aside a day and sit down to read through all 7 Chapters in one go. However, we recommend devoting at least 4 days (better yet, 7) and spending just a little more time to each Chapter’s reading.
The more time you commit to really thinking about, defining, and getting down onto paper your own strategy, goals and strategies, the better set you’ll be for success.
Chapter 1. Social Planning
A Solid Plan
All the best things start with a solid plan: a mouthwatering meal starts with a recipe; a beautiful building starts with a blueprint, and a great trip starts with an itinerary. The same goes for social media marketing.
A social media marketing plan (or strategy) is like your business’s roadmap to success on social, mapping out carefully-chosen activities over time — the “who, what, when, where, why and how” — to help ensure that what you’re doing is functioning to support your goals, reach your target market and uphold your brand messaging.
Is strategic planning hard to do?
Every business should have a social strategy — brand-new or well-established; product or service, B2B or B2C. And in a perfect world, that strategy would take the form of a detailed, custom Strategic Social Media Marketing Plan — a big, long document based on tons of research (ie: business, audience, industry, competitors and keywords), an audit of all past and existing social media marketing efforts, and then tactics (activities) chosen in response to that research and those audits presented in a phase-based roll-out plan, matched with perfectly-defined measures of success.
But you’re busy — moving and shaking, coming and going and growing your business — and likely don’t have the time or resources to invest in that Big Plan. Guess what? No problem!
It’s not hard to do!
If you can commit just a little time and a little thinking, you can develop a simple social strategy for your business that will guide you to success — growing your brand on social media in a meaningful and measurable way.
And you should.
Because if you can’t make that commitment and instead choose to forge ahead without a plan, it’s possible to make some serious missteps — wasting a lot of time and money on social media marketing tactics that simply won’t work.
So let’s do it!
Next we’ll look at your goals, target market and brand messaging — three of a good social strategy’s most important, foundational pieces. They’ll help to inform the things you choose to do on social media moving forward, and how you’ll measure success.
First and foremost, you’ll want to define or review your goals. Think about the following:
- What are your business goals?
- What are your social media marketing goals?
Those social goals should support your broader online and offline marketing goals, which should in turn support your broadest business goals.
Goals? What goals?
When asked about business goals, most business owners will (rightly) say: I want to make more money! Of digital marketing goals, many will say: I want to get more customers and make more sales. And of social goals?
- Get famous; become an influencer
- Find customers
- Make sales
And those are great goals, though they can be difficult to qualify and quantify, and may be hard to attribute to social media specifically. So secondary goals help to define what things might be done in order to — ultimately — achieve those broader goals, and what measures of success might be monitored to track your return-on-investment (ROI).
For example, secondary goals might include:
I want to…
- Reach my target market
- Build brand awareness
- Grow my following
- Get engagements
- Drive website traffic
- Develop thought-leadership
- Increase conversions, etc.
Measures of Success
They say the best, most achievable goals are SMART: “specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based”. That “measurable” piece is critical: How will you measure whether or not your social media marketing efforts are helping you to achieve your goals?
Piece of cake. You set “measures of success” based on your secondary goals (the more-specific, easier-to-measure ones). And measures of success are just that — things that can be measured. In social, they can include things like:
- Page Likes and Account Follows
- Social Reviews/Recommendations
- Engagements Performed (ie: the things you do (follow an account, like a post, leave a comment))
- Engagements Received (like Reach/Impressions, Likes/Reactions, Comments, Shares/Retweets and Clicks)
To be sure, social media marketing in the absence of a commitment to regular monitoring and measuring success can be a recipe for disaster. In the Measuring Success Chapter, we’ll learn more about how to do it.
Phew! That’s a lot to think about — try not to feel overwhelmed.
Start by defining some of your primary and secondary goals so that you can keep them in mind as you consider your target market, brand messaging and — later — the best tactics to choose to grow your business on social media.
Your goals and your target market are intrinsically linked. How? Think about all of those social goals you might set:
- Get famous
- Find customers
- Make sales
- Build brand awareness
- Grow my following
- Get engagements
- Drive website traffic
- Develop thought-leadership
- Increase conversions, etc.
Achieving those goals requires two parties — you (of course) and the people (individuals (B2C) or other businesses (B2B)) who are going to help make you famous, buy your product or service, follow, engage and evangelize your brand. The people you need to reach your goals. That’s your target market.
And understanding their unique characteristics is critical to success. It’ll help you to know what, when, where and how to say what you need to say in order to get them to buy from you!
Your target market can be the people or businesses you want to sell to or the ones most likely to buy from you. Sometimes they’re the same, but not always. How do you know? If you have customers already, think about the common characteristics of the best ones. Don’t have customers yet? Make a guess, or look to your competitors — who’s buying from them?
And remember: while eventually anyone could be a customer, for now you can’t plan to speak to (and sell to) everyone through social media marketing. So keep your target market narrow and specific. It’ll help make reaching those people on social much easier — turning target market members into an active, buying customer base.
Yes, but who are they really?
B2C vs. B2B
Next we’ll look at defining your target market. But first make sure to apply the right analysis based on your business type, because defining a target market is a bit different for a B2B business than a B2C one.
Have a B2C business?
If your business sells to consumers (end-users), this task is a bit easier. You must simply define your ideal customer, and spend the bulk of your social media marketing efforts (and dollars) targeting that person.
You’ll imagine your best or dream customers and consider their common characteristics, demographics, preferences and pain points. You’ll get really specific to create a clear picture of who these people are, and then go further — dividing them into subgroups (segments) and creating personas for them.
Have a B2B business?
If your business sells to other businesses, then defining your target market requires an additional step:
First, look at the characteristics of your ideal business customer. For example:
- Business type; industry
- Geographical location
- Years in business
- Company size/employees
- Company earnings
And then, because in all marketing but especially in social media marketing, it’s about making meaningful connections, you’ll look at the people behind those businesses.
Think about the primary decision-makers in the target businesses you’ve identified as ideal for your marketing, and apply the same analysis to them that one would do for a B2C target market: common characteristics, demographics, preferences and pain points.
This can be a little more complicated than a B2C target market definition as a business can have many decision-makers — like a stakeholder group or a Board of Directors. But if you think about it, chances are they’ll have many shared characteristics.
Whether yours is a B2C or B2B business, one of the most important things you’ll consider in your target market analysis is pain points. What problem does your business solve for your target market? What value do you provide? It’s probably the thing that all your target market members have in common, and the single most important consideration when creating social content that will engage, motivate and persuade them. More on that later.
Target Market vs Target Audience
Understanding your target market will help you to create social media marketing content (and all marketing and advertising content, for that matter) that will really appeal to them. But you can take it further, by considering your target audience.
What’s the difference?
These terms – target market and target audience – are often used interchangeably and there are many (usually conflicting) definitions. For our purposes, we’ll look at it like this:
- Your Target Market: All the people or businesses who might buy or use (and love!) your product or service and brand — your ideal customer(s)
- Your Target Audience: All the people to whom you should target your marketing and advertising efforts to turn them into customers and/or brand evangelists
Your target audience is part of your target market, and can be both broader and narrower depending how you look at it.
For example, your target audience is all the people you hope will see a particular social post or social ad and be motivated to act (buy!), as well as the following two very important groups:
- The Influencers → The people who might influence your ideal customer’s purchasing decisions (like their spouse/partner, children/parents, friends, colleagues, and peers etc.)
- The Fans → The people who might not be in either group but who still might like, follow, and engage with your business on social media, thereby helping to “spread the word” about your product, service or business (ie: evangelize your brand)
Your ideal customer (target market member) might be a man in his 50s, but because his buying decisions can be influenced by his spouse, children, friends, boss, employees and more, those people can join him in your target audience. In that way, the target audience is broader than the target market.
Conversely, your target market can be divided into target audience segments (subgroups), thus becoming narrower. And that’s important — audience segmentation can make social posts and social ads much more impactful. For example:
Perhaps your target market includes people of all genders, all ages, all interests and all incomes from all parts of North America. It’s very hard to create digital marketing and advertising material to appeal to all of them at once. So you can (and should) segment them.
This is a lot to consider when you’re just getting started on social media. (Even big, established organizations with huge marketing budgets struggle to get their heads around it.) But it’s worth some thought — having well-defined audience segments should be a long-term goal.
It’ll mean that, eventually, you can create social media marketing content (posts, ads and more) that speaks to the right segment in the right place at the right time to meet your immediate goals.
Want to grow your customer base among women aged 19-45? By looking at the characteristics of that target audience segment, you’ll be able to make good guesses about what social network (likely Instagram, for example) and what content will work best to convert them into fans and then followers and then leads/prospects and finally paying customers!
In the meantime, just make sure that you’ve defined your target market (complete this lesson’s worksheet). That will be enough for now to help you ensure that your brand messaging is on point and that your social posts and engagements are targeted to the best people to grow your brand on social — that is, to reach your social goals.
