THE ART & SCI­ENCE OF SO­CIAL ME­DIA PROMO

Computer Arts - - Contents -

How to make so­cial me­dia pro­mo­tion work bet­ter for you and your clients. And it’s not just about ‘beat­ing’ ever-chang­ing al­go­rithms

You used to pick up 30 fol­low­ers and 250 likes with ev­ery post. Now, it’s more like 20 likes and two fol­low­ers. You’ve tried ev­ery­thing: slideshows; spon­sored posts; switch­ing to a busi­ness ac­count. Hash­tags that once worked just don’t any more – en­gage­ment has fallen off a cliff.

Sound fa­mil­iar? Even without the ever-chang­ing al­go­rithms, so­cial me­dia can feel like a full-time job – and in­deed it is at the Googles and Red Bulls of this world. So what about when it’s just you? Are there best-prac­tice rules to help boost en­gage­ment that any­one can fol­low, whether you’re a free­lancer, small stu­dio or full-blown cre­ative agency? How can you make so­cial me­dia work more ef­fec­tively for you and your clients?

EN­GAGE WITH THE RIGHT PEO­PLE

Be­fore we get into the sci­ence of so­cial me­dia pro­mo­tion, it’s im­por­tant to un­der­stand the aim of the al­go­rithms that work be­hind the scenes to de­ter­mine posts’ en­gage­ment.

You can in­vest se­ri­ous time into learn­ing the tech­ni­cal nu­ances of what does and doesn’t work with each one, but once that al­go­rithm changes, you’re right back at the start – and if you’ve tried to cheat, you run the risk of ear­lier con­tent be­ing pe­nalised. A far bet­ter ap­proach is to un­der­stand the over­ar­ch­ing goal be­hind each al­go­rithm change, and then craft your strat­egy around that.

“Ev­ery so­cial me­dia plat­form aims to boost en­gage­ment by show­ing the most rel­e­vant con­tent to in­di­vid­u­als,” says David Kutcher, co-founder of bou­tique de­sign firm Con­flu­ent Forms. “If you’re not post­ing rel­e­vant con­tent, or the con­nec­tions be­tween you and your fol­low­ers are weak, then even if you have thou­sands of fol­low­ers, they won’t see your con­tent un­less you choose to pay to boost it.

“Think about it this way,” he ex­plains. “You pub­lish your con­tent. The peo­ple who are most apt to en­gage with it among your au­di­ence will be shown that con­tent first, as a lim­ited sam­ple. Based on that ini­tial set, the level of en­gage­ment that your post re­ceives will then de­cide how and whether the plat­form ‘opens it up’ to a greater set of your au­di­ence. The en­gage­ment rate from that set will de­ter­mine the next larger set, and so forth.”

He con­tin­ues: “While this isn’t ex­actly how the plat­forms work, as a model you can see how it ex­plains both us­age and how to im­prove re­sults. If you can grow your en­gage­ment at ev­ery level in that pyra­mid, you can con­tin­u­ally im­prove the re­sults of your own posts.”

So how is that done? Well, as with any de­sign job, a fun­da­men­tal part of creat­ing a wa­ter­tight so­cial me­dia strat­egy – whether for you or clients – is to start by mak­ing sure you’re tar­get­ing your core au­di­ence: who are they? Where are they? And what do they want?

CHOOSE NET­WORKS WISELY

Once you know who you’re tar­get­ing, the best way to lo­cate your au­di­ence is to re­search the de­mo­graph­ics of each so­cial net­work. With over two bil­lion monthly ac­tive users, Face­book is sta­tis­ti­cally too large to ig­nore. It’s the best place to reach mil­len­ni­als and Gen­er­a­tion X, but it’s be­com­ing in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to stand out from the crowd.

In­sta­gram, mean­while, is twice the size of Twit­ter, with 700 mil­lion monthly users: 90 per cent are un­der 35 years old and 68 per cent are fe­male. Pin­ter­est, with 70 mil­lion monthly users – 81 per cent fe­male – is fairly evenly dis­trib­uted

be­tween 18-64-year-olds, and one of the big­gest search en­gines out there.

For work­ing pro­fes­sion­als, how­ever, LinkedIn takes the crown, with 106 mil­lion ac­tive monthly users. This plat­form is a good place to be if you’re in the mar­ket for a new job, and it’s per­fect for B2B con­tent; 80 per cent of B2B leads come from LinkedIn, ac­cord­ing to mar­ket data and in­tel­li­gence part­ner ReadyCon­tacts. LinkedIn also has the high­est av­er­age in­come of any net­work, which is good news if you sell lux­ury de­sign prod­ucts, for ex­am­ple.

