Every savvy marketer has heard the phrase “content marketing strategy.” What a lot of people don’t think of, however, is that content isn’t just blog posts and whitepapers. Content is every single thing your company produces. To truly stand out and be noticed, all of your content needs to be its absolute best – and delivered in the most effective way possible.

Gloria Rand is an internet marketing specialist. We asked Gloria to share some best practices for social media to help your content really shine and get noticed by the right people. Gloria Rand shares her insights and expertise at GloriaRand.com.

Why is it important for a company to pay the same amount of attention to their social media content as they would their website or a blog post?

Marketers and business owners should provide the same amount of care to their social media content as their blog posts and website because social media is the most likely place where their prospects and customers will SEE their content! It’s important to take time to create content for social media that will educate, entertain and engage your followers.

A lot of people spend too much time talking on social media and not enough time listening. What opportunities can come from social listening, and how can it boost a brand image?

As you connect with prospects on social media and really listen to their concerns, you learn what they like so you can tailor your offerings to meet your customers’ needs. Social listening also helps you build responsive customer communities, so it’s easier for you to provide customer support when needed. Interacting with customers will lead to fewer product returns and complaints, as well as more brand loyalty. Social listening helps you retain customers and gives you an opportunity to stand out from your competitors.

In your opinion, how much of a social media network’s material should be original? What percentage should be re-posts and retweets? Is there a difference between different networks?

There are a lot of schools of thought on this. I do think it depends on the social networking site. I think you should shoot for 70-80 percent original material, and divide that up between industry-related content and your own personal content. The remainder can be reposts and retweets.

That being said, you can definitely get away with reposting your material at least 3-4x a day on Twitter. Since the feed is so busy, you’ll have a better chance of reaching your followers this way. You could also repost the same material two or three times a day on Facebook, but you should change the type of status update to add some variety. It would look something like this:

9 am: Plain status update with article URL (no thumbnail image)
2 pm: Status update with article URL and thumbnail image
8 pm: Status update with article URL & large uploaded image that relates to the article

Hashtags are obviously an essential part of a social media marketing campaign, but this approach is easy to overdo. What is the optimal amount of hash tags? What is the risk of having too many?

I like to use no more than two hashtags on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. That seems to be the optimal number without being obnoxious. Also, Buddy Media did a study that found when you use more than two hashtags, your engagement actually drops by an average of 17 percent. That being said, Instagram is the exception to the rule. You can get away with more hashtags on this social networking site. In fact, Buffer found that interactions are highest on Instagram posts with 11+ hashtags.

When should a business consider starting their own hashtag campaign versus participating in existing conversations?

One opportunity for a business to start their own hashtag campaign is if the business is hosting some type of event, such as a webinar or workshop. This is a golden opportunity to brand the event, especially when you can get the participants to tweet about their experiences and what they learned before, during and after the event. Hashtags are also useful when conducting a contest on Twitter or Instagram.

There’s been some criticism of social media being unable to form real and lasting relationships with customers. How might a company blend social media with traditional digital marketing tactics to get the best of both worlds?

There are several ways you can blend social media with traditional digital marketing tactics. I use LeadPages, which allows me to create opt-in boxes right in my blog posts. When I share those blog posts on different social networking sites and someone reads the article, I have the opportunity to add new subscribers to my email list that I can then market to in the future. You can also use LeadPages to create a custom Facebook landing tab, so you can collect email addresses or sign up Facebook users to a webinar. You can also run ads on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn that will direct targeted prospects to a landing page where they can opt-in for a special report, register for a workshop or webinar, or simply buy your company’s product or service.

There’s also a doubt as to the ROI of social media marketing. Do you have any advice on raising conversion rates using social media? Have you found any tactics to be particularly effective?

My advice for small business owners is to follow the 3 P’s: Post, Patience and Persistence. The only way you’re going to be able to raise conversion rates for your business is to post useful and engaging information for your audience. The content you share must address their needs. Facebook has made a big push lately into video. I encourage business owners to upload how-to videos, behind-the-scenes videos or product demo videos directly to their Facebook page because they’ll get more engagement with their followers.

You also have to be patient. It takes time to build a social media following, and it takes time to establish your brand and your credibility with your audience. People are inundated with marketing messages every day. You have to be creative to cut through the clutter and be patient that your message will get through and be seen.

Finally, you have to be persistent. You have to set up a regular schedule for posting on social media, whether that’s your blog or whatever social networking site you prefer to use. You’re not going to get any ROI if you post once a week, or once a day for five days, and then stop for two weeks.

Automation is hugely important to a successful social media campaign, particularly scheduling. Can you talk about how a business owner might use scheduling to target potential customers geographically, or to reach a particular demographic?

Scheduling some social media posts can be a great time-saver for business owners. Facebook does give you a way to target customers by location or demographic. Under the settings tab, there is an area called “News Feed Audience and Visibility for Posts.” When you turn this feature on, you can select the demographic or location for a particular post, and then use Facebook’s scheduling feature to set that post to display at a future time.

Hootsuite will allow you to save a keyword search so you could monitor a stream that features Twitter users referring to your location. When you see someone that looks like a good prospect, you could reply to their tweet right away or schedule it to go out later on. Otherwise, setting up some social media ads would be the best way to reach your target demographic.

If you had to pick, are there a few social media tools you can’t live without that you would recommend to help a business owner take their social media to the next level?

I’ve used Hootsuite for many years, and still think it’s an affordable option to help business owners manage their social media marketing. There are a couple of new products that I’m testing out right now that seem to hold even better potential to be a “must-use” tool.

One of these is Likeable Local. This service creates, curates & automatically posts engaging content to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. It also automatically boosts posts in Facebook to help you increase reach, engagement and conversions.

Another new favorite is Edgar. What I’m loving about this tool is that you can set up a whole queue of content in Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, then set up a schedule; and then Edgar will post the content according to your category-based schedule. The posts get stored in your library, and then when every other post in the category has been published Edgar will post your content again, so it can be seen by more of your followers.

For more updates from Gloria Rand, like her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest, subscribe to her YouTube Channel, and connect with her on LinkedIn.