• Zoe Butters

Ultimate Guide to the Best Social Media Strategies

You work hard on creating an awesome piece of content for social media, publish it to your feed and wait for the results. A few hours pass, and incomes that disheartening feeling from the lack of response and engagement from your audience. If this sounds like a familiar scenario, adopting a solid strategy for your social media marketing efforts should be high on the list of priorities for your business.

In the digital era, social media is a pivotal tool for educating your audience on your products and services. Employing a platform that works for you and your business is crucial to achieving your marketing goals.

An effective social media strategy can drive engagement and reach which of course, increases brand awareness and sales. With the consumer market now more demanding than ever, the commercial sphere is saturated with products and services, therefore creating original and attractive content can be challenging.

When starting out its recommended to sticking with one or two networks and introducing additional networks once you feel confident with your primary platform of choice. This will avoid overwhelming yourself with a vast amount of potentially unnecessary work.

Instagram can be hugely beneficial for creative businesses such as photography, arts and crafts or service based businesses, yet B2B businesses often see increased benefits from utilising a platform such as Linkedin.

Investigate the platform your target audience is most active on. Conduct a little research into their digital habits to gain a clearer understanding of how your audience interacts on the platform and monitor the content that shines in performance.

Types of Content

The type of content you create is crucial in deciding how to best distribute it through your intended channels. For example, polls and Q&A’s can perform great in stories on Instagram and SnapChat to ramp up engagement from your audience. Types of content for your social media posting can include:

  • Q&A’s

  • Polls

  • Behind the scenes (video or photos) ‘Get to know me’ posts, ‘what its like to work with me’ posts, how you create your product, your daily life as a business owner etc

  • Competitions/Contests

  • Tutorials - ‘How To’ posts (specific to your business, focus on audience pain points)

  • Quotes and facts

  • Blogs

Polls, Quizzes & Q&A’s Using Instagram Stories

One of the best approaches to learn more about your target audience is through polls. Focus on their pain points, what they struggle with and ask questions such as where they usually source their products or services. You can also ask for opinions on new products you’re launching or how your customer intends to use your product.

The UK Brand Missguided knows this strategy all too well and are killing it on their Instagram stories. Polls for fun, opinion polls, q&a’s, quizzes, behind the scenes, user-generated content and tutorials keep their content fresh and exciting by inviting their audience to get involved.

You can ask your followers specific questions or keep it broad. Measure the results to tailor the content you create and figure out how your product and brand can help solve your customers problems.

Quizzes and polls are not only entertaining for your followers, but can help you maintain a high page value with fresh and exciting content for your followers. The more people interacting with your posts and stories, the more your posts are regarded as valuable content to algorithms, therefore granting your posts higher visibility in people’s feeds.

To host q&a's, quizzes or polls in your Instagram stories, navigate to the stickers icon found in the top right of the story editor, once published stories can be viewed for 24 hours, or add the story to your page highlights where it will be shown permanently on your page. Swipe up on your story to check the results and total number of views.

There are a plethora of tools available through Instagram stickers such as challenges, questions and countdowns, so don’t be afraid to get creative and encourage your audience to get involved by interacting with your stories.

Contests, Challenges & Events

Hosting an event or competition? Facebook offers helpful tools specifically for this type of content due to its integration capability, share-ability and tag-able posts.

Facebook has over 2 billion monthly users awarding it the platform with the most active audience, therefore a wise choice if your aim is to reach a wider audience. There are many types of competitions and contests to choose from so delegate the best option suited to your business (and don’t forget to add disclaimers according to network policies).

Take a look at GoPro’s clever marketing technique which encourages engagement by hosting contests through their social media channels — the GoPro Awards. GoPro users submit their photos or videos taken using GoPro cameras and submit them online. Categories include ‘Anything Awesome Challenge,’ ‘Photo of the Day Challenge,’ Time to TikTok Challenge,’ etc.

The users competing simply submit content to win discounts, prizes and the opportunity to gain huge exposure from GoPro’s large audience. This generates further publicity for GoPro on a multitude of platforms, whilst saving them money in marketing costs.

Of course, if you’re a small company this strategy may not be suitable for your small business marketing, but can at least serve as a stepping stone towards building and maintaining awareness of your business. Find what works best for you, host raffles and giveaways, or present an action for your followers to perform such as tagging a friend in a post or answering a question.

User-Generated Content (UGC)

User-generated content (UCG) is identified as content created by a consumer for a brand rather than a brand publishing the content itself. UCG is fantastic for raising brand awareness, building hype and pushing engagement.

