“One thing that keeps many people from diving into social media is the perceived investment of time. They think that, if they’re going to do social media, they have to be on every platform, all the time. This simply isn’t true, but the misconception holds many people back from creating a targeted, engaging social media presence that is essential to growing a small business today.”

As the marketing communications manager of Pagemodo, Sarah Matista has expertise on the topic. She was kind enough to share her thoughts on a variety of aspects of social media marketing, including the things that you should never do on social media.

What is your professional background?

My career in marketing began shortly after graduating from the UNC-Chapel Hill school of journalism and mass communication. I spent seven exciting years at a residential resort in North Carolina growing through various roles in copy writing, graphic design, photography, email marketing, social media, and content marketing.

When life took me to Washington, D.C. in 2012, I was lucky enough to find an opportunity with Webs, the digital services division of Vistaprint.

I started out in content marketing, and quickly found my way into a product marketing role for the company’s social media marketing platform brand, Pagemodo. I am now the marketing communications manager for both the Pagemodo brand and Vistaprint’s online marketing tools for small business owners.

How has your background served you as the marketing communications manager of Pagemodo?

More than ever before, marketers have to take a multifaceted approach to communicating the value and position of the brands they represent. This is especially true when you work in the fast-paced and ever-changing digital space.

Thus far in my career, I’ve been lucky to have opportunities to hone my skills in a wide variety of marketing disciplines – from visual marketing to content marketing to branding. This not only gives me many options for communicating the value of Pagemodo’s suite of social marketing tools to our audience, it also means I am uniquely positioned to understand that value as a multi-channel marketer myself.

What do you wish more people know about the importance of a powerful social media presence?

One thing I wish is that people understood that successful social media marketing is about quality over quantity. Marketers should start by analyzing their audience, finding out where they spend their time, and then selecting the platforms that are most appropriate for their brand. One brand that is a natural fit for LinkedIn might see very little benefit on Snapchat, for example, and therefore should focus efforts on building a meaningful presence on LinkedIn instead of diluting their energy.

What sets Pagemodo apart from other websites that help businesses with social media?

One thing that really sets Pagemodo apart is the breadth of tools available from our one-stop dashboard, which allows for major time savings. Our users are able to define their brand with cover photos and custom tabs, grow their audience with Facebook ads, and engage with that audience through relevant scheduled content and social graphics – all from one account.

Our new Pagemodo mobile app really rounds out our offering by helping marketers save even more time by discovering and scheduling content no matter where they are. I recently scheduled three days of tweets while waiting for a flight!

What do you ultimately aim to provide business owners?

I think what we are ultimately trying to give business owners is confidence. Starting or growing a business is fraught with barriers, and we aim to take some of them down by giving people the tools to do things they never thought they could do alone, whether because of a lack of time, budget, or technical chops. If you have the right tools and advice, anything is possible – even on a small budget. That’s what we really want to help business owners understand.

At a time when search engine algorithms are changing to discourage keyword stuffing websites, can you tell us a bit about how social media now drives traffic to websites?

While Bing has come right out and said that social media behavior affects their results, Google has historically been somewhat cagey about whether or not (or to what extent) social signals play a role in ranking. However, most experts believe that the more engagement a brand has on social media, the more their entire brand presence on search engines is lifted. This is more evident than ever in the fact that Google is now showing tweets related to searches on the first page of results!

It’s also important to view social media as an amplifier for your content marketing efforts, which can reap major SEO rewards for your website. Every time your content is linked to, that provides people and search bots alike one more doorway into your site, and signals that the content associated with your domain is worth engaging with.

As much as sites like Google and Bing are still crucial to website traffic, it’s time we started thinking not only about social media’s effect on search engines, but also its role as a search engine in its own right.

What are some best practices for companies who want to optimally use social media?

1. First things first: choose the right platforms for your brand and build a robust and engaged following there. Having 100 followers on 10 platforms is far less valuable than having 1,000 followers on the two that you actually have the resources to maintain. If you can only commit to Facebook and Twitter right now, fully invest your efforts there and worry about the rest as your business (and workforce) continues to grow.

2. A best practice related to the advice above is to tailor your content to the profile you’re posting on. Twitter and Instagram are all about hashtags, whereas Facebook relies on them less heavily for content discovery.

3. Invest in visual content. No matter what kind of business you have, you will see better engagement if you find ways to represent it visually on social media. If you sell a product then you’re at an advantage here; you can easily post images of your products, the people who make them, and the people who are using them. If you sell a service, you can create visual graphics like the quotes available in Pagemodo that reflect your brand and engage the values of your audience. These are highly shareable and great for driving viral social discovery.

4. Keep things fresh! Whenever I visit a Facebook page or Twitter profile and see a cover photo promoting a sale or event from six months ago, I can’t help but wonder how current their brand is. It doesn’t take long to update your imagery and your details on social profiles to reflect what’s new, and it can make your brand seem fresh and engaged.

What are some things you should never do on social media?

Never treat social media like a one-way broadcasting system. Remember that you’re there to talk with people, not to people. If you want to extol the virtues of your products and services, there’s a place for that; it’s called your website. Your social media presence should be more casual, personal, and accessible. Not only does overly promotional content turn visitors off, it will completely sink your organic reach on Facebook.

Follow Sarah on Twitter.