Social media and the subtle art of showing off

How often is too often and when is posting boasting? A user guide.

All but the most sociopathic business owners or marketing directors will sometimes want to chew their knuckles with embarrassment at some of the things they have to put out on social media. The shameless plugs. The smug posts. The frequency.

Self promotion requires a thick skin. And while a certain swagger is the order of the day on a TV or print advert, social media is more intimate, more reactive and a whole lot more judgemental.

But if you can’t use social to tell the world how fantastic your products or services are, why do it at all? And at what point is self-promotion ‘too much’, exactly?

The 80/20 Rule was once the gold standard of effective social media marketing. Yesterday’s marketing managers decreed that 80% of your posts should inform, educate, and entertain your audience, while only 20% should directly promote your business. But since that rule was invented, the game has changed. Social has developed, matured, fragmented and become more tribal.

It could be argued that there are no best practice rules anymore. Or if there are rules, they only apply to certain channels.

Instagram

Instagram, for example, is pretty much the wild west of social media as it is defined by self-promotion and endless pics of those ‘look at me!’ moments. Even the most modest, restrained users are there to shout about something and businesses are well within their rights to follow suit. Is it possible to overdo the ego on Insta? Probably not. Just take a look at the – hugely popular – feed of Gary Vaynerchuk and you’ll see what we mean.

It’s also worth considering the way that Instagram feeds are curated by the platform. Not everything you post gets served to all your followers.

The bitter truth is that your only challenge on Insta is quality. So by all means post a pic and an accompanying message every day about how wonderful your products are; just don’t make it boring – as that’s when you’ll lose followers.

Twitter

Meanwhile, Twitter is a different beast entirely. The good news for businesses is that most people’s feeds move so quickly that you can pump out a good half dozen tweets in a day and most of your followers won’t even register more than two or three (which, for marketers, is both depressing and reassuring, weirdly). Audiences engage with Twitter in different ways – some will avidly follow their feed every weekday from 9-5; others will scroll sporadically in snatched moments throughout the week; while others will drop in and out as it suits them. Feast or famine.

But while you won’t put anyone’s nose out of joint on Twitter by championing your products or services a few times a day, the key to success is getting involved with the community. ‘Like’ more people’s tweets and comment on what others are saying in your timeline and your message will spread further.

Facebook

And then there’s Facebook. While it may feel like a tricky channel to master, it’s actually refreshingly uncomplicated. For a start, your audience will soon tell you if they don’t like what you’re posting, and there are clear stats available on how often to post.

For the best engagement, most studies agree that one post per day is optimal, with a maximum of two posts per day (according to HubSpot, pages with fewer than 10,000 fans experienced a 50% drop in engagement per post if they posted more than once per day). Again – and this is a common social media oversight – many companies don’t take the trouble to ‘like’ or respond to their audience’s comments, which ought to be a marketing crime punishable by red hot poker.

The bottom line

Broadly speaking, across most channels, quality and consistency is where the sweet spot lies. And if your content’s good enough, you can post as often as you like. But if the quality’s not there – i.e. if it’s not entertaining, useful or interesting – you’ll soon see your engagement or follower stats dwindle.

Ultimately, social media isn’t about broadcasting your message – or not all the time, at least. It’s about conversation.