Unless you’ve lived on a deserted island the past many years (and lucky you if you have), you pretty much know that social media is a big deal when it comes to promoting businesses of any size. Twenty-five percent of the world’s population engages in social media. That’s like (counting fingers), a whole lotta people! Large global brands know this and dedicate huge sums of money and people power to reaching customers around the globe. But for many smaller businesses and startups, diving into the deep, murky, ever-shifting waters of social media might seem like an overwhelming, time-consuming, disorienting chore with a questionable return on investment. If you are one such entity and wonder if you should strap on your floaties and jump in, here’s some information to help you make that decision and a few pointers on how to get started growing your brand in the social space.
What is Social Media Marketing, anyway?
It’s simply marketing via social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube (and Google+ and Instagram and Pinterest and LinkedIn and and and…). In the same way these platforms enable you to stay in touch with friends old and new (and cyberstalk exes), they also allow businesses to connect with consumers, build communities, publish content–and when done right–inspire those communities to help promote said businesses by liking, retweeting, and sharing content with their own connections.
Do I really need a social media presence?
The short answer is yes, but let’s dig in deeper to make sure. Do you sell products or services? Yes. Are you selling those products or services to off-the-grid, indigenous peoples? No. Then, the answer is still yes.
The long answer is, why would you not want to develop a relationship with your consumers and, in a very direct way, find out what’s important to them, why they love your brand, and get their take on what you’re doing right…or wrong?
Why do I need a strategy and how do I create one?
Developing a social media strategy can have a real impact on the success of your online activities, such as increased engagement, positive brand perception, and a bump in sales, to name a few. Thinking strategically versus off-the-cuff simply means you’ve put some time and energy into your social media plan before starting to post, and continue to think, ask questions, and address issues on an ongoing basis.
Here are some things to think about when approaching social media strategically:
- What are your business objectives: Do you want to build brand awareness? Educate consumers about a new product you’re selling? Drive traffic to your website? Whatever they are, try to be focused and target your social media activities at achieving those specific goals.
- What will success look like to your business? Is it financial, increased engagement, more sales?
- Which platforms are best for your brand? Figuring out the answer to this means answering more questions: Where are your competitors? Who is your target audience, which social media platforms do they hang on, and what kind of content do they have an appetite for?
- Realistically, how much time do you have to spend each day/week/month on creating and posting content, interacting with your communities, and keeping accounts up-to-date and relevant? Whether it’s 15 minutes or 2 hours per day, make sure it’s sustainable over the long term. If you don’t have any time or just don’t want to deal, there are professionals (ahem) that can help you out with any aspect of your social posting.
- Know what a content calendar is? It’s your new best friend, that’s what. A content calendar is an easy-to-use tool that helps you plan, stay organized, and share information with others who may also be posting to your business accounts. Plus, it makes this whole social media thing a lot less daunting. There are loads of free templates out there, so do some poking around.
Okay, I am strategized. Now what?
There’s no right way to jump in. If you’re going it alone, maybe start small by choosing the three best platforms for your business, and once you’re in a groove, adopt another, then another, and so on.
Figure out the optimal times to post and mark it in your calendar. Or use a social media management tool like Hootsuite. They let you schedule posts for multiple social media accounts so you’re not tied to your desk. Some even offer analytics so you know what’s creating buzz and what’s getting crickets.
Social media is responsive, so your business must be, too. Keep Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection in the back of your mind. Those brands that react to the changing world of social media, respond to the needs of their communities, and stay ahead of competitors are more likely to meet with success. In other words, adapt or die. Socially speaking, that is.
A Post Scriptum on Posting
What happens in Vegas might stay in Vegas, but what happens online can really get around. So here are a few guidelines to help keep you in check:
- Know your platforms. Familiarize yourself with the guidelines and best practices of each social media application. They can vary, and this will help you get the most out of your postings.
- Use the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of posts should entertain and twenty percent should promote. On average, users spend a few hours engaging in social media every day, so keep things fun, fresh, and relevant.
- Find your social voice. While it’s important to be true to your brand voice, you can definitely kick it up a notch on these platforms.
- That said, use common sense. If you’re hitting a networking event with an open bar, maybe don’t post until after your third spritzer has worn off.
- A picture is worth a thousand words. Posts with images and videos get a lot more engagement than ones without. Snap some pics with your Instagram app or buy low-cost stock imagery (I like Canva) and incorporate something visual with every post.
- Cross your t’s and dot your i’s. Avoid common spelling and grammar mistakes, like you would in any marketing collateral. The rules regarding punctuation and abbreviation are a bit more flexible because of character limits and short attention spans.
- Don’t bombard your audience. Posting a few times each day is fine, but space them out and try to make each post unique and impactful.
- Engage with your audience. If someone says something nice or asks a question, acknowledge it. When you get negative comments (and you will), keep your cool. Everyone has an opinion, so just be gracious.
- #Hashtags help. When done well, they can increase engagement and reach. #NoLie. But don’t go #bananas. Try and limit to three hashtags per post.