As a first-time small business owner, posting on social media is certainly on your to-do list. Admittedly, it’s just not very high up there. After all, your immediate goal may be local marketing. You don’t need the whole world to find you yet.
Once your company grows though, you will want to expand your customer base. When a customer searches for you online, not only do they expect to find a well-designed website, but a strong social media presence, too.
For a business owner delving into professional social media use for the first time, it can be quite daunting. How often should you post? Is it okay to post pictures and videos? What do you do with a negative comment?
Those are all important questions. If used correctly, social media can be a huge marketing tool that can generate leads, nurture your relationship with your customers, and make you money.
If used incorrectly, social media can tarnish your company’s reputation. Just think of how many times you’ve heard of big brand faux pas where a customer had a poor experience and the company reacted badly. Those incidents stick with people.
That’s why we’ve come up with this handy list of 15 social media do’s and don’ts. These tips will clue you in on the best behavior across social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and more.
1. DO Make Sure Your Profiles Are Filled out
First thing’s first. Before you do any posting, your social media profiles must be filled out 100 percent.
For some social media platforms like Twitter, this is easy. You need little more than a short bio, a profile picture, a location, and a link to your website. If you’re using Facebook, you’ll create a Facebook Business Page, which has far more detailed information.
Take the time to log in to each social media platform you use and add this info. Don’t just copy and paste it from one platform to another. You do want to use similar language from Facebook to Twitter to Instagram, but that language shouldn’t be identical.
Once you’ve filled out all your profiles, you can start posting.
2. DON’T Forget the Best Times to Post
Posting on social media is an art in and of itself.
Think about your personal social media use for a moment. You probably have that one friend who just doesn’t know when to quit. They post about everything, from their breakfast to their work commute to what they’re cooking for dinner.
It’s annoying, right? Eventually you unfollow or even unfriend this person.
Don’t be the business version of that friend. Your customers do care about what you have to say, but if you abuse that trust and post every hour, you’re going to lose customers.
CoSchedule assessed 16 studies on social media posting times. Here are the days and times to consider posting:
Instagram: Mondays and Fridays at 2 a.m., 8 to 9 a.m., and 5 p.m.; skip the afternoon posts
Google+: Wednesdays at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., and noon to 1 p.m.; no evening posting here
LinkedIn: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at 7 to 8 a.m., noon, and 5 to 6 p.m.; avoid posts later in the evening
Pinterest: Sundays for food posts, Mondays for fitness posts, Tuesdays for gadget posts, Wednesdays for quotes, Thursdays for outfits, Fridays for GIFs, and Saturdays for travel, with the weekend having the highest engagement at 2 a.m., 2 p.m., and 9 p.m.
Twitter: Wednesdays at noon, 3 p.m., and 5 to 6 p.m.; avoid morning posting
Facebook: Sundays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, with the weekend having 32 percent engagement and the weekdays having 18 percent engagement at 9 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m.
Of course, these times aren’t gospel. If you have something to post on Twitter on a Friday morning or a Tuesday evening, you don’t necessarily have to refrain. If it’s breaking news, like a product announcement, you should post right away.
As a small business owner acclimating to using social media professionally though, follow these guidelines at first. See which days and times work best with your audience.
3. DO Consider Using Automation Software
Okay, but what if 3 p.m. Wednesday rolls around and you’re busy in a meeting? Do you just skip posting for that day and wait until the next week?
Not necessarily. You want to engage the most prospective customers with each post, but you can’t be awake and on social media around the clock to do so. What’s your other option?
You can use automation software. Services like CoSchedule, Sprout Social, Oktopost, Hootsuite, Buffer, and HubSpot are some of the most popular ones, but there are countless others.
Some of these are cheaper than others. Some may even be free. Regardless, the premise is the same.
You log in to these services, draft the post you want online, set a time for it to automatically post, and move on with your life. As a business owner, your time is already stretched thin, so automation services are ideal.
4. DON’T Forget Your Links
The goal of posting on social media is twofold: you want to get more likes on your social media page and you also want to guide customers to your website.
