Social media’s algorithms and formats are constantly changing as are audience behaviours so strategies need to be able to adapt and flex in order to get the best out of channels. The good news is there’s loads of data at your fingertips that can help you to make the right decisions.
Key questions that will help you make good decisions
- Who are your channel audiences?
- What motivates them to engage with your content?
- Based on this what decisions you need to be making for each of your channels?
- What content you should be creating and when you should be posting?
- And finally, how to report so you can measure your success.
Six mistakes to avoid
1. Not planning in advance
Although the planning stage can be lots of hard work ― planning your content in advance is the most efficient way for you to produce content. I guarantee that you’ll be able to work smarter if you do this.
2. Not allowing time for spontaneity
Planning is good ― but you should also allow space and time for spontaneity so you can react to unplanned content opportunities in a timely way. Timing is everything.
3. Not putting your audience first
Your audience are your primary stakeholders so when you’re making decisions about your channels and content you should be putting them first. Put yourself in their shoes and think like a consumer not like a marketer.
4. Inconsistent posting
Posting content with regular frequency will help you build relationships with your audience. If you post three things this week and then nothing for two weeks, you’re making it difficult for your audience to know what to expect from you and how and when to engage. Also be aware that the social platform algorithms favour channels that post regular content.
5. Posting the same content on all your social media platforms
As you learn about the audience on each of your channels, you’ll see that there are differences. It’s okay if there’s some crossover, but you should be tailoring your content for each channel.
6. Too many sales messages
You need a good balance of content on your channels. If your content balance is skewed by a high volume of empty sales messages, you’ll struggle to continue to engage an audience.
Why do you need a content strategy or plan?
- To help you connect with your audiences
- To communicate the key stories and support the objectives of your organisation
- Because you might already be working flat out on content and not seeing enough value from the effort you are putting in ― because what you are doing is not focused
An effective content plan is unique to your organisation and resources created using evidence-based decisions based on testing and refining.
Think about your content plan as being made up of these five elements that will inform your decision-making.
And underpinning everything should be your organisational objectives which might include things like: Increasing brand visibility; reaching new audiences and driving visits to your website.
Your channel objectives should be defined by your business objectives, and you can think about the objectives for each of your channels in terms of
You might have multiple objectives, but which channels and types of activity will be the best to support each one? If driving visits to your website from a social channel is a key objective, then you might find Facebook is the most effective social channel for this. If two-way conversations or highlighting a cause are an objective for you then Twitter might be a much more appropriate channel because it’s more about real-time engagement. If you want to develop a new younger audience, then you might want to look at how Instagram or TikTok could help you do this for example.
When it comes to defining your audience and understanding their interests and motivations, you might already have some information that you can draw on, if for example, you are a venue and you have visitor data. Or maybe you already have a marketing segmentation, and you can draw insights from this. It’s helpful to try and profile who is using each of your social channels and what their motivations are. For example:
- Is there a gender bias on each channel – what does this mean for your content?
- What is the most popular age range for each channel and how might that affect their motivations?
- What sort of content do they engage with most? It’s likely to be different for each channel.
If you don’t have any existing data and evidence to draw on it will help you to plan some. Ideally its best to try and get a mix of both qualitative and quantitative. Simple online surveys are good for giving you analysis of large sample sizes so you can be sure that you can draw a balanced set of insights and conclusions. Don’t forget to include some demographic questions so that you can look for trends in audience responses tied to this. At least age, gender and postcode / city / country.
Online survey tools
There are lots of affordable online survey tools such as SurveyMonkey and Survicate depending on the length and complexity of your survey you may even be able to use a free subscription. These platforms are great for helping you visualise the data and easily identify trends and insights.
Think carefully about the structure of your questions so that you can be sure you’ll be able to easily analyse the results data. Have a mix of predefined answer options and free text answers. Make sure you promote and if possible, incentivise your survey with a prize draw or similar to get as much response as possible.
To dig deeper into individual areas or to test out specific types of content use qualitative methods such as focus groups or depth interviews where you can take some time to understand the nuances of users’ thoughts and opinions on specific aspects of your content and channels. If you are doing qualitative research like this, you must try to recruit a group that is representative of your different audience segments or customer types so that you have a good representation of views. It can also help to send people content assets to read or watch in advance for example, so they have time to think about their opinions and come prepared to discuss them.
For example, you might ask your group participants to watch some of your videos in advance and then discuss what they liked and disliked about them to help you find the best structure for your video content in the future.
