Quick List of Social Media Best Practices

The Web moves fast - and social media channels are no exception.

This is likely one of the many reasons the majority of businesses now have dedicated social media teams, in order to keep up with changing algorithms and networks, as well as get a return on investment (ROI) from their time and money spent.

While those professionals likely know and use some combination of the following list of social media best practices, companies still struggling with proving ROI, maximizing already-extended resources and increasing engagement organically (not paid) on the various social networks should find these tips very useful. 

, ‚àö‚à´‚àö√± Use images. Countless studies have shown that including a relevant image within a social media post increases engagement (likes, shares, retweets). Image selection shouldn't be limited to just stock photography, of course. Brands can get creative by generating their own graphics through free services like Pagemodo or Canva (although both do offer premium options) or taking photos within their place of business (like HubSpot des and then offers to businesses as a way to generate leads). 

, ‚àö‚à´‚àö√± Add branding. While the relevancy of an image will certainly impact the frequency of which it's shared, brands will want to add a logo or something brand related (e.g. source information) so that when the photo is shared by individuals, their brand stays attached to it. 

, úÖ Post at optimal times When one company's users are most active on social networks is different from another's. Buffer provides a useful scheduler based on how many posts the user expects to send a day and other factors. Buffer then shares with the user (free) when those times are and will automatically schedule posts based on its findings (or a user can have some manual control). While other social media management platforms don't provide this same functionality, those responsible for managing their company's Facebook Page can go to the Insights tab to see when their followers are most active by time and day. Where a company's social users are (New York, California, Australia, etc.) can help too if location is used for targeting posts as a person in California will likely be sleeping at 4 a.m., but a person in New York could be on the subway to work. What's more, there are some industry benchmarks to go by as well.

, úÖ Be network specific While social media management platforms (think Sprout Social or Hootsuite) make quick work out of sharing a post across networks (e.g. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+), brands should be cautious about blasting the same message to the different networks. This is because LinkedIn, for example, is for professional users, so a witty statement may not have the same appeal there as it would on Twitter, where users are looking for unique messages to attach themselves to (aka retweet). Companies should tailor their messages for the network they are sharing them on because not only are the audiences different, but audience expectations are too. Instagram users, for instances, would likely respond well to a chart about social media usage without needing to follow a link to get more information (Instagram des not support hyperlinks in posts anyway...check out, "3 Instagram Hacks for Businesses"), but Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter users would likely expect a link to be included in the post.

, ‚àö‚à´‚àö√± Respond From messages to comments to company mentions, current and prospective customers are taking to social media to ask questions, complain or compliment a company or its products, services or even employees. Brands need to have a system for customer service via social media. Simply responding (e.g. "thanks for sharing,") is a good start for when things go well, but when a customer is having a tough time, a business will want to move the interactions off the public forums as quickly as possible (UPS provides a good example of this as they ask for the person to email them in order to get more details, which stops a public debate).

, úÖ Test...and repeat.How did including images in posts become a social media best practice? Savvy marketers and software providers measured how posts performed with or without images. There are hundreds of tests everyday Web professionals can conduct on their own without the need of large budgets or hours of time. For instance, Hard Rock found that posting directly on its Facebook wall increased engagement, because its team was able to format the posts better than they could within a social media management platform. How simple! Other areas to test in social posts are: text length, calls to action, short URLs versus the full URL, links or no links, time of day, weekend updates, etc.

While this is just a quick list of social media best practices, testing, measuring and responding are three areas that will serve any business well and on any network now and in the future.