Can I be blunt? Your social media sucks.

I watch your Instagram channel, your Facebook feed, and your LinkedIn profile. I see you on Twitter. I even catch rare sightings of blog posts. And it’s so discouraging to me. Do you know why?

Because you’re doing it wrong.

Yes, I know there are a million right ways to do social media – and I totally agree. But there are basic steps you could take to up your social media game. And you’re not taking them. You’re doing what “works” for everyone else. Here’s the thing: I don’t think social media is one-size-fits-all. It’s not a hat. It’s pants.

Yes, we’re going to go with this…. Social media is like pants.

Hear me out… I’m a tall person. 6’1″ to be exact. I’m tall for any human, but especially tall for the average woman. (TOTAL tangent here, but I learned today the average woman in the United States is 5’4″. Apparently I’m a giant.)

Ok, back to the pants. I can’t just go into any regular store and pick up a pair of jeans. They will either be too big around and long enough, or just the right size around the middle and wayyyyyy too short. I’m talking almost capris. It’s awful. Most pants look hysterical or horrible (or both) on me. So I have to do some searching and look for pants that are the right size, usually online somewhere with a great return policy.

The first time I bought pants online was a total joke. I ordered them – they said “tall” in the size, so I was hopeful. When they arrived, though, they were both too small and too short. I kind of looked like a clown. Except a clown who couldn’t get her pants all the way up.

I sent them back.

Buying pants when you’re tall is a total game of trial and error. But eventually, you find something that works. I did. I found a store who carried jeans that were perfect for me. And I went with it for a while.

Then we moved. And I couldn’t find them near me, OR online.

So it was back to the drawing board.

The search began again, only this time I used what I had learned before to get to a great pair of jeans much quicker.

(Another side note – if you’re a tall girl like me who can’t seem to find good jeans, shoot me an email and I’ll tell you all my tricks.)

Social media is a lot like finding the perfect pair of jeans.

You try what seems to work for everyone else to start.

Then you realize what’s working (and what totally isn’t)

Finally, you realize you’re destined to an eternal game of trial and error. You embrace your fate and play the game.

Just like with jeans, the more you play the better your social media game will become.

BUT (and yes, it may be a big butt), you’ve got to have some basic principles down.

A good pair of jeans should be made of denim, have two legs, and some sort of button or zipper on the top. Basic, right? The cut and fit and style and color are all extras to those basic needs of jeans.

Social media is the same. So if your social media sucks (and chances are good that it probably does a little bit), here are three basics that I wish you would incorporate:

Basic Principle #1: The 3:1 rule

The problem: You’re using every post to sell something. Even if you write a cute caption, people are smart and they’ll see right through it. If every post is a sales post, your social media sucks.

Here’s how to fix it: Use the 3:1 rule – 3 non-sales posts for every sales post.

A sales post could be anything from a tip that encourages people to contact you (kind of like this blog post), to a blatant “Hey, we’re running a promotion” type post.

A non-sales post could be an interesting article you read, or a “here’s what’s happening in the shop today”, or even a quote that inspired you. It could be relevant to your industry (“Hey, did you see what changes are being made? Here’s how it affects the industry!”). It could be the funniest thing you saw on YouTube (“Need a brain break? Check out this hilarious video”). Just something to let your audience know you’re human. And also that you care about THEM. Here’s one of my favorite non-sales posts from the Merket Creative Instagram feed:

A quick reminder to take a minute to breathe. Close your eyes for 15 seconds and feel the air move past your nostrils.

Basic Principle #2: Hashtags Matter

The problem: You’re not using hashtags.

Here’s how to fix it: Use hashtags. Seriously. Use them. No one can find you without them.

I’m all about analogies, so here’s one for hashtags. Pretend you’re lost in the woods. You’re WAY lost, and probably miles from any civilization. It’s dark, there are weird animal sounds, and you’re pretty sure the rustling leaves are actually snakes in the trees. (Are you there in your mind?)

Your post without hashtags is like you saying, in your regular voice, “Help please!”

Your post with hashtags is like you screaming “HELP!!!” and blasting off an unlimited supply of flares until your rescue party comes to save the day.

Hashtags are the flares of Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. USE THEM.

Here’s what one of my clients texted me recently after I had this same discussion with him:

My favorite place to generate hashtags is Display Purposes. It’s quick and easy to generate high-quality, popular, and relevant hashtags.

Basic Principle #3: Consistency is Key

The problem: You’ll post a bunch when you think about it, then you’ll ghost your audience for a few months, and expect the same sort of interaction when you decide to show up a few days/weeks/months/years later.

The solution: Create a plan. I set aside one day each month to plan the next month’s social media for my own channels. I take a look at holidays, events, current promotions I have running, things that are coming up in the next few months, and the direction and strategy I’d like to go as I plan. You should do the same.

Here’s my favorite tip: Look at your past posts and see which ones performed the best. Look at how people interacted. What did they respond to? What are they telling you they really want? Show up with more of whatever that is, and you’ll start to see better results.

So what should you do next?

Commit to change today. Take an honest look at your social media channels and improve one of these basic principles TODAY.

If you’re ready for your social media to STOP sucking, sign up for the next round of IntAct Social – a four-week course where we dive deep into why social media matters for business, and how to do it right with intention.