You can’t achieve the latter goal if you’re not linking customers to your landing page, your blog, or your ecommerce store.
Don’t just trust that your customers will see your website URL on your social media profile and click it. With each post you make, hyperlink back to your site.
The page on your site you link back to varies depending on your goals.
If you’re sharing a blog post you wrote, you want to link customers to that post. If you just announced a new product or service, you want to link customers to your ecommerce store. If you’re looking for new leads, guide visitors to your landing page so they can opt in.
With many social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, you can always go back and edit your post if you didn’t include a link. Try to make linking a habit, though.
5. DO Feel Free to Share Relevant Content You Find
By now, you’re getting the hang of this social media thing. You’re posting regularly and sharing your blog posts, company news, and discounts. Customers are responding well, and you have lots of new leads.
What if you don’t necessarily have something to post on a particular day?
First, as we mentioned before, don’t feel like you have to post on social media if you have nothing to say. That said, you don’t want to go weeks without posting, either.
If you don’t have anything of your own to post, comb through social media and look for relevant content to share. We don’t recommend sharing your competitor’s content, but a cool infographic, a fun (but brief) video, or even a motivational quote can act as a good buffer during posting lulls.
6. DON’T Forget Your Other Accounts
There’s a lot of social media out there, and we’ve already mentioned the big ones. As a small business owner, you may get some momentum going on your Facebook profile and then get sidetracked with other responsibilities. Your Twitter or Google+ pages sit stagnant.
When you make a post on one account, you have to do so on all your accounts. Again, automation software can really help here.
You can copy content from Facebook to Google+ and back again. When it comes to Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube though, you have to share your content through different media per platform.
7. DO Tread Lightly if Covering Popular News
You know what really gets people talking? The news.
In fact, Facebook and Twitter both have trending sections on their respective platforms that let you see what people are talking about.
You may want to get in on this and make a related post. This will certainly catch people’s attention, and you may get some new customers out of the deal, too.
While this can work sometimes, this tactic can also backfire. You have to tread very, very lightly.
Here’s what we recommend if you’re going to chime in on popular news stories:
- No personal opinions, unless you want the comments section to turn into a flame war.
- Avoid posting about national tragedies unless someone in your company was personally affected.
- Don’t talk about politics. It won’t end well.
If you hear that a Kardashian makeup product has just surpassed two million dollars in sales, it can be tempting to try to shoehorn your own product into that story. If you’re a brewery though, that makes no sense.
Instead, try to find big stories relevant to your industry. Say you’re a small makeup company, for example. Then it’s perfectly acceptable to mention the Kardashian makeup news and use it as a launching point to discuss your own products.
You need to be smart about how you use the news. One misstep in this area could be a PR nightmare.
8. DON’T Only Post Text
When you write your blog, you don’t just post walls of text, right?
Of course not. That would be visually boring. Customers would be turned off.
Instead, you punch up the content with subheadings and pictures.
Your social media strategy should be similar. It shouldn’t be text post after text post. You should also include videos, images, and infographics.
If you have a smartphone and a YouTube account, you can make videos. There are many free image-editing websites and programs you can download to make your own infographics or eye-catching images.
Mix this other media with your text posts for some good variety.
9. DO Respond to as Many Questions and Comments as Realistically Possible
As more customers find your social media pages, they’re going to engage with your more.
With every post you make, you’ll get an influx of comments and questions. These may pour in days after you publish your post.
If you’ve never had such a huge customer response before, this can be overwhelming at first. How can you make enough time to respond to everyone?
Realistically, you can’t. While in a perfect world, you’d be able to fire off fast responses to every comment you get on social media, that’s just not plausible.
That’s why you have to prioritize. Answer questions first, as these are more pressing. If someone has a complaint, address this right away, too (more on this in a minute). Then, if you have time, respond to individual comments.
If your schedule allows, you can also go back to the post about a week later and leave a blanket comment thanking everyone for their responses. This lets your customers know you’ve at least read what they’ve said.
