social media marketing lessons learnedI can still remember graduating from college and applying to all of the non-existent entry level jobs, thinking to myself “I’ll never have eight years of experience!”… Fast-forward to 2018, and I still almost don’t believe that it’s been almost eight years since scoring my first social media marketing job.

You can learn a lot doing the same thing, day in and day out, for 2,920 days. As a social media manager, every day counts! And I feel like there has been a critical turning point in the social media world these last few months, which has me reflecting a lot. Facebook’s algorithm shakeups always get the newbies worried. But I’m old hat at this… or so it feels.

I wanted to take some time to share some of my epitomes and social media marketing ‘aha’ moments. These are things I have come to realize over the last eight years, in no particular order. I hope I can save YOU years of worry, doubt, and unnecessary marketing mistakes with this reflection!

1. The best posts aren’t always the professionally shot

While blurry and dimly lit photos DO make me cringe, there is something to be said for authenticity and creativity here. As I look over my most successful posts over the years on Instagram, they surprise me. Many of them were taken with an iphone. Many of them are unbelievably simple. The subject matter matters, and so does creative composition. What I have found is that if it’s something unusual, something luxurious, or something that has a lot of nostalgia or story tied to it, it tends to get more engagement.

2. There are so many missed FREE opportunities

This one upsets me the most. What is that sports saying… “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”? There’s so much opportunity for PR and collaboration on social media, and yet I rarely see anyone taking advantage of it. And even when opportunities DO arise, businesses ignore them. Case in point: I was putting together a Valentine’s Day blog post roundup of local chocolate shops. I emailed five chocolate shops, and only ONE responded. It doesn’t get better than free press, people! Don’t be so weary of people that want to collaborate and feature you, and don’t forget to toot your own horn once in a while.

3. Voice is EVERYTHING

I took over a local Instagram account last year that had about 300 followers. Within a year, we grew that account 1000% — all with local potential customers. And while the community building is a strategy in itself, the reason people followed and stayed engaged is because we had such a FUN voice that people loved. The customers ATE IT UP. Tagged their friends every chance they could. Fast forward another year, and the business took their social media in house to be managed by one of their employees (good photographer, but not one with the words). His photos were BEAUTIFUL, but he did not continue with the tone of voice. The tone became more promotional, and a bit dull. In the last 6 months, their Instagram account has not grown at all, and their engagement rate has been cut in half.

4. People love supporting their fave businesses on social

When I take a look at my “following” feed (a feed on Instagram where I can see what my friends and family are liking and commenting on) the majority of my friends are actually liking businesses, publications, and non-friend accounts. Does this surprise you? Especially with Facebook changing up the algorithm to focus more on friend-family engagement, it doesn’t seem to translate.

when I look at my clients’ accounts, I see the way people engage with them. It’s like they’re speaking to a friend. This of course, is always our intention. But I just think it’s interesting to note that there are plenty of people out there that use social media to engage with business accounts. Heck, some of my small local businesses get treated like celebrities on Instagram. People will tag their friends “omg, @soandso followed me! Best day ever!” — I can’t make this stuff up!

5. Organic is not enough

… Unless you’re already a SUPER established business with all the right strategies in place. And even then… you should be setting aside a budget for branding campaigns. And I could probably put a list of 100 things I’ve learned over the last 8 years running ad campaigns, but for those that aren’t FB ad savvy, it would probably put you to sleep! So just know this: free exposure is fantastic, but you’re likely paying with your time (or someone else’s time). If it costs you $5 to reach an extra 1,000 people, and 1 of those people turns into a customer, wasn’t it worth the $5?

6. “Post and they will come” is not a thing

Posting is just one piece of the puzzle. I feel like everyone should know this by now, but I just had to include it, because I still see businesses doing it. Post a picture, write some copy, slap it up on your Facebook page = waste of time. Even if you have a great community following you, there are still things you need to do to get people in the door. Depending on your business, you’re competing against hundreds if not thousands of other businesses that probably offer similar products and services. They too, are posting pretty pictures. They too, are sharing news and articles. They too, are trying to convince your customer to buy their product. Your content needs a strategy behind it in order to sway customers to your business!

7. Anyone can do social media, but…

Not everyone can get results with it. After spending some time in the social media manager forums on Facebook, I have found several things to be true: There’s a lot of social media managers asking for help. They need help because they took an online course on how to be a social media manager, or they went to college for marketing, but they’re missing the point, and the business owner is upset that they aren’t seeing results.

A culmination of skills have to come together for someone to create a results-driven online presence. Not everyone is good at writing for a particular target market. Not everyone is a good at fostering communities of raving fans. Not everyone has an eye for visual branding. Not everyone understands a business’s sales cycle. When I see job listings for social media, I’m blown away by the standard requirements. These days, social media managers have to be a little bit of everything to succeed. Marketer, copywriter, graphic designer, videographer, and project manager all in one.

While we see people flock to social media marketing because it appears ‘easy’ or ‘accessible’, we will also begin to see that one person cannot be highly skilled in all these areas. Only the best of the best can get real results, and businesses that find the rare talented jack-of-all-trades should count themselves lucky. Ideally, businesses should work with a social media marketer that has strong partnerships with videographers and other services that require high-quality output to ensure that their brand is portrayed in an ideal way.

8. Don’t always try to reinvent the wheel – certain things are popular for a reason

Oftentimes I have clients that don’t want to do what the top brands is doing because it’s ‘overdone’. And while I am all for being creative, there are reasons why top brands are doing what they are doing: because they are seeing results from it! Look at what the leaders in your industry are doing, as well as what the leaders in other industries are doing, and then craft your strategy. I’m not encouraging copying, but you need to know what people are responding to in order to get a response yourself. Stay apprised on the social media marketing landscape and use the inspiration as a jumping point for your own success.

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