How to get started with your social media strategy

It’s getting harder to get noticed online and as a consequence, a strong content marketing strategy is critical to driving growth. Where to start? How much can – or should – you automate? Do you need to be everywhere at once?

Andy Lambert
Andy Lambert

Social media is a fast-changing landscape. We asked Andy Lambert, director at ContentCal to take the Ask The Expert hot seat and answer questions about it from Drive members.

This is a transcript of a conversation in the Drive The Network Facebook Group.

Social media automation: know the difference between processes and activity

Andy Boothman One of the things that always concerns me about any social strategy is the high level of automation. This can be great, really reducing the workload, but it can also be incredibly robotic, leaving people feeling cold and uncared for – I really believe this is what has killed (or at least is killing) a lot of marketing on social channels.

I’d like to hear about the best practice for automation, what levels are available and how you can manage them. I’d also appreciate thoughts on the built-in marketing tools available from each platform – some like FB, are good at taking people’s money without any real direction/feedback/measuring processes. Some, in particular Google, are deliberately over complicated and misleading, encouraging further spend for the uninitiated. Having a strategy is paramount but knowing how to implement that even more so.

Andy Lambert Let’s try and unpack that. Firstly, let’s separate different types of automation.

The first type of automation is the healthy variety that reduces workload, increases efficiency and allows you to focus on value-creating activity.

Social Media Automation: there’s automating processes and then there’s automating activity. There’s a big difference in my view.

Automating processes allows you streamline, like the ability to curate content from various sources around the web. That’s a very useful thing in helping you find useful content to share. Also (and I would say this) is that scheduling posts is the good version of automation.

You will always need to create content and publish it and there’s no difference in scheduling it or posting it natively as far as engagement goes. In fact, it makes better sense to schedule it, as it forces you to quality check your content and allows you to post at the best possible times for your audience.

When you automate activity, that’s usually the bad part of social media automation. Automation can be a tempting thing sometimes, but social media is inherently human and this is where in the moment engagement wins and the social networks agree, hence we’ve seen a massive cull of liking, following and comment bots.

Automating publishing is sensible, automating what happens after a post is published (typically) is not.

A photo of someone's Facebook profile
Automating engagement should not be part of your social media strategy.

How to keep up with notifications

Karen Arnott With scheduling, is the sensible thing to do schedule posts for when you can be online to respond to any engagement that happens? Or is it okay if there’s a bit of a delay in how quickly we respond on different platforms?

Andy Lambert Of course, responding as soon as possible is best, but giving that as guidance puts us on a road to being slaves to our phones.

For me, I regularly get tagged and mentioned in things, but (like everyone else) have a busy life, so I’ll give myself 30 mins per day to do all my engagement.

That said, customer service issues/sales inquiries are prioritised. We use a tool called Intercom which is our customer query ticketing system which aggregates all customer questions from email, social and within ContentCal into one central inbox. We couldn’t survive without that.

Automating publishing is sensible, automating what happens after a post is published (typically) is not.

Karen Arnott What app do you use? I currently allocate 30 mins a day to hop on the platforms and respond, but it’s starting to eat into my time more and need to ring fence this!

Andy Lambert ContentCal 😉

How much automation is too much?

Helen Lindop I’m always slightly nervous of over-scheduling and over-automating my social media posting. Any tips for getting the right balance?

Andy Lambert The volume is an interesting one. There’s no golden rule, without using your analytics to guide you, I’d typically say 3 per week on FB and LinkedIn and Twitter and Instagram, once per day. But, the best strategies are the result of analysis. That’s something we take very serious in creating content plans at ContentCal – this video gives some good guidance on this.

Don’t worry about what other people think

Rachel Extance I have lots of blog posts to share but I worry people will think I’m just broadcasting. I do go on and have conversations.

Andy Lambert Ultimately you are broadcasting, but there’s no shame in that. If the content is interesting, your copy is varied in the posts (the call-to-action may well be the same) and the content is relevant to the audience then all’s well.

In my experience, many worry too much about how they will be perceived or what to say and what not to say on social. Those that win on social (i.e become the most popular) are shameless self-promoters.

We, as Brits tend to be pretty bad at self-promotion, hence you’ll see mostly Americans getting the most engagement/followers.

Promotion, marketing and sales are not dirty words.

Those that win on social (i.e become the most popular) are shameless self-promoters.

Is it ok to post the same message across all platforms?

Good Company Reflexology Is it ok to post the same message on Facebook, instagram and LinkedIn or should they be different in order to cater for different audiences?

Andy Lambert Very common (and good) question. In the early days, I’d suggest the same content across all channels and as I mentioned to Helen Lindop that data should be your guide. In fact, this will help your understanding as you are reducing the amount of variables when you’re trying to understand what’s working.

A photo of Instagram analytics. Track your analytics to see if your social media strategy is effective.
Track your analytics to see if your social media strategy is effective

Tips for planning scheduled content

Rachel Extance What should we think about when we’re planning our scheduled content?

Andy Lambert Lots to cover here – I run regular sessions on this here –

What are the social media trends for 2020?

Helen Lindop Where do you see content marketing going in the next few years? Any trends you feel we should be aware of?

Andy Lambert ‘The future is private’ as Facebook say. As you’ll see with the advent of Instagram ‘threads’ and through the resurgence of FB Groups – that is where the opportunity is. Also platforms like Patreon are growing as people realise that they have built their business on rented property (Facebook) so the bigger many get, many are looking to move their community to an ‘owned’ area.

Karen Arnott What can you see for 2020, in terms of trends (already mentioned above with the platforms potentially removing likes, follower counts etc). Anything else?

Andy Lambert I don’t think removing likes and followers will stay if I’m honest (just my view). It’s too valuable for FB in terms of advertising metrics. These are all advertising platforms (FB will kid you that it’s about community) so it’s important for them that likes and popularity = revenue.

Read more:

What you need to know about LinkedIn with John Espirian

How to have time for everything!

Social media do’s and don’ts

Find out more from Andy Lambert and ContentCal:

Follow Andy on Twitter @Andy_R_Lambert

Learn more on the ContentCal YouTube channel