In the end, customers want their voices heard. They want to feel like their opinions matter. By responding to comments, you show you value your customers.
10. DON’T Gloss Over Negative Comments and Reviews
We already mentioned that customers will have complaints. This is inevitable. No matter what kind of business you run, from a small company like yours to a Fortune 500, someone is bound to say something negative at some point.
These are the kinds of comments you want to prioritize. If the customer had a bad experience or got a broken/defective product, start a dialogue with them. Give them a phone number they can call or someone they can email to get the problem rectified.
It can be paralyzingly scary to get your first negative comment. Your first inclination might be to sweep it under the rug. Don’t do this. Your second inclination might be to delete the post. Definitely don’t do this unless the post is full of profanity or other incendiary remarks.
If you start deleting all negative posts, customers will notice. You’ll soon get a reputation, and not a good one.
11. DO the Posting and Commenting Yourself (or Hire Someone to Do It)
How many times have you seen this scenario in the news? A company’s intern makes a totally irresponsible post on social media. The company gets lambasted for a few days until the hubbub dies down.
Each time you post on social media, you’re representing your company. That means your message, language, and tone should be consistent with your brand and values.
If you have someone step in and make a post that doesn’t align with those values, you could lose customers. Just as worse, you could end up in the news for a cringe-worthy social media post.
That’s why it’s best that you yourself do the posting. Barring that, you may want to hire a social media manager. They’re in charge of avoiding the above fiascos and other social media disasters. Make sure you get final approval on all content before it’s posted.
12. DON’T Write Robotically
If you’ve used social media personally for years and suddenly make the switch to using it professionally, it can be nerve-wracking. You feel you have to adjust your tone and posting style to be more professional.
Think twice about that. You should be conversational. Your tone should be relaxed yet informative. If you’re too stuffy or use too much jargon, your customers are going to scroll right by your content.
Before you post anything, give it a read-over. Does any of it sound unnatural or robotic, even? Go back and give it some personality. Any old automation software can write stiff social media posts. It’s up to you as a human being to give it some oomph.
13. DO Sell on Social Media
You can open an ecommerce store on Facebook that’s separate from your site’s ecommerce store, stocking the same products (or different ones!). Before checkout, customers can complete their checkout on Facebook or be redirected to your website.
It never hurts to have more ways to sell. Instagram just rolled out business profiles for companies, too, so keep your eyes peeled there. You may be able to start selling on Instagram in the near future.
14. DON’T be Too Salesy
On social media, the average consumer is bombarded with companies trying to sell to them. Whether through ads or sponsored content, there’s no reprieve.
Yes, you’re trying to sell to your customers, too. You want them to buy your products and services. If you try to force it though, it will never happen.
You should let customers know about your ecommerce store. If you’re having a sale or offering a discount, post about that, too. Don’t make every post about your products, though.
Avoid salesy language. You’re a businessperson, not a used car salesman. There are more facets to your business than sell, sell, sell. Let your customers know that.
15. DO Keep a Level Head
As a business owner, there are hard days and then there are hard days. Sometimes a customer may make a remark on social media that is just dying for a response. This person is baiting you, waiting for you to make a move.
What is the best move to make in this situation? None at all.
If you take the bait and respond back nastily, you’re hurting your company’s image. That comment will be screenshotted or retweeted or otherwise saved. It will appear again and again. Even if you delete it, it will never truly go away.
The next time you’re having a tough day and you get a mean comment egging you on, refrain. Take a deep breath. Step away from the computer. When you come back, you can write back to this customer in a professional, courteous, and helpful manner.
Successfully navigating social media as a small business owner is like getting through a minefield unscathed. It’s not impossible, but it will be a challenge.
If you keep your brand and values in mind in all that you do, you’ll be in good shape. That should keep you from writing robotically, starting online fights with mean customers, and pushing sales at the expense of all else.
While social media can sometimes be stressful, at the end of the day, these platforms are crucial for marketing your business. The sooner you master social media, the sooner you can unlock its true potential.