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The Right (and Wrong) Way to Do Social Media The rules for successful social-media marketing are not complex but you have to earn them before they work for your company.

By Aaron Agius Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Nearly all marketers agree on the importance of social media marketing for business growth. And considering that 33 percent of millennials today say social media is one of their preferred channels for communicating with businesses, I expect it will become even more important over time.

That said, a lot of brands still don't know how to use social media to engage audiences and help their own bottom line. There is, however, a right -- and wrong -- way businesses can share their content on social media.

Right: Selecting the right channels.

The average social media user maintains five accounts, but that doesn't mean you should also. Businesses should share their content on the platforms where their target audience spends the most time. I recommend you do some research into the demographics of different platforms to make this decision.

Related: 5 Trends Reshaping Social Media

You may use several social platforms to promote your content, but don't stretch yourself too thin. One or two active social accounts will look better to your audience than six abandoned brand accounts.

Wrong: Not optimizing for platforms.

Even if you have the same end-goal for your content across social media, you should optimize it for each platform's characteristics and strengths.

For example: Videos tend to outperform images on Facebook. Twitter posts, while no more than 140 characters, should be even shorter if you're including an image. (Luckily, that should be changing soon.) LinkedIn doesn't support hashtags, so don't use them. For Twitter and Instagram, hashtags are a necessity.

Each platform also has ideal image dimensions, as this graphic shows:

Take the time to format your post's elements to each social platform you share on. In my experience, it has a big impact.

Right: Using visuals.

Visuals can help your social posts on any platform, so there's no reason not to use them. Sixty-five percent of senior marketing executives believe that visual assets (photos, video, illustrations and infographics) are core to how their brand story is communicated. Moreover, visual content is more than 40 times more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content.

Related: 5 Tips for Running Your Best Social Media Campaign Ever

Many marketers fail to take advantage of all the different visual assets available on social media, especially Twitter cards. There are five types of Twitter cards that allow you to include unique visual assets with your tweets: Summary Card, Summary Card with Large Image, App Card, Player Card and Lead Generation Card.

Use them to drive more engagement for your organic posts, and be on the lookout for other unique visual assets you can use (e.g. Carousel ads on Facebook and Instagram).

Wrong: Not varying your content.

Consumers say the three most important characteristics of a brand's social posts are (in order): the brand shares new content; the content is relevant to the brand; and the brand engages with followers.

And they mean it. Fifty-six percent of people unfollow brands on social media because their content is "boring."

Here are some best practices to vary your content and avoid being boring:

  • Follow the 70/20/10 rule: 70 percent informative, 20 percent other people's posts, 10 percent sales
  • Show a personable side to your business
  • Offer value with helpful "how to" posts
  • Run social contests and giveaways
  • Be a comedian
  • Take a stand on polarizing issues (seriously)

If you need some inspiration on how to vary your content and keep followers engaged, I recommend checking out General Electric, Cisco, Oracle, or Siemens on social media. They are all traditionally "boring" brands sharing great social content.

Right: Sharing at optimum times.

With the rise of paid social options, it's no surprise that organic reach has become more difficult for brands. But you can still get the most out of your organic posts by sharing them at optimum times, which tend to vary by platform.

Don't make the mistake of just sticking with the "optimum times" your social media automation tool sets for you. Those are often based on when most of your followers are online, but research has shown that for Facebook, at least, that's actually the worst time to post.

Pay attention to the latest studies on which post times get businesses the most reach and engagement, and use that information to optimize your sharing times.

Related: New Study Details Who Is Using Social Media and When

Wrong: Spamming news feeds.

Back in 2014, Facebook announced a crackdown on what it considered to be spammy content from brands. If they see you making the following mistakes, they may deliberately decrease your organic reach even more.

Like-baiting are posts that include a request for likes, responses or other actions. This sample post says it all.

Frequently circulated content breeds repetition. KissMetrics research found that sharing content at least three times on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ increases shares by more than 100%, but that's no reason to reshare the same content over and over.

Spammy links are posts containing language and formatting designed to trick people into clicking links that aren't related. A bad idea all around.

Aaron Agius

Search, Content and Social Marketer

Aaron Agius is an experienced search, content and social marketer. He has worked with IBM, Ford, LG, Unilever and many more of the world's largest and most recognized brands, to grow their revenue. See more from Agius at Louder Online.

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