I stop brushing.

“She’s what?” I ask, pulling my toothbrush from my mouth.

“She’s looking for a career change,” Kelly replies. “She’s looking for something in Social Media Management.”

I spit into the sink. “She’s just gonna walk into a Social Media Management role, eh? She colour codes her Instagram and now she’s vying for management?”

Kelly shrugs and runs the tap.

“Lofty expectations!” I laugh. “I like basketball. . . I own a basketball. . . I should be a professional basketball player.”

Kelly shrugs again and leaves the washroom. It’s enough to let me know we’re on different sides, so I follow her to the kitchen. I need to bring her to my side – the right side.

“What does she know about Social Media?” I challenge. “What does she know about engagement? Keywords? Impressions?

It may come as a surprise that Social Media Management isn’t all food porn and t-rex arms. There’s little room for dog-face filters and poop emojis in a brand’s social strategy. Social Media Management requires an understanding of company voice and values. It takes precision wordsmithing, planning, and much, much, more.

You have a limited runway. How do you ensure a successful liftoff?

When to post

I’m willing to bet you’re a different person on Wednesday than you are on Friday. I’ll go a step further and say you change from Monday morning to Monday night. As a Social Media Manager, you need to figure out the best time to catch your audience. When are they at work? Do they have kids? Do you want to target them on their commute or before bed? How might their mood change throughout the day?

There are plenty of helpful studies showing the best times to post, but don’t trust them blindly. You have a unique brand with a unique audience. Use the available tools to dive deep into your own social posts and find trends in aggregate. When are you scoring high engagement? What about impressions? When you find a pattern, go deeper and try to learn more.

Be your brand

Understanding company values and presentation is critical to developing a written voice reflective of your brand. If your brand was a person, what would they sound like? Are they big and strong? Are they intelligent, yet unassuming? In the same way, images set the tone with colour and symbolism, word choice and phrasing can turn Gatorade into Kool-Aid real quick.

If you’re stuck, look up synonyms on Thesaurus.com. The word “big” can paint several different pictures.

Big can paint several different pictures

Don’t mistake this advice for flexing your vocabulary. “Plethora” has no place in social media. You only have so many characters, this isn’t the time to get frilly with your writing.

Writing your message

Once you nail down the voice of your brand, it’s time to get social. Consider your post the elevator pitch to the article or video you’re pushing. You want to find the sweet spot between direct and elusive – to the point, but open-ended. Check out this list of famous movie taglines, they do a great job establishing the theme and addressing the plot. They pique your interest without revealing too much. But more importantly, they’re smart and stylish.

None of these taglines use the phrase, “you won’t believe…” or “find out what happens…”. In the digital world we call that click-bait. Sure, they’re intriguing, but they’re synonymous with pop-up ads and other low-budget elements that cheapen your brand. Same goes for words like “amazing” and “unreal”. Hacky tactics like this can generate clicks, but they reduce the integrity of your content.

Consider the spectrum below. On the right side we have text-book phrasing, needlessly complex and overly in-depth. On the left side we have toddler-talk, abusing the “Wow!” factor for cheap enthusiasm. Your messaging should live in the sweet spot.

the social media voice spectrum

#Hashtags and #MoreHashtags

The last step in crafting a social post is the hashtag. Just like with scheduling, there are online resources for researching what’s trending and what’s popular. However, before using these tools, check out the well-established brands in your market for some inspiration.

You’ll quickly notice that well-run brands are deliberate with their hashtags. Be #specific, but not so much that #noonewilleversearchyourtagbecauseitsridiculous. One or two hashtags is fine, but any more than three can come off as desperate and actually lower engagement.

Show and tell

Social media is all about scrolling. In fact, sources believe that the average smartphone user scrolls 71.20 feet per day! Eye-catching images are your best bet in waking your audience from their zombie-scroll to get noticed. What sorts of imagery will resonate with your audience? Consider the tone of your content – what colours come to mind?

Stock imagery has gone through its own rebranding over the last few years. We’ve moved past the smiling white people on white backgrounds in white shirts. Stock images have gone hipster, doubling down on warm colours and the live-edge aesthetic. No longer can you (or should you) depend on weird hats to sell the idea of individuality.

If you are looking to impact a general audience defined by a certain age or gender, check out the fashion companies that cater to them. They rely on aesthetic to push product. What can you take from their Instagram and apply to your own?

There it is

The point is, your brand’s social media presence is an extension of your marketing and should be treated as such. Fire up Excel and build some tables. Download Hootsuite and fill out your toolbox. Put pen to paper and develop a plan. There’s no room for gym selfies and sepia tones. Leave your #lovemyjob at the door and roll up your sleeves – this is real work.