84% of millennials say that UGC directly influences what they purchase. Content can include videos, blogs, website pages, images, social media posts and testimonials. What’s more, this tactic is fairly simple in the approach — the customer tags a business in a post of themselves interacting with the product and in return, for example, are given the chance to be featured on a brands page, a technique that performs particularly well on Instagram.

Much like GoPro’s technique of encouraging uploads from user’s own footage using the hashtag #GoPro, brands such as Starbucks have hosted challenges such as the #WhiteCupContest. Customers doodle on a cup for the chance of their design being incorporated into new limited-edition coffee cups in Starbucks stores, as well as a $300 gift card.

Ever had your name misspelt on your Starbucks cup? Well, you may think this is a silly error on their part, but this can generate hundreds of uploads of humorous misspellings on social media, awarding Starbucks higher visibility and some free advertising to boot — not so silly after all, huh?

Behind-the-Scenes Footage/Photos

Note the companies who are implementing a ‘behind the scenes’ content strategy and how it spikes interest into their products or services.

This strategic approach provides a valuable opportunity to followers. Content exclusively accessible through social media encourages page follows for the chance to catch sneak previews of a businesses ‘behind-the-scenes’ activities.

Adobe integrates BHS content to harness a powerful recruiting tool. The various BHS videos in their story highlights allows the viewer to experience a sense of what it would be like to work for the creative company and presents a true representation of available opportunities and their company work ethics.

You can use BHS footage to show your audience your business premises, the staff you work with or events you host. Get creative and be personable.

Next time you're working on your business or crafting a new product, set up your phone/camera on a tripod and start filming, or even better, rope in that friend or partner that owes you a favour to help.

There are plenty of free video editing resources and apps to assist you in creating video content that provides built-in tools to optimise for social media.

In the world of social media marketing — and marketing in general — attraction is much more desirable than-in-your-face promotion. A simple ‘get to know me’ post/video, or a post sharing how you overcame a problem or challenge delivers an effective way to engage your audience and initiate discussion.

As consumers, we are bombarded with advertisements every day. Personifying your brand builds trust and relatability, offering value that resonates with your buyer incentivises them to invest in your products or services.

How To’s & Tutorials

Want to really offer some valuable content to your audience? Publish ‘How-to’ posts. Your followers will appreciate it and algorithms adore share worthy, educational posts. A great example of these types of posts are the ‘5 minute craft’ videos which gained huge popularity throughout social media and were exhaustively shared.

Take for instance MondaySwimwear, they have incorporated styling tips into their Instagram stories as video sequences, giving people special insight into how to best style their outfits. jcrew have also taken to their stories to include helpful clothing DIY tips.

It’s all about keeping (and gaining) what you have by giving a little away, plus you increase your trustworthiness as a brand and help people with their problems. Surely a win-win!

You can present these tutorials either as swipe-able carousel posts (perfect on Instagram, I’m obsessed), video posts or infographics (Maintain a clean layout the viewer can navigate with ease and avoid cluttering or over-complicating the post). Or incorporate them into your stories and save them as highlights, perhaps selecting a specific day for publishing them.

Making Algorithms Work in Your Favour

Algorithms rank posts according to relevance personalised to the user. A users behaviour on a platform assists algorithms by sorting content into what is regarded as relevant and worthy for prioritising on feeds.

Instagram’s algorithm works by organising your posts based on which friends you interact with the most, the stories you watch, the type of posts you comment on and photos you’re tagged in.

High quality, visually appealing posts unsurprisingly perform better and gain higher reach. Images that are not optimised, badly cropped or pixelated destroy your post’s performance and are less likely to be considered by algorithms as valuable content.

By engaging as an active member of the online community, your account will be considered by the platform as higher in value. To rank higher in your audiences feed particularly on Instagram, focus on engagement by commenting, re-sharing, liking, saving posts and viewing videos.

Remember, social media heavily rewards engagement, therefore it is vital you are responding to questions and comments as well as commenting on other users posts too (but for the love of authenticity and positivity, avoid spammy and negative comments). Your page will be rewarded with higher visibility and algorithms will play more to your advantage.

By commenting or direct messaging an account frequently, the algorithm will assume this account is high priority and will rank them higher in your feed, engage in this behaviour frequently to rank highly on your followers feeds.

Follow loops have become more popular on Instagram in recent years. This method can grow your Instagram followers, but you’re definitely not growing your engaged audience. The more passive users you have, the increasingly lower reach you have. If your audience is not engaged, the Instagram algorithm deems your account as uninteresting, and therefore drops in reach.

If you don’t already have your page setup as a business page on Instagram, I fully recommend doing so (you can find this option in the menu under ‘settings’ and ‘account’). This will enable tracking of your page insights such as post engagement, reach, likes, comments and more.

