Social media is one of the most powerful tools in your marketing arsenal. If you use it correctly, you can create a strong personal connection with your prospective customers. However, small business owners often make the mistake of diving into social media without a clear plan. At best, this is a waste of time – and at worst, it can lead to a PR disaster. With a clear plan and an investment of your valuable time, Social Media can make a huge impact on your business.
To benefit from social media, you need to build a clear strategy that takes into account what you’re trying to achieve, who your customers are, what your customers want/need, and even what your competition is doing. As in any good business communications, you need to listen before you speak. By broadening your social listening beyond just your own brand, your audience (and competition) will give you a good idea on where and how you should be active on social media.
GoalsThe first step in creating a social media marketing strategy is to understand your own business and where you want to go. What do you hope to gain from your social media marketing efforts? Are you looking to increase sales, or website traffic, or both? Do you want to create or raise awareness of your brand? Is your goal to build customer loyalty and increase retention? These goals aren’t mutually exclusive, but you should focus on one or two. You’re not going to accomplish anything except wasting a lot of your precious time if you spread yourself too thin.
- Use the S•M•A•R•T method for creating goals - Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time based. For example: If your goal is brand awareness, then you might want to increase the number of times your brand is mentioned on social media by 50 percent in the next 6 months.
Target AudienceA successful social media strategy is all about targeting the right people with the right messages. But where are they and how do I get my message to them? Again, this is where listening before you speak comes into play.
- Make sure you understand your customer profile - Age, profession, income level, hobbies, etc. Make a list of common attributes among your customer base to create a profile of your target audience. Depending on your products or services, it can be general or very focused. For example: Men age 18-40, upwardly mobile with interest in technology or Women age 40-65, higher income range, living in northeast US, love pets.
- Research where your audience is on Social - Sounds easy enough, huh? By knowing your customer profile, you should be able to do a little digging into what social media and online communities your target audience engages with. Actually, there are a lot of tools which can help you in this (Some are listed in the next section).
Tools & ChannelsNow you know where you’re going, but you still don’t know how to get there. There are two distinct types of applications you will use to navigate social media - Tools and Channels.
- Tools are the programs or website applications you will used to research, schedule, and analyze your social media campaign.
- Channels are where you will interact with your audience (Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, your blog etc.).
- Hootsuite - Social Media dashboard. Use to monitor and schedule your posts to your selected channels.
- Bitly - URL shortener and Link Management/Analytics. Essential to track click-throughs from links you post in your content. Absolutely critical for Twitter.
- Klout - Social monitoring. Gives you a social media score to track your progress. Also has content and scheduling features.
- Social Mention - Social Mention is a social media search engine that searches user-generated content such as blogs, comments, bookmarks, events, news, videos, and such.
- Blogger - Blog Management and hosting (Google).
- Hashtagify.me - Hashtag search engine with data about hashtags.
- Relay - Online graphic & infographic tool.
Register and setup accountsOnce you find which tools and channels you want to use, you must register and set up your account. Here are a few keys to optimizing your accounts (specifically channels as they are the Social face of your brand):
- Account Info - Be sure to use your BUSINESS information to set up your account. Keep your personal and business accounts separate. Some may disagree with me on this, but I strongly dislike seeing personal posts on a "business" feed. To me it looks very unprofessional. Also, register all of your account under the same email address for continuity. If you need to, open a separate email such as "firstname.lastname@example.org".
- Branding - Maintain your brand across all platforms you are engaging in. I can't stress that enough! Use your company colors, logo, pictures, profile, etc. across all social platforms. Here is a link to a Social Media Images Cheatsheet which lists all of the image sizes you need to set up your accounts.
- Profiles - Be sure to fill out your channel profiles as completely as possible. This info is what your audience will use to decide on whether or not they want to engage with you. Review and update periodically - add new products, services, etc. as necessary.
Next StepPart two of this process will cover one of the most crucial elements of your Social Media campaign - Content - what, how, and when to post. Being that "Content is King", the goal is to be prepared to engage with your target audience in an effective, efficient manner. I'll show you how in Part 2.
I would like to give a special "shout-out" to a few individuals who have truly impacted my approach to Social Media and have inspired me by sharing their ideas and thoughts to the rest of us:
- Randy Hlavac - Marketing instructor at Northwestern Medill IMC Business
- Andy Crestodina -Web Strategist and co-founder of Orbit Media
- Rebekah Radice - Award Winning Social Media Writer, Strategist, Author, Speaker.