dna double helixEvery social media network has a few nuances specific to that network, and it's your job as a  social media marketer to master them. But when you begin to dissect any effective social media presence, whether on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+, there are a handful of characteristics common to all of them that constitute what we can now boil down to social media best practices. We've distilled those characteristics down to a manageable list that will include some things you've heard before, and some things that might be new to you.

If you're just starting out leveraging social media marketing for your business, consult this list to make sure your presence across all networks covers these best practices. If you're not new to the social media marketing game, do a quick audit of all your accounts, and ask yourself if you're hitting the mark on these 8 essential characteristics of an effective social media business account.

8 Essential Characteristics of an Effective Social Media Business Account

1.) Define a clear purpose for each network, and maintain it. If you haven't figured out what you're going to use each network for, now's the time. Despite the warm and fuzziness of social media marketing, it should be approached with the same analytical mindset of any other marketing channel. How many fans/followers do you want to attract, and in what span of time? How many of them do you want to convert into leads? How are you going to achieve that growth?

Also consider the point of view behind each account you set up. Is it a customer service channel? Are you sending out coupons? Are you announcing company news? All of the above? Take a look at how may Twitter accounts Verizon has, for example. They are divided up very clearly into offers, support, the company "voice," and news. Depending on the size and nature of your company, your customers may benefit from such division, as well (just be mindful that more accounts means the need for more content and more management). Ask yourself that question before you set up any account, and you'll be able to maintain focus and avoid confusing fans and followers.

verizon twitter accounts

2.) Establish the voice behind every network. This is where a social media policy may come in handy, and where establishing your account's purpose (see #1) will definitely come in handy. What do you want your voice to be? If it's a support account, friendly but helpful might be just the ticket. If it's an account for sharing your content and interacting with fans, let more of your brand's personality shine through. And if your brand doesn't have a personality, well, no time like the present to establish it. Remember that social media is a whole different arena, and there's not as much interest in stuffy language, even if you're speaking to a B2B audience. In fact, our own Dan Zarrella conducted research that shows readability levels are quite low on social media, so consider lightening up a bit when posting your updates, and no matter what voice you establish, keep it consistent day to day.

3.) Publish consistent updates. Start by seeing how often your competitors are publishing in social media, and then seek to not only match, but also exceed that voulme. Of course to do this, you must have also dedicated yourself to producing quality content consistently. But if you're the savvy inbound marketer we know you to be, I'm sure revving up your content machine is on the top of your resolution list!

Once you've established the proper frequency of communication, you need to maintain that every day. Just like blogging, if you let your social media accounts go dormant for even a few days at a time, you lose any momentum you've worked hard to build. If you find social media marketing is taking up too much of your time, consider implementing some automation solutions to streamline the process. It's worth investing the time up front in social media automation to ensure you maintain the publishing consistency you need for meaningful growth.

4.) Interact with people. How can you expect people to talk to you if you don't talk to them? It's social media, so be social! Talk to fans, tweet with people, follow people back that it makes sense for you to follow. Be discerning, sure, but don't be stingy.

facebook engagement

This principle extends to sharing content, too. Not only is this an important form of interaction, but sharing relevant content also helps your audience, regardless of the source. And isn't that what you're there to do?

5.) Give more than one department access to your profiles. Let other people outside of the social media and marketing team get involved in social media. You don't have to turn over the administrative reins completely, but you can offer varying levels of permissions so that select people in sales, support, and customer service can have a voice. Other perspectives are valuable, and the folks on the front lines can sometimes be more in tune with what customers and prospects need to hear.

6.) Make your social presence visible...everywhere. Your social media profiles aren't much good if no one can find them. Readers should be able to find your social media accounts on your website's homepage, your blog, the thank-you pages of landing pages, in emails, and even on other social media profiles. For example, every blog post you publish and email you send should have buttons that lead to your social media profiles. If it's not already part of your blog's design or your email templates, use this guide to learn how to create those buttons. Similarly, you can tweet about your Facebook profile, or include a URL to your LinkedIn page on your Google+ page. This kind of cross promotion will help you build a solid fan base of your most loyal supporters.

7.) Incorporate lead generation. Did you know that you can generate leads using LinkedIn? Or did you know you can create a welcome screen for your Facebook page that lets you capture leads right there on the social network? Have you tweeted offers like webinars, whitepapers, ebooks, case studies, and buying guides that link to a landing page with a form? If these tactics aren't part of your regular social media marketing strategy, you'll have a hard time seeing any ROI out of your time spend on social media. Don't just focus on engagement when measuring your social media effectiveness; work to get leads!

8.) Incorporate a search strategy. Just as you have a keyword strategy for your blog, you should include the industry keywords you're targeting in your social media updates. Search engines are considering social content and returning it in search results, and doing so will help increase the likelihood that your social media content appears in search engine results pages.

There are lots of things you can (and should) do on top of these things, but including these characteristics is crucial to the success of any social media account. If you've resolved to start or dedicate more time to your social media business presence, first make sure to check that every profile, page, and account covers these 8 best practices, and you'll be poised for steady success over time.

What qualities do you think make up an effective social media profile? Or, are there any qualities that are sure-fire signs of failure?

Image credit: ynse


Originally published Jan 3, 2012 1:10:00 PM, updated October 20 2016