Most businesses have at some stage set up social media accounts with the best possible intentions.

It’ll be used to drawn in new leads! A huge audience will gradually build that waits on each and every blog post published through the website! The online persona of the business will become so engaging that everyone will want to be its best mate!

Only, in reality, those social network accounts invariably lie dormant for months after an initial flurry of posts.

This is such a shame, but it’s an easy trap to fall into. After all, there’s a business to be run, right?

True – but without a brilliant social media presence and a strategic, concerted marketing plan attached to it, you’ll quickly fall behind the pack.

Your competitors will either be on the case with social media or lagging behind – here’s now to raise your game and become the most engaging online presence within your field.

Start with a plan

tablet with statistical data

Social media marketing can’t achieve success without a solid strategy.

Start by thinking about what you’d like to achieve with your social media profiles, and try and steer clear of “loads of likes, comments and followers”. Dig deeper. Do you want to generate leads from social media or leverage it to gain more referrals for your website?

Review the competition; what are they doing? And don’t assume they’re getting it right, either – even if their output looks amazing and appears to have plenty of engagement. It might not be meeting their goals (if they have any set).

Spend plenty of time on your social media marketing plan and put in place the tools you’ll need to see it through such as posting calendars, scheduling software and the right people running it all.

Pick the right platforms

Signing up for every social media platform under the sun isn’t a good tactic for any business. In doing so you’ll simply spread your resources too thinly and be unable to make your mark on any one platform.

Every business is different, and even if you find the competition using Snapchat, that doesn’t mean its right for you.

Spend some time researching the channels that are available and look specifically at the audiences. Are you likely to find potential customers within those audiences? If so – go for it. If, on the other hand, you think your content is more likely to get lost in a sea of funny cat videos, move on!

Think about your target audience

Granted – this step should probably come before the last two, therefore if you’re reading this and want to get cracking with something immediately, start here.

Audience research is fun – particularly when it comes to social media marketing. You’ll need to think about the individual; how would your ideal customer use social media? What platforms are they likely to frequent and what sort of content is going to engage them the most?

You may already have written audience personas as part of your marketing strategy, but if you’re serious about social, you’ll need to review them and add the extra dimension of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and whatever platforms on which they’re most likely to be found. For many, it’s where they’ll spend the bulk of their time.

Don’t ignore PPC

It’s often said these days that social media has become a ‘pay-to-play’ platform for businesses, and while this is true, that doesn’t mean you should drop all organic posting and spend as much money as possible on pay-per-click (PPC).

Just don’t ignore it.

If you have a new product launch, event or promotion you want to shout loud about, social media PPC is one of the best ways to reach a colossal audience.

Facebook arguably leads the pack here when it comes to audience data and the tools they provide advertisers, but there are very few social media platforms that haven’t jumped on the PPC bandwagon.

The trick lies in creating a realistic budget and making sure you use it each year.

Use video, photos or graphics

If every tweet you send out is nothing more than a few sentences pock-marked by hashtags, you’re not going to attract many eyes.

Regardless of the social media platforms you’re using, imagery reigns king. Always make sure your posts are accompanied by photos, gifs or video – and if you can, make sure it’s original stuff rather than stock.

As a rule, you should divide your time equally between text and images when planning your social media content. We’re visual creatures, after all, and an image really does speak a thousand words online.

Research hashtags

Far too many businesses make up their own hashtags. And that’s fine if you’re using them in a jovial manner (“look what happened when Dave in sales tried the cracker challenge… #WhatAMess”, for instance), but if the aim is to put your content in front of a huge audience, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

Before you construct your posts, research potential hashtags. Look for trending topics on Twitter and keep an eye on national days; the more you can hook into the national conscience with your content, the more likely it is to be seen by a larger audience.

Final tip: go for quality over quantity

There are no hard-and-fast rules about how often you should post on social media as a business. Once a day is fine, for instance, but not if you don’t have anything to say.

It’s also perfectly fine to rehash old content – but only if it’s good content.

The ‘quality over quantity’ rule stands for so much in life, but it’s particularly important when it comes to social media marketing. If you just pump out mundane, meaningless content every single day, you’re doing nothing more than box-ticking.

Instead, use our tips above to first create a brilliant, goal-led strategy, and stick to it. Then, as you’re seeing that strategy through, ask yourself before every post whether or not it provides value for your audience. If it doesn’t – don’t post it. One day won’t hurt!

Enjoy your social media marketing – it’s one of the most enjoyable and ultimately profitable forms of brand promotion we have available in the digital age.