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Columbia Business Monthly

When it comes to social media mastery, it is not enough to post for posting's sake

By Callie Godwin

Social media platforms play a role in every business, from brand recognition, marketing, and advertising to recruiting and education. There is a platform for everything and everyone. But does every business utilize their social media accounts efficiently and effectively? 

There are pros and cons to social media usage, but if done properly, those pros greatly outweigh the cons.  

Social media has evolved over the course of the last two decades, initially starting out as a way to connect people, but evolving into numerous platforms that reach various populations.  

Facebook has more than 2 billion active monthly users, with their primary users ranging from 25-35 years old but seeing a steady increase in Baby Boomer usage. Instagram is the up and coming platform that has grown to 1 billion users with their primary users being less than 35 years old. Even though YouTube is just shy of 2 billion users, according to Google, it is the second most visited website, falling behind Google. Each of these platforms provides a specific experience for their users and requires different content to be most effective in reaching those specific populations.  

Someone once told me, “Social media managers are digital brand bodyguards, so pick that person wisely!” You wouldn’t hire just anyone to run your most important marketing campaign, would you? So why would you hire someone without professional social media experience to run your social media accounts? Your social media manager or strategist should have general knowledge of design, marketing, and advertising, and possess effective communication skills. It is not enough to post for posting sake. Posts must be intentional and align with the brand of the business. Businesses rely on brand recognition to be successful, and the quickest way to reach billions of people is through social media outlets. If the branding isn’t consistent, your business will be in trouble.

In additional to building the recognizable brand, that brand must be authentic on social media to be successful. Make sure you are humanizing your brand, so everyone is able to access it. The users of Facebook will not respond to the same kind of post that Instagram followers will interact with. It is important to “speak to” those different demographics in order to create that authentic brand in the different outlets. Good content is not just about good storytelling; it is about telling your story well to the different populations you are trying to reach. For instance, colleges need to reach prospective students, prospective parents, current students, current parents, alums, donors, community members, etc. The messages to each of these populations will vary slightly and will need to be tailored to each platform those people use most frequently. We won’t reach parents with a post directed towards students.  

Once your brand is authentic, it will also feel more genuine to users, which creates an increase in engagement. Think quality over quantity. Spending more time on the quality of your posts and the quality of your engagement will increase your brand awareness, providing a larger pool of consumers. It is not about how many “Likes” you get, but about how many people love your brand. 

Engaging is difficult, especially when people have complaints, but it is important to connect with your followers and consumers. If someone posts a public complaint, don’t disengage—face it head on! Request more information through a direct message to better address the issue. Conversely, when someone responds publicly with positive feedback, say “Thank You!” Manners do not have to disappear just because you are on social media and can go a long way to creating that genuine voice.

It is not only important to know how to use social media platforms to enhance your business, but it is also good to know what not to do. Here are a few points to remember:
  • Make sure to turn off, reschedule, or change planned posts during crisis situations.
  • Never buy followers, retweets, or post “likes.” Those are spam users and do not build your brand. Your loyal and engaged followers do!
  • What may work for one company may not work for yours. Find your content unicorns to make you stand out and don’t rely on what everyone else is doing.
The only constant on social media is change. What is effective today may not be effective tomorrow. Creating and revising a social media plan will be important as you use those platforms to enhance and promote your brand. Consider these pros and cons when asking yourself, “Are you social?”