Social media has opened many doors when it comes to business and marketing. On the one hand, these networks have greatly increased competition among small businesses, as access to wide exposure results in a market saturated with alternative options. However, this same access to exposure—either at a very low cost or even free—can be hugely beneficial, if approached correctly. With all of the social networks out there, entering the social media game may seem overwhelming. This guide should help you get started.
SET SOME GOALS
Like any successful strategy, social media success relies on creating a plan based on what you wish to achieve. Of course “likes” are great, but you’ll want to look beyond these somewhat superficial markers to more grounded results, such as conversion rates and lead generation. Set specific goals, and make sure that they are measurable—you’ll want to be able to track your progress.
If you are having trouble getting started, consider evaluating your current social media activity—who is currently connected with you, and by how much would you like to increase or improve connectivity? How active are your competitors on social media, and how would you like to perform in relation to them? Look at industry leaders like Netflix and Pepsi and decide how you might emulate their successes.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE & HOW TO REACH THEM
In order to reach your target audience, you’ll need to know who they are, where to find them, and how they use social media. You may find it helpful to create customer personas—basically just fictional characters representative of your target audience. Use any information available to you (which is quite a lot with the internet)—customer interviews, social media activity, surveys, focus groups, etc—to determine demographic trends within your target audience. Then simply gather this information into your personas.
Create representative characters complete with ages, locations, occupations, consumer goals, and even stock photos. Knowing your audience and keeping them in mind will no doubt be helpful in determining what to post on social media.
Social media marketing takes time, so you want to make sure that you’re investing your time in the strategies most likely to succeed. One of your first considerations should be which social media platforms to utilize. Each platform has its own benefits:
- Facebook: Largest social media platform with over 2 billion users.
- Twitter: Focus on brief 280-character messages to reach audiences efficiency.
- Instagram: Visual platform relying heavily on aesthetics.
- Youtube: Most popular platform for online videos.
- LinkedIn: Largest social network for professionals.
- Pinterest: User-driven platform ideal for promoting action.
Bear in mind that while social media may be a cheap or even free alternative to traditional marketing, it still takes considerable time and energy to execute properly. Be sure to select the platforms that will work best with your business. Make it easy on your yourself and begin with only one or two social media platforms until you’ve gotten fully into the swing of things.
With your goals set, research done, audience in mind and platforms selected, there’s nothing left but to begin. In order to build your brand, you should expect to spend about a half hour per day on social media activities when you’re starting out, and this will only increase as your business expands and your social media prowess develops.
Take cues from the competition on what sort of content to post. Readers will respond better to helpful and useful information. Think of what problems your readers may be facing, and what information relevant to your business might help them resolve these issues. Providing information that directly assists your readers will make them view you as an expert. In the end, helpful information will keep readers engaged and make them more likely to read more, or to return to your pages in the future.
All of your social media accounts should connect to your website, and your website is truly the epicentre of your online presence. Post content in the interest of engaging your audience, funneling them toward your website an—ultimately—converting them to paying customers.
KEEP AN EAR TO THE GROUND
Social media is like a non-stop wind circling the globe. The online conversation never stops, and at any time people may be discussing your brand. In order to find success in this whirlwind, you’ll need to join in on the conversation. Keep an eye out for mentions of your brand and respond to them, even the negative mentions—especially the negative mentions. This active participation in the banter allows you the opportunity to control the conversation, and steer it toward the positive. At the very least, your participation demonstrates that you are an engaged brand, and genuinely interested in your client’s experience.
The most difficult aspect of this task is, of course, catching what people are saying about you. With so many social media platforms, pages, forums and threads, catching one bad review can seem like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Fortunately, there’s an app for that. Try using social listening apps like Mention, which automatically scan the internet and alert you to mentions of your name or brand.
Perhaps the most crucial step in developing social media skills is learning from your mistakes. Use tools like Google Analytics to monitor traffic and activity on your site and blogs. Pay attention to what’s working and what isn’t—in the case of the former, stick with and multiply those approaches; in the case of the latter, change it! Effective use of social media must be deliberate. Know your strategy, analyze your results, and continue to reshape your approach accordingly.
In the end, you can strategize all you want, but you will only truly begin to master social media from experience. Put your business out there and see what sticks. Your audience will be your ultimate gauge of success. Set up some accounts and take advantage of what social media has to offer.