Social media is an inherently conversational place. It is, after all, about making connections. And as a business, you want to make connections with the people inside your target market. But how does a business have a meaningful conversation with a person? (Or, even harder if you’re B2B, how does a business have a meaningful conversation with another business?) It’s tricky! Developing business and audience personas can help to make that conversation easier:
1 → Create a social persona for your business
2 → Create a social persona for your target market
3 → Introduce them to each other!
Create a social persona for your business.
Start by imagining your brand or business as a person. It might be you, the business owner, or someone imagined. What are they like? Be specific.
- Age, gender
- Interests, likes
- Conversational style — how do they speak and what language do they use?
- Are they corporate, professional and always in a power suit with a briefcase in hand? Or are they relaxed, sassy and everyone’s best friend?
On social media, keeping this persona in mind when creating content will make that content feel more human, authentic, approachable, and trustworthy.
Note: Your business’ persona can (and should) be a bit different depending on where you are. For example, LinkedIn lends itself to a more buttoned-up approach while Instagram tends to be more casual. But your social persona (or social-network-specific variations of your social persona) should combine with your website and other online and offline content (including brand messaging) to convey exactly what you want to convey about who your business is and what it stands for.
Create a social persona for your target market.
Then imagine your target market as an individual person — and nail down the same details: their age? gender? preferences? style? The Target Market Worksheet asks you to define some of those things, but now picture an actual person in your head. Note: Eventually you will create personas for each of your business’s target audiences (segments).
Introduce them to each other!
Once those personas are defined (yours and theirs), imagine them having interactions on social media. It can help a business to overcome that sense of being too corporate and cold, and create more opportunities for meaningful social conversations between your business and your future customers.
Brand Messaging: Telling your business’s story
- What do you do?
- Why do you do it?
- Who do you do it for?
- What problem does your business solve?
- What sets your business apart?
That’s your business’s story.
And you tell your business’s story on social media, in part, through brand messaging. What’s that?
Brand messaging “refers to the underlying value proposition conveyed and language used in your content. It’s what makes buyers relate to your brand by inspiring them, persuading them, motivating them, and ultimately making them want to buy your [service or] product” (Pardot).
And “key messages” are the main pieces of information you want people to hear, know and remember (including your USP (unique selling proposition) — the thing that makes you stand out from your competitors). Usually key messages combine to convey the brand message.
Whatever you call it — your story, your brand message, your collection of key messages, your USP — it’s important (really, it’s everything). And there are countless opportunities to share it on social media.
You convey your story on social through your:
- Business name; handle
- Profile and cover images
- About; Bio
- Mission Statement, and
- Every single other thing you do, including:
– What you say (write, post, publish and share)
– How you say it
– Where and when you say it
– What you don’t say
– Who you follow, engage with and support, and more.
It’s critical that your business has a great story, but it’s even more critical that your story (whatever it may be) is well-defined, well-written and shared in a consistent and complementary way on social — that everything you do, say, write, post, publish and share upholds your brand messaging.
The goals you nailed down in the previous lesson, and the target market, audience segments and audience personas you’re working to define, are a huge part of the brand messaging exercise.
Your brand message should speak to your target audiences and it should function to support your goals. The best brand messaging achieves that by being relatable, inspiring, persuasive, and — ultimately — motivating. Motivating? Yep, motivating people to connect with, trust, remember and support your business.
Voilà! Putting it all together.
If you complete a thorough review and reworking of your Brand Messaging, it’ll mean you’ve done good work on three of a social strategy’s most important parts — goals, target market, and brand messaging. And it’ll mean you’re now set to make smarter choices when it comes to deciding exactly what you’ll do on social media. For example:
- What social networks should you choose?
- What kind of branding should you apply?
- Should you pursue organic or paid social?
- What should you post about?
- What kind of engagement should you perform?
- When and how often should you post and engage?
- Should you run social ads?
- Should you use social media management tools?
- How will you monitor social success?
If you ask those questions with your goals, target market and brand messaging in mind, the answers will become clearer.
Let’s get to the good stuff!
Note: Strategic social planning should go much further. To truly have a clear path to success, you should (in theory) perform that deep-dive business, audience, industry, competitor and keyword research we mentioned, as well as an audit of all past and existing offline, digital and social media marketing activities.
But we know you want to get to the good stuff now. So in the next lesson you’ll make sure you’re properly set-up on four of the top social networks, and get ready to start posting great, best practices social posts sooner rather than later.
Chapter 2. Social Set-Up
Before you welcome your first guests to the party, you want to make sure that the space is decorated, the snacks are out, and the playlist is ready to go. Properly setting up social channels is like doing that for your business.
As a first step, you’ll want to make sure you’re in the right places. There are so many social networks for a business to choose from today — Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Snapchat, TikTok, Tumblr, Google My Business, StumbleUpon and more. How do you know which one(s) to pursue?
There are several variables to consider, including:
- Where do your target audiences hang out?
- Where are your competitors having success (or missing opportunities)? On one hand, you’ll want to match-step with your competitors. Do they have a successful presence on Facebook? Don’t risk letting them get all the attention there. Conversely, is there a network where your competitors haven’t done much marketing yet? Perhaps it’s worth adding that network to your strategy.
- Which ones make the most sense for your business right now?
- Are you a B2C or B2B business? (Some of the networks better lend themselves to one business type over the other. Many say Facebook is the place to be for B2C marketing, while LinkedIn is often considered best for B2B marketing.)
- Consider your creative assets. Have access to tons of great visual content (like photos)? Definitely consider Instagram. Have zero videos? Forgo YouTube for now.
- How much time do you have to devote to maintaining multiple social accounts? (If your time is limited, consider setting-up fewer (rather than many or all) social accounts. Having a poorly set-up and irregularly-managed account is almost as bad for your brand as having no presence on that network at all.)
Finding out where your target audiences are on social is the easiest question to answer and starts with looking at each network’s user base. This resource from popular social media management platform Sprout Social is a great one. See the graphics below. Match your target audiences’ characteristics to the networks that suit best. And don’t forget about those “influencers” and “fans”.
As above, don’t try to be everywhere and do everything at once. Just try to choose the best networks for your business to reach your target audience(s) and convey your brand messaging to meet your goals.
Still not sure? Most businesses start with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn — adding Instagram if they’ve got access to great photos and YouTube if they’ve got access to great videos.
Below are instructions for setting up a profile for your business on four of the top networks — Facebook, Instagram (owned by Facebook and managed, in-part, through your Facebook account), Twitter and LinkedIn.
Note: In most cases, you can get set-up in minutes, but this task actually warrants much more thought and time. In fact, setting-up your social accounts is a task that deserves the same careful consideration you gave to your website’s design, business cards, and professional headshot.
Your business’s social profiles are, after all, important very-public representations of your business — often the first ones potential customers will see. So make sure they’re set-up perfectly. They’ll also be made exponentially better, your social profiles and pages, if you set them up with your goals, target market and brand messaging in mind.
A few important considerations:
- Business in the front, party in the back. Already have personal profiles on all of these networks? Don’t be tempted to do your business marketing through those personal profiles. Instead, set up dedicated business profiles and/or pages.
- Get inspired! Look at your competitors and industry’s leaders to see what they’re doing on social media (both in terms of set-up and branding as well as ongoing posting and engagement). Never, ever copy them, but do glean inspiration from what they’re doing well, and look for things you can do better. How can you set-up your social profiles and pages to convey your USP and truly stand apart?
- Engage, motivate and persuade. In the Social Posting Chapter, you’ll learn about the importance of publishing social posts that engage, motivate and persuade. Make sure your social profiles (accounts) themselves do that too. Grab attention, hang onto it, and show the world what makes your business so special.
- Go consistent in naming: If you’re setting up several social profiles for your business at once, consider giving them all the same name and URL (ie: socialnetwork.com/mostdelicioussoup and @mostdelicioussoup). That’ll make it easier for people to find you across different channels. In some cases, your business name will be too long, or someone else will already have “claimed” it for themselves. You might have to get creative, but still aim for consistency.
- Go complementary in branding: Aim for consistency in branding across all social channels. That doesn’t mean you should use the exact same images and copy in all networks, but rather that it should be complementary — all coming together to create a complete picture of the very best of your business and brand messaging.
- You can judge a book by its cover. In all cases, you’ll have an opportunity to add a visual representation of your business, including a profile photo (avatar; usually your business’s logo) and a cover image. Do not underestimate the importance of these images. Make sure they’re on-brand, eye-catching, memorable and complementary. Spend the time and money it might require to take or source beautiful, high-quality images and format (ie: size) them properly for each network.
- Tell your story and make it count. Each network will also require some copy — either a (very) short “Bio” and/or a longer About or Story. This isn’t easy, but that’s okay — it shouldn’t be. Like with your business’s social account imagery, this copy is critical and deserves careful consideration. Go back to the Brand Messaging exercise and figure out how, within each network’s maximum character count limit, you can convey everything you want and need to say about your business in order to turn potential fans into real followers and then, of course, into paying customers.
