Participation in social media should be a staple for any business leveraging inbound marketing. Social media expands the reach of content, offers a valuable communication platform between businesses and their prospects/customers, and helps to nurture existing leads into a position where they're more ready to buy.
One of the critical social media best practices we discuss often is regularly publishing content and updates to the social networks in which your business participates. But what exactly does an optimized and effective social media update look like, and what are its key characteristics? Surely it would vary from social network to social network, right? After all, each social media site has its own little nuances to understand and adhere to.
Best Practices for All Social Networks
As you can guess, there are some social media best practices that can be applied across all social networks. Consider the following questions when publishing any social media update, whether you're on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or LinkedIn.
- Have I included keywords? Search engines are taking cues from social media more and more, making it increasingly important to include appropriate keywords for your business and industry in your social media updates. This will make them even more searchable and help people find you and your content in search engines.
- Am I being engaging? Sure, social media is an awesome platform to promote your content and offers, but you also need to be social. Allocate some of the posts you publish purely to engaging with your fans and followers. Ask questions, respond to their comments, and stay involved.
- Am I including lead generation content? As a marketer, you need to prove the ROI of your social media engagement. If you're not actively sprinkling in your lead gen content like webinars, downloadable ebooks, and other offers, you'll surely miss the mark.
- Is my update valuable to my target audience? Every update you publish should provide value to the audience you want to reach. Don't waste you and your fans/followers' time with useless information. Share information that informs, engages, interests, and educates your target customer.
- Am I posting frequently enough? You need to make sure you're regularly engaging your fans and followers with fresh content on a regular basis, or they won't have a reason to come back and visit your account often. Acceptable posting frequency can vary from social network to social network. For example, you'll find that you can get away with posting more on Twitter than on Facebook, given the shorter lifespan of a tweet compared to a Facebook post.
While these best practices can easily be applied to the majority of social networks, there are also some social network-specific tips you should know to get the most out of each update you publish on the top four social networks. We'll start with Twitter.
Anatomy of a Twitter Update
A Twitter update is limited by 140 characters, so you don't have much room to make a bang with your updates in this social network. Here's how to make the most of each tweet.
1. Use a Professional Profile Image: Your profile image will get published next to each tweet you send out from your business account, so make it count. Use an identifiable company logo that displays nicely as a small thumbnail image.
2. Include a Link Back to Your Website: One of your goals for engaging with followers on Twitter is to generate traffic and leads back to your website, right? It should be, and the best way to do this is to include links back to your website in your tweets -- to blog posts, landing pages, and other content. Use a URL shortening services like bitly to shorten links so you can leave room for other text in your tweet.
3. Incorporate an @Mention (But Not at the Beginning): This definitely isn't a requirement for every tweet, but it can help to include an @mention in tweets if you're referencing an industry thought leader or another publication. This will draw attention to your tweet from that user and may even entice them to retweet your content.
4. Add a Hashtag, If Applicable: Are you tweeting something relative to a campaign you're running or an event you're hosting? Include the hashtag so others can easily find your tweets, even if they're not directly following you.
5. Make Room for Manual Retweets: Generating retweets of your content can be a great way to expand your tweets' reach beyond your direct network. Since most people prefer to manually retweet rather than using Twitter's retweet button in order to add their own commentary, you need to leave some space in your tweets to allow for "RT @Username" and room for users' commentary. Shoot for tweet lengths of 120-130 characters; don't use up all 140.
Anatomy of Facebook, Google+ & LinkedIn Updates
1. Include a Link Back to Your Website: As with Twitter, your ultimate goal of participating in social media is likely to drive traffic back to your website so you can convert visitors into leads. On Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+, when you include a link in a status update, it also pulls in a preview of the link's content, which can help entice visitors to click on the link.
2. Optimize Your Link Title: When you attach a link to your status update, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ will also automatically pull in the link's page title. Before you click 'publish,' make sure the page title reads the way you'd like it to. On Facebook and LinkedIn, you have the option of editing the title by clicking on it, so make sure the title is clear, inviting, and interesting. (Note: Unfortunately, Google+ currently doesn't allow you to edit this, so you'll want to make sure the page title of your content is already optimized on your website to optimize its appearance in Google+.)
3. Write a Coherent Link Description: Similar to the page title, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ also automatically pull in your link's meta description as the link's description. On Facebook and LinkedIn, you can also edit this before you post (and you should), so make sure it accurately describes the content and doesn't get cut off by each social network. (Note: Although you can remove the link's description from the overall update, Google+ also doesn't allow you to edit this either, so again, you'll want to make sure the meta description of your content is already optimized on your website to optimize its appearance in Google+.)
4. Create an Enticing Lead-In to Encourage Engagement & Action: Whether you attach a link to your social media update or not, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn all provide you with space to include some additional text.
- Facebook gives you around 60,000 characters per update.
- Google+ indicates there is no official character limit (although a test from TechCrunch hints that it may top off around 100,000 characters).
- LinkedIn's caps your status update at a much shorter 700 characters.
While we don't recommend creating extremely lengthy updates, you should use this text and the freedom it provides wisely. If you're trying to get people to click on the link to a piece of content you're posting, try including an interesting stat from the content and explaining the value of what you're providing. Consider it a call-to-action that should encourage the reader to click on the link for more, whether it's to read the blog post or download your offer.
5. Include an Image: Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn are all much more visual-friendly social networks than Twitter, so use that to your advantage. Upload an image or make sure each piece of content you link to in your update includes an accompanying image that the network can pull in with it. Linking to a landing page for lead gen? Include an image of the offer the lead will receive, such as the cover of the ebook or a slide from the webinar.
