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Social media: dos and don’ts

It’s not unusual to come across brands that have tighter regulations around their expenses policy than their tone of voice on social platforms. When it comes to using social media to market your publishing brands, there is such a thing as best practice, writes Paul Rayner.

By Paul Rayner

Social media: dos and don’ts

Social is your brand’s largest shop front. While a dedicated social editor is increasingly found on many brands, headcount for social media can be hard to justify. Responsibility can be with busy marketing or editorial team members. Mistakes can and do happen, so it’s essential for smaller publishers to put rules, basic principles and housekeeping in place.

What’s the worst that can happen, you might ask. Well, check out Penguin Books’ unfortunate #YourMum campaign in 2015 and the less said about Susan Boyle’s album launch party hashtag (#susanalbumparty) the better.

Constantly changing

It can be hard to keep up with developments in social media. The days of organic reach are pretty much over. Social platforms, especially Facebook, increasingly favour paid content.

BuzzSumo stats show that in June 2018, for 100m web pages, Google delivered 51% traffic and Facebook had fallen to 26%. A year earlier, both were at closer to 40%.

Tricks to build reach change and are constantly becoming outmoded. Comment spam was significantly downgraded in 2017, but variations on ‘tag a mate’ strategies can still be seen on some brands.

Facebook is heading back towards being a ‘social’ network. Family and friends are being prioritised over journalists and news sources. Snapchat is courting publishers, but that won’t include small local publishers, yet. Instagram is seeing enormous growth, but an image and video strategy can be a struggle for a legacy publisher. Twitter is still important for news, but discoverability remains hard for smaller brands. YouTube is essentially a social network, but challenging for publishers without large video teams to compete.

Plus, where will newer social platforms fit in? Do you have a TikTok account? If Mastodon takes off, what will your strategy be? Are you investing in Messenger bots?

Facebook Groups

The 2017 Facebook algorithm changes saw the main SPORTbible page engagement declining, so we created the SPORTbible / FIFA group which reached 15k followers within weeks, consistently generating content for the main brand, and the very high engagement made a significant impact on the overall reach. Top tips for getting the most out of your Facebook Group include:

  • Use a specific keyword rich name for the group; helps members find you via search.
  • Choose a closed group over open. Members will be more engaged when they are accepted, and it’s easier to keep control of.
  • Pin a Group Policies post at the top. Specifically have a policy on promotional messages and abusive posts. Members are more likely to post in a safe environment.
  • Access to exclusive content is a good way to drive membership.
  • Answer all questions and comments and remove the spam quickly.
  • Schedule posts to keep engagement going, particularly out of your office hours.
  • Your super users and admins can help spread the message. Encourage and reward this.

Audit your social

Before changing any social strategy, you need an overall view of your output. With multiple social content creators across multiple channels, running an audit will show you if you are maximising any of them…

  • Do you have centralised access to all of the log ins? Do you have any points of failure?
  • Do you have a policy in place for leavers that have your brand name in their @?
  • Are you using the correct logos in all brand profiles?
  • Are the bios up to date and relevant?
  • Have a tidy up. Did you know you can reorder and edit the left-hand column on your Facebook page? Do you need to be showing the Community tab if it is empty?
  • Are there old accounts still live that can cause confusion to your audience and search engines? If so, get them taken down. If you can’t find the log ins, the platforms will usually help.
  • Have you told your audience how to see your content first on Facebook? Don’t assume your audience know how to prioritise your content in the News Feed.
  • It’s good practice to reduce the number of points of failure.
  • Are you prioritising the right social channel? At Wedding Ideas, we’d love to have the resource to really trial and immerse in Snapchat, but our audience love Pinterest, so that’s where we concentrate our efforts.

