Many businesses use it, have amassed hundreds of thousands of followers, built brand loyalists, and even generated sales leads.
Yet without any prior experience with social media, it might get frustrating as you ask yourself the many questions necessary to start up your social media plan: Where do I start? Which social media platforms are right for me? What is the right balance?
Social media is a cog in your marketing plan and should align with your other marketing goals, your branding, and with the way you engage your customers offline. You must have goals you want to reach before you actually begin the process.
Reserve your accounts
An obvious but important first step, register the name of your business and the names of your products. Consistency is important through social media as a whole, but here particularly. If you use an anagram or a shortened spelling of your business on one account, you should use it on others as well.
Use a handle that will allow people to find you when they go searching. When you start registering accounts, sign up for every social media site you know of. Start with well-known sites like Facebook or Twitter, but do not neglect the sites such as YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and others. You likely will not produce content for all of these accounts, but it is a good idea to secure your company/brand names to ensure that others do not register, and use, them for negative purposes.
Imagine yourself at a party. How likely are you to jump into a conversation between two people without knowing what the conversation is about?
Hopefully, not very likely. The same should be true for social media conversations. Know what is being discussed through social media before jumping into conversations. Monitor what others are talking about. Use the search functions of the social networks to find out what people are saying about your industry keywords and your business and products.
Your marketing plan brings in customers, attracts people to work for you, and says a lot about your business. Social media is part of your marketing and public relations. Any goals that are set as part of a social media plan should be relevant to your marketing and PR, as well as your customer service and sales initiatives. Once you begin interacting, check your performance against the benchmarks you have created. Using analytics tools, measure the engagement of your content, your brand consistency, and return on investment (ROI). You can adjust your plan as necessary.
Find your following
Different people prefer to interact using different types of social media. If you know that your customers focus on specific sites, go to those first.
Spending your time and content on Pinterest while all of your customers are on Twitter means you will lose valuable time in front of your audience. Search for the platforms with the most interaction, and go to that audience. Never completely neglect the smaller audience from the other sites, but spend your time where you stand to gain the best ROI.
Content is one of the most important parts of social media. While a large part of social media is interaction, another large part is learning. People take to social media and follow different people because of their expert status. As a business, you are the expert, and the content you share should reflect that.
Blog your expert ideas and share them via social media. Remember, though, that sharing information via social media is not for the purpose of making sales. Instead, you are sharing information to establish a relationship with your followers. If your followers value your insight and expert opinion, they will come back to see you as a customer.
Again, social media is about building relationships, and your main goal when using social media should be growing those relationships. People reach out via social media because they want a response, so you should provide them some kind of response in return. Any reply from you will strengthen the tie between you and the customer. Once you have loyal customers and brand evangelists, reward them through promotions. Mention and thank anyone who blogs about you.
Keep track of your followers and note who is and who is not a customer. Remember that every person who interacts with you is a potential customer.
Just like you use marketing to generate leads and help the sales team, social media should be used to drive revenue as well. Unless you are bringing in, or at least learning about, potential customers, then the time you spend on social media is wasted.
This is a slightly amended version of an article written by Muhammad Yasin, public speaker and e-book author. It has been shortened to make it suitable for web publishing.
Feeling overwhelmed by the world of social media is easy, especially if you have yet to take part in it.