A common mistake businesses make with social media is jumping straight in without any planning. Whether you’re a social media veteran or just learning about it, a strategy is essential.
Your social media can become the centre of a thriving community of brand fans and people interested in your products. You can initiate and respond to discussions and get involved with the people who are interested with your business.
Alternatively, it can become a wasteland of forgotten profiles, uncared for and unloved, no one paying attention.
We have tips on how to create an effective social media strategy that is customised for your business.
Should you be using social media?
Not everyone fits into a social-friendly area of business. There are plenty of niche markets where people aren’t very interested in or keen to get involved in beyond the necessary.
Social media for business falls into two main streams: active and passive. Many businesses take on an active role, sharing content and starting conversations with people in the same way you might network at an event. But there are also businesses who have accounts to protect their brand, choosing to either not post or to use an automated system to occasionally post.
Both streams have their pros and cons, depending on how much time you can spend on your social media and what your primary audience is.
Passive vs active social media
Passive Social Media
With passive social media, you can use social media tools to track usage of certain keywords for your business. When someone posts a tweet containing a keyword or phrase (such as “need travel insurance”), you can send out a tweet straight to them.
Since people dislike the hard sell, you need to be careful how you position your tweets and what you say.
You can also respond to people rather than initiating discussion yourself. However, if you have people tweeting to you on a regular basis, it’s probably time to get more active.
The advantages of passive social media:
- Keep an eye on what people are saying about you and what’s happening in your industry
- It requires very little time, usually just a few minutes a week
- You’ll have a form of social media presence, which is a trust signal to search engines and potential customers
The disadvantages of passive social media:
- It’s easy to miss out on potential customers and sales
- People are less inclined to communicate with you
- It’s harder to get followers naturally – especially targeted ones
- Your accounts may look abandoned or obviously automated
If you’re looking to test social media, start with Twitter. From there, you can think about adding a Facebook page or something that lends itself well to your business, such as an Instagram account, YouTube channel, or LinkedIn page. Don’t feel pressured to have a presence on a network just because other people do, particularly if you don’t see a reason for it.
Active Social Media
If you want to try out a more active approach to social media, then you will need to put the time and effort in. It can be more of a challenge with niche markets that don’t naturally lend themselves to social interaction, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. There are two main concerns you will need to think about when it comes to active social media: the amount of time it takes and finding things to talk about.
The advantages of active social media:
- It’s easier to reach a larger audience
- You can close sales by communicating effectively and answering questions
- It shows you’re a real business
- It’s easier to build up a natural and targeted following
The disadvantages of active social media:
- You’re not there 24/7 and people are more likely to expect fast replies
- It requires a considerable investment of your time, and may not be the best use of your business’s time, especially if you’re heavily reliant on channels that produce direct sales
- Thinking of things to talk about may not be a sustainable process, depending on your niche market
Increasing your follower count is important, but this happens naturally over time as you build up your reputation for sharing quality content, and should be of less concern than the amount of time you are taking to find things to talk about and running your active social media accounts.
Forming a strategy that works for you
The most important thing to remember is to not over-stretch from the start, as you risk burning out quickly.
Start with one network and develop it for at least a few months before you think about beginning another. Plus, once you have an established presence on one social media website, you’ll have a base of followers you can encourage to join you on other sites.
It’s easy to create profiles on every site you come across, but you do run the risk of social media graveyards with visitors being neglected. Social media can be the first impression anyone gets of your business, so make it count!
The obvious choices are Twitter and Facebook, but if you want to use social media to drive sales, you might wish to try some of the less popular networks. They can yield some of the best results due to lower competition, but it really does depend on your business and your approach.
Your strategy should start by answering these key questions:
- Why do I want to use social media and what benefits will it have for me?
- What will I be sharing on social media and why?
- How much time do I want to spend on social media each week?
- Will I be driving conversations, responding to questions people ask me, or both?
- Will I be creating a personal brand or a company brand?
- How will I integrate my social media with my website?
- How will I track my success?
Even if you’ve been using social media for your business for ages, these questions are worth revisiting from time to time as you refine and develop your strategy and set yourself new goals.
Once you’ve developed the main points, create a list of goals. These can be small goals, such as “Update at least three times a week” or long-term goals, such as getting a specific number of new customers.
If you’re utilising multiple social networks, you may want to make a separate plan for each of them, as it’ll help avoid repeating yourself and also allows you to take the best approach for each type of site.
The four Ps of social media marketing
As you get started, it can be helpful to keep in mind the four Ps of social media marketing: Perceive, Protect, Participate, and Protect.
Perception is the most important factor – you need to know what’s happening online and understand what it means for you and your business. Pay attention to what people are saying about you and your competitors – are they doing better than you? Is there anything in particular the audience are commenting on that would work well for you?
If customers are making negative comments about you in social media, be prepared to protect yourself. Being both proactive and reactive is the best strategy. On the reactive front, either put them in contact with your support or assist them with the issue, and on the proactive front, investigate what you can take to avoid the issue entirely in the future.
It’s important to participate openly and directly with online communities. If a customer points out a problem with your product on an online discussion board, respond to them directly. It shows that you care and makes it clear that your company is constantly seeking to resolve any issues that may pop up. Set up Google Alerts for regular updates of when and where your brand is mentioned around the Internet. And never set up shill accounts under fake names – long-term members of communities will spot you from a mile off.
Blogs, media sharing, and social networking sites are useful for promoting your business as well as projecting your personal brand. But as you speak, remember to keep listening.
No social network is an island
Don’t treat each channel as its own solitary item – they’ll be significantly less successful if you do. Constantly reference each of them through the others and make sure they are all focused on achieving the same goal.
For example, if you write a great article on your blog, you could then send out a tweet with the headline linking to the blog post, and update your Facebook status with a snappy headline and a little more info while linking to the blog post.
With these tips, we hope you can build a great social media strategy.