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The State of Social Media Mid- 2018: What Works, What Doesn’t and What to Do to Ride the Success Wave

Social Media:  It isn’t just for connecting friends anymore: it is the name of the game for any business, big or small and it is here to stay, forevermore.  It didn’t take long for companies to figure out that social media was (and still is) as an excellent way to reach a customer base far beyond current customers, but it isn’t as simple as an upload.  There are tried and true techniques that work flawlessly and others that make barely a difference. For the sake of your time (and ours) we’ll stick to the big three social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) plus LinkedIn.

What (Typically) Doesn’t Work:  Organic Growth

Sure, you can begin to build an audience on your own with great photos, exciting video and relevant content.  But that’s only going to get you so far.  The bottom line is this:  social media platforms want you to pay to get the most out of this “free” platform they provide.  If you want to grow your audience, you’ll need to be deliberate about what and how you post.

What (Typically) Doesn’t Work:  Time Spent

At one point in time, social media tracked how long someone lingered on your page and clicked from post to post, and it played a significant role in how many people saw your content.  Not anymore.  How long someone decides to stalk your content isn’t necessarily a non-factor, but it is significantly less critical.

What (Typically) Doesn’t Work:  Links

Facebook HATES links embedded within posts.  As a matter of fact, the Facebook algorithms are set up to penalize you for including links.  How, do you ask?  Your post will show in only a limited number of the news feeds of people who “like” your page if you embed a link within your post.  It doesn’t matter what a link leads to; it can be your own website, YouTube, or any other destination.  Facebook doesn’t really care.  If you embed a link, you can guarantee fewer people will see your post.   

Instagram doesn’t allow clickable links within the body of the content you post.  At press time, the only way to send someone to your website within the written material itself is to refer them to the bio on your page.  Most people do that by the words, “Link in bio.”

These words are a simple call to action for the reader to scroll up to the top of the profile and go to the bio/description section of the Instagram page they are currently viewing.  In that bio is a website.  That website can be whatever the account owner wants it to be.

For example, if the page owner has a blog, they can post the link to their specific blog page.  The “link in bio” will always lead to that blog, so when a user shares that he/she has just uploaded a new blog, the “link in bio” will always lead to that webpage.

Twitter?  So far, there has not been direct evidence of embedded links harming your twitter posts .  In the meantime, you’re best suited to apply the useful techniques below.

What (Typically) Works (For Now):  Video

But not just any video.  Both Facebook and Instagram love original video uploaded directly specifically to the user’s social media page.  Even better:  LIVE video.  When Facebook announced its new algorithms in January, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said his goal was to make Facebook more personal for users.  This, because feedback from Facebook users revealed that content from businesses and brands was taking up too much of their feeds; they wanted to see more content from friends and family.

That’s great news for your friends and family, but not so great news for businesses.  Now companies that previously posted pictures and words primarily will now need to work harder to be seen.  Video is the best bet, according to survey feedback, which is why Zuckerberg and his team created algorithms that favor video.  And not video from YouTube (see above).  They want it to be uploaded straight to Facebook.   More people will see it, guaranteed, and this stat proves it:  Facebook says videos uploaded directly to their platform average 8 billion views.

Twitter, by the way, likes uploaded video too.  And so do Twitter users.  If you’ve got video to post, go for it.  More people will see your post than if you didn’t.

What (Typically) Works (For Now):  Investing in Ads

As lovely as it is to put your content on all the social media platforms for free, it doesn’t do you a whole lot of good.  That isn’t by chance.  You might post the most riveting relevant content that makes jaws drop, but guess what?  Not nearly as many people will see it as you’d like – unless, however, you put an ad behind it.

Investing in ads – on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter will serve your posts well.  It’s relatively inexpensive too, and it’s meant to be that way.  Your social media platform will make sure your content is seen by any number of people you choose, and you can even streamline your ad to a specific audience.  For example, if your posting about graphic design, you can make sure your ad is displayed only for people who are interested in that subject.

Its quite easy to do and the simple, step by step process is intended to be user-friendly, whether you’re a social media whiz or a newbie to the social media scene.

What (Typically) Works (For Now):  Hashtags

You can use a lot or a little.  It’s entirely up to you.  On Facebook, hashtags typically limited to 1-5 per post.  On Instagram and Twitter, hashtags are much more common.  The difference though is in how much space you must use your hashtags.  Twitter, for example, will only post 280 characters per tweet, which includes your hashtags.  Instagram, on the other hand, allows more than 2,000 characters, but keep in mind, you don’t need to use all that real estate.  Hashtags are counted separately, and Instagram allows 30 per post.  However, don’t use them… once you post 10, Instagram’s algorithms will decrease the viewing potential of your post.

 

What (Typically) Works (For Now):  Sharing

Facebook loves sharing.  Sharing falls in line with Facebook’s new algorithm focus of “meaningful content,” so if you want someone to “share” your posts, create things that you think will have a positive impact on other people.   Facebook makes it easy with a “share” button on every Facebook account.  You’ll also see the share icon on many websites.  The person who put them there knows the value of sharing and how wonderfully it can impact the traffic to a Facebook account.

