Social media marketing looks straightforward enough at first, but when you get down to the finer details it can start to feel like a minefield.

What kind of content should you be sharing? How often should you be posting it? And is there a difference between publishing an update at 9am on a Tuesday or 7pm on a Sunday?

I spoke to our account director, Alex Tucker, to find out his advice on the best times to post, how to adapt to your audience on different channels, and avoiding social media faux pas.

If someone came to you asking when they should be posting on social media, what advice would you give them?

”They should think about who their ideal client is, what kind of lifestyle of that client has, and when are they likely to be on social media.

“For many people, that might be outside of the normal office hours you’d expect to send a typical marketing or sales email in.

“It might mean you need to schedule things for their morning commute, or in the evening after their children have gone to bed, because those are the times that people might be catching up on whatever social media platforms they happen to be using.”

Would that be different for a firm with a sector specialism?

“It definitely would. If your clients are contractors who work shifts, you could work around that a bit.

“That’s not to say don’t post at all during the working day, either. It just means you want to be mindful of these things.

“And of course the shelf-life of a tweet, for example, is quite limited. Within 20 minutes it’s probably disappeared from most people’s timelines, so you might want to have different versions of the same message lined up and ready to go.”

In an ideal world, how frequently should people be posting?

“That’s a really difficult question. It depends on how much time and resource you have to spend on it.

“You should put more time into making sure that you’ve got an impactful, engaging message – that the content you’re referring to is really good – and the social media posting should take care of itself from there.

“There are also scheduling tools, like Buffer or Hootsuite, that you can use to manage the timing of your posts.

“It shouldn’t be too time-consuming, unless you’ve got a big social media team in a huge organisation. It’s more about the quality of the content you’re sharing than the post or tweet itself.”

Alex talks social media with Melissa

Alex Tucker (left) talks social media with Melissa Tredinnick.

Do you think best practices are different from one channel to another? Is a successful post on Twitter different to one on Facebook or LinkedIn?

“I think they are. You want to think about what people are on a particular network for.

“If it’s LinkedIn, people are usually looking for career advancement. They’re there to learn, so educational, factual content is often going to work best – sharing insight and data.

“If people are on Facebook, they’re more likely to respond to anecdotes, to something that reflects a cause they believe in, so you could potentially use more emotional and visual messaging.

“Twitter tends to have faster-paced, newsy, snappy updates, so you have to think about what your audience is trying to get from whatever platform they’re on. If you do that, you’re making a really good start.”

Apart from the time of day, what are the most important things to think about with social media?

“I do think you need content and a story that’s really engaging for your target audience.

“You should make sure you’ve got something interesting and different to say, and share it on the platform that your ideal clients are using.”

On the flip side of that, what should you avoid doing?

“There are a lot of social media faux pas that you can make, like humblebragging or being overly self-promotional – people are not really there for the hard sell.

“A good rule of thumb in terms of your content mix is the 6-3-1 rule.

“You should mix six posts which are interesting, curated content that supports your point of view, to three posts of original, informative insight from your own blog, to one post which is a bit more promotional.”

So it’s about adding a range of content and making sure it’s not all self-promotion?

“Yes. Imagine you’re on Twitter or Facebook and you’re there really to see something interesting, and you see an account that regularly just says ‘aren’t I great’ or ‘you should call me because I’m the best’. Are you even going to follow that account?

“I quite often see people who just post content and never really engage with other users.

“That can look a bit off, and unnatural – if all you see is tweet after tweet from a branded account with links, but no replies or retweets, it looks overly corporate and automated.

“So make sure you’re sharing other people’s content, but also replying to people’s tweets when you see something interesting, and starting a discussion.”