“It all comes down to two key con­sid­er­a­tions: the de­sign of the plat­form, and your tar­get au­di­ence,” says Sin­ga­pore-based de­signer Joanna Shi. “Con­sider each plat­form’s in­ter­face de­sign. In­sta­gram’s in­ter­face is one of the most vis­ual, which is a boon for an artist or if the prod­uct you’re sell­ing is very vis­ually ap­peal­ing. At the same time, though, its de­mo­graphic tends to skew younger, which may not work for you if, for in­stance, you’re sell­ing con­sult­ing ser­vices or a B2B prod­uct.

“LinkedIn, mean­while, lends it­self nat­u­rally to B2B pro­mo­tion but is also much more text-heavy, and not very vis­ually friendly.”

MAKE YOUR­SELF VIS­I­BLE

Next, you need to build con­nec­tions – and you do that by get­ting in­volved. For Kutcher, so­cial me­dia pro­mo­tion is a two-pronged strat­egy: “Yes, you have to build your pro­file by post­ing con­tent to your own stream, feed or pro­file in any plat­form, us­ing rel­e­vant hash­tags, and so on. But the other piece is that you must go out and find rel­e­vant con­ver­sa­tions to join. This can be in the form of par­tic­i­pat­ing in Twit­ter chats, join­ing Face­book groups, en­gag­ing in LinkedIn com­mu­ni­ties, build­ing com­mu­nity through In­staMeets.

“Ev­ery al­go­rithm works dif­fer­ently but the so­lu­tion is the same: don’t just put out con­tent ex­pect­ing oth­ers to en­gage with it. En­gage with your au­di­ence so they en­gage with your con­tent as well.”

As Kutcher says, the best way to de­velop con­nec­tions with peo­ple isn’t by pro­mot­ing your­self di­rectly, but by par­tic­i­pat­ing, and lend­ing your own per­spec­tive and unique ex­pe­ri­ences to the con­ver­sa­tion in a con­struc­tive way. “You aim to be­come recog­nis­able be­fore the per­son has even gone to visit your pro­file – at which point they’ll most likely fol­low you and be­gin en­gag­ing with your con­tent,” he ex­plains.

Also, make an ef­fort to build bet­ter bridges with those who have al­ready en­gaged with you. Rather than blindly chas­ing Likes and fol­lows, go to the pro­files of your fol­low­ers and in­ter­act mean­ing­fully with their posts. Why? In­creased en­gage­ment leads to in­creased vis­i­bil­ity, which will ex­tend or­ganic reach. “This en­gage­ment will af­fect your qual­ity score, which de­ter­mines the ef­fec­tive­ness of your paid reach too,” points out Kutcher.

EX­PER­I­MENT WITH POST FRE­QUENCY

When you’re build­ing your so­cial pro­file, it can some­times feel like you’re post­ing into the abyss. How­ever, the longevity of a post is de­ter­mined by each plat­form’s al­go­rithm. David Glenwright, head of train­ing ser­vices at JC So­cial Me­dia, was re­cently flown to Face­book’s Dublin of­fice to be trained on how busi­nesses can best use the plat­form.

“The Face­book al­go­rithm takes into con­sid­er­a­tion lit­er­ally thou­sands of fac­tors, rang­ing from who you’ve spo­ken to re­cently, to the time of day, to the things you talked about in your own re­cent up­dates,” he says. “That’s why con­tent that’s two or three days old will from time to time ap­pear at the top of your news feed. There­fore, there isn’t a press­ing need to be post­ing mul­ti­ple times a day, and in fact if you do post too fre­quently, the al­go­rithm will start pun­ish­ing you for it and lim­it­ing the num­ber of peo­ple it shows con­tent to. The al­go­rithm treats ev­ery­one dif­fer­ently, so try dif­fer­ent post­ing fre­quen­cies and see what works best.”

Ex­act sta­tis­tics vary as to the life­span of posts on dif­fer­ent plat­forms – and there­fore how of­ten and when you should post – but roughly speak­ing a Face­book post will last around five hours; In­sta­gram, 21 hours; Pin­ter­est, four months; LinkedIn, 24 hours; and 20 days on YouTube. Twit­ter has the short­est post du­ra­tion: just 18 min­utes. Of course, th­ese num­bers can and do change over time as a plat­form’s al­go­rithms are tweaked.

How­ever, the best way to work out op­ti­mum fre­quency and tim­ing is to dis­cover when your spe­cific au­di­ence is pay­ing the most at­ten­tion. Post at dif­fer­ent times and use an­a­lyt­ics – Face­book In­sights, Twit­ter An­a­lyt­ics, Google An­a­lyt­ics and the var­i­ous plat­form dash­boards – to de­ter­mine ex­actly when the peo­ple you’re tar­get­ing are on­line, as well as how they’re re­spond­ing to each of your posts. “Make your tar­get­ing as pre­cise as pos­si­ble,” con­firms Lon­don-based de­signer Ben Mottershead. “Use your page in­sight tools, such as the graph search, to cor­rectly tar­get your key de­mo­graph­ics.”

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