This is the third article in our series on Social Media for small businesses. If you have a small business venture and are trying to get social media to work for you, then you should follow the series.
Let’s focus again on how to make social media endeavors by small business owners more efficient. From the two previous articles you should have a good idea on how to manage social media when you are a small business owner strapped for time and what kind of social media platforms work best for your business.
However, owning a bat doesn’t mean you know how to swing it. And believe me, you can’t just ‘swing it’ when it comes to social media. Ask yourself this, have you penned down your social media goals? Have you formulated a strategy to achieve them? Are you using platforms you know how to use them or because they are the best to achieve your goals and execute your strategy?
Different social media platforms can be used to generate specific outcomes; a result of meticulous planning and informed choice. Especially with the array of analytics and management tools now available, you can competently set social media goals, choose the correct platform and tweak your efforts on an ongoing basis to fulfill your objectives.
Here are 8 points to get started on developing a social media strategy for your business:
1) Target Audience: Consider the age, gender, marital status, likes and dislikes, level of income, location, lifestyle, profession of your audience. Are you targeting individuals or businesses? Determining your target audience is a clear way to determine the social media platform you should be using.
You will have platforms where your target audience overlaps. However, remember that it’s not just the demographics of your focus group that matters but also the mindset in which you approach them. Someone on LinkedIn will have a completely different emotional response to your product as compared to the same person on Facebook.
2) Lead Generation vs. Demand Generation: Do you want to use social media to generate leads in order to fuel sales and revenue or do you want to use it to create brand awareness eventually supporting lead generation? Yes, both of them are about identifying potential customers and eventually you should aim to amalgamate them. But initially you should determine whether your business is online to make sales or drive sales. As Mark Faust of Echelon Management International puts it “… one uses a net, another uses a hook.”
3) Offline-Online Synthesis: Many businesses sideline the importance of integrating offline and online marketing goals. A singular business identity across all marketing fronts is essential. Although overarching offline and online marketing goals might be different, try to unify the two by simple means such as using the same kind of design and artwork, style of writing and images.
Also what is important is to promote your online presence through offline marketing wherever possible. If you have a business card, make sure you print your Facebook address on it. If you have a store, restaurant or any physical space where you showcase products, make sure you take a printout of your Twitter address and put it up on a counter.
4) Product Communication Style: What is the best way to sell what you’re selling? Chalk out the mediums that best convey your products value – can it be done via text? Images? Videos? Audio? Infographics? Conversation? Sketches? Cartoons? Graphs? Statistics? Then figure out which social media platform supports that style.
Remember the ‘Will It Blend?’ campaign? A brilliantly executed social media campaign using YouTube to push product sales while also building a two-way conversation with the audience where they started suggesting the kind of things they’d like to see blended.
5) Personal Communication Style: The way your product has a style that works best to showcase its strengths, so will you. Understand what your own strengths and limitations are. If you are a writer, a blog might be great for you to share your perspective and knowledge helping you set your businesses up as an industry thought leader. If you are good with pictures and photo editing tools, image-supporting platforms like Pinterest and Facebook will be wiser to explore than text-based platforms like Twitter.
The idea is not to always set ideal goals but also achievable ones. As a small business owner you have to not only work hard but also work smart. Social media trends change often and evolve quickly. Using skills that you are confident in will make keeping up with changing trends easier in turn making your social media efforts more efficient.
6) Team Strengths: If you want to deeply integrate social media as part of your business’s ongoing marketing strategies, you will have to make sure your social media goals permeate to all levels of your business.
Gauge what the offline strengths of your marketing team and try to convert them to online assets. Especially if you are a small business owner, you will find yourself relying on your team to support your social media efforts. Channelling their strengths will help you win half the battle.
7) Time: How much time you have to spend on your social media efforts should greatly determine what platforms you use and also how many. There are some platforms that are far more time consuming than others. Don’t spread yourself thin by trying to do too much.
Using your time effectively when you’re online is a tricky business. While researching data overload, Nick Bilton of NYCResistor, found that on the homepage of Huffington Post, there are a whooping 720 links, Gizmodo has 468 and Engadget 432. Links are constantly being thrown at us in the hopes that we’ll click on them. Navigating the online space while you are suffering from time constrains will require acute focus. The best way to maintain that focus is by knowing exactly what you’re there to do, i.e. setting goals.
8) Financial Resources: Social media in itself is a pretty cost-effective way to promote your business. But you can achieve a lot more if you do invest in it. Many might say that advertising is the first area you should allocate your social media budget towards. However I strongly believe that if you are handling your social media marketing on your own, investing in analytic and management tools is a better primary investment. Without the means to track your online footprint, you won’t know where you’re going. Consider creating business and professional accounts for the tools you use to understand the results of your online activities.
There are many things to consider while developing a social media plan. None that can’t be attempted and none that are full proof either. Be ready for a few things to backfire and be flexible enough to adjust the strategies that don’t work. Review your efforts on a consistent basis and as you become more confident, you will be able to use all that social media has to offer aptly to your advantage.
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