According to research conducted by Constant Contact, over 50% of small businesses need help with social media.
While many businesses have a social media presence, many are not engaging on those platforms and thus not meeting their goals.
With planning, your small business can use social media effectively.
Here are seven steps to a social media strategy for your business.
#1: Determine Your Business Objectives for Social Media
How do you want to use social media to help your business? What goals do you want to achieve?
Make your goals as concrete, measurable and achievable as possible. For example, if you currently get five new leads a month, setting a goal to get 100 new leads in the next 12 months is more realistic than setting a goal to get 5,000 new leads.
Here are some objectives commonly identified by small businesses:
- Build your brand by getting people to recognize your name and associate it with your product.
- Attract new customers by driving traffic to your social media page or company website.
- Support sales by answering prospects’ questions and showing them how to use your products or services.
- Engage with your fans by giving customers a reason to talk about your brand and encourage others to purchase from you.
By setting specific objectives, you establish markers for your business. This helps define your social media metrics and will make effective social media marketing easier for you to do.
#2: Know Your Audience
Determine the prospects and customers with whom you want to engage on social media. This is your target audience.
To help you understand their characteristics, create a set of marketing personas for the segments you want to reach.
- Understand your target market’s point of view and activities. Think demographics, psychographics and past purchases, as well as interests and priorities.
- Consider influencers, buyers and end users. Most purchase decisions, including consumer purchases, are made with input from more than one person.
- Know where your audience engages on social media. Not everyone is on Facebook.
- Consider your audience’s social media behavior. Does your market lurk, share or create social media content? What incentives will make them act?
The more you know your audience, the easier it will be to engage with them on social media and get the results you’re looking for.
#3: Choose Your “Hot Buttons”
These are your firm’s core topics.
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Target your three to five main topics. These should be categories or words you want to place for in search optimization. Create content around these topics for which you want your business to be known.
- Create an editorial calendar integrated with your promotional calendar. Plan relevant content around your main keywords and your planned promotions. Develop a framework to minimize content creation time by not needing to think about what you’re going to write before you craft content.
- Brainstorm ideas for content around these categories. Before developing your content, list topics you want to cover. For most businesses, the easiest way to accomplish this is to answer your customers’ questions before and after purchase. Link to appropriate product pages but don’t be promotional!
- Offer a variety of content formats, not just text. People take in content differently. Attract attention with images, since some social media platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram are image-based.
Actionable marketing tip: Leverage the power of blogging. It provides an owned home base for social media interactions, while supporting building a house file and encouraging social sharing.
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By clearly defining the right hot topics for your company and creating content and conversations around these topics, you’ll find it easier to get the results you want from social media.
#4: Stake Your Social Media Turf
Create a presence on all major social media platforms.
Take ownership of your firm’s name across social media entities. Understand that this may not be possible, depending on your company name and similarly named organizations. But you’ll want to secure your name for the main social media profiles.
Branding is a shorthand that helps customers to recognize your company without thinking. After you’ve claimed your space, remember to incorporate elements of your brand into your profile.
Also think “findability” and post your store location, phone number and local hours. Remember to include a link to your website.
A strong social presence will help you get the most out of your social media marketing.
#5: Set Your Social Media Engagement
Be strategic with your social media time usage. It’s easy to spend more time than you need to on social media. A social media plan—together with a strategic approach—will help you find the right balance.
Use your existing communications such as email and in-store signage to encourage your customers to get onto social media and engage with you.
#6: Plan Your Resource Use
For many small businesses, the concept of planning resource utilization may be new. Even if you’re a solopreneur, you must take a strategic view of your time. If you don’t, you’ll find that you’re running from one online emergency to another.
- Decide who will handle your social media engagement. For most small businesses, this is often the owner.
- Set parameters for social media use. This means defining your social media guidelines for both employees and visitors.
- Create processes where possible. Depending on your business, assess where you have opportunities to develop content that supports your goals. Think customer interactions, purchases and conferences.
Actionable marketing tip: Prepare for creating content. Have a camera, smartphone or iPad ready to capture content while you’re doing business! Don’t forget to get customers’ permission to use their images to ensure you don’t have issues later. Have a plan in place to determine how and where you’ll use the information.
#7: Measure Your Social Media Results
Don’t forget to set up everything you’ll need to measure your results. The metrics you’ll want to track will be based on the business objectives you defined.
You’ll want to make it easy to measure your results.
- Incorporate a social media call to action. Don’t just assume prospects will take the next action without prompting. Guide them to engage and interact with contextually relevant calls to action.
- Track indicators that help show that you’ve accomplished your objectives. For most businesses, this means more than comments and social media shares.
Actionable marketing tip: Ensure you can track your results by using a unique promotion code or targeted landing page.
Over to You
The bottom line is that your small business can successfully use social media to achieve your business objectives. To this end, plan ahead to ensure that your time spent on social media reinforces your other business messaging and engagement and yields measureable results.
What do you think? What are your special tips for making social media engagement effective at driving your business’s success? Please include your suggestions in the comments section below.
Images from iStockPhoto.
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