2020 is upon us. Is your social media marketing operation ready to put its best foot forward in a new decade? Truth be told, your social media skills could probably use some polishing. A lot has changed in the past year alone, to say nothing of the previous nine. The social media landscape today is all but unrecognizable to a time traveler from 2010. Most of the changes you’ll want to make early in the new year are iterative, demanding no head-to-toe overhaul of your social media marketing machine. If you’re plugged into the social media marketing conversation, you’ve probably heard about most of them already. Some of them, you should be doing already — but no judgments if that’s not the case. Let’s start with your most important responsibility in the social media space: keeping your team, customers, and trade secrets safe..
You know this already, but it bears repeating. The past decade saw social media emerge as a major threat vector for individuals and organizations alike. The new decade promises to recycle some of the most vexing threats now faced by your social media team while unveiling a host of new threats like none we’ve seen before. It’s time to prepare. Start by admitting that, sooner or later, your organization is likely to fall victim to a disruptive breach or attack. Invest in a comprehensive set of data protection tools to mitigate the damage, including Office 365 backup and physical backups for data stored in potentially insecure cloud accounts. Don’t stop there. Closely guard permissions and credentials for your corporate social media accounts, providing them only to the small cohort of team members authorized to post on the organization’s behalf. Change these credentials often, at least once per month. Use two-factor authentication to guard against credential compromise. And teach your team members how to spot common social media threat vectors, such as phishing.
Not sure how to write a social media policy for your company? Read this first. Your object here is not to destroy the fun of personal social media use. Nor is it to quash the creative potential of social media connections — creative potential that may redound to your company’s bottom line. No, your object is merely to protect your company’s reputation. All that’s needed to precipitate a PR nightmare is a single ill-advised employee tweet or Facebook post that happens to go viral. From there, it’s only a matter of time before a keen-eyed social media user traces the content back to your organization.
This move isn’t as much about protecting your company’s reputation as about protecting your company’s time. When your employees are at the office (or working remotely during regular business hours), they’re on your time. With few exceptions, to include generating positive organic content for in-progress social media campaigns, they shouldn’t spend this time logged into their personal accounts.
All the trust in the world won’t protect you and your organization from a social media slip-up. Leave nothing to chance when you publish an exhaustive guidebook for company-owned social media accounts. Those authorized to post on these accounts should know exactly what they can and cannot do with the awesome responsibility to which you’ve entrusted them.
We mentioned earlier that one of the rare instances in which you might reasonably expect employees to post from their personal social media accounts on company time is when you’ve tasked them with generating organic engagement around a social media campaign. Truth be told, this instance might not be so rare. Because buying followers is a strict no-no, clever social media marketers rely on the next best thing: an audience of independent-thinking social media users who have every reason to engage with your brand. Rules for organic employee engagement need to be spelled out in your social media guidelines, by the way. Again, the watchword is “leave nothing to chance.”
This provocatively titled article makes a persuasive case against buying social media followers — or, if you like, for buying only one batch of followers, one time, and exposing the practice for the sham that it is. The practice of buying social media followers has too many downsides to list here. That may come as a surprise to veteran social marketers, who remember when bought followers were part of the game. Suffice to say, as elsewhere, that this particular “best practice” no longer holds.
Your social media accounts shouldn’t be all about you. They shouldn’t even be mostly about you. This is true for personal and corporate accounts alike, but it’s especially important for general accounts that represent your brand to the wider world. (Purpose-driven accounts like “Acme Daily Deals” are the exception.) While the 4-1-1 rule comes in several different flavors, the details matter less than the takeaway: Overtly promotional posts should account for less than 20% of your social media stream. Devote the rest to re-posting content from users you follow and sharing memes or reports (or whatever) from authoritative sources.
Take the work out of your non-self-promotional social media use by compiling a list of social accounts that you and your social media team (and employees using personal accounts) have permission to promote. Focus on thought leaders in your industry and other business leaders with interesting, valuable insights — the goal being to make you and your team look better by association.
