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The Sensis Social Media Report for 2016 states that 31% to 48% of SMBs, and 56% to 79% of large businesses in Australia already have a social media presence, but are they managing their platforms effectively?  After working in this field since 2006 and teaching in this field these are my best tips for getting the most out of your social media profiles:

1.  Strategy Development

Some business owners start to dabble in social media without a social media strategy. This means they are simply starting up platforms without clear objectives or a roadmap to get there. Often clients choose the wrong platforms or set up too many social media channels and do not have the time to service them.  Having a strategy document is critical if you want to hit your targets and save time.

2.  Tools

While strategy is a key element of success, knowing what tools to use will save you lots of time. You will be surprised to find out how easy it is to create professional looking content. Some of my favourite tools are Canva and Animoto for content production, Buffer to schedule your social media posts and Hemingway to refine your writing.

3. Be Social

While social media can be scheduled it is important that you are also social on the channels. This means engaging which means commenting, liking, retweeting etc. It is important that you use the tools to engage not simply broadcast about your products and services. Taking time out each day to read your social media channels is important as social media is not simply ‘set and forget’

4. Content Production

In the 2016 Content Marketing Institute Study (Australia), 84% of marketers said their top priority over the next year will be creating more engaging content. This is even more of a challenge for marketers as there is now a plethora of content marketing so standing out is critical.  Planning content takes time. Think about your tone, messages and the different content you need to produce and build your content into a content calendar. Try to plan out at least two weeks ahead leaving timeslots also for more ‘on the fly’ timely content. Put resources into building out video content which has been shown to resonate with social media audiences.

5. Be Realistic

Although setting up your business social media channels is free it is not free to service them. To run social media channels effectively you need to produce engaging content and time is also a resource! In addition, you will need to set aside money for a regular advertising budget particularly on Facebook where organic reach has been declining for some years. And be realistic about building up your channels. This can take time so don’t get dismayed if it is not a rapid build. A healthy dose of realism is important.

6. Outreach

While it is easy to simply focus on your own channels this is a mistake. As an active social media participant you need to focus on the whole eco-system. This means reading other people’s posts, viewing other people’s platforms and engaging on them. Your strategy document should include knowing where your competitors sit, who are your main allies and key influencers and who the potential customers are. Having a good understanding of the landscape is key.

7. Monitoring

As the owner of a social media platform you have a duty of care to those who come on to your page. It is important that you monitor comments and respond to questions etc. This ensures the standard of the page is maintained and that there is no spam or offensive language etc. Complaints regarding your company should not be deleted but replied to promptly and seen as an opportunity to understand your customer and refine your business.

8. In-House or Outsource or a Hybrid

Managing social media can be a time consuming task even with the best tools and techniques. Small business owners need to make a decision: will they manage it themselves or outsource it to a social media consultant. Things to consider: budgets, expertise in house, time available and what you are needing to achieve via your social media efforts. I have seen both models work well but also recommend a Hybrid of the two. This is where the consultant develops a strategy and trains staff within the business - they then maintain the social media presence long term. This is effective because business owners don’t have ongoing outlays and also retain the knowledge within the business.

9. Measurement

Once you have set up your social media channels and are in full swing you will need to monitor and measure the results. If you are using Facebook be sure to have a good understanding of Facebook Insights. Other platforms such as Twitter and Instagram also have their own metrics or analytics so be sure to tap in to these resources and work out what is working for you and what you need to change.

Google Analytics is also key. While it is important to measure the above metrics for your social sites you also need to know which ones are driving qualified traffic to your website. Ensure that you have Google Analytics set up on your website. I recommend monthly metric monitoring – taking time out once a month to source the relevant metrics and put them into a report. If you are running an ad campaign you will need to review the metrics on a daily and weekly basis.

10. Refine

Social media is not static it is always changing. Be sure to review your metrics and refine your approach - a ‘test and learn’ approach is key. Stay attuned to the market and keep reading and learning about new tools, techniques and best practice. The Australian Sensis Social Media Report is a must read to stay up to date on what is happening.

ACCAN wishes to thanks Jenni Beattie for this article. Jenni is the Director of Digital Democracy a social media agency based in Sydney. She has been working in PR for over 25 years and social media for 10 years and teaches at University of Technology Sydney and The LeftBank.