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Why do so many small businesses struggle with social media?

When you work in a small team (like ours) your days are probably spent deep in the midst of heads-down tails-up work for clients, which means working on anything for ‘yourself’ (the business) is usually right down the bottom of your priorities list.

In reality, it should be the opposite. Business development, marketing… we all know how important they are. And when it comes to social, most people seem to know they should be on Twitter and LinkedIn.

So you rock up, you create the account. You start posting… but it feels like you’re just throwing mud at the wall and seeing what sticks.

How do you take out the guesswork – and create social content that reaches the people you want to reach and gets the response you need?

That’s exactly what we started asking ourselves a while ago. After a bit of trial and error and a lot of research (plus actually scheduling time to do it all), we came up with some ground rules. Think of this as the social media best practice guide for businesses that just don’t have time.

How long is a piece of social string?

First step: let’s work out how long these things should be. With the exception of Twitter, most social platforms will let you waffle on to infinity or thereabouts. But that doesn’t mean you should. Based on levels of engagement, the ideal length for posts on different social channels is:

Post frequency: finding the Goldilocks spot

Post too little and you risk losing your audience, post too often and you might drive them away. So how do you find that spot that’s just right?

Well, for most social platforms there seems to be a point at which posting more results in a drop in response per post. For Facebook, that’s 5-10 times per week. Tweets can be doled out much more liberally because they have such short lifecycles (about 18 minutes) – but any more than five per day might be overkill. And LinkedIn’s own guidelines suggest 20 posts per month (or one for every business day) to reach up to 60 per cent of your audience. The Marketing Heaven is a way to get more audience reach.

You don’t have to be online all the time to keep up this post schedule, either. Use a tool like Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule tweets and posts to be sent out automatically at times you specify. If you set aside an hour one morning a week, you can get all your posts for the week ahead ready to be fired off.

There’s one important stipulation to all this, and that is: whatever the medium, don’t post for the sake of posting. You need valuable things to share that your audience is going to get something out of – whether that’s information, insight or entertainment.

Post content do’s and don’ts

When it comes to the content of those posts, here are some guidelines that’ll have you reaching optimum engagement:

This might be common sense…

… but there are three more points you should keep in mind.

First, stay where your audience is. If you’re in the B2B space, for example, you might not need to use Facebook or Pinterest. If your audience is consumer, a LinkedIn presence probably isn’t so important.

Second, cross promote. Make sure all your channels link back to your website, and your website links to all your channels.

And lastly, stick with it. Like any marketing effort, give each new approach a chance before binning it. Push out the same posts at different times to find out when your audience is most likely to be engaged, try different messaging and types of content. I can’t tell you what’s absolutely best for your business – but with a little trial and error, you’ll be able to get a pretty good idea.

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