Social media – it’s complicated, right? On the one hand everyone keeps banging on about how to grow your followers. Which is all well and good, but what about engagement? After all, I’m assuming you want to keep the followers you’ve worked so hard to get in the first place.

Make sure they’re your type

Which means that you shouldn’t be trying to attract just any followers – you should be working hard to attract relevant followers. People who follow you not because they want a follow-back so they can hit their next milestone, but because they’re genuinely interested in what you do and the content you produce. People who like your content enough to like, share, comment and click on it.

Remember that there’s so much more to social media than just writing and scheduling posts; or following, retweeting and tagging lots of accounts in the hope that they’ll all follow you back and then – hey presto, you’ve got lots of new followers! Anybody can do that. And while it might be good for the ego, if they’re not following you for the right reasons then that will soon be reflected in your analytics by poor engagement (and your ego will quickly fly out of the window).

It takes time

Social media is all about building relationships, and just like any other relationships, if they’re going to be worthwhile they take time to  build and nurture.

It takes time to get to know your ideal target audience – the people you want to see and hear your messages (and ultimately, buy from you, whatever your business).

You need to spend time finding out which platforms they hang out on, and when; then more time sussing out what makes them tick. And all that before spending time carefully curating and crafting targeted content that speaks in your brand tone of voice to rise above the sea of noise of all the other brands you’re competing against. Your social media voice shouldn’t be different to the voice you use in other places – if it is, it stands out a mile. Not only is it confusing for your audience, it also weakens your brand, neither of which is ideal.

And because social media isn’t a one-way conversation (or shouldn’t be), you need to take time to engage with others by asking questions, as well as liking, sharing & commenting on their posts. And you can’t do that by automating everything – you need to be there in person and join in the conversations.

Last but not least, don’t forget about the need to spend time analysing what’s worked, and what’s bombed. There’s no point repeatedly putting out the same type of content if people aren’t engaging with it. It may be that you’re posting at the wrong times, or using too many hashtags (or none at all).

Perhaps you’ve got the balance wrong between promotional posts and ones that are informational/educational or simply entertaining. Or you could just be missing the mark altogether – which means going back to the drawing board and working out what content your audience actually wants from you.

Respect your audience

Cross-posting across all your social media channels might seem like a good idea – after all, it saves time because you only need to write a post once and then schedule it across all your platforms. But be careful, because what works well on one social platform won’t necessarily work on another. For a start, cut-off posts look spammy. But more importantly, people use different platforms for different things.

LinkedIn, for example, is very much a B2B platform. So before you publish that next post advertising your latest product, the same one that you’ve also posted across your other channels, ask yourself if it’s really the best place to be doing that, or whether a slightly different approach might be better.

And if one social media platform seems to be taking up an inordinate amount of your time for little return, it may be because your target market isn’t using it – or perhaps not in the same way they use others. In which case you either need to rethink your strategy, or be brave enough to shut it down and focus instead on the platforms that work for your business.

You might think to yourself ‘what’s the harm?’. I don’t know about you, but whenever I see posts that look out of place on a particular social channel, it makes me think that the brand is lazy and can’t be bothered to do their homework.

And if I see brands consistently taking a scattergun approach, at best I always just skip over their posts, but often I’ll unfollow.

Sometimes just a bit of tweaking will make something more suitable, but other times you just have to accept that it’s not appropriate.

It really isn’t worth diluting your brand – or your reputation – just to save a bit of time.