Three Things You Should Know to Compete on Social Media

social media
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If you’re like the 95 percent of small business owners who know they should be doing more to take advantage of social media but aren’t sure just what that entails, I want to let you in on a secret.  

What we call “social media” is actually three different types of media with each doing different things and working in different ways. The better you understand these differences, the more you can leverage the strengths of each to create a fully-integrated social media strategy.

Company Pages and Profiles

Social media is “earned media” because your company pages and profiles are like your website or brochure where you “own” the content and control what appears.

Since you own it, you need to make the most of what’s there – the pictures, words, information flow and updates. It deserves as much or more attention as your printed material, signage and website.

This is important because many people will search first for you on their favorite platform, or where they first saw you mentioned. Facebook pages, YouTube videos and other social media content also tend to score well on search engines such as Google and Bing, sometimes listing ahead of your own website. So, it’s critical that people who click through find the information they need – what makes your Box different, why they should visit, hours, programs and special events. 

Users Pass Along Your Posts

Social media is “earned media” because you “earn” the attention and endorsements you receive when other users pick up your stories, tweets, videos and images, and pass them along to their followers.

This doesn’t happen unless you have a plan and make it a priority. A program that operates on a “when-I-have-time” basis is no program at all.  Social media is fun and interesting because it’s fresh, timely and responsive.  To make an impact, you need someone who owns it full-time.  

Plan your activities in advance to include special events and competitions, and be prepared with content and comments on holidays and sporting events like the Superbowl, World Cup and whatever is important locally.   Once these are in place, schedule your promotions – open nights, price breaks, give-aways, etc. – so they hit when they’ll have the most impact.

In a study I saw recently, the most clicked and shared content were inspirational quotes and images, video demonstrations, and special offers.

With this foundation in place, those random click-worthy events that do pop up are going be noticed by more people and feel like the icing on the cake rather than one-offs.  

How Does Paid Social Media Work?

“Paid” social media works like traditional advertising. Under the “earned” model, only your followers are guaranteed to see your content. However, most social media platforms also give you the option to pay to serve up your material more broadly across their platform, labelled as paid ads but generally looking like the rest of the content.

Unlike traditional paid advertising, though, social media platforms allow you to hyper-target by location gender and age range, as well as areas of interest – including hundreds of options for sports, fitness and exercise. 

If you don’t have a specific ad, most of these platforms will “boost” your regular posts, so if something is getting a lot of traction you can boost it to reach others outside your follower list. And the best part is it’s not that expensive; a few hundred bucks will get you started, so you can afford to experiment with trial and error.

If you’re looking to get more from social media, try thinking of it as three things, not one. Then plan accordingly. 

“Own” your page and profile content to make sure it says what you want to say and has the information prospective members are looking for. “Earn” attention and visibility with a consistent, disciplined strategy for engaging and entertaining your audience with a variety of high-value content. And finally, don’t overlook the opportunity for highly-targeted, trackable and measurable “paid” promotion. 

Michael McLinden earns his road rash as a serial entrepreneur, and consultant to health, wellness and fitness related companies in the U.S. and Europe with a focus on market analysis, branding and value creation. He has held executive management and strategic planning responsibilities in a number of regional and global advertising and marketing firms, including Mc|K Healthcare, which he co-founded and ran until 2014. He holds an MS from Purdue University and an MBA from TIAS Nimbas business school in the Netherlands. Email him at