I get asked a lot if “I do social media work on the side.” My short answer is “not really, but buy me lunch and we can talk about strategy.” I’ve met with many small businesses that want the moon. Most of them were posting 2-3 times a month on various outlets or might as well as not exist online. They complain it’s hard. I usually end up telling them it’s easy and give them a few pointers and they walk away with confidence; although that “ease” meets usually meets little action.

Someone recently said social is about a “Return on Experience.” That is the bumbling grumble of some marketing person smelling their own farts, we’re marketing – not going on a tour through the amazon. I admit, there is a lot out there. It’s hard to sift through the noise of people telling you what is best for your business because they are so-called “experts.” In my history, it’s those who claim expertise are rarely so; don’t trust anyone with “guru” in their title. With all of that blithering, I thought it time to put some honest info out into the universe.

Here is what I’d say in those meetings, to use as a reference in simple, plain-English my tips to social media good times:

  1. Listen
    1. Start by emulating a brand you wish your page could be like, then do better
    2. Follow the same accounts, like brands, and influencers – ie: google “top/best [platform] brands/influencers”, feel free to add [location] if your business is brick & mortar.
    3. Share, engage, and reply
  2. Post
    1. Failing is an option. Try something & if it doesn’t work, you’ll know. Move on + learn.
    2. Consistency is key. There isn’t a “magic bullet” of the right amount of posts, set a number in your head or track on a google doc and try to hit your numbers.
    3. Don’t let time rule you. Take an hour and plan/schedule your posts for the week. Bam, you’re done with the creation side, but DON’T FORGET TO LISTEN!
  3. Pictures
    1. Take so many you need to empty your phone every month or so.
    2. Put time into editing; You don’t “need’ Lightroom or Photoshop, Snapseed or VSCO will do just fine.
    3. Filter to look natural or softly enhanced, do not overdo it.
  4. Share
    1. You are passionate about something, tell it to the world. Only you know awesome your [widget] is. Spread the word.
    2. Other people will like what you do – say thanks, use a listening tool (like Hootsuite) to say “thanks.”
  5. Time/Money
    1. Facts of life: Facebook is a paid space, Instagram is a (now) a paid space, Twitter takes time. What is worth more to you?
    2. $5 can get you far – targeted boosts, tailored ads, local, awareness ads can take you places.
    3. Learn the ad space you are working in. Create ads that you’d click on or the people you are targeting would click.
  6. Platforms
    1. Ask your customers what they open on their phone first while sitting on the toilet, start there.
    2. Don’t jump into a platform because you think you have to ‘do it all.’ Focus on what matters.
    3. You didn’t “miss the boat” – you skipped the old guard. If your audience is on Snapchat, why worry about building an audience on MySpace?
  7. ROI?
    1. Track your success with Pixel, Google Analytics and the like, but don’t get hung up.
    2. Be awesome and people will be awesome to you. You’re putting out ‘good vibes’ not pushing a sale. This is marketing, not sales.

There is, of course, more complicated strategies to flush out and give guidance on. But this is simply an introduction. The long and short of social media can be boiled down to: “Just try it!” and “Do what feels right for your brand.” As with most things in life, if it seems too good to be true it very much is, no one has a perfect plan, it’s up to you to craft one.

As with all of my social posts, I’m not going to hang my hat on getting x number of followers or getting a video to go viral. I think creating and fostering a long term strategy is important to sustained success. You can do this.

I’ve thought of writing a bit of social media advice and a blanket of information that maybe someone will stumble upon or potential clients will think I’m at least pretending to know what I’m talking about. So here is part one:

Don’t let someone else tell you what you should be doing with Social Media. Okay, let someone else help you, but don’t take advice as an order. This may seem obvious for those with a small business who are always the first to do a little background checking and data collecting before going ahead. Even then though, don’t substitute what is best for you and your company for what you are “supposed to do.” Don’t think just because they’ve got years of experience doing social media for a tire depot, doesn’t mean they’ll know how to do it for a cake shop. Sure, they could give advice, but it’s not all going to be correct. Only you know your audience, and if you don’t only you can offer the authenticity to gain a real audience.

Which reminds me, social media isn’t a numbers game. Do not base your work put into it by how many followers, fans you’ve collected this month. Yes, it can be a very helpful way to guide what you’re doing, but it’s not a line in stone.

So don’t let some hot-shot tell you how s/he’ll fix everything and make it all better. Don’t pay some lug a couple grand to build a Facebook page, or to post a ‘deal’ on twitter. It’s your business, don’t get bullied.