5 Best Practices for Social Media in 2021

Picture of Aliza ShermanAliza Sherman is a web pioneer, author, and international speaker. Sherman is the author of 8 books about the Internet including The Everything Blogging Book, Streetwise Ecommerce, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Crowdsourcing and Social Media Engagement for Dummies.

5 Best Practices for Social Media in 2021

The first quarter of each year is an ideal time to freshen up your social media strategy. Reexamine what you accomplished in 2020. Look hard at what didn’t work and to know what tactics to avoid moving forward. While the temptation may be to scrap everything and go in an entirely new direction, best practices over the years are less drastic and more grounded approaches to improving what you’re doing.

Here are five ways to optimize the way you’re using social media by zeroing in on purpose, process and appeal.

1. Know who you are trying to reach and what you want them to do – the actions you want them to take.

Using social media to check off a box on your marketing to do list is a waste of time and resources. You have business goals, and you can use social media to help achieve those – but you need to know how to build your following and what motivates your followers. With that knowledge, you can ask  questions or encourage an action.

Is your audience busy work-at-home moms juggling the bills? Discounts and special offers may appeal to them. Look for ways to not only work in these types of promotions but to capture more information from anyone who participates. At a minimum, you want to capture their email address (see #5 below). If you can get them to answer a few questions about themselves along the way, you’re closer to knowing who they are and how you can better serve them

2. Prioritize your social networks based on your audience and the type of content you are able to create.

The more you know about your audience, the better you can target them with the right content in the right places. If you’re looking to reach men, you are less likely to find them on Pinterest (unless you’re in the UK where a larger number of men enjoy this visual social network) and more likely to find them on YouTube, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Choosing where to focus your social media marketing efforts involves taking into consideration several factors including your business goals, your resources, but also where your current customers and likely prospects are interacting.

Once you know which social networks you should use, next you want to create content that is relevant to your audience. Based on your resources and skills, pick forms of content that are relatively easy for you or your team to produce.

Don’t ignore popular content types, such as audio and video clips, even though it may seem like a stretch to produce them. Use tools, such as Canva and Biteable, that help make it easier for people who aren’t professional producers and designers to produce and design attention-grabbing content in many forms.

3. Assess your best time for scheduling post to publish and to be actively engaged with your audience.

Creating content continuously for your social media marketing can be a genuine challenge if you’re not in the business of content production. Thoughtfully scheduling your posts at optimal times for your audience can mean more impact for your messaging.

Check the “insights” section of the social networks you’re using to learn more about your audience and their habits. Facebook, for example, will tell you the days and times your followers are most active. Companies that offer social media scheduling tools, like Buffer and Social Sprout, may also publish studies about best times to post based on data they’ve gathered from their uses.

4. Don’t fail to collect emails or bypass email marketing simply because you spend time and resources on social media.

Don’t throw out other types of advertising and marketing simply because you’re using social media. Social media is rarely a direct path to a consumer or prospect. It is only one of several ways you can reach them to build awareness of your brand. Email continues to be a more direct route to your audience, although email still has limitations including getting trapped in spam blockers and sitting in someone’s inbox for days or weeks unopened.

When using social media to get your message out there, look for ways to encourage followers to provide you with their email address and to give you permission to use it. Once you have their permission, be thoughtful how you integrate emails into your marketing efforts. Email should be coordinated with your social media messaging.

5. Identify meaningfully ways to connect with your customers, prospects and social media followers.

Most people are overloaded with too many social networks to visit and too little time. Attention is at a premium. Identify your core audience, then look for ways to provide them with useful information and support. People like to connect with companies and experts, but most people are motivated by “what’s in it for me.”

Social networks can be effective tools for building your brand or showcasing your expertise, but like it or not, it isn’t all about you. Understanding who it is you’re trying to reach, how and why they use social media, and what value you bring to their lives is a better framework to drive your social media marketing.