Social Media Guidelines

This slideshare deck provides a great overview for getting started with social media.

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How to Enjoy Twitter

Social media is often worked into the strategy of a given project. Twitter is a great way to connect with users, if it’s used well. Here are some basics.

How does Twitter work?

  • Twitter is like a grocery store. You wander the aisles passing people, and every so often you stop to chat. The longer you’re in the store, the more likely you are to recognize other people, and ultimately you’ll get to know the regulars.
  • As a Twitter user you can “follow” other people, which means everything they post will appear in your Twitter feed.
  • Twitter posts are always shown chronologically, and most users follow enough people that any given post will only appear high enough in their feed to be seen for about five minutes. In other words, the “life” of a Twitter post is five to ten minutes.

Why should I use Twitter?

  • Twitter is a great place to build brand awareness and display “value” by posting free resources (articles, videos, images, quotes).
  • Twitter’s use of hashtags (#) allow users to follow topics in addition to people, so your content is easily categorized for people who are interested in the topics you tag.
  • For personal use, Twitter is a great way to stay on top of new trends and best practices within a topic of community.

How to get started

  • Choose an alternative app, like Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, or Tweetcaster to use in place of Twitter. These tools provide the ability to customize and simultaneously view multiple feeds.
  • Search for topics you’re interested in by hashtag. This may take some trial and error; for example, searching “#content” brings up so many posts about such a variety of things that it is not useful. Searching #userresearch brings up so few posts that it is not useful. However, searching #contentstrategy brings up a list of posts that updates every few minutes, with most posters focused on the relevant field.
  • When you find a topic with a useful hashtag, add it as a feed via your app of choice.
  • Schedule tweets in advance, so that you can be active without needing to spend hours every day online.
  • Visit your app when you need some inspiration or a break from work. It’s a good way to learn something or build your brand while feeling like you’re not working.
  • Make a point of replying to people who follow or retweet you. It’s like saying hello in the (metaphorical) grocery store.
  • Follow people who consistently post interesting things in your hashtag feeds.

Choosing the “Right” Social Media

Many organizations struggle to find the “right” social media outlet. It seems like “everyone” is on Facebook, so they want to be there, but Twitter’s “trending topics” makes Twitter a great spot for going viral. None of these are good reasons to have an online presence via these channels.

What to consider when choosing social media outlets:

  • Most importantly: where does your target user spend his/her time online?
    • It might be Facebook or Instagram, or it might be online forums.
    • Find out through ethnographic interviews
    • There’s no point in spending time on a channel unless your users are there
  • What time of day is your user typically online?
  • What do you want to share?
    • Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook are predominantly places for promoting other content (images, blog posts, articles by other people)
    • Blogs are great for sharing more detailed information that users will want to return to
    • Forums are helpful for starting conversations (LinkedIn also offers forums)
  • How often do you want to share?
    • Twitter and Instagram move quickly, so a good strategy will include posting at least 5 times a day*
    • Facebook cycles posts, so posting more than once a day is unnecessary
    • Blogs (especially those with RSS feeds) offer a longer shelf life (i.e. people will return to read older posts), and so they rarely update more than 3 times/week
    • Forums encourage community discussion, and while they require significant moderation from the company hosting the forum, they require less actual “posting.”

*Tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck will allow you to schedule posts in advance, rather than posting to Twitter 5+ times each day.

Social Media Best Practices

Where to Post

  • This is no single best social media place to use. The best channel is the one where your audience hangs out.
  • Since Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. all have different formats, the same post will almost never work on multiple sites. Therefore, it’s better to pick 2 social media outlets and personalize posts for them than to use a tool that duplicates posts across all of them.
  • Identify your goal(s). Attracting followers is not a goal, it’s a tactic, or a means to an end.
    • If the goal is to build a community, then Facebook or a forum may be a better way to do so.
    • If the goal is to share information that is mostly visual, then a site like Pinterest or Instagram is a better fit.
    • If the goal is to network and provide curated information (articles or images or videos from other people, then Twitter or LinkedIn may be the best channels.

When to Post

  • Ultimately, the ideal post times vary by audience. For example, teachers read more emails on Saturday mornings, where people working in offices tend to read more emails on Monday afternoons and Tuesday mornings.
  • Ethnographic interviews will provide information on how your audience interacts with social media.
  • KISSmetrics created a “Science of Social Timing” infographic with details on how people as a whole interact with articles and links.
  • Quick Sprout created a “Best Times to Post” infographic with details on how people as a whole interact with social media channels.
  • Tools like Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, Sprout Social, Buffer, and even Facebook allow you to schedule posts ahead of time. Spend one hour a week setting up regular posts for the rest of the week to cut down on the amount of time you spend on social media every day.

What to Post

  • Headlines are key for grabbing attention. Listen to conversations on the subway or while walking down the street, and note the sentences that make you stop and pay attention. Practice creating headlines that start with those sentences.
  • Free tools and articles will give you a reputation for providing value, rather than for being expensive. It increases the likelihood of visitors choosing to pay for your product or services.
  • Focus on user needs rather than business needs. Social media is a form of inbound/content marketing, not direct marketing. Build a brand, rather than an advertisement.
  • Identify metrics for success and track them for 6 months. Less than 6 months is not long enough to accurately identify success or failure, however if the social media channels you’re using aren’t showing a positive ROI after 6 months then it’s time to make a change.