10 Years in Social Media. That’s like 70 in Dog Years, Right?

“If you post it, they will come.” Maybe that philosophy worked back when I joined LinkedIn as an “Early Adopter” in March of 2004, but it takes a lot more thought, strategy and planning to create a meaningful relationship with prospects and customers on social platforms these days.

Since 2008, I have, along with millions of others, joined and participated on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, Pinterest, Houzz, Vine, Google+, Foursquare, Reddit, Ello, WhatsApp and YouTube. As an “Early Adopter” in social media best practices for brands, I have helped dozens of my clients and given several regional and national presentations on the topic over the last decade.

For those of us who live and breathe social media, we know the one constant is change. But the one thing that hasn’t changed in the last 10 years is what social media does for individuals and brands: it is a tool that enables and encourages sharing of, and interaction with information, ideas, insights, experiences, perspectives and multimedia content. For the better—and in the news lately it appears sometimes for the worse—social media is the epicenter of community engagement today.

A recent Pew Research Center survey found that the majority of Americans use Facebook (73%) and YouTube (68%). Young adults (18-24-year-olds), not surprisingly, are heavier users on Snapchat (78%) and Instagram (71%). Instagram is the fastest-growing platform with a reported 35% of U.S. adults using the social media platform, up seven percentage points from 2016.

And while the majority of social media consumption falls within the 18-29-year-olds, there are a variety of differences on each platform. For example, Pinterest remains mostly female and LinkedIn attracts college graduates (50%).

It’s important to note that each social media platform attracts different audiences, content, usage and postage patterns, engagement, reach and so much more—which means different platforms are appropriate for different companies or brands.

While most brands participate or have a business page on Facebook, some of those brands may not be appropriate for creating boards and pins on Pinterest. And to succeed on Instagram, a brand must focus on stand-out imagery to appeal to its younger audience.

The frequency of posting is also something to consider. There are reports that say brands on Twitter should post anywhere from five to 14 times per day and never more than once per hour. It can be both daunting and time-consuming to find enough content to fill the funnel. Of course, time of posting is also variable. It all depends on your brand, the platform and when your target audience is most likely to engage.

Sometimes clients come to me in a panic to join the social media bandwagon, and are eager to “dive right in.” But I always suggest that we stop, take a breath and follow these basic steps:

  1. Identify the target audience (users) and platforms most used/appropriate
  2. Develop a strategy
  3. Create a social media policy
  4. Develop content
  5. Establish a presence

In a fast-moving, ever-changing environment like social media, it’s tempting for brands to leap before they look. But to maximize your long-term success and create meaningful engagements with your fan base, a little up-front planning can take your brand well into the future.