Social media is the new marketing.
We know that now, we live it, we accept it. Yet, there's a good way to promote a brand and a bad way. The bad way is easy. Post on an irregular basis. Never answer chat requests. Ignore entire segments of the population (aka, Snapchat). You might even say, most people trying to figure out how to do social media for a company or for their own purposes know enough to be dangerous...but not that effective.
What works? After using social media for the past eight years or so on a consistent basis, I know there are ways to "market" a brand. Here are my biggest lessons.
1. Don't trumpet yourself too much
Here's the one big lesson about social media, one that I'm still learning about. It is not a one way street. If you shoot off a constant stream of tweets or post lush brochures about a new product on Facebook, people will eventually start ignoring you. Recently, I've learned to participate more, to chat with people on Facebook, add more comments, and to click "like" more often.
2. Be consistent and vary your posts
Be consistent and varied. How is that possible? It's really all about being creative but making sure you keep a schedule. Many apps like Buffer and Sprout Social let you schedule social posts. That's a good idea, because it means you are active. Yet, it's important to mix things up. Maybe you always post at specific times, but you might make a few jokes in between, add a link to a new product one day and the next offer a printable coupon for your company. Followers are looking for a steady cadence; they'll pop in and check on your stream, but if it's not fresh, they'll drop out.
3. Chat often on Facebook
I've started chatting almost daily on Facebook with people. This more interactive, in-the-moment messaging is known as "dark social" in that it is on the fringe--it's outside of the normal posts and tweets. People pay more attention to "live" chats (and live video) than static posts.
4. Create unique posts on LinkedIn
Another change I've seen, especially with my Inc.com colleagues, has to do with original posts on LinkedIn. When you see a full post on LinkedIn, it takes on a new meaning--it's part of the business discussion now, part of the ethos. People can leave comments and trust that other business folks will also comment and reply. They can contact you within a safe business network (and not on the same service used to post baby photos).
5. Post in the morning when people are more active
This is a quick tip, but it's effective. Post in the morning. You'll be amazed how people are in interaction mode, seeking new information that helps them work more effectively. By the end of the day or even in the afternoon, social chatter starts to shift to topics like politics.
6. Join Groups on Facebook and stay active on them
I mentioned how I'm chatting more on Facebook. I'm also joining more groups, which means I'm interacting with like-minded people. In these groups, I can trust that the members already have a vested interest in the topic--such as artificial intelligence or PR.
7. A question is pure gold
Try this tip on social media. Let's say you have an important message to communicate about your brand. Try framing the topic as a question. If a pizza shop has a new crust, you might ask followers about which crusts they like the best. I'm not sure if there is a scientific reason for this, but people like being helpful and they like informing others. We are answer givers.
8. Get visual when you can
A picture gains more traction on social. People don't have time to scan text or read an entire post. Recently, I wrote about how The Lumineers posted a picture of the band meeting President Obama. It was pure gold because it told a story. The band played at the White House, they met the President, and they are kind of famous. Try saying that with words.
9. Target the influencers, but don't avoid your peers
Influencers on social media are the folks who have a ton of followers. If they "like" a post or make a comment on a LinkedIn article, it means a lot of people will see it. I always recommend finding influencers and interacting with them in a genuine way (say, asking for advice). However, don't forget your peer group. That chatbot group on Facebook maybe isn't filled with famous people but it is filled with people who are smart, connected, and helpful.
10. Avoid conflict and controversy
This last lesson is, ironically, a bit controversial. Social media pundits sometimes recommend that people generate some conflict and controversy. In my experience, conflict creates a spike and maybe a few people follow you, but as humans we generally like to stay positive. Conflict doesn't work over long periods. People get sick of the negativity.