Yes, YouTube is the once and future king of digital video content. Nothing on the horizon is likely to change that, notwithstanding niche-specific inroads by platforms like TikTok. Acknowledging this reality is not the same as acknowledging YouTube as the only digital video platform that matters to your marketing team. That would be false, not to mention actively detrimental to your campaigns. By dint of its vast active follower network, Facebook is a video juggernaut. Its reach is impossible to ignore. You’d be foolish not to publish original video content here. Facebook’s video features complement YouTube’s. Whereas YouTube is ideal for instructionals, talks, and other longer-format, detail rich content, Facebook is a better fit for marketing videos that don’t pack too much information into each frame. Its auto-play feature hooks in users scrolling through their news feeds, a must when attention spans get shorter every year.
Is LinkedIn to text what Facebook is to video? The jury is still out, but one thing is for sure: LinkedIn is the best place to get original articles and reports in front of thought leaders and decision-makers. By all means, keep your company blog running, but post to LinkedIn first, and promote heavily before opening up other channels
Among those “other channels,” and perhaps the most important besides LinkedIn, is Medium — best described as a high-authority “blog in a box” to those not familiar. Medium is a natural choice for cross-posting in-depth written content that also appears on your LinkedIn profile and your personal blog. One feature in particular, the Medium Partner Program, gives it an edge that these other platforms lack: the ability to turn key employees into bona fide industry thought leaders with loyal reader audiences. The Medium Partner Program promises monetary compensation to authors with popular posts, but let’s be clear: Direct revenue should not factor into your considerations here. Whatever income your employees will earn through their writing, even from posts that go absolutely viral, pales in comparison to the value they add on your payroll. The intangible value of the exposure they’ll earn on Medium, though? Huge, potentially. That’s your golden ticket.
Dive deep into the social media analytics at your fingertips (yes, really) to pinpoint the absolute best times to post on each platform. Contrary to old-schoolers’ insistence, post timing really does matter: One hour off in either direction can really depress engagement in an increasingly fast-moving social media landscape.
The ideal times to post to your social media accounts aren’t always the most convenient. Keep your team on task, and reduce the human input required to keep your campaigns running smoothly, with a free or low-cost social media scheduling tool that automates and customizes posting. Hootsuite is ever-popular, but options are plentiful; make it a priority to do due diligence on each this quarter.
Everyone likes a good social media contest. Keep the masses happy by running one every week, always with an enticing prize for the lucky winner(s). Avoid confusion and ensure granular targeting with platform-specific promotions — what works well on Twitter might not come off so hot on Instagram.
Keep active social media accounts on every major platform, even those you don’t use regularly. To be clear, these accounts need not be core to your marketing campaign — they only need to show up in search results for terms associated with your company (including the company name itself). Why bother? Every major social media platform inherently has high Domain Authority, a key measure of SEO truck developed by Moz. Sites with high Domain Authority (DA) appear higher in organic search results, with the most authoritative properties (DA > 90) often showing up on Google’s first page. Because you control the content on your social media properties, each account functions as a free positive search listing for your company. That’s all the more important if you’re struggling to beat back negative reviews or media mentions..
Unfortunately, your social media scheduling tool can’t (yet) answer urgent follower feedback on your behalf in the middle of the night. Make a point to respond within a few hours, though, and to thoroughly address dissatisfied customers’ concerns.
Your individual and corporate accounts have the right to remain free of threats and harassment. Report truly abusive behavior without a second thought, and avoid engaging with followers (and non-followers) clearly uninterested in operating in good faith.
There is always a current events hook. You just have to know where to find it; Google News is a fine place to start. The standard caution about avoiding controversy applies. You don’t need your news hook landing your organization in the news for the wrong reasons.
Goofy dogs and cats at play, cute kids doing dastardly things, eerily clever wildlife — videos of these things get views and clicks, for better or worse. Share them on social media, and your accounts will too. An easy out to build follower engagement? Perhaps. But, really, who cares? It’s better than buying followers, that’s for sure.
Last, but certainly not least: Host at least one social media Q&A each month, ideally in a venue built for rapid-fire engagement (Twitter and Instagram Live both work well). The idea here is to get your audience engaged in genuine fashion with hard-hitting, thought-provoking questions; if engagement is slow to start, seed it with prepared questions from employees.
A decade is a long time. But, as you know all too well, first impressions matter more than subsequent. Your team is counting on you to set them up for social media success in 2020’s inaugural quarter. It’s no exaggeration to say that the future trajectory of your company may depend on the social media initiatives you deploy in the next three months. You’ve surely faced tougher challenges. Show the world what you and your organization are made of and commit, today, to have your social media marketing operation hit the ground running in 2020 and beyond..