Now that you better understand the similarities of Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn status updates, read on to learn about some of the factors unique to Facebook and how you can optimize your status updates there for maximum effectiveness.
1. Strategically Crop Your Thumbnail Image: The thumbnail image that gets pulled in next to each update you publish to your Facebook page is a cropped version of your page's profile image. Be mindful of this when choosing a profile image, and choose something that you can crop to create a good-looking thumbnail image. To adjust your thumbnail image, click Edit Info >> Profile Picture >> Edit Thumbnail. You have the option of scaling your image to fit the thumbnail size or dragging the image to adjust its appearance.
2. Enable Comments: In your page's settings, under Manage Permissions >> Posting Ability, make sure you check the box marked "People can write or post content on the wall." This will enable fans and visitors to your page to comment on posts you publish and engage with your content. If people publicly endorse your content, it will encourage others to check out your content, too!
3. Consider Targeting Options: Before you click "Share" on a post you're about to publish, you'll have the option of either targeting it to only be seen by a specific location/language demographic or keeping your sharing setting as the default, "Public." We recommend keeping it set to the public default for maximum exposure, but if you're interested in targeting a specific demographic, it's important to know that the option is there.
4. Leverage Facebook Insights: Compared to other social networks, Facebook definitely wins the award for most robust analytics tool. Facebook Insights gives you a look at how individual posts you publish perform compared to one another so you can identify which types of posts are engaging your audience and which aren't. Use this intelligence to publish more of what works and less of what doesn't.
If Facebook gives you room for more creativity in your updates than Twitter, there is virtually no limit to the amount of creativity you can have on Google+. As we mentioned, Google+ has indicated that there is no character limit for Google+ posts. While you already know that the functionality of Google+ updates are very similar in nature to Facebook, there are a few other Google+ specifics to be mindful of.
1. Understand Profile Image Specifications: Like Facebook and Twitter, you'll want to choose a recognizable, professional-looking profile image, as this will get sized down as the thumbnail image and get displayed next to each of your status updates. Google+ gives you some more robust customization options after you initially upload your image, but you still have to use the same image for your main profile image and your thumbnail image (which is basically just visible as a smaller, square version). Therefore, keep in mind that anything you choose as your main image will also need to look good in the smaller format, too.
2. Leverage the Value of Visual Content: Google+ is definitely the most visually friendly social network of the 4, making it a valuable platform to share high quality images and content to engage your audience. Google+ displays images much larger than most other social networks, making visual content much more shareable there. Be sure to publish some of your more visual-centric content here for the best social media exposure. At HubSpot, for example, we've primarily used Google+ to share our holiday ecards and conduct photo caption contests.
3. Use Targeting Options: Like Facebook, you can either make your updates publicly available or you can experiment with targeting your updates. On Google+, your targeting options are possible with Circles. If a Google+ user is following your Google+ page, you can add them to a Circle and target specific updates at specific Circles. Therefore, if you wanted to create different Circles for people interested in different topics, you can target specific content just to people interested in that particular topic. Hooray for better segmentation and personalization!
Company status updates are a fairly new -- though extremely valuable -- feature in the LinkedIn realm. It's also one that we've found to be very underutilized by businesses. While the features available for status updates on LinkedIn aren't as robust as Facebook and Google+, the first thing you'll want to do is make sure you've enabled Company Status Updates for your LinkedIn Company Page. To do so, you first need to add admins to your Company Page. Go to Edit, click Designated Users Only, and then select connections you want to be able to edit your page and publish status updates. Just be sure to also add yourself, otherwise you'll have to ask one of the new admins to go in and add you. Once you've enabled status updates, here's how to make them work for you...
1. Understand Logo Specifications: In your LinkedIn page settings, you can upload two images. Your 'Standard Logo' is the one that is used as your page's main image. Your 'Square Logo' is the one that accompanies each of your page's status updates. LinkedIn is unique here in that it allows you to use a separate image for your main profile compared to your status updates. Keep in mind that your status update thumbnail image will be resized to fit 150x150 pixels, so you want to make sure you upload an image that works in a small, square format.
2. Leverage the Value of Business-Oriented Content: Remember, LinkedIn is populated by a user base of business professionals. This means that it is mainly B2B focused and that your audience is likely there to obtain industry-related information. Therefore, you should focus the content of your updates on educational content that serves to help others in your industry, and try to avoid the fluff.
3. Use LinkedIn Page Analytics: The analytics offered by LinkedIn aren't nearly as robust as the analytics for Facebook, but it does give you a snapshot look at the types of visitors coming to your LinkedIn page and how your traffic is trending over time. If you find that a certain demographic or persona is visiting your page more, you can use this insight to offer more content suited to that demographic. While LinkedIn doesn't offer any sort of dashboard that shows how certain status updates perform in comparison to others, you can see how many likes and comments a post generates by looking at the individual post on your company page. You can also see the engagement percentage and its number of impressions.
While much of the same social media philosophies can be applied to many of the social networks, it's important to understand the nuances of each if you want to maximize the effectiveness of your social media presence. Furthermore, it's critical to use marketing analytics to identify how efficiently each social network you're participating in is contributing to your business' bottom line. How well is each network referring traffic and leads to your website? Does one social network significantly under-perform compared to others? Use this information wisely so you can continue to optimize your social media results.
How else would you suggest optimizing social media updates for specific social networks?
Image Credit: Mary Margret