As someone who spends a lot of time servicing the needs of small business I understand the limited time and resources available to handle something like social media. Many businesses hesitate to invest too much in social media as they have not learned how to measure the return on their investment and they have heard horror stories that suggest it can be a massive waste of time.

But the tides are turning. Over 90 per cent of businesses use social media as part of their marketing initiatives and they are becoming more adept at measuring results based on activity. With multiple platforms to choose from, the question now becomes ‘which do I use to achieve desired business outcomes?’

I recently came across an article that discusses results of a Social Media Optimization Survey published by Software Advice, a social CRM research firm that is definitely worth a read. Their analysis includes some intriguing results along with several charts to illustrate what they’ve learned. Here are a few of the points supported that I find most important:

Create Goals and a Plan
One of the first things I discuss with any client is making sure their social media efforts are part of the bigger marketing picture. One way to accomplish this is to create an editorial calendar or posting plan so that you’re not just ‘spraying and praying’ in hopes of hitting the right target. There should be a goal in mind with an understanding of how results can be measured. Whether it’s increasing customer engagement or driving more traffic to your website, data is plentiful and should tell you everything you need to measure your success.

Post Frequently and Consistently
Consistent and reliable posting can improve your brand recognition and audience engagement – something your competitors may already be doing. Posting at different times of day also ensures that you are reaching your audiences in different parts of the world. If you are creating content in series (such as weekly podcasts or ‘how to’ articles), your audience will come to expect it and once they’re interested they will start to tell friends.

Important Optimization Tactics
Of course to engage with your audience on an authentic level you need to know who they are and what appeals to them. I was interested to see in the report that marketers regard images and photos as the most important tactic for optimizing their social media posts but ‘target specific groups or users’ was third. Hmmm. How would I know what to write if I didn’t know who I was writing it for?

Tools Make it Easier
What is your position on the use of tools to help manage your social media? Many folks I speak to think that it’s cheating to use such tools as Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule some of their posts. I agree that in order to be ‘real’ when engaging socially it’s necessary that you be responsive and present so people know that they’re talking to a live person. There’s no reason, however, why you shouldn’t use the tools to help schedule links to valuable content that might be of interest to your audience.

I found the results in the report supported this concept. Roughly half of the participants use tools and roughly half of the participants said that engaging in social media is ‘fairly easy’. Using such tools in no way diminishes your authenticity and in fact can lead to your posts being more highly valued.

There’s lots more to the report so go read it here. I’d love to know what you think.

Software Advice is a leading provider of detailed reviews, comparisons, and research for software buyers. The inspiration for this post was from their B2B Marketing Mentor site.

Marnie headshot is an SEO copywriter, author and online marketer. She works with small and medium-sized businesses to develop their marketing and communications and expand their customer base.

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