On Twitter, the equivalent of sharing is a “retweet,” and that is great for getting your page in front of new people.

However, on Instagram, it’s pretty much the opposite.  Instagram does allow you to share other people’s pictures by what it calls a “regram,” but to do it the right and easiest way, you must do it through a third-party app.  Once you give credit and tag the person who had the original post (and without question, you should), other users will see that post as well.

What (Typically) Works (For Now):  Engagement

This one is simple.  When someone comments, reply to them.  Make great (and genuine) comments on other people’s posts.  Like other photos too (with the good ol’ double tap or a single tap of the heart).

Social media is called “SOCIAL” for a reason, so if you want to swing the algorithm pendulum in your favor, get social, stat.  It works.

What (Typically) Works (For Now):  Consistent, Relevant Posts

It was less than a few months ago when Instagram announced a change that meant newer posts are now more likely to appear ahead of older posts in a user’s feed.  For those posting content, this means the more you post, the more likely your content will be seen by your followers in their news feeds.

Posting consistently isn’t just great for algorithms; it’s excellent for your following as well.  People are watching what you do because, for whatever reason, you’ve peaked their interested.  Keep feeding them your content.  Post 2-3 times a week at a minimum.  If you can do it every day, even better.  The general rule of thumb:  if you have 10,000 or less followers, post no more than once a day.  If you’ve exceeded the 10-grand mark, posting 1-2 times per day is ideal.

That sounds like it must be sooooo simple!  Right?  WRONG.  It isn’t.  Maintaining an engaging social media presence takes time, effort and energy.  If you’re doing it for fun, do what you will.  If you’re doing it for business, you’ll need something more substantial.  More on that in a moment.

What (Typically) Works (For Now):  Getting Help

If you’re on social media for personal connections and fun, social media management isn’t so much management per say,  as it is casual interaction.  You need no help for this.  You pull up to your PC, prop open your laptop or whip out your mobile phone when and where you feel the need to check in, snap a selfie or share some special news.  No management needed!

On the other hand, if you are a business and your social media pages are lacking, consider farming out the social media responsibility to another individual (or company) so you can focus on your business’ needs.  You’ll just have to be clear on exactly what you want – and when.

Don’t just sign up with anyone.  Be sure to ask for references and don’t sign a contract with them early on.  Tell your prospective social media manager that you want to experience their services on a trial basis for 2-3 months (and you’ll pay the fair market value for their services during that time).  That will be enough time to tell if their services are a good fit for your company.

Either way, don’t expect to see stellar results from your social media pages early on.  The algorithms in place are NOT business friendly, so ask yourself:

  • Is your content relevant?
  • Does your content relate to your business?
  • Are you (or your social media manager) utilizing all the opportunities for engagement? (i.e., video, consistently/relevancy, ads, hashtags, sharing, engagement)

If yes, you’re in good hands and your following will slowly (like, really, really, slowly) build.

What (Typically) Works (For Now):  All the Above

The trick, now, is to do a little bit of everything.  In short, here it is:

  • Upload Video (Live and Original) – Live is great (and best), original is just slightly less great and should be uploaded directly to Facebook.
  • Post Consistent, Relevant Content – Post what will genuinely benefit and interest people.
  • Invest in Ads – They’re affordable so you’ll use them.
  • Use Hashtags – But not too many. Ten or less is best and don’t use the same hashtags in every post.
  • Share – But only if the content is relevant and somehow related to what you do. Random shares will just leave your followers wondering.
  • Engage – Replies and comments fall in line with algorithms
  • Get Help If You Need It – Social media is here to stay. If you don’t have time to do it yourself, contract it out to someone who can do it for you.
  • Do A Little of This and a Little of That (consistently) – It’s the combination of all the tips that make for the strongest and most successful social media pages.

A Little About LinkedIn

We’re including Linkedin here because, although it is not in the same social realm as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, Linkedin is still a viable social media platform in the business world.  For those of you who post there, know this:

LinkedIn likes original content from a credible source that will help, inspire, inform, or educate other professionals.  You can streamline the content to your field of expertise or make it general.

The Guarantee with EVERY Social Media Platform (and Google Too)

Just like the internet (that gives life to every social media platform and website around today), social media is ever evolving.  This means that there is but one guarantee, and that is… get ready for it: the guarantee is that there is no guarantee.

Whether your business is big or small, the same rules apply.  However, small businesses have an advantage in that they can use the “local” angle and reach out to a select population if they have a physical location for their business.

Even still, just when we experts (and non-experts) think we’ve cracked the code that makes us “Master of Social Media,” Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter go and scramble things up again with new algorithms.  It’s nothing to be discouraged about though… that’s why we study, apply, master, repeat and then adjust as needed.

At the very least, it keeps us all on our toes (while we simultaneously fork over some cash for ads).  And at the most, we continue to rise and dominate the world that is social media.  It’s not going anywhere anytime soon, which is good to know, because neither are its users.

Annie Ianko

Chief Content Officer

Annie has over 20 years of experience as an editor and content creator and manager. With work in television and written media, she has dedicated her past 10 years to learning the ropes of online content creation, from writing to editing, from SEO to content management.

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