Social media means that businesses are closer than ever to their consumers, making it an essential tool for marketers and entrepreneurs alike. Its always on, its constantly evolving, its innovative, and lets face it, as 2.1 billion out of the 7.2 billion population that makes up this world use it, you are probably using it already.
It can also seem overly complicated and a bit of a mystery at times. Should you blog? Which social platforms should you use? How do you generate engaging content? What time of days should you post? How much time should you spend doing it? How much is too much?
The questions can be endless.
The fact is that social media offers entrepreneurs and small businesses huge potential reach for their brands with people who want to consume their products and services. It can offer a way to create awareness of your business and brand with your current and potential customers on a daily basis, you can be seen as a credible expert in your area and demonstrate your point of difference in a unique and ownable way.
But how do you do it best for your business? How do you unlock the mystery of social media and turn it into a way to generate brand fans, advocates and potential customers? Here are 5 top tips to help you create a social media strategy for your business.
Tip 1: Its not a mystery if you have a strategy
Social media is straightforwards if you have the right approach to it and it offers a cost effective way for you to speak to your current customers and future potential customers.
As in days gone by marketing departments may have meant spent their budgets on a TV or radio ad, or printing posters or leaflets and handed them out to potential customers. Social media is a fast and effective way of effectively doing the same - reaching a large scale audience, with relevant messaging, at appropriate times, to show how you can be useful to them and meet their needs.
But to do it well, creating a social media strategy and plan is essential. It is far too easy to just dive in and start posting, however you are representing your brand and business at all times, so remember to think about what you want your posts and content to say about you and your brand. Having a plan helps!
Start by asking yourself these strategic questions:
- Why are you using social media for your business?
- What do you want people to think about your brand or business on social media?
- What do you want to be known for?
- What is your area of expertise?
This will help you to create content areas that you can brainstorm and build your content and posts around. From experience, I would recommend no more than 4-5 content areas otherwise your messaging can appear fragmented and inconsistent.
Great, now you know what you are going to write, post and generate content about.
Next, lets think about where you are going to post and distribute it.
Tip 2: Know your audience
Although there are an array of social media channels for you to choose from, it helps to know about your audience.
- Which social media channels they are using?
- Why they are using them?
- What they are looking for from brands in their social media space?
By understanding this you have a greater understanding of what your customers are looking for and how to speak to them to create the most impact.
Here is where it can help to do your research, ask friends/ family/ current customers, and it can also be helpful to think about yourself. Why are you on social media? How do you act? Why do you follow, share, like content on social media?
By having a clear understanding of your audience on social media, you can really narrow down and pin point which content goes where, and for what reasons. You don’t necessarily need to use all social channels, just the ones that are right for your audience.
You should also consider the social media channel itself and what its role is. LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+ are great for demonstrating credible expertise and so longer copy formats like blog posts work well. Twitter for example is used for news and info - so offers, interesting headlines and short links work well with the 140 character format, making it a great way to distribute and promote your longer copy content which can be hosted elsewhere.
Once you have a handle on who your audience is, which social media channels they use, and what they are looking for from brands in social media…you are ready for tip 3.
Tip 3: Plan, plan, plan
I love a plan! And social media is an area no different to all other areas of marketing - you need a plan. The key is to make a plan and stick to it. Test it, measure it tweak it, repeat it. This will drive a level of consistency which will help you to build your brand presence and message in a way that your audience will remember.
Social media is the area where you generate live feedback, so if its not working for your audience, you will either hear about it or see your social media stats take a nose dive.
The key to this is in the planning. Social media can be very emotive and reactive - its easy to react and respond to things off the cuff, but as you see from time to time, the internet can jump on sometimes the smallest comment made without thinking, and boom - you’ve gone viral!
All posts reflect you and your business so being organised and having a plan for what you are posting will help you stay focused.
The following questions are helpful to think about as you are creating content:
- What content area are you focusing on? What is your content subject for this post?
- What keywords will you include?
- How will you capture attention with your headline?
- What messages or calls to action do you need to include?
- Where you will post it once its ready?
These questions help you stay focused and in control of the content you are making, which will help you stay true to your brand objectives. Having a plan also can help you cut down the amount of time you spend focused on social media. Freeing up your time to spend on other ways to drive your business forwards.
When you plan your content and posts, you are then in charge of what people to see, think, and feel from what you are posting - and this will help you to generate a consistent brand look and feel and tone of voice in social media.
Tip 4: Always be authentic, credible and creative
For your content itself, I can’t stress enough the need to be authentic, credible, relevant. Have something interesting to say to your audience - and that is something interesting to them, rather than just interesting to you.
Much like all forms of advertising, you need to engage your audience with your message and the way you execute it - so not just what you want to say to them about your business. Find ways to make your messages relevant to them, in their lives and in their world, and make them look good and stand out.
What can help with this is sticking to your content areas - these are your ways to engage your audience, and finding your way of speaking to them and being relevant to them will all stem from your areas of expertise and your point of difference.
But its not just all about you. Social media is a two way conversation, and you are building a relationship that will hopefully add value to your audience. Be helpful, share your expertise and information, and ask questions because its all about generating conversation.
Posting the same types of content over and over can quickly turn an audience off, so make sure your social media plan mixes up formats to keep your audience engaged. There are so many apps and tools to help you make compelling and creative content, here are a few that I love:
- Try CANVA for creating images and designs , they make graphic design easy and accessible for everyone, and there are loads of free images you can create.
- The WORDSWAG app helps you create unique photos with messages, ideal for using on Instagram.
- POTO app is great for picture collages.
So once you have defined how your brand is going to behave in social media through your plan, role it out - consistently. If you are constantly changing how you look and the sentiment of what you say, you dilute your brand and your message. Consistency in the tone of voice of your content is key to making your brand memorable and distinctive and this is particularly true in social media as your audience are likely to be engaging with you on a frequent basis.
Tip 5: Measure to maximise your impact
One of the most exciting things about social media to a marketing geek like me is that its measurable, more measurable than many traditional forms of advertising. You have live feedback from your consumers and customers and you have audience stats that tell you if you are increasing your followings, you have analytics that can tell you if your site visits come from social media, and all of this information is available at your fingertips.
Measuring your impact is critical to unlocking the mystery of social media, as measurement tells you what is working for you and what isn’t. This will tell you if your plan is working in the right way or not. Measuring can also help you avoid over posting, which can be negative in the social space. Getting that fine balance right will be something you test and learn, but you can refine your plan to reflect your learnings.
If your plan is not getting the results you anticipated, measuring it will help you to identify the areas that need refining, meaning you can make tweaks, roll them out and measure the impact.
If your plan is working, keep going! You will build your understanding of your audience and the content that resonates best with them, generating the most engagement for your brand and business. You are creating fans and brand advocates - success!
You will also build your experience and this will make you comfortable to experiment with different types of content to deliver your messages, turning social media from a mystery into a key part of your marketing strategy and your plan to deliver growth.
Go forth, and conquer!
For more tools and advice on social media and how it can help your business as part of your marketing plan, contact us and see how we can help you create a strategy and plan, and even deliver it for you.
Written by Lesley Stonier, Founder & Director of We Mean Business, London | Marketing Consultancy . We support entrepreneurial individuals and women in business with their marketing needs. If you need help with marketing or you know someone who does, come and say hello.