Ah, social media. Your company may want to strike up conversations with the cool kids that are hanging out on social media but may not know what to actually say once face-to-face (or face-to-screen). Businesses and nonprofit organizations struggle with how to start the conversation and keep it going on the numerous social platforms.
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t looks so easy when a post goes viral, yet the tales of social media backfiring keep some from daring to venture into the social sphere. Yet, social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter offer your company an effective and authentic way for businesses to engage people. “So, just what should I be saying on social media to achieve this,” you ask? The answer is surprisingly simple: A little about you, a little about others, and a little that is just plain fun.
Think of social media conversations like cocktail party chitchat. Talk only about yourself and watch everyone suddenly need a fresh drink. Talk only about other people and you miss an opportunity to share your story with others. If you can’t make your social sharing intriguing, entertaining, or related to current events, well, you might seem (gasp) boring, or worse yet—disconnected.
“But what exactly should I be posting on Facebook (and Twitter and Pinterest and Google+)?” you may wonder. The truth is the exact content will depend on your organizational culture, industry, brand values, and the platform you’re using. I’m here to share a great rule of thumb to use in creating and evaluating your social content (so breathe, we’re going to get through this together). Long time teacher, trainer, and internet marketing specialist Sarah Benoit has developed what she calls the 30/30/30 Rule for social media. It serves as a guideline for both the focus areas for content (you, others, fun) and the overall mix of content needed for effective social media engagement. It looks like this:
30%of your social media posts should be about you
This is the easy part since it’s all about your company, products, or services, and the benefits you provide customers. For many businesses and nonprofits this is all they share, which is a turn-off. Talking only about yourself will not win you friends at the online cocktail party of Facebook. Remember that this is a “soft sell.” There has to be a benefit to your followers. Suggestions include:
— Discounts, sales, events, new product offerings, and testimonials are all valuable information to both past and future customers.
— Offer tips related to your industry to demonstrate your knowledge and authority in an indirect way. Plumbers who share tips on what to do when a water heater breaks, such as turn off the power to the unit and contain any leaks, demonstrate that they care about their customers and emphasize safety.
— Publish posts that provide a behind-the-scenes look at who your company is and how you do what you do well. People are intrigued to know more about other people and how they do the work they do, why they’re passionate about it, and where products and ideas come from.
At JB Media we shared pictures of several team members pedaling away on bike desks while writing SEO content and another of a small group of us sitting outside with laptops brainstorming—both received strong engagement and for those very reasons. People want to connect with people, not logos or products on social media. Congratulate employees on work anniversaries, announce new hires (with a photo), upload a short video tour of your facility (under two minutes), and share the true experience of who you are and how you do what you do.
30% of your posts should be about others
Social media platforms are called networks for a reason. They exist to connect people, businesses, and nonprofits with individuals and groups that share similar interests or ideas. Dedicate 30% of your social media posts to sharing information about, promoting, and celebrating other individuals, organizations, and groups that you support or share common interests with. Follow and like vendors, customers, partners, nonprofits, civic organizations, and media outlets that are in line with your industry, mission, and brand. Share their content with your followers (and they may do the same for you). Social sharing shows your connections across your industry or community and highlights the work of fellow businesses you feel strongly about. Feel free to expand the scope of content in this section to include local news or events if your business serves a specific geographic area.
As an example of how this might work, a staffing agency would want to be a resource for both applicants and businesses. Sharing tips for interview success from a business magazine or news related to unemployment rates would indicate that they understand the needs of those target audiences, follow current news in the industry, and want both groups to be successful in their endeavors. This is really the nature of social media marketing—connecting with your audience and keeping them interested by offering them valuable, useful, and interesting content. Social media is an opportunity for your company to become a valued online resource for your target audience.
30% of your posts should be for entertainment
The final segment in the 30/30/30 Rule (and more on why that doesn’t add up to 100% in just a minute) is the fun category. Just like everyone at a cocktail party appreciates an amusing anecdote, social media users also appreciate images and quotes that are fun, entertaining, and inspirational. The staffing agency mentioned before could share quotes about hard work or cartoons about meeting challenges. These could be researched or shared from another social media page (with appropriate credit given, of course). The idea is to demonstrate the values and culture of the organization. If “funny” isn’t exactly part of your corporate culture, consider what past and future customers should know about the company’s story. If community involvement were a key piece of the story of a financial planning firm, then information about area volunteer opportunities would be appropriate to share via social media. Your “fun” postings should always include images. Be sure to include a picture of Santa to go with the information about area toy drives.
However, sharing inspirational quotes, cartoons, memes, and other fun elements can be where businesses get into a bit of hot water. Evaluate whether the content could be offensive to any group, off-putting in any way, or isolating. Use extreme caution in posting political and religious content. It’s one thing to share the company’s values or the beliefs of the founders, another to assume that every customer or client shares those views or is interested in having a conversation about these issues with their plumber in a public forum. Keep the conversation light and entertaining to succeed at the online cocktail party that is social media.
The final 10% should be about what’s going on right now
The 30/30/30 Rule provides flexibility to respond to trends, news, and hot topics. The Rule’s creator, Sarah Benoit, says that most of what goes viral is accidental. She notes that it is important to respond to what’s happening in real time, at least to a degree on social media, in order to offer timely and relevant content. The other 90% of your social media content can be created and scheduled in advance. Surprised? While most major brands do have people monitoring their social media accounts around the clock, most of the content is created, reviewed, and approved two to four weeks in advance. Leaving 10% unscheduled allows for just-in-time responses to what’s going on. This segment also allows for increased creativity and (dare I say it?) risk taking. Once you are creating and sharing content consistently from the other segments, this will become easier (I promise).
First and foremost, being effective on social media requires knowing your own brand, voice, culture, and audiences. Investing the time it takes to research, create, and schedule 90% of your content two to three weeks at a time will go far to create a consistent and engaging social media presence. Check in on your social media platforms daily to monitor comments and questions and respond to news or trends (that last 10%). Don’t be shy. Try following these guidelines and you might find that you are one of the cool kids online.
Adrianne Gordon counseled and trained business owners for over 10 years before joining JB Media Group as director of marketing and operations. She doesn’t speak code but does have an MBA from Western Carolina University.