Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Start-up

Rules of Engagement: Guidance for a Successful Start with Social Media

Successful with Social Media

My tips & tricks to be successful with social media:


Look at Your Target Audience and Follow Their Lead!

You have already created the personas and maybe have refined them a couple of times. That is good. Keep doing that while you start your interaction with them. Now it is time to follow their lead. They will tell you which channels to choose as you can’t play on all the platforms. Have a look at the Channel Matrix and match that with your personas. Start slowly as highlighted with Listen, React, and Engage.

Find Your Voice and Be Yourself

How is it that you want to talk to your audience? Are you more formal or more of a buddy? Essentially, there are two determining factors that will tell you how you should communicate:

Your target audience as mentioned above! You want them to interact with you and like you. If you want to establish a relationship with them, you have to make sure that they feel comfortable engaging with you.

Stay true to yourself. Be authentic in the way you talk to your customers so they can believe you. Should you not be in their age group, you want to make sure you consult someone who is. Nothing is worse than a 40-year-old trying to use the slang of teens. It just does not work. So make sure you do not overstretch or lose yourself in your efforts to match your target audience. Get help or hold back a bit. At the end of the day, your content and the value it creates for your audience will determine your success.

Be of Value for Your Audience

To summarize it quickly: Why should your audience like, follow, or engage with you instead of your competition or anyone else that is online?  Yes, you are competing with everyone out there for the attention of your target audience, not just with your competitors.

When trying to attract your audience in the social media arena, you have to make sure to create value for your audience. Creating value does not necessarily mean that you talk about your product non-stop. In fact, out of 10 messages you post, only two should be in relation to your brand or product. The rest should be entertaining, informative and helpful.

Imagine you talk to your friends during a long vacation. You will have to find a wide range of topics to talk to them about if you don’t want to be the most boring friend ever. The same is true for your conversations with your target audience. Don’t be boring or self-centered. It’s just not interesting.

Finally, make sure you really interact with your audience. If they post a question either directly or indirectly, try to be a good friend and answer it. Never leave a question directed at you unanswered. Try to never not react to a message you have received, no matter the content in said message. If you want your audience to engage with you, you have to be engaged with their communications to you. It is a two-way street!

You Are a Member of a New Social Group – Behave Accordingly

Much like with the passage before, as a member, if not leader of your social group, you want to make sure you are a responsible member.  Be active in your community and engaged in positive causes. Make sure that these causes make sense for you and your brand, so it is a natural, authentic link and not something that appears created. Authenticity, is the name of the social media game, and I will not get tired repeating it in this book.

Being a funny member of the group who has a good sense of humor (that is politically correct) will increase the engagement of your audience.

Further, using visuals helps. Nobody wants to see one text message after another. If you can enhance your message with graphics, pictures, or videos, you will see that the conversion rates of your posting will increase significantly in comparison to the text only posts.

#-tags, mentions and other tricks to join and start a conversation

Imagine you post all this nice content and nobody finds it… Certainly not the scenario you want. There are a couple of ways you can avoid that: Active tagging and mention of key opinion leaders in your market. Unlike SEO bookings, you can go for the top keywords and use them over and over again at no costs.

Best way of starting is to do a bit research by searching for the keywords you come up with. E.g., if you are a web design agency, you would search for #web, #webdesign as well as some tools that you use or people that are leading in this area. By starting that way, you will see if those keywords are actually used in the way that it makes sense for you. If so, go ahead and create postings using these keywords. If not, try to find other words that are used together with those you initially searched for.

For example, when I got started I initially started with searching for #marketing. From there it involved to #socialmedia, #contentmarketing, #digitalmarketing, and so on.

Don’t be shy about it. Just don’t create posts that are #tag nightmares like:

In #digitalmarketing, you focus on creating #content for #twitter, #Facebook and #Instagram. #contentmarketing #socialmedia #marketing

This will look desperate and give you bad grade on authenticity. It is ok to use 3-5 #-tags at best. As for the example above:

In #digitalmarketing, you focus on creating #content for Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. #socialmedia

Using less is more. And in the second example above I focused #-tagging the most important and more unique key words for me. Words like Facebook or Twitter are used by anyone and in very different contexts. So you want to make sure to keep it as close to you as possible, while still allowing a broad audience to find you.