- Don’t forget to invite people to the party! Once your social accounts are set-up and populated with some content (posts), make sure people know how to find them. Add social icons (links) to your website, and consider adding links to your social accounts in your email signature. Tell your personal profile connections about your new business accounts so that your friends, families and peers can help spread the word!
Create a Facebook Business Page
You’ll need a Personal Facebook Profile to create a Facebook Business Page. (You likely already have one, the account you use to check out pics of your cousin’s cats and spy on your high-school sweetheart.) Your Personal Profile will be connected to your Business Page in so much as it’s how you’ll create and access it, but they’re not linked publicly.
More set-up tips:
- Small Business Facebook Page Set-Up
- Facebook Business Page Best Practices from Buffer
- The 7 Best Facebook Business Pages and How to Copy Their Strategies
- 5 Winning Facebook Pages That Will Teach You How to Brand
Create a Business Account on Instagram
You’ll need to download the Instagram app to your SmartPhone or device. (You can’t post to Instagram from your computer’s desktop like you can with other networks. You can use a social media dashboard like Hootsuite or Sprout Social to do it without the app, but you must start somewhere and that’s with the app.) Instagram, like Facebook, has both personal profiles and business accounts.
- Start by creating a Personal Profile (brand this as your business)
- Turn that profile it into an Instagram Business Account
If you’re going to promote Instagram posts (like boosting Facebook posts, which we’ll learn about in the Social Ads Chapter), you can manage it all from Facebook — one place, easier! You’ll just need to connect your Facebook Business Page and Instagram Business Account. Here’s how.
Create a Twitter account for your business
Twitter doesn’t have personal vs. business profiles/accounts like some of the other networks do — just one kind of profile/account. If you’ve got a personal profile on Twitter, just create another one for your business.
- How to create a Twitter account for your business
- Twitter for Business Best Practices from Hubspot, see “Build a profile that stands out…”
Create a LinkedIn Profile and Company Page
Like Facebook, LinkedIn allows for (and requires) a personal profile in order to create and manage a business presence. So start there.
- Create a Personal LinkedIn Profile (for yourself)
- Create a LinkedIn Company Page (for your business)
- Check out these LinkedIn Page Best Practices
Chapter 3. Social Posting
Okay. You’ve nailed down a simple social strategy and you’ve set-up (or perfected) your social accounts. Now you can start posting!
But first, let’s talk seriously for a second.
We’re all accustomed to social media as a personal (ie: friends and family) passtime. And because it’s so quick and easy to post (and because it’s possible to delete posts if we second-guess ourselves), the whole thing can feel very casual — inconsequential even.
That is absolutely not the case when it comes to posting on your business’s social accounts or on behalf of your business. Everything you post on social media as or about your business should be considered permanent. (You may be able to delete a post, but you can bet that if you accidentally post something that angers or offends, someone will screenshot, save and share it. So great care should be taken, always.)
And not just because you’re scared to make a misstep.
On the flip-side, everything you do on behalf of your business on social should be seen as a wonderful opportunity to tell your story, reach your audience, share brand messaging and achieve your goals.
So take some time to consider everything you post carefully (with your goals, target market and brand messaging in mind). That’ll help you to get the best bang for your buck in terms of the great brand-building and valuable (free!) word-of-mouth advertising that’s possible on social media.
It might seem like a little thing, a social post. It’s not!
An awesome social post can turn a stranger into a follower into a lead into a customer and finally into a brand evangelist — someone who believes in you, your business, and your product or service so strongly that they’ll help spread the word. Cool, right? And sometimes it’s magic, but usually it’s not.
The best social posts are the ones that do the following:
- Address your goals
- Speak to your target audience (Not necessarily directly of course, like “Hey Target Market”, but rather in theme, tone, and style — speaking to their sensibilities, wants and preferences.)
- Maintain brand consistency (either literally; or in keeping with your brand and key messages)
- Follow social posting best practices specific to each social network
- Engage, motivate and persuade
- Provide a clear call-to-action (CTA)
That CTA is so important: A social post without a call-to-action can still help with brand building and earning engagement. But why miss an opportunity to encourage your target market to take a specific action? A “learn more” link is a simple example of a social post call-to-action. Less obvious is the implied action you want people to take through your post itself.
Seems like a lot to consider, but it’s important to remember that not every post needs to address every goal, audience segment, or brand message, and that following best practices (and writing great posts) will become more intuitive as you do more posting over time.
Social Posting Best Practices
If every social post has that much to do (goals, audience, branding, best practices, engage, motivate, persuade and call-to-action, oh my!), where do you start?
The chicken or the egg
Do you start with the idea for the post? Or the goal? Or the audience segment? Or the photo? Or…really, who knows. It depends on a variety of things and can change post-by-post. But here’s a good place to begin:
Social Post Types
The most engaging social network Newsfeeds/Timelines publish a combination of post types to ensure a blend (over time) of promotional, educational, informative, and entertaining content. This is true for all social networks.
The main types of posts are:
Business Interest and Information
- “About Us” and business history
- Product or service highlight
- “Behind-The-Scenes” or “Meet The Team”
- Business value (ie: blog post, article, whitepaper, infographic or eBook)
- Press or news release excerpt/link
- Special event, sale or promotion (including online promotion; contest/sweepstakes)
- Case study, testimonial or review
- Charitable or community initiative
- Live Post/Event; Facebook & Instagram Story
Industry News and Information
A post about or a link to an online piece of industry news or information is a great way to add variety to your feed; to include posts that aren’t only self-promotional but rather promote the industry as a whole, providing value for the audience and often creating opportunities for @mentions and cross-promotion.
Local News, Information and Events
As above, a link to information about local news or events can help to add variety and value, and can be particularly helpful for brick-and-mortar businesses, travel/tourism and hospitality businesses, and community groups who want to foster an environment of enthusiastic cross-promotion in a particular geographical area.
A post that references a local or global “trending topic”, like #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo etc. Note: These kinds of posts require serious consideration — they should not be taken lightly. What your business says (or doesn’t say) about some trending topics can make or break your brand’s sentiment on social media. (Note: This category can include holidays.)
Note: All posts should be engaging and invite engagement in some way, but “engagement posts” might include:
- A post that @mentions another account (ie: partner, supplier, organization, influencer or customer)
- A post that includes a question, poll or survey
- A post that shares content from another account (can, of course, also fit into other categories)
- User-Generated Content (UGC) ← more on this later
The “Social Stuff”
These post types can really fall into any of the above categories, but warrant their own list. While they can feel like most “casual” kinds of posts, they should still get the same careful consideration as the others. Make sure that you include these posts only if they will appeal to your target audience and uphold your business’s brand messaging:
- Motivational quotes, etc.
Over time, your business’s social accounts should share a variety of the above post types — a healthy mix of themes. Some even argue that a “20/80” blend is best (with only 20% of total posts being self-promotional in nature (ie: Business Interest and Information), and the rest providing general, local and industry information.
You’ll find the right fit for your brand and target audience by monitoring post performance. Nobody ever likes your industry links or inspirational quotes? Consider replacing them with another post type.
The key is simply this:
The best, most engaging social feeds focus more on providing value to their audiences (education, information and entertainment) than on promoting themselves or pushing their own agenda.
Do take that with a grain of salt.
Why? Because every post is “a little bit” self-promotional (it appears right beside your logo and business name, after all — you posted it). And everything you do on social media is ultimately helping to build your brand — that 80% of stuff you post that’s educating, informing and entertaining is providing interest (and value!) for your audience.
If you provide good value, your audience will provide engagement (with your posts, your Page/account, and — ultimately — your business). And one of the most lucrative engagements is the “share”. When people share your posts it represents that word-of-mouth advertising everyone wants on social. So when you’re thinking about post types, also consider what makes social content particularly shareable.
The most shareable social posts:
- Are timely. Post about things that are happening now (in the community, industry, world) so long as they are relevant and appropriate. You can also post “evergreen” content but make it timely by putting a new spin on it — piggybacking on current trends and trending topics.
- Tell a story; entertain
- Speak to a sharer’s interests
- Validate a sharer’s opinions; affirms causes and beliefs
- Inspires and motivate. More than just a #MondayMotivation post (though it could be), great posts inspire and motivate through charitable and volunteer work posts, inspirational and aspirational stories and more.
- Provide value; are practical
- Have great visual appeal; awesome photos, videos and graphics
- Are funny! Note: This isn’t always appropriate (especially right now, during Covid-19) but when it is appropriate and when it’s done well, a funny, irreverent (even a bit controversial) post can do very well on social. It’s a way to break out of the strict corporate “suit and tie” box and come across as more relaxed and approachable. (It also helps to humanize a brand.)
Character Count Limits
Each social network allows posts of different character counts. Knowing these limits before work begins on the post itself will save much frustration when scheduling or publishing.
