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8 Essentials of a Successful Social Media Plan

social media planSocial 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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Twitter to Offer Small Business Ads

Starting later this year, any U.S.-based small business will be able to advertise on Twitter using a new self-service ad platform for two ad products to called “Promoted Tweets” and “Promoted Accounts.”

The first small businesses to use the program, however, will be selected through a new partnership between Twitter and American Express, a deal that initially makes it easy for small business owners to advertise on Twitter.  Amex card members and merchants will be invited to try this new advertising solution before anyone else, and American Express will give $100 in free advertising to the first 10,000 eligible businesses to sign up.

If you are an Amex card member or merchant, you can register now to participate in the initial introduction of this new offering via ads.twitter.com/amex.  Twitter will launch this new offering more widely later this year.

Since meeting Twitter CEO Dick Costolo a few weeks ago and hearing about the growth and innovation going on at Twitter, I’m more convinced than ever that this platform has far more social local marketing potential for small businesses than it’s being given credit for. And this move to open things up for advertising will likely put Twitter on the radar for more local businesses.

As the folks at Twitter point out, successful business owners already know how to build good customer relationships.  In fact, local businesses were first to start using Twitter to talk with consumers in real time, which helped demonstrate Twitter’s potential as a marketing platform. Today, some of the most innovative marketing campaigns around come from local businesses. For example, check out the mouth-watering photos of @VanillaMoonBake cupcakes, or the @glennztees Tweet contests meant to promote their latest T-shirt design.

You can sign up here to try this new ad solution on Twitter.

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Tactics to Tackle Twitter in 2011

Over the past two years, awareness of Twitter has zoomed from 5% to 87%, according to research by Social Media Today.  As one of the world’s fastest-growing information networks, Twitter is now being used by millions of people, organizations and businesses to discover and share new ideas. Twitter now claims 370,000 new signups daily and 160 million registered users who create 100 million “Tweets” per day.

As a business, you can use Twitter to quickly share information, gather market intelligence or insights, and build relationships with people who care about your company. There may even be conversations about your business already happening on Twitter.

Here are six simple tactics that can help you build a following for your business using Twitter, and gain customer trust:

1. Share inside info: Share photos and behind-the-scenes details about your business. If possible, offer a glimpse of new products, services or events you’re planning. Users come to Twitter to get and share the latest, so giving it to them will help you build a following.

2. Ask. Ask questions of your followers to glean valuable insights and show that you are listening.  This helps start conversations that engage potential customers.

3. Respond. Respond quickly to compliments, questions and other feedback about your business.

4. Reward your customers. Tweet updates about special offers, discounts and time-sensitive deals available at your business.

5. Demonstrate leadership and know-how. You can do this by referencing helpful articles and links that relate to your business category in general.

6. Establish the right voice. Twitter users tend to prefer a direct, genuine and likable tone from a business, so think about your voice as you Tweet. How do you want your business to appear to the Twitter community?

It’s also helpful to know Twitter terminology. Twitter users have developed short-form syntax to make the most of 140 characters (the maximum length of a “Tweet”). Here are 12 you should know:

  • Buttons: Twitter buttons are available in the Goodies tab of your account, and are used to link to Twitter from other websites.
  • Favorite: To “favorite” a Tweet means to mark it as one of your favorites by clicking the yellow star next to the message.
  • Follow: To follow someone on Twitter means to subscribe to their Tweets or updates on the site.
  • Geotagging: You can use location data in Tweets to tell people where you are in real time. This is called “Tweet with Your Location.”
  • Hashtag: Users often attach the # symbol to words in their Tweets to categorize them for others, such as: “Check out our new products for the Fall: http://t.co/link2 #fallsale” Think of hashtags as the theme of your Tweet. Users can then click on a hashtag to see other similarly-themed Tweets and find yours in search.
  • Listed: This means to be included in another Twitter user’s list. Listed numbers and details appear in the statistics at the top of your profile.
  • Mention: Once you’ve signed up and chosen a Twitter username, you and others can mention an account in your Tweets by preceding it with the @ symbol, such as: “Glad your shipment arrived @janesmith!”
  • Message: If you want to privately Tweet to a particular user who’s already following you, start your Tweet with DM or D to direct-message them, such as: “DM @joesmith234 what is your order number?”
  • Promoted Tweets: These are Tweets that selected businesses have paid to promote at the top of search results on Twitter.
  • Reply: A Tweet posted in reply to another user’s message, usually posted by clicking the “reply” button next to their Tweet in your timeline. Always begins with @username.
  • Retweet: When you see a Tweet by another user that you want to share, click Retweet below it to forward it to your followers instantly.
  • URL Shortener: URL shorteners are used to turn long URLs into shorter URLs.
Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.