The problem for a lot of people is that they get too concerned with tools and rush right into automation suites. Some of the most popular are Buffer, HootSuite, and CoSchedule (which is embedded within WordPress CMS in a lot of cases). Automation is a great concept — it helps you scale how many people you can reach and it helps you not have to actively be a part of the posting process every hour — but it has drawbacks if you do it wrong. This is an actual screenshot from an automation program; it’s not a joke:
Before you undertake automation within social, what do you need to know? Here are 10 tips.
Alignment of content strategy
Some people lip-service the idea of ‘content strategy’ and just think ‘I will post a lot and people will see it via social.’ That’s not actually how online works, and it’s definitely not how digital marketing best practices have evolved. You need to align these concepts: your company’s market position, your voice, and your content strategy. This is actually a very hard step for a lot of people, because they rush towards tasks instead of thinking strategically. That’s a legitimate reason why working with a digital marketing or digital branding expert is a strong play.
There are different versions of this concept. Some entrepreneurs and companies just create one in Google Drive; that’s fine, although it’s not as robust as you should use. There are hundreds of options online. Research and see which one resonates with you. Make sure it’s something you’d actually use. The main goal is to be able to track what’s been posted, when it was posted, and what’s coming up — and if you have multiple authors or voice, you want everyone to know what’s expected of them.
Proper images, varied graphics
If you have a WordPress-powered site and use CoSchedule, they just released some new social scheduling tools that are great. You can vary images (2-3 different ones) for a single post with just a couple of clicks. If you’re not using something like that, make sure you use different images and different approaches to the graphic associated with your post. If your entire timeline on Facebook or Twitter is the exact same link and picture, people will ignore you. Here’s a quick hint: whatever your keyword is, do a Google search for that keyword + the word ‘illustration.’ You often find really nice-looking images that way.
As Rand Fishkin of Moz has pointed out, this is still crucial. The only way to have a long-term, high-ROI digital strategy is to compete on keyword strategy. Social and ‘viral’ posts give you nice pops of traffic and knowledge about your business service, but long-term keywords that you compete on are intense long-term ROI. Make sure you take into account areas of thought leadership that it would be logical for your brand (or you) to be associated with.
SMM here means ‘social media marketing.’ You need a customized approach here. If you sell or produce something visual, consider Pinterest or Instagram. If you’re B2B and have an insights area, consider LinkedIn. Not everything works for every platform — and it’s much better to dominate one platform than be half-there on 10 different ones. Another crucial thing about social media? Don’t forget the first word. The goal is to be social. It’s not to sell. You can sell once you’ve built relationships through being social. If you sell at first, people will ignore you.
Understand the full capabilities of what you’re using
Many people buy a solution, an app, a platform, or a program — and don’t know what it can really do. Most of these programs have a blog. Read it. Many run webinars. Watch them. If you’re still not sure, reach out to a digital marketing expert. If you’re paying a lot of money for a high-level version of a product, you need to know what it can do and how it can benefit you.
This is tough for a lot of small businesses. Sometimes, business process can bury actual results. You want a process that actually drives results forward. A lot of times with content, companies can fall into ‘consensus-seeking’ because you’re trying to make sure every functional area (silo) is on board with what’s going on. That’s a mistake. Set up a process for who researches it, who creates it, and who approves it. Don’t stray from the process. If some third-party wants in on it, explain to them why the process was created. Too many cooks in the kitchen doesn’t make the soup (or infographic) any better.
Long-tail, specific content is great (such as “What to do with x-type of organic flour” for a bakery). But evergreen content — which is more general — can be re-purposed often and used in many different ways. (For a bakery, an example would be “The six best types of flour” or something like that.) Having evergreen content is good for loading up social automation queues — and it’s also good for analyzing down the road and seeing how you can tweak the page (keywords, SEO, images, etc.) for even more results.
You’ve probably all seen the Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake hashtags video:
It’s funny, but it’s also partially funny because of how many people you probably know who overuse hashtags. We’ve all seen the Instagram posts with 17 hashtags on it. It does very little. If anything, it probably annoys the end viewer of the main image. Use hashtags sparingly, and use them in a targeted way where you know the reach. Keyhole is a good site for hashtag analytics.
Reporting and following up
This might be the most crucial aspect. If you install any type of automation or tracking for your social, you need to look at it at least every week. See what’s happening. See if there are trends. Adjust accordingly. I just worked with someone who had Google Analytics and a social automation suite. By looking at it weekly over a month, he realized that a ton of his Twitter traffic was coming from Great Britain — and that those visitors were staying 4x more than American visitors. He designed content specific to his market in England and segmented his e-mail list based on UK-based e-mail addresses. All this took time and work, but when those people got the email, they scooped up his service and he made a bunch of money. The point is: once you install or work with automation and analytics, you need to actually consider it and use it towards new decisions.
What other ideas have you seen around maximizing social media analytics and automation?