A Beginner’s Guide to Social Media: The Wild Wild West of the Internet

In many ways, social media is still the Internet’s Wild Wild West. Platforms change like the wind, measuring ROI regularly proves to be elusive, and the online territory as a whole is more massive than many understand. We sat down with Philosophy’s social media manager, Libby Stauffer, to learn where she has found nuggets of metaphorical gold throughout her social media career. 

What are some of the biggest lessons or takeaways you’ve learned about implementing effective social media? 
Check Your Ego at the Door

We are all familiar with the Golden Rule, “treat others how you want to be treated.” When it comes to social media, engage with your brand’s content how you want others to engage with it. If you’re not going to be your brand’s #1 fan, who do you expect will be? You and your team must set the example for your audience by consistently engaging with your brand’s content. Likes, comments and reposts are a simple yet powerful way to increase engagement and build positive sentiment. 

Whether you are a content manager or simply using social media as a tool to expand your business and aren’t personally using social media, your job is going to be a lot more difficult. Even just for five minutes a day, make a point to prioritize spending time on social platforms and familiarizing yourself with the nuanced ins and outs of each channel. The more you understand a platform, the easier it will be to create effective content for that specific channel and your target audience. 

Social Media Just Wants to Have Fun

In a world of buttoned-up websites, brochures, and emails, social media is like the cooler, funnier, more casual younger sibling who has only one motive… to have fun! Save the straight edge professionalism for your other marketing outlets and really let your brand’s personality shine. After all, people are on social media to laugh, express themselves, and let loose.

Here are a few examples of well-known brands who understood the social media assignment:

The Golden Question

When creating your brand’s content, rather than asking the question “how is this going to help my business?”, ask “how is this going to help my audience?” Because there is an endless amount of accounts social media users can follow, it is imperative that your brand provides value for your audience through your content. Libby recommends curating content that  implements some combination of the four fundamentals of content marketing: inspire, inform, entertain, persuade. 

Here are a couple of examples of brands successfully utilizing the content marketing fundamentals:

Stay Nimble

Timeliness is just as important in social media as it is in journalism. Always be prepared to change up your plan and add new content at a moment’s notice. With the fast-paced nature of social and the low longevity of its content, if you have the opportunity to jump on an emerging trend, don’t wait. Your other evergreen content will be just as relevant tomorrow as it is today. 

For example, the Philosophy social team prioritized writing a blog about Barbie marketing so that it was published amidst all of the movie’s publicity, ensuring our team’s commentary on the movie was during the peak of the Barbie conversation. That being said, one of the most effective social media tactics is to commit to staying on top of and implementing trends that are pertinent to your brand’s messaging. 

Another important aspect to staying nimble is community management and maintaining a finger on the pulse of your content’s sentiment. Sustaining a continual understanding of how your brand and its content is being perceived helps shape effective future content and discern the type of messaging that best resonates with your audience. 

What is your advice for someone who wants to stay up-to-date on all of the latest platform updates?

Never Stop Learning

Staying up-to-date on the ever-changing social platforms can feel like a full-time job in itself. Utilize the plethora of available resources by subscribing to newsletters and publications that discuss social media and act as a one-stop-shop for useful information and updates. Some of our favorites are techcrunch.com, socialmediatoday.com, adage.com and mashable.com. If you’ve been on a podcast kick, check out serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk’s shows, as well as marketing guru Neil Patel. In today’s day and age, new knowledge is just one click away. 

Keep Your Friend Close and Your Competitors Closer

Some of your greatest inspiration for new content will likely come from keeping a close eye on your competitors’ socials. Take note of what type of content receives the highest engagement, which posts are a “flop”, the posting frequency they implement and how they interact with their audience. As long as you’re not directly copying another brand’s content strategy, use what’s right in front of you to inspire ideas and to gain a greater understanding of who your audience is and what resonates with them.

What do you feel are some of the biggest mistakes brands make when it comes to social media? 

