Social media use has increased by 356% (NetPop) since 2006 and the number is still growing. As social network plays a more important role in customer’s media consuming behavior, brands need to understand how to maximize the effectiveness of your social marketing efforts. Here are our top 9 tips from real-world social media management practices.

1. Know where you are going

Set up goals. There is no success that can be achieved without knowing what success looks like. Set your goals for what you are trying to achieve. Keep in mind that social media is best for accomplishing things like:

2. Who are you targeting

Here’s one very important piece of advice: before you do any interacting on social media, determine the audience you are talking to and why. Answer these questions to help you understand more about your audience and how you will communicate with them through social channels:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • Which social media sites do they visit?
  • What type of information are they looking for online?
  • What are their problems or concerns?
  • Which other products do they use?
  • What are their personal interests?

Take each of these factors into consideration when you are creating content and speaking to them directly. This is a key part of your overall social media management strategy.

3. Treat your audience like real people

They are actual people, so call them by name or treat them as you would a friend. People are not on social media sites to buy products or services, so be sure that you interact with them in a social manner; don’t sell to them, engage with them.

4. Monitor discussion threads and conversations

Somebody may raise an important question about your product and you should see that as an opportunity to educate your prospective customers about the benefits of your product or service. Since people are already talking about your company or products, it’s important to join in that conversation, be part of it, let others know that you are part of their community. Consequently, this will allow you to connect with customers or prospective customers on a personal level.

5. Be consistent in managing your social media accounts

Make a timetable, adopt a schedule, and stick with it. Whether you have a daily, twice a week, or weekly schedule to post, it’s best to follow a regular schedule to create anticipation among your fans. Try naming your posts such as: Joke of the Day or Monday’s Advice, etc. Let fans know when they should  return. This will allow visitors to understand your schedule, and if they like the content you are sharing, it will keep them interested and returning for more each time.

6. Understand the etiquette of social media

People act or “behave” differently on different social media channels. Every smiley, emoticon, or even the refusal to comment represents real emotion as far as social media participants are concerned. And sometimes, it’s so easy for any off-hand remark to get out of control, and eventually damage the reputation you have built for your business.

Understand the social etiquette of every social networking site, such as Facebook or Google+, and carefully navigate discussion threads while observing the requisite etiquette. Even in cyberspace, the faux pas you commit can stick. To be on the safe side, stay polite, fair and neutral.

7. Be aware of the best times to post, tweet or pin

Most businesses post on their Facebook during business hours, assuming that most of their prospective customers are online from 9 A.M. to 5P.M. too. However, there is growing indication that other hours are equally, or more lucrative.

  • There are several apps allow you to schedule posts.
  • Schedule posts during non-business hours.
  • Schedule posts several times throughout the day.
  • Keep in mind your time zone and your target audiences location.
  • Test to see what times your audience engages most.

8. Don’t forget to implement SEO

Even in your Facebook posts, include trending keywords and hashtags to ensure your social channels are popping up on the first page of Google.

9. Provide value

Nothing is free, we all know it, and your fans know it. While they subscribed to you because they used your service once, or bought your product, you need more than just status updates or wall posts. Not only to maintain your fan base, but also to grow your numbers.

Always remember to keep your target audience in mind: what are their interests, how many times will they use your products/services, what other complimentary products/services will they need, what other products do they like? Use this as another connection point, to get them re-engaged, and sharing with their friends.

So you have the basics down, but now it’s time to clean up your existing strategies and feeds a bit. This social media spring cleaning checklist will have your social channels looking fresh in no time.