Social Media: Back to the Basics

I recently wrote a how-to guide for my client, Lakeside's River Park Conservancy, on how to engage with their audience and increase their social media presence. It was 14 pages long! In today's world, where you can buy followers and impressions, writing this how-to piece was a good reminder of how much we can do, for free, to connect with our audience online.

So it's back to the basics: What to post, how to post and when to post it. Also what are those hashtags things? How will someone know that I've mentioned them, or their organization? Can I schedule posts?

While writing the how-to guide, I spent my time focusing on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. All three were already up and running for the organization, so I could walk them through best practices and create cheat sheets. If you're new to managing social media for your business, I'd start with Facebook.

Facebook's layout makes it easy to focus on engagement first. Follow the main navigation on the top of the page from left to right. Start by checking your Messages, respond to all Notifications, then look at Insights and finally use Publishing Tools to create your posts. There are of course several applications, like Hootsuite, where you can manage all of your social accounts in one app, but again, start with what you know first.

Once your business page is set up, viewing your insights on Facebook is easy. The amount of data is enormous, and you can set filters to see day-to-day performance, or for a given date range. You can also view your reach, your past posts, and even set up pages to watch so you can see how you're doing compared to the competition. As a data-lover, I am always excited to comb through the numbers each week!

Next, if you haven't already, set up a business account for Instagram. You can then view Instagram analytics by clicking the bar graph at the top right of your page. In addition, you'll now have a 'Contact' button, your address, and directions to your business, all appearing in your profile.

There are many paid services that will give you deeper insights into your Instagram posts, but when you're just getting started, stick with posting and viewing insights through the mobile app.

Next stop, Twitter. I am often amazed when I hear things like, 'Do we have a Twitter account?',  'Can't we just focus on Instagram and Facebook?' With over 313 million monthly active users, it's in your best interest to tweet. People are listening.

Twitter also offers free analytics, which you can dive into to see the number of mentions, impressions, engagement rate, etc. As with other social channels, there are countless blogs and how-to's on using Twitter. One of my faves is Mom This is How Twitter Works by Jessica Hische. She makes me laugh out loud. 

The social networks keep growing, from SnapChat to LinkedIn, Pinterest to Spotify. Even Venmo allows you to like and comment on when people you know pay someone for something. I don't quite care how much Jen paid Lucy for her Thai food, but you can imagine this information is useful to a company trying to determine your spending habits. Want to find out what channels your audience likes to use?  Ask them!

I often find managing social media is an afterthought for many small organizations. They do not have the time nor the resources. They're packing up from a long day at work, they jump on, post a photo and head home. Instead, set aside time with no distractions. Be strategic. This is an important part of your outreach, so treat it the same as answering emails or organizing a fundraising event. Collaborate with your team to determine what you should focus on for the week.

In the end, it's all about engaging with your audience.  You need to share videos that are of interest to your followers, mention your partners, respond to comments, tag your volunteers in photos and use hashtags that will help people find you.