[Editor's Note: This is a guest post by @JulianaPayson]
Social media is a wonderful innovation that has made the internet a more inclusive place. It has allowed people to connect all over the world, and has also leveled the playing field and let small companies succeed in competitive spaces.
The benefit of social media can also be a problem. When everyone has a channel to broadcast to, the quality of the conversation tends to suffer. The key to making social media work is to understand the dynamics in play, and to optimize your message, and the tools you use, to gain the maximum reach and return on your efforts.
Most of the examples below focus on Twitter for the sake of simplicity, but the same rules apply across each social channel.
Element 1: Identify Your Audience
Knowing your audience is extremely important in social media optimization. A better understanding of who your target audience is allows you to tailor products, services and engagement to improve your chances on a high return on investment.
Another important point on identifying your audience has to do with being active on the network most likely to be made up of your target audience. For instance, Twitter is made up mostly of women between the ages of 18 to 24, with kids, who make a solid amount of money etc. Understanding demographics like these is key to optimizing a social media campaign. Choose the right network to put your efforts into based on demographics and the potential for return.
Element 2: Find Balance
Most people on social media are far more active listeners than they are speakers. The average Twitter user has only 126 followers. While reliable numbers are hard to find, it is safe to assume just by glancing at most Twitter timelines that the average person follows more people than they have following them.
It is difficult to stand out with so much activity going on. Some begin posting relentlessly, hoping for clicks and engagement. Others listen in a passive way in order to glean information. Both are mistakes.
The key to successful social media activity is engagement. Send out regular updates, but also look for opportunities to step into the conversation. Social media is a great opportunity to boost brand recognition and trust, but it doesn’t happen if it is only used for broadcasting purposes.
Element 3: Post At The Right Times
Each network has a best time to post important content. The best time to post to Twitter is around 1 PM, while the best time to post to other networks varies across the day.
The point is, to check analytics to see when the most engagement, retweets and clicks happen.
Element 4: Keep Track Of Statistics
Using a service like Bit.ly and Buffer and Hoot Suite is a great way to track the engagement for each post as well as to schedule posts so they happen automatically.
Just because there is a best time to post on average does not mean that your audience’s schedule syncs with that time frame. Keep track of results and optimize the campaign’s schedule to improve them.
Element 5: Ask Questions
This should go without saying, but the best way to optimize a social media campaign is to ask your audience what it wants. What problems are they having? What is the best thing they have seen related to your topic?
If you are not asking questions, and using the peak engagement times to do this, you are guessing at what your audience wants.
Element 6: Test, Test, Test
To properly optimize a social media campaign, a rigorous testing protocol must be in place. Each of these elements comes down to testing and adjusting to make the most of each opportunity afforded to your business. Keep what works, and get rid of everything else.
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Follow @JulianaPayson‘s Social Media expert tips where she maintains several profiles for different businesses. She acts as an SMM, SEO Marketing Specialist for Los Angeles company InMotion Hosting providing Web Hosting services to the majority of it’s customer base in the US.