With 974 million current Twitter accounts and 2.19 billion monthly active Facebook users, it’s not enough to simply have social media profiles. More than ever, you need to be an active participant and engage frequently. So where should you get started?

There are some important standards in the social media world that you’ll want to abide by in order to optimize your social media efforts and be seen as a trustworthy and reliable name. Here are the best practices to adopt for your social media strategy.

social media strategy icons on a phone

Grow your audience the smart way

Sure, you can buy yourself a whole mess of followers and likes, making yourself appear like a popular brand or company to the few who’ll actually notice and care. But those will be nothing more than numbers, not a true audience who will engage with you, spread the word about you, and be loyal to your brand — in other words, the ideal audience.

Worst of all, you’ll attract a number of fake accounts, which could end up spamming your followers, who will then have a very negative opinion of you. But most of all, this is a shady tactic, and not a good plan for a business or brand who wants to be known as honest and reliable. Don’t sell yourself short by resorting to these dishonest tactics, even in the beginning of your journey. Yes, it will take time and effort (i.e. engagement!) to grow your followers, but once you’ve built a base of those who really matter and are actually relevant to your brand, your hard work will have paid off.

Use automation tools — but only to a certain degree

Sure, social media management tools and automated platforms like Sprout Social or Sprinklr save hours each day, and we’d never suggest that you get rid of them entirely. After all, a thriving social media presence is one that is consistently engaging on all fronts, and this can be a lot to keep up with throughout the day. But resist the urge to automate all of your social media efforts.

The automated tasks of tagging keywords, scheduling posts, and assigning mentions was meant to make your job easier, of course, but also to free up your time from doing tedious work so that you can concentrate on human engagement with your followers. Whether it’s brainstorming new campaigns, responding to individual posts and questions, or creating unique and interactive content for your brand, use this time to get to know your followers and what they want most from you.

Learn from (and follow!) Your Competitors

Are there any platforms you’re not active on but should be? Are you creating content that’s being interacted with as much as the that of the others in your industry? How often are your competitors posting and to what degree are they engaging with followers? Do they use each platform differently, to address unique facets of their marketing strategy, and if so, how?

Answering all of these questions is important to find out not just where you need to increase your efforts, but also to find where you can outperform your competitors. 

Know When and How to Respond

First and most importantly, remember the cliche but true adage: the customer is always right. Behind the anonymity of a computer screen, it’s easy for a dissatisfied client to voice their frustration (or even anger, sometimes) by calling out your brand on a public forum — not so great for business, right? But responding with anything less than patience, understanding, and eagerness to help or improve is an even bigger mistake.

Other (and potential) customers will see how you follow up with the dissatisfied client and make their opinion of you and your company or brand based on this important negotiation. Go out of your way to remedy the situation in every possible instance, and you’ll earn a reputation for being fair, helpful, and most importantly, customer focused.

Guest Post By:

Lauren Pezzullo is an east-coast-raised Austinite and musicophile who writes about the latest software and B2B trends for TrustRadius. She’s currently at work on her debut novel.