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Social media is a fickle thing. It is used for many reasons: for companies to connect with customers, to air your grievances, to stay up-to-date with your favorite celebrities, to get special deals at your favorite stores, or to share photos of your kids.

For those of us that use social media in a professional capacity, it can be the best – and most challenging – form of advertising for a company. I am a Social Media/Content Manager for local businesses in the New York City area. Most of the companies I work for are new to social media marketing, and they trust me to produce quality content and to use my expertise to help boost their brand’s profile online. And one of the biggest challenges is figuring out the best frequency and volume of posting. When you are a small brand trying to get your name out there, it’s of utmost importance to continually publish good content. Your goal is to get new business, and to do that you need to make a meaningful connection with people who will potentially be your new customers. You must become an “influencer” (a popular social media personality with a large following)…in some capacity. And to do this, your customers have to gain your trust. You have to publish content that keeps your fans and followers coming back for more, and entice new people to follow your brand and eventually engage. So in an effort to put out the right content to the right people at the right time, these questions inevitably come up: how often should I post? What is the best day and time? Should I post every day? Or two, three, 20 times a week? As a social media marketer, these questions are on my mind all day every day. Everyone is looking for the magic formula for social media – the right recipe that will make your sales or traffic go through the roof. But the unfortunate fact is that nobody has truly cracked the code yet. Managing social media is a process of trial and error. The more you do it and the more experience you gain, the better you will get at providing a social media marketing experience that fits your brand’s goals. In an effort to help share what I’ve learned through my exploits managing social media for small businesses, I thought I’d share some insights that I have found to be successful when trying to navigate these rough waters:

  1. Start with creating a Content Calendar. This is a must, particularly if you manage social media accounts for multiple companies. If you don’t stay organized and come up with customized, detailed, and executable marketing plans, everything will become a huge mess. I recommend using tools like Buffer (free) or Hootsuite (paid subscription) to schedule your posts. You can’t be on-call 24/7, so it helps to plan your posts out in advance, and to space out your content. The other big plus about having content calendar is that you can make sure you don’t have a time where you have nothing to post and you are scrambling for content.
  2. Post content that keeps them coming back. You want to offer something valuable, something customers cannot find elsewhere. What is your company’s unique brand proposition? Remember that you want to be a thought leader in your space. So gather content (either create it yourself or curate it from somewhere else) that will position you as the influencer that you know you can be. I work with a few food-related brands – so naturally it’s best to post recipes, cooking tips, etc. You’ll want to alternate this exclusive content with sales-y posts so you are not hitting customers over the head with one thing over and over again. And another tip: re-post (share or re-tweet) other people’s posts that are directly related to your brand. This accomplishes two things: it gives you content when you may have gaps and it helps you interact with the other brand and its followers.
  3. Don’t overwhelm people. Do you personally enjoy being bombarded with email newsletters? Neither do I. Some big brands tend to do this once you sign up for their newsletters. Yes we all love a good discount, but I end up deleting a lot of emails without even reading them. So figure out how much is too much for your customers. If you are a large retail company, then you may want to post a few times daily. But if you are small brand that is new to social media, try to space it out. Give customers a chance to digest the content you provide. If you are posting several articles a day, nobody will have time to read every one. So post one or two a week, interspersed with other content.
  4. Photo and video are a must. Photos and videos are the first thing people see on their social media feeds. People love to look at photos – obviously that is why Instagram is so popular! I’d recommend including a photo in every post Make sure they are high-quality, relevant, and personal (try not to use stock photography if you can). According to recent studies, photos are the most engaging type of content on Facebook, with an 87% interaction rate. And photos on Twitter boost re-tweets by 33% (http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/photos-generate-engagement-research).

Image of Facebook Social Media ManagementThink about creating videos as well. You can now make it so your videos will automatically play in people’s Facebook feeds – which is a great way to immediately catch people’s attention. In fact, Facebook video is now getting more views than YouTube (http://oursocialtimes.com/8-useful-social-media-statistics-for-2015/).

  1. Re-purpose your content. If one of your posts has received a lot of interest, then wait a few weeks and post it again. You’ll see that new fans and followers will engage. This tends to work particularly well on Twitter, where content is fleeting. It comes in extra handy when you find that content is scarce for that week and you need something to fill in the gap. Just don’t overdo it – only post it again once or twice.
  2. It’s all about timing. Every social media platform operates it in its own unique way, and followers engage differently on different sites. For Facebook, my recommendation is posting about 4-5 times a week. For Twitter, once or twice daily; Instagram – frequently (it’s very easy for people to hit that Heart icon to like your photo. The more likes you get, the more likely you will be to show up in the search feed).

Monitor your accounts to track how often you get likes or favorites and when they are coming in. If you increase your posting volume and see less interactions or more unfollows/unlikes, then that’s a good indication that you are posting too much! And if you are getting a lot of interest in a post – let it ride. Give it a few days to gain some more momentum. There are some studies out there about the best posting times like this one. These are great guides to start with. But all companies – and their customers – are different. Give your fans and followers some time to prepare. If you are working on promotions for holiday shopping, then you’ll need to start scheduling out posts a month or two before. If you are a travel company, realize that customers plan their vacations way in advance. If you are trying to get people to attend a school, it’s a very lengthy and expensive process. Keep these in mind when plotting your content calendar.

  1. Think outside the typical 9-5. Don’t forget, everyone has their phones on them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They are always checking social media, and it’s not just during work hours. That’s why the best time could be any time!
  2. What works for you? Everyone is a user of social media, whether it’s personal or business-related. Think like a customer or a fan – when do you consume your media the most? Is it before work, during your lunch break, in the evenings? Use your own personal preferences to influence your posting schedule.
  3. Look at the data. Right off the bat, you don’t need in-depth analytics and expensive data companies to tell you how you’re doing. Start with Facebook and Twitter – both offer good, basic analytics that tell you how your brand is performing. Keep track of it month over month and look for patterns. You’ll start seeing pieces of data jump out at you: what hashtags are working? What posts are getting the most interactions? What types of content are people sharing? This data is going to be essential in telling you what’s working and what’s not, as well as what day and time you’re getting the most action.
  4. Follow trends. Twitter and Instagram will tell you what is trending no matter where you are in the platform. The other half of my job (aside from creating and managing content) is to monitor my clients’ social media accounts. See what people are talking about and track patterns. Sometimes you’ll see certain hashtags come up on a weekly basis (the ultimate example being “Throwback Thursday” or #TBT). So think about how you can create content that fits trending themes while staying true to the brand. Jump on trends quickly – if you see certain things emerging that you think could work well with your brand, then give it a shot!
  5. Try lots of different types of posts. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Test out different hashtags for different circumstances. Have a pool of about 4-5 standard hashtags for the brand that you can dip into, and track how well each performs. And be sure to hashtag a few important brand keywords in your posts.

So let’s go back to that initial nagging question – what is the right amount of content and when should you post it? Well…it’s up to you figure it out for yourself and make the right choice for your brand. Of course you will have a few missteps, but that’s how we learn, right? So please share this article on social media – when you feel it’s right!