Any business that ignores to include social media as part of their brand strategy is going against their own interest.
Although, these statistics aren’t specific to the use of social networks, they are indicative of people, your potential customers, being online. For data supporting social media use as a means to reach your clients and potential clients, you will find more than enough online reports and studies, starting with Social Media Examiner’s 2014 Social Media Marketing Industry Report.
With that out of the way, let’s move on to highlighting some of the benefits you can expect with your social media presence.
If you’ve done your own research (or plan on doing research) on what results to expect from your social media activity, you have most likely found (or will find) an array of articles. Some make it seem like your online presence will bring about magical results. You will also find industry experts (those considered experts) who will sell the “magic of social media” to you. It’s not that social media doesn’t have results, it does, but it takes time.
Just take a look at the social media industry reports that have been published throughout the years. You will find that sales from social media are hard to quantify for marketers. You will also find that a majority of marketers have a challenge measuring social media ROI.
What I’m trying to point out: know that you have to invest long-term in your social media to see results. Don’t go in thinking you’ll triple your sales overnight.
Now that we’ve covered your expectations, let’s move on to the nitty-gritty stuff!
With a limited amount of time in managing your social media, you can’t possibly be on every platform out there. Also, there’s no need for you to be on all the networks. You want to be on the social networks your target audience uses.
If you’ve done your research right, you already know who you’re talking to. Some of the demographics you want to have include: age, gender, education, interests, income, role (decision maker, manager, student, mother, etc.). The more specific you can get, the easier it will be for you to know where you need to be on the social sphere.
After defining your target audience, you can move on to the demographics of the different social media channels. You can start the process by taking a look at Pew Research Center’s most recent report.
Keep in mind what type of dialogue and interaction are the most ideal with your community. Do they prefer video, pictures, conversation, or a combination of methods? Most likely, a bit of everything; and luckily, the most used social media networks are modifying their platforms accordingly.
Of course, the social networks are doing this to ensure they don’t lose users, but this is good for businesses who want to invest their time on one or two social media channels.
Add to your list of sources, for choosing your social media networks, an infographic on Cool Infographics and another on Leverage. Once you’ve viewed both, I am confident that you’ll know exactly where you need to be.
Important to note though: You want to keep up with the demographic changes of the social media channels. Time leads to change and the same goes for who is online and where. One notable change in the online world is the increased presence of adults.
For example, Instagram’s users have gone up in age since they started out. This makes Instagram more appealing to those businesses with that age group as their target audience. While a couple years back the same business wouldn’t have even considered Instagram, today they might have to.
Monitoring industry trends and changes will determine if your newly formed business stays or goes. This is a given, but the same applies to your online marketing activity.
Moving on to the next most important part of your social media: your strategy.
Your strategy development includes:
If you think about the companies you follow on social media, what’s the first reason you decided to follow them (especially when it’s a less popular brand)? Is it safe to say that something they shared caught your eye? A tweet or Facebook post included something that interested you and/or helped you with a problem, question or need (personal or business related)?
My point, you didn’t follow them because of unoriginal and boring content. This is why content is first on your social media strategy list.
For your content to be of interest you want to:
When I say make a list of your external and own content what I mean is for you to create a document or excel sheet where you list the URLs of the sites you want to share content from, and your own website. This allows you to continuously add to your external sources and to easily get to them when looking for content to share. For your own content, a list allows you to keep your URLs organized, create different titles for individual URLs, and update with new content.
Without goals you can’t understand if your social media is working for you or not. Goals help you measure and keep you focused on an end objective. Each company’s goals differ in what they want to achieve through social media.
Your goals can include:
Once you’ve set your social media goals you can measure and track your results. Most social networks have analytics for you to check and they are pretty straight forward. Typically you’ll be able to see things like your reach, clicks, and number of followers.
You can check your analytics daily, but it’s best to track them on a weekly basis. You want to give your social media content time to get enough interaction and views. Not much information can be gathered, if they haven’t been online for a certain amount of time.
For your weekly tracking you want to:
With your reports you can track your efforts. Tracking is good for measuring how close or far you are from your goals, but it is also helpful for tweaking your social media activity.
For example, if you notice a lot of engagement and clicks on a specific post, you should share something similar. If the heightened engagement remains such, you’ve identified a topic of great interest to your fans. The same mechanism works for the type of content you share (which varies between videos, photos, articles, text, and podcasts). If you’ve noticed a higher reach for your videos, this is an indication that your audience prefers video type content. Once again, repeat that type of share and see if the heightened interaction continues to be your result.
Reviewing your findings on a continuous basis helps you to make sure your social media always grabs the attention of your community. As long as you’re paying attention to the feedback you gather from your reports, and through your followers’ responses and engagement, you can’t go wrong. It’s only if you put your social media on autopilot (without investing in the relationship with your audience) that you could fail in your efforts.
Before we close this social media guide there are some last pointers to lead you towards a successful implementation for your business.
Time, time, time…there is never enough of it, especially when starting your own business! Doing social media right doesn’t mean being on every social network or being present 24 hours a day. Yes, if you are online more often that leads to higher visibility and greater reach; but the most important piece to your business’ success is your uniqueness, the value you offer your audience.
You cut through the noise by making an impact. It’s the infamous quantity versus quality debate. Part of making that difference is showing consistency through your presence. In order to do this you need to develop your social media activity around the time you actually have to do it. How can you do this? Well, it all depends on you.
If you’re solo in your startup endeavor you have to objectively look at how much time you can allocate to your social media activity. Although you can schedule your social content, you still need to engage with your audience, create your content, and review your analytics to make necessary changes.
If you have a social media manager or partner who can take up some of the responsibility, then you have more time at your disposal. This means you can be on more channels (if needed) and you can post on a daily basis throughout the week. Just remember: be consistent! It’s like the blogs you follow; you know when the blogger will be posting a new blog and those blogs that post sporadically you’ve stopped following a long time ago, right?!
Lastly, know that if you want to create brand awareness and a loyal fan base you need to invest in social media long term. It’s not a one month or one year thing, it’s more like forever. Your competition is online, besides the fact that the world is online.
If you have no social media presence, it’s not only about your competition getting in front of your audience, but today you also lose credibility.
People wonder why you don’t have a website, why they can’t they find you on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, or anywhere on the internet. They wonder if this means you’re a legitimate business or they just don’t find any information on you, but they do of another business that offers the same services or products, and that’s it for you. Social media isn’t the only marketing option for your startup, but it is one of the pieces to your marketing strategy that can’t be overlooked.
Provide value, a consistent presence; help people to find you and discover what you have to offer. Do it with your unique spin and enjoy the benefits, which include creating a lasting relationship with the people you’re trying to help in the first place!