Jumping into social media without a strategy is like plunging into 10-foot waves without a life jacket. You can do it, but you’ll get pretty beat up in the process and could abandon the adventure as being too much trouble than it’s worth.
Ah, but it IS worth it – and with just a little advance planning to create a social media strategy, it can help you get your business where you want it to be.
Back in the old days, our customers came from our neighborhoods, from people we saw in our shops, at church, while grabbing a quick bite to eat at our favorite restaurants and while hanging out at community events. These days, our “community” is so much larger.
- More than 2.4 billion people have Internet access throughout the world.
- More than 85% of Americans use the Internet today.
- Approximately 90% use the Internet to research buying decisions.
- Fully 72% of Americans use social media – more than double since 2008, and most of them are women (74%).
- At last count, there were more than 300 social media sites in use around the world.
These are all pretty good reasons to make social media a big piece of our business plan – and why we need a solid social media strategy to take advantage of them.
How to do you figure out your strategy? The first thing is to fully understand your ideal client and where they hang out. If you sell mostly to women, Pinterest is a good social media choice. If your customers are more the business type, then LinkedIn is a solid choice. Twitter is also very effective when it comes to reaching prospects in real time. And don’t forget Google +, which is growing in clout due to the massive Google search machine behind it.
Get your ideal client firmly in mind, as this person is the foundation. And after that, it becomes a numbers game.
1. Pick two or three platforms that work the best for you. If you get many more beyond that, you can easily get overwhelmed and end up doing a half-hearted job on your social media. That can be more harmful to your business than if you just didn’t do social media at all.
2. Figure out the formats you want to do. Photos and videos are hugely popular. Podcasts – once thought to be on the endangered list – are making a comeback in these time-crunched days. Podcasts help commuters and exercise enthusiasts can multitask on their way to work or while jogging around the park. And then there are people who simply prefer to listen. Other formats include text only and links to other material online. To start off, create a mixture of all of them so you’ll get an idea of which is the most popular with your ideal client.
3. Come up with the type of content. One of the most common mistakes many people make in their social media is the tendency to push their products with a heavy sales pitch. Remember, social media is about being social, developing relationships and becoming the go-to person in your field. It helps to remember that social media is like a vast, online cocktail party. Would you attend an after-hours mixer and greet everyone with a hard sales pitch and a 20% off coupon? Only if you want to drive away people in droves!
The hard sell is not the only way you can promote your business. Think about doing it in less sales-y ways. These “soft sell” posts could include links to your blogs, presenting the latest research in your industry (and your take on it), testimonials from clients and the like.
Even so, the vast majority of your content – like 80% — should be on topics that are not related to your business. What do people like to see? Motivational quotes are huge. So is humor (in good taste, though; remember, everything you put on social media is a reflection of you and your business). They enjoy tips, love being asked for their opinion on various topics, reading informational pieces and so on.
4. Figure out how many times you should post daily. Most social media experts say six to eight times is good, but there are others (particularly Twitter mavens) who tweet more than 30 times a day – and that doesn’t count interacting with others.
And speaking of timing, let’s circle back to your target market. Do these people live in your time zone, within the continental United States or are they in Brisbane, Australia, or Perth, Scotland? Or all of the above? If you focus just on those people in your “neighborhood,” you could miss important prospects. Think globally, and spread out your social media content over the space of an entire, 24-hour day.
5. Create a calendar. This is where all the pieces come together. Vary your posts by time of the day, the day of the week and even by the week. By rotating your content this way, people who come to your social media posts at regular times (for them) will see something different each day. The calendar also forces you to cover all of the things that you think are important – not just the types that you like the most, like funny cartoons.
By creating your social media calendar in advance, you can tap in to things like holidays, anniversaries, special events and so on, which will give you “free” content that’s easier to create. Your social media calendar also can help you save time by outlining what types of posts need to be done when, and getting a bunch of them scheduled so you can move on to other things.
6. Track, analyze and adjust your social media, if necessary. Which types of posts worked the best? Which ones got the most engagement? Which ones fell absolutely flat? What times and days of the week worked the best? You may only have to make minor changes in order to see big results. Or you may have to completely change direction. The only way you’ll be able to tell is to track and analyze for a minimum of a month.
Do you have a social media strategy in place? What works best for you? Please leave your comments below.