Another way to get attention is to engage with leading people of your industry or just getting involved with active conversations. By using @ + their user name, you message them directly, but for anyone to see. So a message to me would look like:

@NYMKTAC: I have some more questions about building my follower-ship of my #socialmedia channels. Do you have more #socialmedia tips and tricks?’

If you message someone directly using her @name, she will be actively notified within her app. Also, anyone searching for that person will also find your direct message as it uses her handle, meaning her @name.

An easier way to join a conversation is by simply commenting on an existing post. Particularly for Twitter, this will enable you to join a conversation that is already out there while producing posts with good content and within the context in which you want to be seen. Of course, the same rules apply: Add value to the conversation. Enrich the discussion, and don’t start heckling people. This does not build an image for you that you want to go for.

Create a Complete Experience that Tells a Story and Features Events

Engaging your audience is not an easy feat, but it is also not as complicated as you think. Just look at those people or organizations that you follow. Why do you follow them? Is it their brand reputation, the content they are posting, or how they keep your attention? Maybe it is all three.

For this, I want to use three Instagram profiles as examples. All three post pictures about and around New York, so one would expect that their performance is about the same, but it really isn’t. All three accounts did achieve a very, very large following that many of us can only dream of. So, all of those accounts are in fact premier in what they are able to do as well as the quality of the content they post. Yet their performance differs quite a bit from each other, which seems odd considering that all three essentially post pictures of the same city. So, what makes them different for their followers that they achieve such different numbers on a per post quota?

I encourage you to dig into those accounts and follow all three of them:

Newyorkcity                            – 1,528 posts, 1.3M followers = 851 followers p. post

Nyc                                           – 4,862 posts, 757K followers = 156 followers p. post

Newyork_instagram              – 2,162 posts, 827k followers = 383 followers p. post

When you dig into those accounts, you will see that newyorkcity is able to tell a story around the pictures posted. The audience is captivated by a more personal touch of the account owner which reflects in her numbers.

What does that mean for you?

If you want to captivate your audience, try to make more out of your posts. On Instagram, great pictures and being informative can get you to the upper echelon of follower numbers, that is true. However, combine these great pictures with personal stories around the picture-taking experience itself, the location, the motive, or what this made you think of and you will see that it has great impact on the engagement of your pictures.

Plan and Automate Your Postings

As you are ready to start and get your first couple of posts out there in the channels, it may be a good point to start thinking about automating your posts. To build a solid followership and become an active member, it is important to have regular posts at the right time. For the timing, your personas will help you once again. When are they most active? During which activity do you want to get them? During school / work, or rather during their leisure activities?

Sure, you can try to post at the exact time manually or you can use one of the tools that are out there. Most of these automation tools offer free versions and paid versions. You want to play around with the free versions of some of the tools and figure out which of them serves you best. All of them have different advantages or disadvantages, but each of them will serve you and help you reach your objective.

While automation will be a key to becoming a more successful and professional social media manager, there are a few things you cannot and should not automate. You will need to plan (Get a free Social Media plan)  regular times each day or at least once or twice a week where you actually go out there into the virtual world and interact with them personally. As mentioned before, you are a member of this new group of “friends” now and you want to make sure you behave accordingly. During all this automation and planning phase, planning “manual time” is just as important. Schedule yourself for it and keep those meetings.

There are plenty of automation tools out there and instead of naming different tools, I encourage you to just turn to a search engine and search for “top social media automation tools.”  These will get you plenty of hits for the most popular tools and reviews on them at the time of your search. This is a fast-moving industry and tools come and go.

Rather, it is important to think about what can be automated and then to go out and find the right tools that serve this purpose either altogether or by finding the best combination of tools.


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About Maurice

Maurice Hofmann is a serial entrepreneur, marketing and digital marketing specialist, who is known for his innovative drive as well as his ability to lead cross functional teams to achieve the highest level of success. In his 20 year spanning career, he has experienced all aspects of marketing, working in various global roles spreading across TV production, Army ‘Psychological Operations, as an owner of a Brand Experience agency or as a leader of marketing departments for several software companies, start-ups and as a M

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