Choose Your Channels Wisely

Choosing the social channels for your brand is an extremely important business decision that should be strategic and intentional. The most important factors to consider when deciding on your socials are your audience, your services/products that you’re selling, your competitors, and your business goals. For example, although Facebook has the largest number of users (3.03 billion monthly users!), if the majority of your target audience uses LinkedIn, then that’s where you need to be.

In the likely case that multiple platforms align with your brand’s goals, it is common for a brand to spread themselves too thin across various platforms. Too often, companies make the mistake of thinking that just because they can be on every platform, that they should. Because each platform differs between hashtags, tone of voice, audience, and optimal graphic sizes (just to name a few), it can prove to be extremely difficult to maintain a successful presence on multiple platforms. If you cannot sustain a consistent content strategy across numerous platforms (which is probably the case if you are a one-man marketing team, wear many hats in your company, or working with a limited budget), there is no shame in scaling back to allocate your time, energy and resources towards a single platform. 

Are You Down to Clown? 

We know, we know… we already touched on the importance of not taking yourself too seriously, but let that emphasize just how crucial it is to let your brand’s personality and human-ness shine through your content. Bear in mind that “clowning” is an umbrella term and doesn’t necessarily mean humor. Your content can be witty, have a playful tone, heavily use emojis, jump on trends, and/or utilize features such as polls, to express your brand’s character.

How Many Cooks Are in the Kitchen?

While correct grammar, spelling and fact-checking are all imperative aspects of a successful social post, don’t subscribe to the idea that every post needs to undergo five rounds of approval from 10 different departments. At most, your posts should be reviewed by two to three brand stakeholders before it has the green light to be posted. As aforementioned, when it comes to social media, timeliness is a top priority, especially when you are jumping on a trend or topic that will only be relevant for a limited time. Creating an excessively laborious flow of approval will only do more harm than good by creating unnecessary roadblocks that prevent your brand from being first on the scene. Trust in your team’s social media experts – nine times out of ten, they know what they’re doing.

Another factor to consider when there are too many cooks in the kitchen is the increased likelihood that your brand voice will become altered amidst the excessive rounds of edits. A successful brand identity includes a cohesive tone of voice that embodies specific characteristics. Is your brand cheery, informative, witty, humorous? Whatever you decide, when the amount of input into each post is limited to the same one or two people, it is much easier to maintain a consistent brand personality. 

Are You True to You? 

Lastly but definitely not least, prioritize authenticity. Because there is an endless amount of content vying for everyone’s attention, an immeasurable amount of users wanting to become the next big influencer and an infinite number of brands competing to become the next household name, people are craving real brands that are unapologetically unique and true to them. Evolution has led humans to develop an expert nonsense-detector. In other words, it is crystal clear to a user when a brand or influencer is inauthentic or suspicious. Think long and hard about what differentiates your brand from your competition and capitalize on that, using the four content marketing fundamentals as your guide.

From your experience, what are some of the most impactful ways to best utilize a small social media budget? 

User-Generated Content is King

User-generated content (UGC) is original content that is created by an individual and/or consumer, rather than by the brand itself. UGC can come in many forms: photos of the product/service, reviews, testimonials, blog posts, videos, and podcasts. The beauty of this type of content lies in the positive influence it has on a consumers’ trust and loyalty for the brand and how it builds a sense of community amongst its buyers’, without the company having to spend a single penny. UGC puts the promo back in the consumers hands, rather than content that is pushed by the brand which sometimes seems embellished, untrustworthy or inauthentic. 

Other ways to efficiently utilize a small social media budget reiterate some of what’s been mentioned above. Invest your time, money and resources into platforms that optimize your brand’s goals, hop on applicable trends that keep your brand relevant and stay true to your brand’s personality. 

Whether you are a social media cowboy or just diving into the rabbit hole of the internet’s Wild Wild West, we encourage you to take these words of wisdom, run with them and enjoy the ride. It may not always be smooth, but when you begin to see the fruits of your social media labor start to come to fruition, it is a hog-killin’ good time!

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