6 Best Practices for Social Media Marketing Newbies

This post originally published on the General Assembly Digital Marketing Blog.

You’re just starting out actually marketing a business or non-profit organization using various social media channels and tools. You’re not a social media marketing expert yet, but you will be very soon. What’s your next step? It’s wise to start off with some boundaries around your social media posts and content sharing.

In addition to maintaining your brand standards and representing your brand with excellence, here are six best practices that span all of the top five social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+, Instagram) and most other social media channels. In other words, if you start off using these best practices, your chances of early success will increase greatly.

1. Make it brief.

Make the text in your posts brief – under 100 characters – except on Instagram (see below for all the Instagram exceptions). Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ have all conducted studies proving shorter is better.

2. Use attractive imagery.

Always include a beautiful, relevant image that reflects your brand and introduces the topic you’re sharing. Make sure you abide by updated social media image size dimensions. Note the slight difference for Instagram photos below.

3. Be inclusive.

Tag people in the image (to save characters on Twitter) or the post, letting them know that they are part of the content being shared or that they should pay special attention to what you’re sharing. Don’t use this method as a spammy tool.

4. Keep it short.

Always use shortened URL links using a URL shortener like bit.ly, goo.gl, ow.ly, wp.me, etc. You can also use branded links to increase brand awareness and trust. Facebook allows you to remove the link after it has retrieved the content, so you don’t have to worry about a shortened link with Facebook, especially now with Instant Articles. A recent study published in Social Media Examiner concluded that Facebook posts with embedded links actually perform better than those with links in the text.

5. Use hashtags (properly).

Hashtags are an integral part of almost every social network, thanks to Twitter; however, many people don’t use hashtags as they were intended. That’s fine for them as individuals expressing their feelings or frustrations, but as a digital marketer, you would do well to utilize hashtags for their intended purpose: search and discovery.

You can use tools like RiteTag to see which tags are getting the most traffic, or create your own unique hashtags that you use consistently for all your campaigns. You should useUse no more than two hashtags, except on Instagram. Twitter especially has demonstrated that two hashtags are optimal, engagement plummets when you use 3 or more hashtags.

6. Instagram is the exception.

All the exceptions go to Instagram because the follow best practices have proven successful on the photo sharing service:

  • Share an exclusive image that nobody else will be able to see.
  • Tell a brief story using about 200 words, almost a mini-blog post, about the image.
  • Use at least three hashtags.
  • Tag lots of people.

Perhaps Instagram is growing so fast— surpassing Twitter recently for the number of monthly active users (MAU) —because it’s just a little different, and the other main channels are more established. We’re now starting to see promoted (e.g., paid) posts in Instagram, so I expect to see fewer exceptions for Instagram. However, Instagram’s rapid growth and simplicity may be the new trend.

Either way, for the foreseeable future, working within these best practices will help you establish yourself as a savvy digital and social marketer.

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