Social media has become a vital piece of marketing for small businesses. But many lack a specific strategy for using social media and end up with a scatter-shot approach that lacks punch. This misses a major opportunity to engage with customers and prospects and manage the business’s online reputation.
“Without a social media strategy, how do you know what you’re trying to achieve, what you should be doing, what you should be measuring and what’s the ROI of your social media program,” says Neal Schaffer, a social media strategist and author of a new book called “Maximize Your Social.”
If your business intends to enter the social media world, it needs to have a consistent message. You’ll want to know what resources you’ll need and how they will be used. And you’ll also need to define tactics you will and won’t pursue. All of this should be written down so that it can be passed to others when employees leave.
Here are eight essentials that should be in your social media plan:
1) A consistent brand message: It’s okay to be a little less formal in social media channels. But make sure that what you post in different places all speaks with a unified voice and message. In the planning process, be sure to designate who represents the voice of your company in social media.
2) Meaningful content: What you share and talk about in social media is important. Creating content that is useful, informative and engaging will benefit your business over the long term.
3) The right channel selections: Don’t try to be everywhere. That’s just not realistic and you don’t have the resources to be active in all channels. Pick a few that are most appropriate for your business. For example, most B2B businesses find LinkedIn to be a fruitful place. Businesses with highly visual products or services can do well on Pinterest. And if you’re adept at creating videos, YouTube should be on your list. And Facebook should probably be in everyone’s plan. Consider Twitter as well.
4) Post strategically, not constantly: You don’t have to be constantly tweeting and posting to have impact. Well-timed and thoughtful content is what’s important. Research shows that a single daily post on Facebook can be more effective that multiple posts that split the response.
5) Meaningful customer interaction: Customers increasingly use social media to convey their complaints, praise and questions about your business. This creates a golden communications opportunity that many businesses are blowing. “You need to have a listening and responding strategy in place,” says Schaffer. Listening means more than just keeping an eye out for complaints. Every engagement with a social media user is a great chance for real-time feedback on what your customers are thinking, liking, needing and buying.
6) A way to be “follow-worthy”: As part of your plan, think about why customers would want to like or follow you. Look at your business from the perspective of an outside observer and ask yourself, “Is what we say and produce worthy of being followed? Is it something that will draw people back again? Would I follow us?”
7) A way to shake things up: It’s easy to fall into a same-old/same-old routine with social media. To shake things up, plan to introduce some new way of engaging customers on a regular basis. Try to leverage the “social” aspect of social media to create online events that get followers excited. Don’t think of it as a marketing “campaign” but rather as a series of experiments with your followers. Surveys, polls, quizzes, product giveaways and crowdsourcing (of photos, videos, etc.) are examples.
8) Fan recruitment: Your plan should also include a strategy to enlist your most loyal fans and customers to help spread the word about your business. They can even act as a kind of “advisory board” for your business. Harnessing and rewarding these business “ambassadors” is a highly effective form of digital word of mouth.
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About the Author: Daniel Kehrer, Founder and Chief Content Officer of BizBest Media, is a senior-level leader in digital media, content development and online marketing with special expertise in startups, SMB, social media and generating traffic, engagement and leads. He holds an MBA from UCLA/Anderson and is a passionate entrepreneur (started 4 businesses), syndicated columnist, blogger, thought leader and author of 7 business and financial books.