Ongoing review

It’s imperative that you continuously assess and review your social strategy and performance:

  • Is your landing page up to speed? If you are driving traffic back to your site, a slow page will undo the work put into the social campaign. 40% of users will abandon a site if it takes longer than three seconds to load on mobile.
  • Don’t get blinded by follower stats. Reach has been tanking for social publishers who haven’t reacted to algorithm changes to prioritise genuine engagement.
  • Use the full tools of each platform. Live videos, groups, or messaging might be the most productive element for your brand. Do you understand the analytics well enough to be able to find this out? For instance, in Facebook Business Manager, ‘Top Posts from Pages you Watch’ is invaluable, but often overlooked. The Mirror has invested in Instagram since January 2018 and seen referrals grow rapidly, with up to 20% click through rates on Stories.
  • Are you using a channel just because your editors like it? Common when someone on the team has experience or a preference for a certain platform. At a recent consultancy project, it was apparent that time being spent on one platform was almost entirely wasted.
  • Beware the treadmill. Can you scale up to service multiple social channels 24/7 if things really take off? Audiences expect interaction; don’t spread too thin.
  • Provide training, and account access, to team members active on their personal social. We had several editors posting about work activity on their personal accounts. With a more integrated cross posting structure, we saw the benefit of having larger personalities in the market.
  • At LADbible, we’d frequently be asked why some posts didn’t require anything of the audience – no click out, no pre-roll etc. The reason – 46% of users say they’ll unfollow a brand who try to monetise every post.
  • Don’t forget the corporate LinkedIn! At the Chelsea Magazine Company, we have revitalised our corporate LinkedIn, and seen a big increase in page views, with three direct recruits and the attendant saving of recruitment fees in just a few months.
  • Age is no barrier: LADbible recruited two 16-year olds to run their Instagram and Snapchat accounts.
  • Testing, monitoring and sharing best practice are vital.

Content basics

Social content done poorly is almost completely without value. You need more depth than simply using social as an extended RSS. The odd post every day or so won’t generate reach. SPORTbible post every 30 mins on Facebook. Smaller publishers won’t have the resource to do this, so therefore when you do post, do it well:

1. Use the platforms’ analytics to find the best time to distribute.

2. Stagger delivery cross platforms: you are likely to have a sizeable percentage of the same followers cross platform.

3. If a post is going well, build on that success, even if this means having to create additional content outside of your normal schedule. Reach has a halo effect for future content; capitalise on it.

4. Beware clickbait. I've heard this many times: “If we tell them the answer to the question, no one will click on it.” But social has moved on. A bait headline won’t generate reach; aim for a longer engagement tail through the audience sharing your content.

5. Are you doing enough video? Videos on average have five times the reach of an image on Facebook and this will only increase over time.

6. Understand your audience. It’s fair to say that emojis didn’t resonate well with Independent School Parent’s AB1 audience, so we stopped using them.

7. Apply the acid test: will someone actually share this? If they won’t, then why are you spending time posting it?

8. No one wants hashtags on Facebook, yet, incredibly, we still regularly see them. Don’t re-post Twitter to Facebook.

9. Audiences want to feel like they are communicating with a real person. Be authentic, don’t be Victor Anichebe. In 2016, the footballer put out the following tweet the day after a big match: “Can you tweet something like: Unbelievable support yesterday and great effort by the lads! Hard result to take! But we go again!”

10. You need your social editors to stay on brand. This should include having a reposting policy. I’m sure someone on the British Airways marketing team got an earful for sharing the following post from their fierce rivals: “There’s never been a better time to visit London. Book today with Virgin Atlantic.”

11. Don’t stress over an error; social offers the opportunity to react quickly, and turn defeat into victory. McDonald’s followed up on their disastrous “Black Friday **** need copy and link ****” tweet, with a much more on-message post about the perils of tweeting before you’ve had your first cup of McCafé coffee.


With limited social resource, giving each post the best chance to succeed is a more sensible policy than mass posting across all available channels. Regularly audit your social output and be prepared to pivot as ongoing changes mean that what worked last month, let alone last year, may well not work today, and certainly won’t next year.