If you’re a business owner, you’ve already heard that you must have a social media strategy. You know the benefits of getting your business involved in social media – as well as heard the testimonials from other business owners. I’ve seen people struggle with this and the biggest obstacle, I’ve found, is identifying how to begin: where do you start when you are ready to engage your business in social media? As business owners, our time is limited and I’m here to write about a few steps that can guide you in the right direction.
[pullquote style=”left” quote=”dark”]Having a list of social media sites is essentially threefold: a way to reach out to your audience, a way to be competitive, and a way to showcase your products and services.[/pullquote]The first thing to be said is to understand that to have a presence alone in a social media site is simply not enough. So, what does this mean? This means that by being on say, Facebook, LinkedIn, twitter, or Pinterest is not enough – to be successful you must have a strategy on what you are doing on that social media, understand what you are meaning to get from being involved with that social media and how to measure gains from being there.
To best utilize your time, you need to know WHERE your business should be as well as HOW OFTEN to engage. The first step to creating a successful social media strategy is identifying the social media that makes sense for your business.
So let’s start. First, we’ll begin doing a little bit of research. Ask yourself these following questions and spend some time investigating the answers.
Who are you trying to reach?
Focus on who you want to get your message out to. Is it a particular industry? Companies that sell certain products? Sales clerks? Homeowners? Who do you want to find you online? Once you know this it may begin to make sense as to where you should be online for them to find you. But to really learn how your audience uses the internet, to really understand, you need to know where they spend their time on the internet. So how do you go about this?
Ask a group of colleagues or trusted clients what social media do they use and how do they go about finding services they need. Be specific about your industry. Do they look for updates on Facebook or do they prefer Twitter? If they are on LinkedIn, do they utilize the LinkedIn groups or contacts to reach out when looking for professional services? Do they prefer to ask recommendations of friends? Or do they prefer to use reviews found on Yelp or Google during their decision process? Do they have any other sites that they trust to find out more information?
If you are targeting companies, you can research their own websites to find out where these companies make a presence on the internet. Compile this information into a list of those social media sites that you feel would find your audience.
Where are your competitors?
Your competitors play a role in where you should be also. You want your company to look competitive as well as to learn from what your competitors are doing. By investigating closely, you can see what works for them and determine ways you can do better. Make a list of your top competitors and research their websites. What social media sites do they use?
During this research look at how successful they are in their online campaigns. Do you see a trend in where the public resonates – meaning do you see a large number of hits to your competitor’s videos? What do you think makes that campaign successful? Do they have a large number of people commenting on their blog posts? What about Facebook – do they have many fans and how do their fans interact with their businesses? Make a list of the social media that your competitors are involved in and give special attention to those social media sites that you see generates good interaction from the public.
How can you best promote your own business?
Now the last question you need to answer is what do you need to do to best promote your business and products? One of the goals of social media is to engage the public – another aspect is to build your business as the industry expert. You’ve now seen where your clients and potential clients are online, as well as analyzed your competition, now take this a step further and analyze what makes sense to best build your business as the expert, to showcase your industry knowledge, to promote your products and services. By this, I mean for you to think outside the box and figure what it is that could complement your online strategy for your type of business.
For me, I am on Pinterest. I have a very visual business. This translates well into Pinterest – I can create boards for my online portfolio, for art and design that I find inspiring. You can browse through my boards and get a sense of what influences my designs.
Blogging is one of the best ways to build content and promote your business. It is by far the number one recommendation to my clients to incorporate into an ongoing strategy. If you only have time to incorporate one new project, I say to blog. Its benefits are plenty and you get to organize your message around what you like to do best – your industry and your business.
Having a list of social media sites is essentially threefold: a way to reach out to your audience, a way to be competitive, and a way to showcase your products and services. Once you have a good list of sites you know you want to start using, the next step is then to prioritize. Prioritizing your list will make it more manageable, tackling your plan at a pace that you set.
Though all may be a high priority, look though this list with realistic eyes and determine where it makes the most sense to start. Create a compiled list in order of importance and you now have the beginning of a plan.
Measurements and Goals
With your list in hand, identify your business goals for each of the social media sites. Some may fit more than one business goal – as you may have identified that social media from more than one of the groups identified above. List the goals – you can’t reach goals if you haven’t identified them. Write them down and you’re more likely to remember why your business is involved with that particular site.
The last pass at this list will be to identify how you feel you can best measure success for that social media sites. Maybe it’s how many fans you accumulate over time. Maybe it’s how many hits you get, how many conversations are started, or how many people subscribe. No matter what, you need to look closely at each entry in your list to determine what you feel will best measure a successful campaign.
The last piece of advice I’ll give you is once you’ve created this plan – do what you can to stick to it. For each campaign to be successful, you must commit to its success. This means you must put aside time to engage your business with that social media site. You must identify ways to get word out about your business involvement and how to grow your fan base.
But more than that, you must contribute content to that social media site that is engaging and relevant. Content that represents your business and expertise in your industry and that promotes the message you want put out there. My number one piece of advice here is to determine what is achievable – and then stick to it. So, if you decide to write a post on your blog once every two weeks – then stick to it. Decide how your business will engage with each social media site on your list, create a plan – and then stick to it.
Where this goes depends upon how many people are involved with execution of your plan – do you need to develop guidelines and rules? Do you need to predefine topics for discussion? Will your content need to go through an approval process? How will you handle negative comments or responses to your posted content? You’ll need to consider creating guidelines on how to handle negative comments as well as who will be responsible for monitoring your business channels. Answering these questions will move your plan one step forward towards becoming reality.
Embarking into social media can be a daunting task for an already overloaded business owner. But you should have learned from reading this, that it can be tackled. By simply being purposeful: identifying where your business should be and by setting goals you’re closer to your plan becoming reality.
And above all remember, this is SOCIAL media – be social, have fun, be responsive, learn what works and adapt. That’s what it’s all about!
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