Is it time for your business to get social?

Are you one of the handful of businesses that aren’t using social media as a marketing tool? Having a social media (SM) account and running it effectively are two separate things. But lucky for you, there is an abundance of information available to help you succeed online.

Unfortunately, when it comes to SM, no one size fits all. Yes, there are millions of tips and ticks promising to increase your followers or double your likes. But the real key to success on SM is to not see it as a promotional tool but rather an opportunity to build relationships with your customers.

How you build relationships on SM comes down to how you represent yourself. It’s important that you establish your brand and build upon your reputation from the beginning and strive to stand out. Every business has a competitive advantage – its your job to find your digital competitive advantage and use it to create a strong online presence.

Embracing social media is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time, effort and money to create and manage a successful SM page. But by following this step-by-step guide, you’ll be ruling the digital space in no time.

Step 1 – Which platforms will you use?

With so many different SM platforms – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube – deciding which ones to be present on can be a confusing task. In the past, businesses would sign up to every SM site under the sun and cross post content in hopes of building a following. We are now discovering that this ‘one size fits all’ strategy on SM doesn’t work for business.

When choosing a SM platform, there are a few things to consider. Which SM platforms are your customers on? Which SM platform is most popular in your industry? What type of content are you more likely to create? By answering these basic questions, you will narrow down the list of potential SM platforms to the ones that are the right fit for you.

Step 2 – Develop a Strategy

Once you have signed up to the right SM platforms and have begun the learning process, its time to stop and think about what you want to achieve. Its pointless creating SM accounts without a clear understanding of your objectives. A strategy not only helps to define your goals but also provides direction on how to achieve these goals.

Your strategy should define why you want to use social media. Are you joining to make more contacts within your industry? Do you want to build on your relationships using an online medium? Would you like more engagement from your current customers? Do you want others in your industry to know you’re up to date with the latest trends? Whatever the reason, your strategy will determine which outlets best suits the goals of the business.

A strategy will also help you to understand and measure the value and cost of SM. While traditional marketing value is measured based on transactional ROI, SM ROI takes a less traditional approach.  Depending on what you are trying to achieve, you can set goals that bring value to other aspects of the business. For example, learning about your target audience, building awareness, driving traffic to your website, capturing leads or sales, or retaining and serving current customers.

With most SM platforms moving towards a pay-to-play model, its important to consider your SM budget. However, this can be a tricky task as first-time users don’t know how much they should be spending on SM, or how they should be spending their budget. While there is no right or wrong answer, taking the time to set a budget will help to avoid wasteful spending. Once a budget is set, don’t be afraid to have a play. You won’t know how to get the most out of your budget without a little trial and error. You may even consider only spending a quarter of your budget for the first few weeks while you get the hang of it. In the end, its up to you how you want to tackle SM.

Step 3 – Driving Inspiration & Content Ideas

There are many types of content you can use across social media – Videos, Images, Infographics, blogs. Often when starting out, it can be overwhelming to know what type of content you should be creating. A good place to start when driving inspiration is to look at other businesses. Researching what has worked and what hasn’t for similar businesses can help to identify content types that you can implement in your own strategy. Good content, interesting visuals, and relevant information is a must if you want to make an impact on SM.

When creating content, always keep your target audience in mind. People don’t engage with or share content that they don’t find useful or interesting. Take advantage of the provided analytical data available on most SM platforms to track the success of content. It can often take some trial and error before you discover the content that your target audience responses best too.

Step 4 – Build your Reputation

SM gives businesses a voice online. But in a world of faceless online businesses, it’s important that you use your voice to attract attention and build trust with customers. Together, you have the foundations to build a strong online reputation.

There are a few factors to consider when building your online reputation. Firstly, reputation relies heavily on your activity on any given SM platform. Its hard for your audience to care about your SM accounts if you don’t use them. But that’s just the beginning. If you want to turn your business into an online authority, you need to be ahead of the competition. That means providing and sharing high quality and valuable content. SM platforms can help to portray your business as insightful and educated by spreading positive vibes through thoughtful content.

Lastly, you want to actually engage with your audience. Engagement is one of the biggest hurdles for small business owners as they often see social media as a corporate activity. This shouldn’t be the case. While your overarching ideology should certainly be professional, you shouldn’t be afraid to inject humanity into your SM accounts. Social media was created for human conversation and interaction after all.

My Tips and Tricks

Know your target audience – As already mention, researching your target audience is key to content marketing. Knowing your audience allows you to craft tailored content for each stage of the customer journey. To achieve this, you need to make sure that every single piece of content that you put on SM aligns with your audiences’ interest and therefore successfully moves users towards conversion.

SM is no longer free – While it is free to sign-up and post content on SM platforms, the new algorithms have caused a decline in organic exposure for business pages. Therefore, to keep in the feeds of their target audience, businesses either have to pay for exposure or change their SM strategies to complement the algorithms. See next point.

Know the algorithm – SM algorithms are constantly changing and evolving in order to provide a better user experience. Understanding and keeping up-to-date on algorithm changes will ensure that you continue to succeed on social media. For example, the 2018 Facebook Algorithm favours video content over images. Meaning, video content is more likely to have a higher organic reach than other content styles.

Less sell, more engagement – For every “promotional” piece of content that you post on your SM accounts, post two “fun and engaging” posts. This way your audience doesn’t get bored with your content or unfollows because it’s to ‘salesy’.

Post regularly and consistently – There are thousands of articles out there telling you how often you should post or at what time is the best to post. But the reality is there is no golden formula. What might work for one business, might not work for another. So instead, focus on this: posting consistency is more important than posting frequency and content quality is more important than content quantity.