Always use a photo: Six social media lessons I’ve learned

Always use a photo: Six social media lessons I’ve learned

How long have you been using Facebook? What has been the biggest change that you’ve noticed throughout the years? For me, it was the addition of the now-infamous “like” button (I know, I’m aging myself). I’ve watched Facebook evolve from being just a fun thing for college students to a billion-dollar business. It’s fascinating how far social media has come in a relatively short time. Sometimes I miss the simpler times of being able to post to Facebook and move on, but I think the current state of social media marketing presents some fun challenges.

As marketers, we recognize that social media is a powerful resource. But, social media real estate is increasingly valuable – especially since the world’s largest platform, Facebook, continues to limit the amount of organic reach for businesses. While there are alternatives to social media marketing if your posts are no longer performing well, we must adapt to stay relevant. Let’s discuss some ways your business can optimize its content on social media for better engagement.

Beware the social media trap.

As a marketing freelancer, I’ve seen several businesses post job descriptions with variations of the following specifications: We need to post to Twitter at least three times per day; must be able to post to Facebook at least once a day; we need a social media marketing strategy, must make at least five posts per day across our social media platforms.

What’s wrong with these specifications? These organizations are falling into what I call the “social media trap” – an understandable, but no longer useful, strategy that the sheer quantity of posts will increase engagement, followers, reach, etc. I appreciate the sentiment – the more you post, the more you’ll be seen, and your social media presence will grow, right? Not exactly. This strategy can actually have the opposite effect. Take Facebook, for example, who scores each post to determine News Feed Visibility. To summarize, people that love and regularly engage with your content are more likely to see it more often. The opposite is also true – if no one engages with your content, then it doesn’t matter how often you post because it won’t be shown in news feeds. On Twitter, if you post enough redundant material, eventually your followers will unfollow you because you are not adding value.

The social media trap can be solved by focusing more on quality posts rather than frequency. Think of different ways to utilize content so that it will last longer. Consider producing a quality blog post about your new product or service, or make an informational video about how to use it. One well-performing post will last days, weeks, and sometimes months in your audience’s newsfeeds. Likewise, great content can be cross promoted on all of your media, shared from your website, and used in eNewsletters.

Always use a photo.

Research has shown that the average attention span has dropped from 12 seconds to just eight – that’s shorter than the attention span of a goldfish which clocks in at nine seconds!* How do digital marketers break through the clutter in the digital landscape? One of my hard rules for social media is that each post must have a photo (or video) to go with it. Why? Facebook posts with photos receive about 37 percent higher engagement than those without, and Tweets with photos receive an average of 35 percent more retweets. Visuals break up the wall of text that people see when they log in. Get your content noticed by selecting compelling visuals that make people want to stop, read, click your link, and share with their friends.

Keep it simple.

Most marketers understand that social media is not the place to post an essay or an entire press release, but what about a few paragraphs? Simplicity is key here. In general, keep it short and to the point. Your copy should pique your audience’s interest and provide context for whatever you’re linking to. According to Sprout Social, the ideal length for a Facebook post is around 40-80 characters, Twitter 71-100 characters, and Instagram captions should be no more than 150 characters.

Use analytics to get noticed.

Perhaps one of the most important components of any social media marketing strategy is knowing when your audience is active. After all, if your followers aren’t online when you post that amazing video tutorial, then what’s the point? Use the analytics provided by each social medium such as Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics, and LinkedIn Analytics for detailed information on when your audience is online. Think of it this way, would you run an advertisement at an event that doesn’t include your target audience? Of course not – you would go where they are to ensure that you are seen.

While each brand’s post times will vary depending on their unique audiences, there are some general guidelines to follow.  

Make website sharing easy.

An analysis by BrightEdge showed that including a Twitter share button on web pages increased web traffic by seven percent on average. Make it easy for your audience to become your brand advocates by allowing them to easily share your content. Added bonus: This makes your blog content work for you without having to use any additional resources or time.

Be social.

Social media is about, well, being social! Your followers don’t just want to be talked to, they want to have a conversation with you. Ask your followers for their input on your new service or if they have any DIY tips for using your new product. Posting a thought-provoking article from your blog? Ask your followers if they have any experience with the topic. This not only engages your audience, but it could also serve as a useful tool to gauge the success of a new product/service, serve as an opportunity for important feedback, or eventually become user-generated content. What better way to increase your positive image (and boost engagement) than to show your customers that you want and appreciate their feedback?

In the social media age, we marketers need to think like the user. They’re coming to social media to get quick, bite-sized updates; they do not have the time or patience to click on the “see more” link. We are tasked with making it easier for our audience to engage with us by helping them to understand what we’re saying with clear copy, compelling visuals, and easy to find links to learn more. The tips outlined here will help you break through the clutter and increase your social media real estate value.

I’d love to hear how you optimize content on social media – share your lessons with me in the comment section!

*Editor’s note: The accuracy behind the average attention span statistic has recently been debated. 

Three ways to boost conversions without Facebook (sort of)

Three ways to boost conversions without Facebook (sort of)