Just like planning the perfect European vacation, there is no secret sauce to social media strategies. What works for the corner deli might not work for the local real estate office.
However, like planning a vacation there are certain aspects to your social media campaigns you can plan...and there are other things you need to learn along the way.
Image planning your first trip to a new country. You need to do your research and learn about the difference in cultures. If you are going to Italy, you need to learn how to order a meal, how much to tip, and what cities you are going to want to visit. But the nuances that are Italy [like the lack of forming any sort of line, or how to figure out switching trains when yours was cancelled in Italian, and you have a major language barrier with everyone around you], you can't learn in a book. You learn by experiencing them.
Much of the same is true for social media.
Things You Can Learn from a Book [or Blog]
- Culture. Just like every country has its own culture, every social media channel has its own culture. Learning and understanding the differences between Facebook [hashtags are laughed at], Twitter [hashtags are a must], and LinkedIn [no funny cat pictures please] can make or break your chances at successful social media marketing.
- Rules to Posting. If you start a Tweet with @SomeonesName, it isn't going to show up in everyone's feed - just the person you mentioned. On Facebook, you can edit the preview of a link, including the short description, to your benefit. There are basic rules to every venue. Learning these from the help sections within each site, and from experts in the field, like Social Media Examiner, you will have a better chance of reaching your audience.
- Profile Basics. Understanding how your profile looks to outside followers, how to edit images to fit into each area of the profile, what parts of your profile are searchable, and how to make certain elements private or a limited audience are all things you can learn from a book, or a basic Google search.
- Advertising. If you plan to spend some cash and advertise on social media, there is quite a bit out there on rules, restrictions, and limits to the advertising. How to write great copy is not part of the book, but the basics to run and analyze your ads are.
Things You Must Experience to Learn
- What Works in Your Posts. Images may skyrocket your virility on Facebook, but not get great interactions on Twitter. Posting your ice cream flavors of the day may be the most important thing for your followers. It all depends on your business, your audience and your goals. The only way to learn what works for your company in your posts is to try different things - and more than once. Try, and study the results. It is the trial-by-error process, that when studied, tweaked, tried again, and studied more that will hone your strategy for social media.
- Who Your Audience Is. You may want to target certain demographics with your social media. However, you will likely be surprised by who does and doesn't follow/interact with you. When you start to build an audience, it may be with your targeted demographics. But as you grow, others will follow. Paying attention to the buckets of people that most interact with you will help you develop your content. And you may find surprising audiences there. For example, my day job is marketing for a residential home builder. Our "target" audiences have always been prospects, current homeowners, and Realtors. An audience I didn't see coming though was our trade partners (construction workers, electricians, etc.). But by paying attention, we can now add valuable content for a new audience as well.
- Timing of Posts. Like the content within your posts, learning how to time your posts is a trial and learn process. Yes, there are tons of articles out there about the "best times to post to...". But, if you are a night club targeting a college crowd, I'm going to guess your best times to post are not the same as a commercial insurance company trying to target medium sized business owners. Study your audiences, use the analytic tools, and simply test different posting times.
- Where "Being Social" and "Being Professional" Collide. Social media is exactly that, social. As a company posting, every post is a part of your brand. So, how do you balance the social, human voice with the professional industry expert? It is up to each individual company to determine how much human voice is necessary, and where the breaking point is where it starts to ruin your brand. Down with Detroit is a cheeky t-shirt company based in Detroit. They tend to swing to the extremely social side of things, posting everything from Detroit sports team updates, to hilarious region-specific jokes. But, the company's shirts are just as cheeky and regional, so their "buddy at the bar" voice only enhances their brand. American Express deals with your money everyday. So although their voice can be human, you would probably start to lose trust in the brand if they had a "buddy at the bar" voice. Finding the balance is unique to each company's brand.
- How to Make Your Social Media Successful. There is a science to studying the analytics of your social media and improving results, but finding what works for your company exactly is more art form and time. No "How To Become Successful on Social Media" book is ever going to hold all of the answers for your specific business and audience.
Social media is a powerful tool for many businesses, but unfortunately, there is no secret sauce to success. Ultimately, the most successful companies on social media spend the time learning, analyzing and testing what works for their unique company.
What have you learned about social media that doesn't fit into a book?