The social media game is changing.
There are more interesting platforms, better useful features and a continually increasing number of people who are positively transforming their lives, careers and income through social media.
That's the good news, but here's the bad news. There's more competition, weaker engagement and increased difficultly in becoming successful.
At this point, you can either focus on the bad news and give up, or you can focus on the good news and play the game to win.
If you're playing to win, here are my top five suggestions for dominating social media in 2018:
1. Post the right content, at the right time and with the right frequency
Long gone are the days when everybody would see every single one of your posts, and you'd get a ton of engagement and new followers from them.
But that decline in results is normal. The same thing happened to newspapers, radio, email, television and every other other channel. It's happening to social media now, and it will happen to whatever comes after it.
So how do you surf the wave instead of falling under it? Post the right content. Use powerful emotions, provide value, boost social status, maximize your visibility and share compelling stories. My article, How to Stand Out, Go Viral and Stay Relevant, explains each of these in detail.
Once you've got the right content, post it at the right time. You might be awake at 1am on a Wednesday night, but most of your followers won't be. Focus on times when people actually check their phones, like on the way to work, during lunch or in the evenings. Some platforms, such as Instagram, actually show you the data on when your followers are most active, so use that to eliminate the guess work.
Finally, post that content with the right frequency. I'd recommend at least once a day, preferably more. Since fewer people are seeing your posts, it makes sense to post more frequently so that you maximise your reach. The additional benefit is that people get to know you better, and you can then convince them to turn on post notifications so that they receive an alert every time you post.
2. Hack engagement
Getting engagement on your posts isn't just for vanity, it's also great for growth. When you post, aim to attract engagement not just from people who follow you, but also from everyone else.
Like, comment, follow, share, retweet, direct message and do anything else that allows you to directly interact with other people. Reciprocity is embedded in our human nature, so if you engage with others there's a good chance of them engaging back with you.
On several platforms, when you someone engages with you it shows up on the newsfeed (or equivalent) of everyone else who follows that person too. That's why getting engagement is so much more than just for vanity, it builds a network effect:
- Person A engages with your content
- Person B, who follows Person A, may see that engagement, check out your account and start following and engaging with you too
- Person C, who follows Person B, may do exactly the same thing, and the cycle continues
That's why meme accounts grow so quickly. Their content is designed to get high engagement, which then creates the network effect.
You can even be direct and say things such as "like this picture if..." or "tag 3 friends who..." or "share this post for..." to build up your engagement. People often run competitions that ask their followers to do this in return for a chance of winning a prize. With the right prize, competition rules and audience, a competition can get hundreds of thousands of interested people very quickly.
Finally, research engagement hacks for each individual platform you're on, because they all have their own. There are several ways to get more views on YouTube, more likes on Instagram, more adds on Snapchat, more pins on Pinterest, more reads on Medium and so on.
3. Leverage relationships
You can work hard to grow your social media presence all by yourself, or you can work smart by also leveraging relationships with other social media accounts to access their audience. There are three ways to do this.
First, you can find other related accounts that are of a similar size to yours, and then ask them if they'd be interested in doing a cross-promotion with you for free.
Second, you can find accounts that are larger than yours and ask them to repost your content or feature you for free (e.g. many travel accounts repost content from a variety of travel bloggers and photographers).
Third, you can pay larger accounts to promote you (e.g. paying a fitness influencer to promote your healthy snack range). Of course, some accounts of a similar size to yours may also want to charge you, but you can normally find marketing-savvy ones who understand the benefits of free cross-promotion.
Leveraging relationships is so effective because the audience of the accounts that promote you already like and trust them, so they're more likely to like and trust you too. It's exactly how social circles work in the real world.
4. Use data and insights
Social media isn't so much a guessing game anymore. There's a lot of data and insights available that you can use to really optimize your performance.
As mentioned above, you can see when your followers are most active to ensure that you're posting at the optimal times. But you should also analyze which of your posts perform the best in terms of engagement. Whichever ones get the most engagement, post more content like that. This can be the number of likes or comments, how many minutes of a video are consumed or any other positive audience feedback that each social media platform provides.
Once you've found a winning formula, don't just rely on it forever. Humans have an incredibly short attention span and get bored easily, so constantly test new ideas with a mindset for continuous improvement.
5. Put in the work
It sounds like common sense, but I've learned that common sense isn't that common.
Too many people are delusional in thinking that their blurry image with an unimaginative caption is going to grab people's attention. Or even if their content is amazing, they expect to just pop overnight.
Overnight successes don't exist. There are days, months and years of hard work that may eventually lead to a day when you catch a big break and things change for you overnight. But you need to put in the work to reach that day.
What's more likely is that you'll get to where you want to be through slow, steady and consistent growth. Most people give up along that journey, which is what separates the winners from the losers. Patience and perseverance is the difference.
If you're playing the social media game to win, there are still so many opportunities to do so. It's not as easy as it once was, but nothing worth doing ever is.
Post great content, get the right timing and frequency right, hack engagement, leverage relationships, use data and insights and put in the work for as long as it takes to get you to where you want to be. It's worth the effort, and it's worth the wait.