Do note that how long to make a social post shouldn’t depend only on how much space is available. Rather, it is recommended to vary post length. Often, very short posts — intriguing language and an eye-catching image — get the best engagement.
Sprout Social shows here the available characters per social network versus the recommended post length (they’re very different):
- Max. characters/post: 63,206
- Recommended characters/post: 40-80
- Max. characters/post: 2,200
- Recommended characters/post: 140-150
- Max. characters/post: 280
- Recommended characters/post: 71-100
- Max. characters/Company Page post: 700
- Recommended characters/post: 51-100
Social Speak: @mentions, tagging & #hashtags
Using “social speak” like @mentions and #hashtags properly in social media demonstrates that a business is fluent, natural, and experienced in social. Combined with error-free text, these elements can help to boost post performance. Using them clumsily will detract greatly from the post itself and reflect poorly on your business.
An @mention is a way to include another account in your post. It links to that account and alerts the account’s owner that you’ve mentioned them. You can use @mentions in all of the top social networks, but remember that to get it to work you have to @mention their account name which may be different in each network. So check and make sure you’ve got it right. Never use @mentions randomly just to draw attention to your post — that’s bad form.
Another way to “include” other accounts in your posts is to “tag” them. Like an @mention, this will highlight that they’re included and notify the account owner. In all of the accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn) you can tag an account by @mentioning them in your post’s copy. In Facebook and Instagram, you can also tag people and accounts in photos and videos. Here’s how.
Using @mentions and tags can help to increase engagement and opportunities for cross-promotion. Doing a Facebook post about a fellow local business owner? How nice of you! If you @mention their business Page in the post, they’ll be notified of your friendly promotion, and might do the same for you one day.
“Think of hashtags as a way to connect social media content to a specific topic, event, theme or conversation. They also make it easier to discover posts around those specific topics, because hashtags aggregate all social media content with that same hashtag” (hootsuite).
Hashtags are a great tool for helping to get the right eyes on your social content, and by following certain hashtags from your business’s accounts, you’ll have access to great, relevant content for sharing. (How? If you see a post that includes the hashtag #UnicornNews2020, and click on that hashtag, you’ll be shown a variety of other posts that also include that hashtag.)
You can use common hashtags (think about the kinds of things your target audience might be following and/or searching for and include them in your posts when they make sense), or you can use branded hashtags (like #yourbusinessname or #yourcampaignname).
Hashtags work on Facebook in so much as people can search content by them. Using a hashtag in your post will mean it may be included in a list of posts using the same hashtag. And people and Business Pages do use them; however, in the past several years some studies showed that including hashtags actually limited post visibility. So use hashtags thoughtfully and sparingly in Facebook — especially because the best Facebook posts are short, and hashtags add to the total character count.
Hashtags work on Instagram. You should definitely use them here. As above, people on Instagram “follow” #hashtags they’re interested in, and Instagram includes posts that use those hashtags in their Newsfeeds. But, as above, you should use them thoughtfully, and not as many as you might be inclined to include: “You can use up to 30 hashtags on an Instagram post. But, many marketers say that looks spammy. Use 5 or 6. Others say using 11 gets you the best engagement” (louisem.com).
You’ll see people include hashtags in their Instagram posts (captions), often after a string of ellipses (periods), or in the post’s first comment. This helps to “hide” them so they don’t distract from the caption. Either is fine (there are conflicting studies about which placement helps to get the most visibility). Just make sure to add your hashtags as soon as the post is published.
Yes, hashtags work well on Twitter too. Like on Facebook and Instagram, people follow hashtags so it can help to show your content to people interested in it. But don’t go crazy! Twitter recommends two (2) carefully-chosen hashtags per post only. You can incorporate them into the post itself (ie: “Do you love #BananaCreamPie? I do!”) or put them at the end — whatever feels the most natural and will be the easiest to read.
Like on Facebook, LinkedIn hashtags have been both in and out of favor. They do work (they make content searchable), and you should consider using them sometimes. When you do, use them thoughtfully and sparingly. Want to learn more about B2B Business Posting on LinkedIn. Click here.
Still not sure how to start? In the beginning, use hashtags in all your Instagram and Twitter posts, and then use them half of the time in Facebook and LinkedIn. Each month, look back at post performance and see what worked best for your audience and content.
The power of a picture (or video)
A picture can say a thousand words, and that’s so true in social media (where people are scrolling fast!). A great photo can stop scrollers in their tracks, grabbing (and holding) their attention, communicating a lot in a very little space, and etching a message (and your business) into their memories. The same goes for great graphics and videos.
- “Posts with photos receive 179% more engagements than other posts.”
- “Videos are the most shared post type, with 89.5 average Facebook shares.”
- Twitter: “…case studies have shown that tweets with images get 313% more engagement.”
- Twitter: “Twitter data shows that tweets with GIFs receive 55% more engagement than tweets without them. Tweets with videos? They see 10 times more engagement.”
Note: This is a given on Instagram, where you can’t post without a photo or video — it’s all about the creative assets there. But LinkedIn is a little different:
From Social Media Examiner: ”Unlike other popular social networks, text posts tend to outperform image posts and video on LinkedIn.” That’s not to say that you shouldn’t include photos and videos with your LinkedIn posts — it’s recommended to test both.
Just starting out? Try to include great photos, graphics and/or videos wherever possible.
What makes them great?
Well, understanding the intricacies of creating great photos, graphics and videos (ie: creative assets) for marketing and advertising could take a lifetime. Luckily, social media does lend itself to slightly less stringent rules. It’s okay to post some things that are “more DIY” and “less Hollywood-produced”.
In fact, you needn’t spend money on hiring a professional photographer or videographer (though it would likely be a good investment). Instead you might use a simple online photo editing tool to edit, fine-tune and crop photos professionally, and explore some of the many free tools for adding custom branding to your photos. We love Canva.com. If you do decide to add a little flair to your photos (or to create graphics from scratch), consider using templates for consistency.
And if you happen to find 25 hours in a day, spend some time learning about design for social media. This is a great post c/o Buffer: Social Media Design Tips.
Make them fit!
Whatever creative asset you’re going to include with your post, make sure it’s sized and formatting properly for the network it’s in. Nothing can make a social feed look sloppier than a bunch of badly-cropped photos.
Tools like Canva allow you to choose from existing (properly-sized) templates for each network. You should also find and refer to a trusted resource, like this one: the “Always Up-to-Date Guide to Social Media Image Sizes” from Sprout Socia because the networks are always changing and adding to their options.
Finally, remember that most people access social networks from their mobile devices, so ensure that your media is formatted not only for the right network, but also for mobile viewers.
What if you don’t have any photos or videos?
This is common for brand-new businesses or those just starting on social. There are websites that offer royalty-free photos and videos that can be used for business marketing on social; however, these should be used sparingly. (They’re everywhere, and chances are the photo you choose for your Real Estate Agency is also in use by the local dentist, shopping mall and elementary school.)
A simple template in Canva with a background color that matches your brand, your logo (in high-resolution, transparent PNG format) and a thought-provoking phrase in clear, sans-serif font might be a better place to start.
So you know what to post, but when?
Posting Frequency & Time Of Day
People always want to know how often to post for social success. There are too many variables to give a single answer, but the gist is this:
- Post too often and people see you as a nuisance and will mute, unlike or unfollow you.
- Post too infrequently and people will forget about you.
Seeing what people respond to (what they like, share, comment on) and how often will help you to know if you’re finding the right balance. Below is one (of many) recommendations for posting frequency:
- Facebook: 3 posts/week – 1-2 posts per day
- Instagram: 1 post/week – 1 post/day
- Twitter: 1 – 30 posts/day ← that’s a lot! Remember that many of those posts will be shares (retweets). Just starting out? Aim for a few tweets per week.
- LinkedIn: 1 post/week – 1 post/day
Time of day
Understanding when to post for success with a target market is an art (there are so many variables!), but it’s also possible to do well using common sense. For example, do post when people might be on the train in the mornings, but not after 9:00am on Monday mornings when they’ll be buried in work.
Some social posting dashboards have built-in recommended “best times for posts” accessible from their scheduling functionalities, and some social networks (like Facebook’s Insights) will actually tell you when your followers are online. But your best bet? Try a variety of times over time, monitor results, and do more of what works.
Really want to know?
There are lots of studies (often conflicting) giving time-tips for each network. A few of our most trusted resources are below:
For 2020, Sprout Social says:
- Facebook: “Wednesday, 11 a.m. and 1–2 p.m.” (The worst day to post? Sunday.)
- Instagram: “Wednesday at 11 a.m. and Friday from 10 a.m.–11 a.m.” (Worst day? Sunday.)
- Twitter: “Wednesday and Friday at 9 a.m.” (Worst day? Saturday.)
- LinkedIn: “Weds. from 8–10 a.m. and noon, Thurs. at 9 a.m. and 1–2 p.m., and Fri. at 9 a.m.” (Worst? Sunday.)