You might want to think about offering payment or other incentives such as free refreshments when recruiting for these more involved kinds of research commitments.
If possible try to research with a mix of people who know / currently engage with your business and those that are unfamiliar with it. You might find you get very different answers from both groups.
As we all know by now, just because you publish a post doesn’t mean all of your followers will see it. The average organic reach of a Facebook post for example is 5-6% of your Page’s total Likes. That means if 100 people follow your page – only 5 or 6 of them will see your post on average. And remember they will most likely see your post in the context of their own newsfeed mixed in with loads of other stuff, rather than in the context of your Facebook page.
The more engagement your post gets the more people will see it. So you need to make each post as engaging as possible.
To get an overview of how your Facebook posts are performing, go to the Content Library in the top left menu of Creator Studio. Here you can see an index of all your posts. You can filter by post format so for example just look at how photo posts have performed. You can also search for a post by title.
Take a look at what post content is most successful with your audience.
- Which post formats have the best reach?
- Which kinds of posts get the most engagement?
Once you understand your averages you can set targets for reach and engagement in your content plan.
Also in the Audience section of Creator Studio you can see the best posting times to reach your audience in days and hours. This bar chart shows the best time of day to post. Is there a sweet spot? If you post at this time, you’ll find engagement should be above average.
Take a look at your stats for your most successful posts over the last three months. Are they supporting your organisational and content objectives? Based on these stats, you can set targets for what a successful post should achieve in each channel in terms of reach and engagement going forward.
Set SMART objectives
Decide on a focus for each of your channels based on the audience and your content plans and set yourself a mandate. For example:
Ensure you have a Creator or Business Account (rather than a Personal Account) in order to see your Insights. You can set or change your account type in the Settings menu. To access your stats, go to the Insights menu and set the time period you want to review. You can also see a list of your top performing Posts, Stories and Reels, so you can see easily what content has performed best for your audience. Just like Facebook you can also see a breakdown of your audience and best times to post.
Like Facebook the Instagram algorithm is made up of multiple factors:
- Instagram favours accounts that produce content regularly
- It ranks your posts higher if your users engage with you regularly
- It also favours content that uses its latest formats like Reels and Instagram Live
- It favours channels that use a mix of content formats including Stories and video
- And of course, it favours posts that have high levels of engagement such as Likes, comments and saves.
Reaching audiences beyond your followers
Ensure you are adding good hashtags when you post. Do some hashtags research in advance and choose some that resonate with your audience and content. As you are constructing your posts and adding hashtags Instagram shows you the size of the audience for each hashtag – choose a mix of large and niche. To capture as many searches as possible, in the example here, I’ve used a mix of broad and niche tags “Living room decor” and “Lounge decor” to the very specific “yellow fireplace”.
If two-way conversation or lobbying to support a particular cause feature in your organisational objectives, then Twitter could be a good channel for you. Insights are in your Account menu, you can see a Monthly summary of performance for your channel and compare previous months’ performance by scrolling down. As well as how your posts performed you can also see who the most influential other accounts were that mention you.
The Twitter timeline the algorithm ranks tweets using a relevance score based on several factors including:
- Recency – that’s when a tweet was posted, more recent tweets are likely to be ranked higher
- Topicality – is your tweet about something that lots of other people are talking about right now
- Relevance – tweets from accounts and topics users engage with rank higher
- Media – Tweets with images, videos, GIFs, polls etc. are likely to perform better
- Engagement – the more people engage that with your tweet the further it will travel.
It’s really important to achieve a good balance of content on each of your channels – you should put the needs of your audience first and these should be balance with your business goals, which might be things like:
- Raise awareness
- Prove the value
- Drive ticket sales
- Build loyalty.
Achieving a good content balance
Achieving a good balance of content across your channels is important for their health and credibility so always bear this in mind when you are planning your content. To achieve a good balance, follow the 70 | 20 | 10 rule:
- 70% of your posts – should be made up of brand-building content
- 20% of your posts should be shared content from other sources
- Just 10% of your posts should be promotional content.
Following these ratios will mean you should be able to provide a good variety of content that all ultimately works to support your brand.
- Have clear objectives for each of your channels and a clear understanding of who the audience is
- Look at your stats and based on these make evidence-based decisions
- Plan your content in advance as much as possible, but also allow time for spontaneity
- Know when the best times are to post and post with consistency
- Reach out to audiences beyond your followers.
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Please attribute as: "How social media can help me reach more visitors for my heritage organisation (2022) by Trish Thomas supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 4.0