Do a quick Google search or scour the front pages of your favorite social media blogs, and you’ll find a seemingly endless array of articles providing you with tips and advice on social media (my blog included).
If you read enough of them, which I do, eventually you’ll see those tips and bits of advice contradict each other.
- Don’t post on Facebook more than once a day, or your fans will “un-like” you.
- Post more than once a day on Facebook to keep your People Talking About This score high.
- Photos are the most shareable content on Facebook.
- Videos are the most shareable content on Facebook.
- Post on weekends because other brands don’t, and you’ll stand out.
- Don’t post on weekends, because nobody is paying attention then.
It can become dizzying. It’s not that your favorite social media pundit is lying to you or flat-out wrong. Truthfully, not everyone can be right; but there are certainly areas of gray, and depending on your brand and audience, advice can differ.
I have heard a few tips that are just flat-out wrong or at least shouldn’t be followed as though they were gospel. Here are five social media tips you might want to ignore—but you didn’t hear that from me.
1. Post content every day. Or don’t. The validity of this advice is tied to the channel you’re talking about, your audience and the expectations you’ve set. Our firm posts once a week, but we’re active on Twitter every weekday. We’ve found that one longer, more insightful post a week drove more traffic than a shorter post every day. Don’t worry if you aren’t blogging every day or even posting on your brand’s Facebook page every day. Simply set a publishing schedule and stick to it.
2. Ignore paid media; it’s dead. It’s not that traditional advertising is dead; it’s that no amount of money will make your brand relevant to a consumer if it doesn’t create something of value. Buy the best billboard in Times Square. Buy a YouTube home page takeover. None of it will encourage someone to buy your product. Paid media won’t build a brand; but it can certainly build awareness of something about a brand, which is why paid media on Facebook and Twitter can be so successful.
3. Automation is a social media sin. You may have heard the saying “Automating social media is like sending a robot to a cocktail hour.” I get it, but to ensure quality and a commitment to an editorial calendar, being able to schedule content is important. This is a bit of a gray area, though, so watch out. “Worst practices” in social media automation include sending automatic direct messages (usually when someone follows you) and automatically tweeting every post on an RSS feed. (What if one of them is something you don’t agree with?) Use the technologies available to you to maintain an approved publishing schedule so you can spend your time listening and actively responding to your audience.
4. Always include a call to action. Head over to Facebook, click on your Pages Feed, and tell me what you see. Most of the posts will ask their audience to “like” or share or read or buy—you get the point. There’s nothing wrong with this in small doses, but remember that every other brand is asking for the same thing, and eventually audiences can become fatigued. Not every bit of content—whether it is a Facebook post, a tweet, an Instagram photo, or a blog article—must ask your audience to take a specific action. Of course you hope they’ll share it with their audiences or even head to your online store and buy a product, but you don’t have to order them to do it.
5. Post at a specific time. This is one of the most mind-boggling aspects of social media. I’m good friends with Dan Zarrella at HubSpot, and I read almost all his content. He has provided audiences with mountains of data about when to post to get the most engagement, and it’s valuable information. But none of it is gospel. It can’t be. The only way to know the best time to post for your brand and your audience is to test. Use all the data available to you to make informed decisions about when to test, but ultimately every brand and audience is different.
We send our newsletter early in the morning because after testing, our data showed that more people opened the email if it was in their inbox when they arrived at work. If the data showed us that we should send on Saturday nights at 11 p.m. because that’s when most marketers are reading their email, then that’s when we’d send it.
So take my advice, or don’t. I like to think that I have my finger on the pulse of social media trends and best practices, but the best practice is the one that works best for your brand and, more importantly, your audience.
Jon Thomas is communications director for Story Worldwide. A version of this article first appeared on Post-Advertising.