Note: Those times will be different depending on your industry and/or objective.
That frequency and time will also change depending on the season, as well as what’s going on in your industry and the world.
So now you know what to post (post themes, post length, and “social speak”) and when to post (frequency and time of day), but how?
You can publish posts in real time from the social networks themselves. And in all cases except Instagram, can do it from your desktop computer or your mobile device. You have to publish “on the fly” to Instagram via the Instagram app on your smartphone.
You can also create your posts inside the social networks and instead of publishing them you can schedule them for later. In Facebook, for example, you’d simply choose “schedule” instead of “post”.
Using these, you can manage and post to all your networks from one place. You can also boost posts in some dashboards (including setting and forgetting a boosting budget and letting the dashboard do it for you), plus perform some engagement, monitor engagements received, monitor your social sentiment (social listening) and produce great reports. And many offer a free version (with limits) so you can test the waters before you dive in.
A dashboard works especially well if you’re also planning to use a Social Post Editorial Calendar. In that scenario, you’d write your posts ahead of time (even in a single sitting), and then schedule them all in one go.
Scheduling posts ahead of time will help you to stay on time and on budget. Instead of going “into” the accounts daily to publish posts, an entire month’s worth of posts (and their photos/videos) can be scheduled ahead of time (including day and time, and posting to multiple networks at once). It’ll also help you to spread posts out if, for example, you’ve got 10 good ideas right now! (Better to schedule them to publish one per day.)
If you’re managing several social networks at once, you can save a little time by cross-posting — same post, multiple networks. Every post won’t be appropriate for each network, and most should be customized a little to follow the conventions of each channel. But if you can do it sometimes, it’s time- and resource-saving!
What’s more, there’s a good chance you’ve got different followers on each network so you’ll be hedging your bets and making sure more people see your content.
Posting Multiple Times
Sometimes there will be posts that make sense to have appear more than once over time. A scheduling tool can be used here too. From Social Media Examiner:
“Recycle High-value Posts: You’re not limited to posting only new content to your Facebook page. Occasionally dip into your archives for an engagement spike. Look at your Facebook posts from a previous year and identify posts that created a substantial amount of engagement. Post that content again, but tweak it so it’s fresh. Recycling posts allows you to spotlight popular content that some of your fans may never have seen.”
Social Post Editorial Calendar
What’s the best way to know if you’re doing all of the above right?
That is, following all the rules for great posts, making sure you have a good mix of post types, posting at the best times and not too often or too little, and taking advantage of opportunities to cross-post and post multiple times.
You use a Social Post Editorial Calendar!
What is that? It’s a place where you can plan, draft, review (and approve) your social posts before they end up in the social accounts. Whether you take them from the editorial calendar to the accounts themselves or into a social dashboard, it can help you to avoid an “oopsies”.
There are many robust digital content management tools available that allow for customization, collaboration, and an approvals process. (Many of the social media management software platforms also include this functionality.) But for some businesses, the simplest solution works best.
One proven easy-to-use option is a simple shared Google Drive Spreadsheet — it allows for live sharing, a tracked revision history, and more. This way an entire team can see what’s happening, what’s planned, and what’s been approved. Then, once locked down, it can easily be downloaded/uploaded for bulk scheduling in a social dashboard (or have social posts copied from the spreadsheet into the dashboard or actual account).
Whatever solution is chosen for your social post editorial calendar, it should include the following:
- Network: Where will the post be published?
- Owner: Who is responsible for writing, editing, and publishing/scheduling the post?
- Date: When should the post be published?
- Post: What is the post’s content?
- Link: What shortened link will the post include?
- Media: What image/video will accompany the post?
- Media Citation: What citation/credit (if any) is required for the above media?
- Approval/Revision: Has the post been approved or does it require further edits?
- Boosting: Will the post be boosted? With what media buy and what targeting?
- Scheduling: Has the post been published?
We’ve created a simple Social Post Editorial Calendar template here that you can take and make your own.
So now we’ve reviewed what, when, and how to social post. Below we’ll review the “what” again, and below that look at some network-specific tips. But we bet you’re still thinking: Okay, I know the rules. I’m ready to post. But what about?
Here’s a trick:
Grab that empty Social Post Editorial Calendar and in the “Post Type” column, make space for each of these:
- Business Interest and Information
- Industry News and Information
- Local News, Information and Events
- Trending Topics
- Engagement Posts
- The Social Stuff
Now, craft a draft post for each of those categories (doing your best to follow best practices). Fill in all the spaces (spreadsheet cells) — where will your post send people (link) and what media (photo, graphic or video) will you include? Get them just right and then publish them. If you’ve got no other content in your Newsfeeds/Timelines, you’ll now have at least one of every top post type there to start drawing attention and driving traffic.
Social Post Cheat Sheet, All Networks →
- Make sure every post considers your goals, audience and branding
- Use a Social Post Editorial Calendar to help with post planning
- Publish a variety of post types and themes
- Provide more value (education, information and entertainment) and less overt self-promotion
- Write posts that will engage, motivate and persuade
- Always include a call-to-action
- Include a variety of post lengths (review recommended character counts for each network)
- Use “social speak” properly (@mentions, tags and #hashtags)
- Include awesome media (photos, graphics and videos) wherever possible and appropriate
- Be thoughtful about post frequency (not too much and not too little) and test different times and days
FACEBOOK QUICK GUIDE →
- Recommended Character Count: 40-80
- #Hashtags: Use them thoughtfully and sparingly and not in every post.
- Image and Video Specs: “Facebook Image Dimensions 2020: Every Size You Need” (louisem.com)
- Posting Frequency: 3 posts/week – 1-2 posts per day
- Best Time/Day to Post: “Wednesday, 11 a.m. and 1–2 p.m.” (Sprout Social)
- Demographics: Social Media Demographics c/o Sprout Social
This course focuses on Facebook Business Page posts (ie: updates) only. Don’t forget that Facebook offers much, much more, including but not limited to:
- Facebook Live
- Messenger ← Automated customer service from right inside Facebook!
Your business would likely benefit from exploring and integrating a number of those things. Meanwhile, start connecting with your target audience today by posting right away. Facebook is still the world’s biggest, most-used social network and has a fairly broad demographic so it’s a particularly good place to post about a variety of different things.
Combine information about your business and industry as well as fun and/or feel-good content. And remember to use a great, properly-formatted photo, graphic or video with every single post, and then boost those posts to further define targeting and reach more (new) people.
INSTAGRAM QUICK GUIDE →
- Recommended Character Count: 140-150
- #Hashtags: Do use hashtags here (either in the caption or the first comment); approx. 11 max.
- Image and Video Specs: “Instagram Image Size Guide 2020” (tailwindapp.com)
- Posting Frequency: 1 post/week – 1 post/day
- Best Time/Day to Post: “Wednesday at 11 a.m. and Friday from 10 a.m.–11 a.m.” (Sprout Social)
- Demographics: Social Media Demographics c/o Sprout Social
As above, this course focuses on posting only. Don’t forget that Instagram Live and Instagram Stories (plus Stories Highlights) and Reels are a big part of the Instagram world today. You should learn about and consider adding those things to your Instagram strategy.
For right now? Gather up your very best visual content and plan to start posting.
One important thing to keep in mind:
On other networks, your posts sort of exist on their own (and then disappear down a long vertical scroll of other Newsfeed content). On Instagram, people will often view your galley too (not just your individual posts).
So you should give some thought to how your gallery looks as a whole. Make sure that photos, graphics and videos are cropped properly and explore some options with filters and add-ons. (Instagram as well as many (free) third-party apps allow you to jazz up your photos before they’re published. Do not go crazy with filters and add-ons. Less is usually more. Whatever you do, aim for consistency.
Also remember that links in captions (posts) aren’t clickable with regular, organic Instagram posts. (When you promote an Instagram post, you are able to add a clickable link.) Instead, direct people to the “link in your bio” and make sure that it’s updated to take visitors to the right place.
TWITTER QUICK GUIDE →
- Recommended Character Count: 71-100
- #Hashtags: Do use hashtags here; 2 max. per tweet
- Image and Video Specs: “Social Media Image Sizes Guide” (sproutsocial.com)
- Posting Frequency: 1 – 30 posts/day
- Best Time/Day to Post: “Wednesday and Friday at 9 a.m.” (Sprout Social)
- Demographics: Social Media Demographics c/o Sprout Social
Twitter is all about up-to-the-minute information and opinions shared in bite-sized tidbits. It’s about starting and joining conversations, and sharing important and relevant information.
It’s a much less “visual” place than the other networks. You can use photos, graphics and videos on Twitter — but try tweeting both with and without media.
If you’re cross-posting content from Facebook and Instagram, make sure that you tweak it so that it jives with Twitter’s faster pace. Always include a link in your Twitter posts — Twitter can be a great way to drive targeted traffic to your website or online store, and do try to post a little more often to Twitter than you might in the other networks.
