What to Post and What Not to Post
Most people are by now aware of social media, and many have a general idea that their association should be using it for. However, in many organizations, social media is little more than an afterthought -- something you think might be a good idea, but you are not sure why exactly you are doing it, or how to do it well. So, you don't put much time into social media and don't invest many resources, and it stays on the back burner.
It's important to understand that the purpose of social media should not be how many people are liking or following your social media channels. Social media should be turning likes into leads. When people are interacting with you on social media, your ultimate goal should be bigger -- whether that be getting them to sign up for an event, join your association, or volunteer. But what do you post to make that happen?
Figuring out what to post is often a barrier to using social media effectively. The following do's and don'ts are just some general rules to keep in mind when trying to make your social media posts as meaningful as possible.
Social Media Do's
… but make it meaningful. It's much more effective to think of social media as a conversation. Find organizations similar to your own and follow their social media channels, sometimes sharing or responding to what they post.
You can also mention others by putting their social media handle after the @ sign. Doing so notifies them of your post, and they may be inspired to share it on the own channel, which will grow your audience.
It's still important to make sure that your mentions are specific, and relevant. If you mention every vaguely related organization in a single post, your post is more likely to come across as spam, and less likely to be shared. Think of it as sharing an interesting article with a friend -- if you send the article to one friend who's expressed a previous interest, they might be grateful that you thought of them. If you send that same article to the 500+ people on your contact list with a general message, without considering whether the article might be relevant to all those individuals, it's more likely that people will delete the article without reading it.
… but be specific. Hashtags are a word preceded by the # symbol. Originally used on Twitter and gaining popularity on Tumblr, Facebook, and Instagram, this is a great way to expand your reach. When individuals are searching for a specific topic, they are more likely to find your post if you use a hashtag about that specific topic.
However, hashtags can be too general, which can cause your content to get lost in the shuffle. For example, something like #fundrasing is generic and can apply to thousands of posts. Something like #endMS relates to a specific initiative and is more likely to reach people that might be interested.
Jump on Some Bandwagons
If you notice that something relevant to your association is trending on social media, it's a good idea to develop posts relating to that topic as well. The link doesn't have to be that direct for this tactic to be effective. There are some social media trends, like #ThrowBackThursday, where posting some of your old or historical content can apply to any organization. Following some of these trends can help grow your audience.
Share High-Quality Images and Links
Posts accompanied by images tend to have a wider reach than posts without, and posts with links in them tend to go a little further as well. So, it seems like a no brainer to include images and links as much as possible. However, it's important to ensure that the images and links you are sharing are the right ones. In addition to choosing relevant content, it's important to make sure that any link contains content that is accurate and that is consistent with your association's vision, mission, and values.
When it comes to images, it's important to ensure you're using images that can be reused online. One way (of many), to find these types of images is when doing a Google image search, filter by usage rights and select Labeled for Reuse.
… but not too frequently, although it's impossible to provide any concrete best number of posts per week or per month. Post numbers vary based on the social media network, your audience, and your goals.
In general, posting very rarely means that you won't be at the top of your followers' news feeds, and your social media content won't be at the top of their minds. Post too frequently, and you will seem like spam, and your followers are less likely to read your content.
There are a few experts that have tried to figure out how frequently to post. On Facebook, if you have a relatively large following on your channel already, the common advice of posting twice per day will generally get you the most engagement per post. If you don't have that many followers, studies have found that posting about once per week will actually get you the most engagement per post. Many people will fall somewhere in between. On Twitter, to get the most engagement per tweet, it was found that tweeting 1-5 times a day would be ideal for most.
Track How You're Doing
So you've been sharing high quality images and links, mentioning some other relevant social media pages, and using hashtags like a pro -- how do you know it's all working? It's important that you're not just throwing everything onto social media and hoping for the best. You don't need to use complex charts or anything too fancy, but keep an eye on how people are responding to your tweets. See what comments, shares and likes you're getting. If a social media post gets a lot of interaction, it might be something you'd want to try next time.
Social Media Don'ts
Use Too Many Hashtags
It might be tempting to #hashtag #every #word. If a hashtag increases the reach of your post, a lot of hashtags would increase the reach even more, right? A recent study found that while a post with one hashtag might get good engagement, the more hashtags you use in a single Facebook post, the less engagement you get. A good idea would be to first check whether your hashtags have been used by other people, and if so, whether they are extremely common. If it's not a hashtag you have created and promoted for one of your events or campaigns, you want to try to find a hashtag that's had some use, but is not ubiquitous.
Self-Promote All the Time
Of course, you're on social media to promote your association. You want members to attend your events or purchase your products. Your followers are more likely to be receptive to your promotional posts if you mix it up and also include content you think might be interesting to your followers and engaged members. Social media is a great way to show that you're up-to-date with the latest news in your industry, and it helps you be seen as a go-to source of information.
Don't Mention Everyone
Mentions are a great way to let other organizations know that you're talking about them or sharing their content, but if you're just mentioning people for the sake of mentioning them, take the time to really think about what you're trying to accomplish. If you're trying to get other relevant organizations interested in your content, it might not be the best idea to mention them in everything indiscriminately. It will look like you're just spamming them, which is another major don't.
Don't Be Too Wordy
Twitter helpfully limits the characters you can post, so this tip applies to Facebook and other platforms. If someone has to click on “read more” to see the rest of the message, are they really likely to want to read the whole thing or will they scroll past it on your newsfeed? On most social media channels, less is really more.
Don't Post the Same Thing on Every Channel
It's not necessarily wrong to post about the same type of content on both Facebook and Twitter, for example, but you wouldn't want to post about it the exact same way. Many people connect all of their social media channels so that the exact same content, word for word, is posted on every social media channel. The same posting style is not necessarily effective on every social media channel, so be sure you're tailoring your posts to the channel you're using.
Don't Post Things That Aren't Relevant to Your Followers
Your website traffic, or the new people that have followed you on various social media channels might be exciting to you, but it's not something that's going to be of any relevance to your followers. Before posting anything on social media, keep your audience in mind and try to post things they might be interested in.
These tips may seem daunting, and this is by no means an exhaustive list, but it really comes down to knowing your audience and keeping your goals in mind. A simple test is to ask yourself what you're trying to achieve, and how you think your social media posts will achieve that. Put yourself in the place of your followers. Even if you're not active on social media yourself, it can be helpful to visualize how something you're posting might be received.
Social media has been around long enough that there are a lot of time-tested general best practices out there to explore. If there was one, simple thing for any new social media marketers to keep in mind, it would be that less is more, and engagement is key.
Does your organization have a Digital Resources Policy in place to help govern and secure use of social media and the like? If not, consider downloading our template and adapting it to your needs.