Understanding these metrics can be a powerful tool in your arsenal for understanding content performing the best and content falling flat. Refining your posts using this data will help you plan and publish quality, engaging content.

A Little Help From Your Friends...

Convincing friends and family members to engage on your posts can yield positive results to your content being seen, plus any of your future posts will receive increased visibility to people who frequently engage.

Avoid engagement baiting. This is what algorithms consider as ‘spam driven content’ that work by trying to fool algorithms to increase the reach of posts.

Captions such as ‘Comment if you’re a Virgo’ or ‘Love react if…’ will result in your page being demoted, this being especially true on Facebook.

Remain authentic and publish content you yourself would consider as valuable.

Linking to URLs on Instagram

When directing viewers to links in your Instagram posts, avoid posting only in the caption as these are often disregarded by the viewer.

Instagram makes it difficult to even highlight and copy a url from a caption on mobile, so personally I’m rarely inclined to awkwardly navigate to my address bar in my browser, copy the link word for word and visit the webpage. Considering the majority of Insta users are scrolling through on mobile, this can be an awkward manoeuvre.

A more efficient way of increasing traffic to your link is to redirect people to your profile and inserting the URL into your bio.

Alternatively, if you’re not so keen on the idea of constantly updating the link in your bio, use a service like Linktree. This service — also known as a ‘bio-link tool’ — houses multiple links within one url. Simply add your links and paste the ‘master’ link into your bio url. The link will be displayed as a menu of your chosen redirects when clicked.

The link menu is also customisable allowing you to add your own colours and themes to coincide with your brand colour palette.

Optimal Number of Posts and Posting Times

Instagram - 1 post per day, maximum of 2 posts per day, use stories instead.

Twitter - Due to the short life of tweets, 3 - 30 posts a day is suggested, but is down to personal preference.

Linkedin - No more than 1 per business day, 4 - 5 posts per week.

Pinterest - Anything from 3 to 30 pins per day.

Facebook - 1 post per day or every other day according to research founded by Hubspot.

(Thanks to Louise Myers for data).

Utilising Hashtags on Instagram

Hashtags are an absolute gold mine to effectively gain higher reach on Instagram, by implementing them correctly you can boost your social media reach tenfold.

Instagram hashtags are searchable too. Users can follow hashtag pages to have new posts displayed in their feeds, so start taking advantage of those niche hashtag pages where your content is more likely to be seen.

Research hashtags relevant to your industry and consider using local hashtags specific to your area, eg. #CornwallUK #CornwallBusiness or #LoveCornwall particularly if you’re a service based business.

Avoid using majorly popular hashtags that receive thousands of uploads a day, this can hinder your visibility in the hashtag feed ultimately making your hashtag ineffective. Instead, search for niche hashtags that are still fairly popular to gain traction and target appropriate audiences.

Keep a note of your hashtags in one place so you can refer back to them, varying the hashtags you use from time to time. Social media also hosts specific holidays that vary from month to month, jumping in on these can boost your relevance in feeds.

If you wish to stay up to date on hashtag days, I’ve created a ‘hashtag holidays’ calendar free for you to use. Simply sign up and download from my website here and receive monthly calendars straight to your inbox, (and no need to worry about being bombarded with spammy emails, I hate them too)!

Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags in a post 10 on a story — so great, go ahead and use all 30 if you can. Avoid banned hashtags by searching in Instagram first, your post will be penalised if you’re using banned hashtags which can be extremely damaging for your reach and visibility.

Avoid Doing These Things…

  • Follow loops

  • Following then unfollowing

  • Using banned hashtags

  • Spamming inboxes

  • Spammy comments eg follow me for…

  • Using more than 30 hashtags in one Instagram post

  • Engagement baiting

  • When in business, it’s wise to keep some of those controversial opinions and topics to ourselves, there’s a time and place…

  • Negativity

Do These Things Instead…

  • Engage with your followers, stay active and maintain consistency.

  • Be clear and transparent with your company values

  • Choose a platform that is coherent with your brand and stick to it, rather than trying to manage them all at once

  • Add url links in your Instagram bio

  • Repurpose content - if you’ve written a blog, turn it into another type of content such as a post, video or story.

  • Study and monitor your page/post analytics

  • Provide value

  • Remain authentic, always!

Let me know if you found this useful and how you’re currently using social media for your business. Subscribe to my site to stay up to date, plus receive useful tips and tricks.

For attractive, click-worthy designs for your social media marketing, get in touch.

Zoe Butters

Freelance Photographer, Social Media Marketer & Graphic Designer enjoying

the Cornish way of life. Lover of coffee, tech and all things creative.

Follow her on Instagram to view her work.

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