Meanwhile, explore Twitter Lists, Chats, Ads and more.
LINKEDIN QUICK GUIDE →
- Recommended Character Count: 51-100
- #Hashtags: Use them thoughtfully and sparinly, some with and some without
- Image and Video Specs: “LinkedIn Pages Image Specifications” (linkedin.com) and “LinkedIn Video Specs” (hootsuite.com)
- Posting Frequency: 1 post/week – 1 post/day
- Best Time/Day to Post: “Weds. from 8–10 a.m. & noon, Thurs. 9 a.m. & 1–2 p.m., & Fri. at 9 a.m.” (Sprout Social)
- Demographics: Social Media Demographics c/o Sprout Social
Of all the networks, LinkedIn still feels the most corporate. After all, it’s a place for making business and network connections. So modify your posts accordingly, and probably save your sassy memes and feel-good motivational quotes for Facebook and Instagram.
Make sure you post to your Company Page. (You can then share those posts from your Page to your personal profile to help increase visibility.)
This course talks about short LinkedIn updates, but you should also explore LinkedIn’s long-form content capabilities — you can publish whole articles/blog posts to LinkedIn and they can be very helpful in developing thought-leadership — that is, becoming a trusted leader in your industry and a source of valuable information for your audience. Here’s how to use LinkedIn Articles.
Chapter 4. Social Ads
Paying for Reach: Boosted, Promoted and Sponsored Posts
There are ways to get more visibility for social posts beyond simply ensuring that they follow best practices, and that is to pay to boost, promote or sponsor them.
This has become increasingly important as most of the top social networks have moved to “pay to play” models, limiting the visibility of organic posts more and more (even among a Page’s existing followers) as a way to “encourage” brands to use paid reach and ad targeting options.
Boosted, promoted and sponsored posts are like social ads in some ways, but different in that they appear in social networks’ Timelines/Newsfeeds more like regular, native posts. (In general, social ads offer more and different objective, targeting and format options.)
The benefits of boosting, promoting or sponsoring posts?
You can “target” organic social posts to your chosen audience(s) in so much as you can choose themes, language, and imagery that appeals to them. But unless you’re on LinkedIn (which does allow for some organic post targeting), there’s no guarantee that those people will actually see it.
Boosting, promoting and sponsoring a post allows you to choose targeting with near-laser focus, ensuring that it will be shown to the right people.
All those characteristics you wrote down in the Target Market Chapter? You can use those to choose the audience for your boosted posts — age, gender, location, and interests. There are other targeting options too — you can choose to show your posts to your existing followers, your followers’ friends, and more.
Boosting, promoting and sponsoring also allows you to choose your objective. For example, on Facebook you can boost a post with the goal of having people engage with that post (like, react, comment, watch etc.), visit your website, send you a message, and more. Facebook will deliver your boosted post to the people inside your chosen audience most likely to take that action. You’ll also get access to more detailed performance metrics than organic posts. You get access to all that good targeting, objective and analytics stuff by paying the network directly.
A lot to learn!
All of those options are powerful, but it does mean the learning curve can be a little steep! It’ll take a while for you to learn what content, what targeting, what objective and what budget get the best results. The recommendation? Start slow and small, testing variables and carefully monitoring performance over time.
- You can set-up and manage your boosted, promoted and sponsored posts from right inside the social networks themselves or, for Facebook and Instagram, through Facebook Ads Manager.
- Posts can be boosted as soon as they’re published, when they’re scheduled (ie: some Hootsuite subscriptions allow for automatic boosting/promoting, for example, as does Facebook), or much later — you can go back and boost posts you published weeks and months ago.
- To start, it’s recommended to stay inside the networks — adding automation and third-party tools can be more complicated than it’s worth in the beginning.
Learn more about boosting (Facebook), promoting (Instagram & Twitter) and sponsoring (LinkedIn) posts below:
Facebook Boosted Posts
From Facebook: “Boosted posts are ads you create from posts on your Facebook Page. Boosting a post may help you get more people to react, share and comment on it. You may also reach new people who are likely interested in your Page or business, but don’t currently follow you.”
Instagram Promoted Posts
From Instagram: “The easiest way to run ads is by promoting posts you’ve shared on Instagram. Just select the post you want to promote, and then track how many people are seeing and interacting with your promoted post by tapping.”
Twitter Promoted Tweets
From Twitter: “Promoted Tweets are ordinary Tweets purchased by advertisers who want to reach a wider group of users or spark engagement from their existing followers.”
LinkedIn Sponsored Posts
From LinkedIn: “Target people in a professional mindset with content marketing on LinkedIn. Run native ads across desktop and mobile to build an audience that’s ready to do business with you.”
Where, what and how much?
Knowing the where and what to boost, promote or sponsor starts with common sense:
Where: When you chose social channels, you chose the ones that best suited your target audience and the content available to you. The same logic should apply here. Choose to boost, promote or sponsor posts in the network that feels like the best fit for your audience and the content you want to amplify.
What: What posts to boost, promote or sponsor is a harder question to answer. To start, consider the some of the below options:
- A post that contains information you really want to get out there (ie: something timely, like a launch, event or promotion, or a critical message you want to share)
- A post that you want to get out to a new audience (and would benefit from increased targeting power)
- A post that has already shown to perform well organically
- A great tactic for choosing what to boost is to look back (a few days, weeks, or months (if the content is “evergreen”)) and choose to boost/promote the ones that got the best organic engagement.
And how much? Of course, like many things in life, the more money the better results. Certainly if you had a huge, hundred thousand dollar social media marketing budget and could spend tons on boosting, you’d get more — more reach, reactions, engagements, or clicks.
But you don’t have to have that much in your “boosting budget” to make this work for your business. To begin, start small — even $25.00/post can increase results exponentially. Over time, if you measure those results (your return-on-investment) you’ll find your sweet-spot — the minimum spend to get the desired results.
Important: Boosting, promoting or sponsoring a post won’t guarantee results — it has to be a good post. (If it’s badly written, poorly designed, not timely, or not properly targeted, paying to increase reach won’t necessarily help.
And, even then, there will always be variables outside of your control — what your competitors are doing, what’s happening in your industry or in the world, seasonality, etc. So hedge your bets and boost, promote and sponsor posts that follow all of the recommended best practices.
And remember that depending on the targeting you choose, your boosted, promoted or sponsored post will likely be the very first time these people in your target market are learning about your business — so make it count.
You won’t know in the beginning what kind of post with what kind of media on which network with what targeting and what size budget works best. So testing variables is a great idea. Plan to boost two posts, almost the same but with one small difference — like a different image, or objective or target audience. Comparing results will give you information you can use to boost smarter next time.
Facebook Boosted Posts
One of the simplest places to start is with a Facebook Boosted Post. So next we’ll walk through boosting a Facebook post right from your Facebook Business Page. (You can do this on your desktop computer or mobile device.)
Note: While you really can boost a post (in essence, create a Facebook ad) at the click of a button, each piece does require careful consideration. So make sure to get the details right!
- Go to your Facebook Business Page
- Find the post you want to boost
- Click the “Boost Post” button
Note: Some post types can’t be boosted, in which case you’ll see that the button says “Boost Unavailable”. Here’s more information on the kinds of posts that can’t be boosted.
The image (or video) and copy (post’s text) are automatic (they’ll be the same as the original, organic post you’re boosting). But you’ll now fill in all of the details. Just follow the prompts:
- Objective: “What results would you like from this post?” (Choose from: Get more people to react; Connect and chat; Send people to your website, and more.)
- Post Button: This is important! Your post’s copy should have a call-to-action in it too, but adding a button makes it even easier for people to do what you want them to do. Make sure the link you add as the next step (where the button will send them) is correct. You can choose your call-to-action button’s text: Shop Now; Book Now; Learn More; Sign Up, and more.)
- Audience: You can select “Recommended” here and Facebook will choose what targeting it thinks will best fulfil your chosen objective, or “People who like your page”, those people’s friends, and more. Or you can set your own, and that’s likely the best place to start so that you can explore, over time, what specific targeting works best for you. Choose from: Age, Gender, Location, and Interests.
- Placement: You can choose if you want your boosted post to appear in Facebook, Messenger, or Instagram (or all three). Facebook offers a “Recommended” option here too. Try both things overtime to see what works best for you.
- Budget and Duration: Here’s where you set your budget — the amount of money you’re prepared to pay to Facebook for your boosted post (minimum $1/day). Be careful to set the total days and total budget so you don’t spend more than you mean to. As for duration, you can boost a post for as long as two weeks, though the general consensus is that a post does best when boosted for 1-week.
- Payment Method: Here you’ll provide your payment details. (Need to change or add payment details? Go to Facebook Ad Manager. Here’s some additional information on how billing works.)
If you’ve done this all correctly, you’ll get a notification that your boosted post is “in review” and, a little later, a notification that it has been approved. Then you’ll be able to watch the metrics to see your results, in real time! From your Page beneath the post you’ve boosted, you’ll see a small table showing results highlights. You can also view results in your Page’s Ad Centre, instructions here.
