In my last column, I started a series on how a small business CEO can use social media to enhance sales growth. I began with how to get started. Now that you have your social media accounts set up, it’s time to post messages that grab your followers’ attention.

So, what exactly should you post? The answer varies for every type of business, as well as for each different social platform. But one thing is consistently true: The most successful posts for businesses are entertaining and engaging, and also tell the story of that specific business.

Yes, it is also good to include promotional posts that let followers know about a particular sale or event, but your social channels should include much more than calls to buy. For example, if most of your posts on Facebook say something like, “Be sure to visit us this weekend at our location on the corner of First Street and Washington Avenue,” followers will begin to lose interest quickly.

Remember that your website is designed to give potential customers all the key information they need about your business. Your social channels, then, help you engage with those same people on a deeper and more personal level. As in my former posts in this series of columns, I will rely heavily on what I learn and glean from our SCORE content partner on this topic, The Deluxe Corp. They and SCORE have published some great small business reports and resources.

One of the first questions I get asked is “How do I come up with social post ideas? The possibilities for social posts are nearly endless, which can make it somewhat intimidating if you’re just getting started. Over time, you’ll begin to see and feel which types of posts do well for your business, and which types fall flat.

You definitely want your posts to be original, but it also doesn’t hurt to surf Facebook or Twitter yourself and check out the types of things your competitors post. Use their best posts as inspiration for your own social content, and tailor it for your specific business and customers.

Similar to email marketing, putting together a content calendar for social media is a great way to guide yourself throughout the year. For example, in February you may consider posts relating to big events such as the Super Bowl or Academy Awards, and in late summer you might want posts related to Labor Day and back-to-school season.

Here are some social post ideas:

• Video from an event.

• A customer poll.

• Photo caption contest.

• Link to relevant news story.

• Promotional posts featuring seasonal events or sales.

• Product photos and reviews

• Video tutorials.

• Event announcements.

• Link to a blog post.

• Memes.

Plan to use a mix of these types of posts to keep things fresh and followers coming back for more.

Another good question is, “How often should I post on social media?” You want to post content often enough to keep your business at the top of followers’ minds, but not so frequently you turn them off. Here are some general guidelines that the social media marketing experts tell me (this is why you want to choose your social media outlets carefully, because it is very time consuming):

Facebook: 1 to 2 times per day.

LinkedIn: 1 time per day.

Twitter: 3 to 5 times per day.

YouTube: 1 to 4 times per month.

Pinterest: 5 times per day.

Instagram: 1 to 2 times per day.

Snapchat: 1 to 2 times per day.

These figures aren’t completely rigid and vary from business to business. It’s perfectly fine to occasionally skip a day of posting on LinkedIn, or to post two pieces of content on one day. But if you generally follow the above guidelines, it should give your social platforms a nice flow and keep the followers coming.

A word of caution. Here are some Social media don’ts: A wrong move on social can make customer engagement turn sour quickly. Stay away from these:

Personal opinions: Your own personal opinions should be shared on your personal social accounts, not on those of your business. You don’t want to risk alienating potential customers who may not share your views on a particular subject.

Offensive content: It should go without saying, but don’t share or engage with content that may be considered offensive, whether it’s sexist, racist, explicit or vulgar. Your social channels are a reflection of your business’s brand, so keep things professional. If you’re not sure about the tone of something, err on the side of caution.

Political posts: It’s usually best to stay away from political talk on your business’s social accounts. You could risk offending half of your potential audience if you choose to be overly political, be it on the right or left.

Dean Swanson is a volunteer Certified SCORE Mentor and former SCORE chapter chairman, district director, and regional vice president for the Northwest Region.

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