Our resident social media guru Dana Robinson has provided businesses with blog and social media content for nearly a decade. Her career — much like a social campaign or Instagram account — grew organically, starting with newsletter and blog and social content for a single nonprofit client. Today, she manages blogs and social media campaigns for a variety of businesses.
For this installment of Copywriter Q&A, we asked Dana to share some of her tips, strategies, and best practices. A few key takeaways: do your homework when it comes to choosing a management platform, and make sure you have a rock-solid social media policy in place.
TWFH: For many companies, the most challenging part of social media is staying organized. Do you have any recommendations for management tools?
DR: With social, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” solution. In general, the best platform depends on things like your goals and the size of your company. For small and medium sized businesses Hootsuite and Sprout Social are good choices: They’re affordable, and they’re a great starting point if you only need a handful of users for one or two platforms. On the other end, you have “enterprise tools” like Hubspot that are more appropriate if you’ve got 10 platforms and 100 users. The price point is quite different, too: An enterprise tool will cost $1,100 to $1,200 per month. Something like Hootsuite starts at $20.
My advice is to do research on different platforms. Look at the price point, the number of users allowed, and the available features. Shop around based on what you’re trying to do. If you’re trying to grow a following, your platform needs to help you search for influencers. Or maybe you want a tool to help suggest content for sharing. They don’t all do those things. If you’re managing social media for multiple clients, you need something that has a robust client management support. If your main goal is to engage with your current audience or customer base, you need a good scheduling tool to make sure you’re reaching the right people at the right time with the right content.
TWFH: Speaking of “the right content,” how do you figure out what, exactly, that is? How do you ensure that you’re driving traffic and creating engaging content?
DR: I use algorithms to find out what keywords are trending. Answerthepublic.com is fantastic. You can type in something like, “downtown Houston” and it’ll give you all these fabulous ideas. It gives you the exact keywords so potential readers will find you.
You also have to know what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes, it’s trial and error; putting out a couple of different kinds of content and see what your customers are reacting to. Once you know that, give them more of that. Knowing when to say “no” to content is also a strategy. That’s a way to lose your audience: If six times out of ten, your content is something they’re not interested in, they’re going to stop paying attention.
TWFH: What about reaching the “right people” on social media? How can you identify them and make sure you’re speaking to them directly?
DR: This is another reason that you should have a good social media management tool. You want to choose a tool that offers good analytics; something that lets you extract the data and see who is interacting with your content and even when they’re interacting with it. This is especially important if your company has a marketing department — you can use the data to sort users into groups and work hand-in-hand with marketing and develop content that appeals to each group. And a good calendar tool can help you deliver that content at right time.
TWFH: Is there anything you try to avoid in social media campaigns?
DR: I’d say to keep politics out of it. Also, social is very meme-heavy, and you have to be careful with that. Sometimes as a social media manager, you can think something is funny and put it out there — and then find that it wasn’t perceived the way you meant it. My advice: Take a moment and ask, “Will this have good purpose if we post it?”
In general, smaller businesses have a bit more freedom in this area: since the company is more closely tied to one owner or a few specific people; there’s more of a personal relationship there. But larger business really have to “stick to the script” — social media is an extension of their advertising. All posts should be heavily researched and approved by your marketing department.
TWFH: And what about employees and social media? How can companies make sure that everyone in the company — not just marketing — is sticking to the script where social media is concerned?
DR: While your employee base can be wonderful tool, you also want to have fairly good control over how and where they use it. The last thing you want is someone from your company doing something on social media that damages your company’s brand or reputation or reveals trade secrets. Part of this can be eliminated by only allowing a couple of people the ability to post on your behalf.
And of course, you need a social media policy. In the event that you can’t control what an employee does on social, you’ll at least have legal recourse. Your policy should be very specific, and it needs to be in writing. You should have your employees sign something, and even provide a half-day training session on your social media policy. You also need to provide training on company image and customer service. We’ve all seen what can happen when a customer has a negative experience.
TWFH: Right, because you also have to think about how your customers are using social media.
DR: Customers have phones in their pocket, and they can record a negative interaction and post it to YouTube. Everyone remembers seeing that doctor getting dragged off of that United flight. People are going to remember things like that — and they’re not going to remember that expensive ad campaign you spent six months developing. This is why customer service has never been more important:
TWFH: Are there any legal issues companies should be aware of when developing a social campaign?
DR: Copyright laws. If you were to only ever post original content and images — content that belongs to your company, you’d be safe. But no one does that — everyone gets caught up in sharing social content. So you need to be aware of copyright laws and rules about attribution and permission. For example, if you’re using images from web sources, you always need to read license restrictions — even if it’s labeled “Creative Commons.” A lot of people see Creative Commons and think, “Okay, I can use this.” But there are different licensing levels even within Creative Commons. Some of my favorite sites for images are Pixabay and Flickr. You can find great images, but they don’t all the same license. You absolutely have to read the license restrictions on each image to see if you have permission to use it and what kind of attribution is required. You also have to be careful with Instagram. On Instagram, all images are assumed to be proprietary. So if you post an image to Instagram, it’s presumed to be owned by you. If it’s not your image, you need to have permission to use it.
Another legal issue that’s kind of new: If your company does sponsored posts or works with influencers, you have to be aware of disclosure laws. The FTC has cracked down on those recently. Ads have to disclose themselves. That was not always the case, but it is now. So, for example, if an influencer is advertising your product they have to say, “This was given to me for free,” or they have to explain how they benefit from the sale of your product.