Understanding Impressions and Reach
These metrics are important. Sometimes your boosted post won’t get the number of engagements or clicks you’d hoped for, but it will get thousands of Impressions and people Reached — those aren’t for nothing! In fact, Reach is an important metric and represents good brand building. Here’s how:
Impressions, from Facebook: “The number of times your ads were on screen. How It’s Used: Impressions is a common metric used by the online marketing industry. Impressions measure how often your ads were on screen for your target audience. An impression is counted as the number of times an instance of an ad is on screen for the first time.”
Reach, from Facebook: “The number of people who saw your ads at least once. Reach is different from impressions, which may include multiple views of your ads by the same people…This metric is estimated…Reach gives you a measure of how many people were exposed to your message during an ad campaign. People may not always click on your ads, but they may be more likely to engage with your business when they see your message…Your reach can be affected by your bid, budget and audience targeting.”
So if Reach represents an estimated number of the people who saw your ads, and your ads were targeted, it means that that many members of your target market saw your content. Maybe they didn’t engage, click or convert, but they did see your post and just might remember you when they are ready to buy.
Chapter 5. Social Engagement
What is social media engagement?
It’s a broad concept, but in terms of social media marketing for business growth, engagement represents all the actions a person can take with your business on social media (and all the actions your business can take with people).
And it’s a huge part of building brand awareness and a positive brand presence.
After all, social media is all about having meaningful interactions to form meaningful connections. And while some of that can be achieved through posting great (engaging) content, much of it depends on engagement. Things like:
- Like/follow an account
- Like (react), comment on and share a post or tweet
- Watch a video
- Click a link
- Tag or @mention an account
- Use a branded #hashtag, and more.
Your business will both receive and perform engagements like those on social media.
Most entrepreneurs, business owners and brand managers just starting in social media want followers and likes (and lots of them!) over all else. And, yes — “lots of” engagements received do provide benefits:
- Lots of followers can affirm that people like your business
- Lots of likes can affirm that your social posts are good. (Measuring post-level engagement (likes) over time can help to show you what content works best.)
- And lots of followers and likes provides “social proof”. They can show new “discoverers” of your business that you’re worth following on social.
- Shares, tags and @mentions can provide your business with cross-promotion and valuable, free word-of-mouth advertising
- Clicks mean you’re successfully driving targeted traffic to your website (or other online channels), and more.
But it’s important not to get totally wrapped-up in the idea of “lots of followers and likes over all else”, because if those followers and likes (and shares) aren’t ultimately translating into new leads and increased sales, then they’re not worth as much as you might think.
Similarly, if you’re getting a good number of clicks from social through to your website, but nobody is converting once they get there (ie: getting in touch, filling out a form, or making a purchase) then you’re still missing a big piece of the prospecting puzzle.
To be sure, every engagement received does represent an instance of brand building and that’s important — good for you! But just don’t get too hung up on those numbers only. A smaller, very tightly-targeted and engaged audience can be way more lucrative than a giant Page/account following.
There are lots of ways to encourage engagements and foster an engaged audience. Some of those include:
Publishing great (engaging), best practices social content, including and especially content that invites engagement, like:
- Posts that ask questions (including polls; ie: What’s your favorite… How do you feel about… Do you like/agree…)
- Posts with great media (photos, videos and graphics)
- Timely posts; posts that address a “trending topic” or join an existing and important conversation
- Evocative posts; posts that make people feel something
Demonstrating good social citizenship, including:
- Appreciating (ie: responding to) the engagements you do receive, and
- Performing your own best practices engagement
Performing engagement demonstrates good social citizenship. It shows your current (and potential) fans and followers that you care about them and not just about promoting your own business. Performing engagement is a big part of building your brand and fostering meaningful interactions that lead to meaningful connections and (ultimately) leads and customers.
Engagement can (and should, eventually) be performed in all social networks. This can include:
- Liking/following other strategically-targeted, non-competitive accounts.
Following other accounts will give you something to look at in your own accounts’ Newsfeeds — handy on-target content for sharing. These accounts might include: other businesses, brands and organizations; professional associations and industry regulatory bodies; current (and ideal, future) customers; suppliers, dealers and partners and favourite charities and community groups.
- Liking a post
- Commenting on a post and/or replying to a comment received on a post
- Tagging and/or @mentioning another account (business) in a post
- Sharing carefully-chosen posts from other accounts (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn); on Instagram, share with permission.
Note: Featuring another individual’s or business’s content on your own social channels → Unless you share content as above (by clicking “Share” in Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn), you should get permission from the original poster first and then tag them in your share.
How do you know what to like, follow, comment on and share? Remember, that the things you might engage with personally on social media aren’t necessarily the things your business should engage with. Remember your business’s goals and brand messaging.
And know your audiences!
Some of your engagements performed will be about trying to grow your audience. Other engagements performed will be about providing more (good) content for your existing audience. Keep your target audiences in mind when doing both, choosing things to engage with, feature and share that will appeal to them too!
Some important reminders:
Performing engagements (including following) should be done on your business’s behalf with great care. When a brand or business likes, shares or follows another account, it’s like applauding, agreeing with, and helping to promote their content or endeavor. You must be certain that this only happens with content and businesses you feel are professionally-appropriate and uphold the same core values as your business.
Your target market is made up of real people, and on social media those people are perceptive and impatient. If they feel the engagements you’re performing are inauthentic (forced, phoney, robotic, or just a numbers game), they’ll pick up on it and be unlikely to engage back.
When and how often?
Performing engagement is a “must-do”, but — especially when you’re just starting out — it’s not necessarily a “spend hours every day” kind of must-do. Just commit to spending a little time each week.
Note: This doesn’t count for messages. If you’ve got posts online that invite people to send enquiries via social message (ie: DM), or social ads running that use “Send Message” as a call-to-action, then you absolutely must check your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn messages regularly. Brand sentiment on social is influenced heavily by how long a business takes to reply, and then the quality of that reply — so do it fast and make sure it counts!
It can be difficult to attribute engagements received to engagements performed — though they are definitely correlated. (Remember, you’ll also receive engagements because people like your brand, like your posts, etc.) In the beginning, it will help to track how much effort you put into performing engagement against how many engagements you receive to know how much time you have to spend to see results.
If you’re doing things right (ie: posting great content and performing best practices engagement), you will receive more engagements. In the Measuring Success Chapter we’ll review Success Scorecards, a helpful way to track engagements both received and performed.
People often want to know about influencers when talking about social media marketing. There are many different kinds of influencer marketing, and most are more advanced (and expensive) than can be managed by a business just starting out in social.
That said, there are some easy ways to incorporate simple influencer outreach in an intro-level social campaign. One is to identify influencers in your target market and then, through best practices engagement, aim to establish a relationship.
Note: Influencers aren’t just people with millions of followers or those with “Verified” (blue checkmark) accounts. Micro-influencers can be just as helpful to a business — they often have fewer followers but have lots of influence over those followers. When they recommend something, their followers listen.
Of course, the ultimate goal for a business is to have a real influencer give their brand a thumbs-up or – better – promote that brand to their own audience. (Got lots of money? You can negotiate a paid contract with a social influencer to promote your product/service for a fee. But that usually feels inauthentic. Better yet, make a meaningful connection.)
To start, identify a few top influencers in your industry on one or all of your social networks. Like/follow their accounts and, over time, when it’s appropriate and authentic, engage with their content. They’ll be learning about your business every time you engage and, if your product or service is in fact a good fit, they may – one day – help to evangelize your brand.
Chapter 6. Measuring Success
“Measures of success” — it’s a buzzword to be sure, and ambiguous at best. But for our purposes (in social media marketing) it simply means to monitor your social accounts to see if what you’re doing is helping to fulfill your goals. Your “measures of success” are just those things that you’ve decided are indicators of positive results.
In Chapter 1 we talked about goals, and the importance of defining secondary goals (things that can be more-easily measured) to match up with your measures of success. For example:
- Build my brand; grow my business
- Build brand awareness
- Increase conversions; leads, sales and customers
- Reach my target market
- Grow my following
- Get engagements
- Drive website traffic, etc.
Measures of Success:
- Page Likes and Account Follows
- Social Reviews/Recommendations
- Engagements Performed (ie: the things you do (follow an account, like a post, leave a comment))
- Engagements Received
Simply, if those measures of success are increasing / improving it means that you’re achieving your secondary goals and, in turn, your primary goals.
Note: “Brand building” is a tricky one. Everything you do on your business’s social accounts will be “building brand awareness”, but it can be either bad or good. Doing things wrong? It’ll reflect badly on your business. Doing things right? It’ll reflect positively on your business. (And “right”, as a reminder, is publishing great, best practices content targeted properly to your audience(s) and performing engagement that demonstrates good social citizenship.)
Tracking measures of success can be easier in other areas of digital marketing — like digital advertising. For example, if you build and buy a digital ad with the objective of getting clicks, you’ll be able to see in analytics exactly how many clicks you got for the money you spent. Social media marketing (while no less effective) requires more comprehensive success measuring, and usually over a longer period of time.
That’s because success on social is represented by a variety of different things, and it can be a slower build. (That’s not a bad thing — often “slow and sustainable” wins the race. It’s the difference between buying likes (which you can do but never should) and earning, over time, strategically-targeted, engaged and devoted social fans and followers.)
Measures of success will be different for every business, every set of goals, every kind of social media marketing activity, and every social channel. So the first step is defining the measures of success that make the most sense for your business’s goals, activities and channels.
In this course, we talked about Facebook posting, boosting and engagement as some of the possible tactics to pursue. Below, then, are some of the corresponding measures of success:
- New Facebook Business Page Likes
- New Facebook Business Page Followers
- Engagements Performed (the accounts you followed, the number of posts you liked, commented on and shared)
- Engagements Received (the reactions, comments, shares and clicks you got)
- Boosted Post Results (like reach, impressions and more)
There are lots of ways to collect that data:
- You can see fairly comprehensive metrics just by looking at the social accounts themselves, checking post performance and engagements received
- All of the networks offer some level of analytics too:
- Social media marketing dashboards like Hootsuite and Sprout Social (and others) offer more comprehensive reporting with paid plans.
It doesn’t really matter how you get the data, just that you do and that you then collect it, record it, and analyze it over time.
In the beginning you should monitor (watch) your social accounts’ insights and analytics fairly regularly to see how things are going — are people responding well to your social presence, content and engagements? Moving forward, you should collect data at least monthly.
When you’re collecting data, you’ll need somewhere to put it. Ideally, you’ll record it in such a way that you’ll be able to see, at-a-glance, if things are improving each month.
One of the simplest and easiest tools for this is a spreadsheet or table.
Some people would call that table an Analytics or Data Snapshot, a Measures of Success or Key Performance Indicator (KPI) Tracker, or a Success Scorecard (like we do). Again, it doesn’t matter. Make whatever system you choose for collecting data simple enough that you’ll be able and willing to keep it updated.
You don’t even have to have Microsoft Excel to create a spreadsheet like this. If you use a Gmail address, you already have access to Google Drive (for free) which includes Google Sheets (just like Excel), and is something you can share, live, with other members of your team as needed.
We’ve created a sample Social Media Marketing Monthly Success Scorecard template that you can copy, save, and make your own. Just remember that you’ll be tracking different things in each section depending on which social network you choose and what activities you’re doing. So customize it to fit your needs.
A few hints and tips:
- Accurate Data: Make sure you’re getting accurate data, comparing apples-to-apples — set and check date ranges. (If you want to know how your Page performed in March, set the date range to show March 1 2020 – March 31 2020, and do the same for each network or report.)
- Baseline: Don’t forget to record a baseline. Whether you’re just starting out (your accounts are brand new) or you’re just starting to do things right, note down how your Pages and accounts are performing right now — how many likes, fans and followers you currently have in each account, as well as (if possible) how some recent posts performed (reactions, comments, shares, clicks, reach and impressions). That way, in a few months, you’ll be able to see just how much you’ve grown thanks to all the great posting and engagement you’re doing.
- Patience: Remember, success won’t be overnight and each month won’t always be the same. But if you’re doing things right — posting great content, performing meaningful engagement, properly targeting, etc. — you’ll see each measure of success (metric) climbing, over time; a positive correlation between the efforts you’re making and the growth you’re experiencing.
Chapter 7. Roll-Out Plan
Having made it all the way to this Chapter in “Intro to Social Media for Business Growth”, you’ve done a ton of the work involved in creating a built-for-success social strategy for your business. Great work! You have…
- Defined your goals, target market and target audience(s)
- Created audience personas and a social persona for your business
- Crafted (or reviewed and perfected) business’s your brand messaging
- Set-up (or audited) your social accounts following best practices
- Learned how to write great social posts
- Learned how to boost, promote and sponsor social posts to increase reach
- Learned how to perform strategic engagement
- Learned how to measure social media marketing success
Now, a really complete social strategy would also include the following:
- Current business state analysis
- Industry and competitor research
- A thorough review of available marketing material and creative assets, and more.
But it’s not necessary to do all of that before you get started. Having completed this course, you now have the basic know-how needed to start building your brand’s presence on social media today.
Just one more thing:
If “a goal without a plan is just a wish”, you need to make a plan — a Roll-Out Plan! Something concrete and on-paper that you can refer to as you begin work. It will answer the question:
How will you take the social media marketing theory you now know and put it into action for your business?
Deciding what goals, networks, audience(s), tactics, content and systems you’ll start with, and adding dates and details to create a detailed Roll-Out Plan will help you to get from here (theory) to there (social success).
If you decided to implement all of the things you’ve learned in this course for your business, here’s what a roll-out plan would cover:
- Goals & Measures of Success: What primary and secondary goals will your initial social media marketing activities work towards achieving, and what measures of success will you track (and how) to ensure you’re moving ever-closer to achieving those goals?
- Target Market/Audience(s) & Social Personas: What target audience(s) will your initial social posts and engagements aim to reach? Is your business’s social persona and the personas you created for your target audiences accurate and detailed enough that it will make engaging in a meaningful way possible?
- Brand Messaging: Is your brand messaging pitch-perfect? And how will what you do on social media help to communicate that brand messaging — that is, to tell your business’s story so that your target audiences are motivated to move from followers to paying customers?
- Strategies: What strategies will you start with? This social course recommended social posting, post boosting, and engagement. For example…
- Social Posting: What decisions have you made about social posting — the who, what, when, where, why and how of getting content into your Timelines and Newsfeeds?
- Social Post Boosting: What decisions have you made about boosting, promoting and sponsoring posts? How will you decide what to boost and where, how will you target it and what will you spend?
- Social Engagement: What decisions have you made about engagement? What kinds of engagement on what networks will work best to start a meaningful conversation with your target audience(s)?
Once you’ve determined all of those details, it can be very helpful to put it all into a calendar. Keep in mind, as you do this, how much time you’ll truly have to spend — not planning to do more than you can realistically manage. For example:
- Goals & Measures of Success
- Target Market/Audience(s) & Social Personas
- Brand Messaging
- Collect available creating assets (logos, photos/videos, other marketing content and reference material)
- Set-up or audit social accounts
- Choose and set-up a social dashboard (if applicable)
- Set-up your Social Post Editorial Calendar
- Set-up your Social Media Marketing Success Scorecard
- Create Month #1 Social Post Editorial Calendar
- Publish first social posts
- Measure success
- Monitor posts to ensure scheduled posts are publishing
- Begin boosting, promoting or and/or sponsoring posts
- Begin engagement
- Begin work on Month #2 Social Post Editorial Calendar
- Measure success
- Monitor posts
- Continue boosting posts
- Continue engagement
- Begin work on Month #3 Social Post Editorial Calendar
- Measure success
As you can see, it’s actually quite simple. Your Roll-Out Plan is just a record of the most important aspects of your social strategy for reference (goals, audience and messaging), and then a timeline showing which tactics you plan to pursue — when, where and how.
Make sure that the timeline is realistic. You’ll still be busy, of course, managing other online and offline marketing activities and growing your business in “the real world”. Don’t spend more time on social than you can afford, and make sure that the time you are spending is producing measurable results.
Again, that measuring piece is critical.
At any time you should be prepared to change plans and tactics, doing more of what’s working and less of what’s not. That said, don’t go crazy changing plans if things aren’t happening immediately.
Social can be a slow build and that’s okay. A million fans, followers and likes aren’t worth much (other than an ego boost) if they’re not translating into leads and sales. Instead, a growing positive social presence for your business, some strategically-targeted followers, meaningful engagement and completed calls-to-action (ie: conversions!) can be worth much, much more.
Once your Roll-Out Plan is complete, print it out and put it on your desk, committing to refer to it often as you post, boost and engage your way to success.
You did it! What great work.
Congratulations on making it through to the end of “Intro the Social Media for Business Growth”. If you’ve done the work, as you’ve been reading, you have:
- Created a simple, custom social strategy for your business
- Defined your social media marketing goals
- Nailed down the details of your target market and target audience(s)
- Created audience personas and a social persona for your business
- Crafted (or reviewed and perfected) your business’s brand messaging
- Set-up (or audit) your business’s social accounts following best practices
- Learned how to write great social posts, boost, promote and sponsor posts for increased reach, engage, and measure success, and make a roll-out plan.
That was a lot of work! But we know you’ll find it well worth the effort. Now the work you do to grow your business on social media will follow best practices, which puts you farther ahead than so many of your competitors and peers.
At this very moment, your target audience is on social media just waiting to learn about your business and all that it has to offer them. They are poised to become followers and then leads and then happy customers. So go out and connect with them!