Imagine social media is a street in your city or town. Let’s call it Social Media Avenue and make it a downtown street with familiarity and charm. A street you know well and are comfortable walking down any time of day. Have you got that picture in your mind? Good.
Now further imagine you are sipping on your favorite morning beverage, resolutely walking down the block towards your business. Life is good, and you have a clear purpose for your day. But, as you walk, you begin to notice a how things have changed here on Social Media Avenue. What was once a great place to see friends and family and stay connected has now turned into a business decision. You pass social media storefronts and notice their claims all have great business appeal.
Facebook says “You need to get your business on Facebook.”
Instagram’s bold new sign reads “We can help you skyrocket your brand.”
Twitter claims it is the best way to manage your customer service.
Snapchat promises to explode your sales with a new generation of buyers.
Facebook Live says you can use live video to “draw your audience nearer and create intimacy like you never thought possible.”
You turn the corner and decide you need to look into this. Maybe social media is the key to growing your business. After all, you just walked down Social Media Avenue and saw all the claims and success stories. Besides, everyone else is doing it. Right?
But as you begin to think about your journey into social media things get a little less clear. What should I do? Where should I do it? How am I going to get this done?
Imagination done. Snap back to reality. (Oh, there goes gravity)
Your confusion with social media isn’t an isolated event. I see and talk to many business owners that think they want to use social media in their business and think it is as simple as setting up an account. They really don’t understand social media marketing.
It is easy to see why they are confused and later frustrated; social media is the most talked about channel for small business. It’s also the least understood.
I think there are many reasons why confusion reigns. Here are just a few:
- There are “experts” everywhere. Just like your imagined stroll along Social Media Avenue – the world is full of self-proclaimed marketing “experts” that want you to use their social media application of choice and are happy to tell you how simple it can be. They paint a very rosy picture of the success you will have is you just follow them into fill-in-the-blank.
- The social media success stories we see are really cool and impressive. But comparisons between Nike, Coca-Cola, Dove skin product and other giants to your small business are absurd.
- Those big and beautifully told success stories often include references to return on investment. But finding social media ROI for most small businesses is very hard.
- When social media is touted as the growth vehicle for your business by those social media marketing “experts”, they often fail to mention that social media doesn’t work without content. Content is the fuel for social media success.
But the confusion doesn’t stop some business owners from jumping into the social media game. They see a glimmer of success and seem to say: “Why not?”
Unfortunately the results they achieve are not very good. They spend time, money, and effort on social media, but in the end. They usually just have mistakes and heartaches to show.
Maybe you have walked down that street. If so, do these sound familiar?
- You are frustrated because your social media contacts and presence are not growing. Let’s face it, if friends and family are the extent of your social media reach, you may need to look for a different channel to grow your business.
- You don’t understand why you post things all the time, but nothing ever happens. The truth is there may never be a viral video for your business, and high amounts of engagement may always be a challenge.
- You expected higher social media activity to directly relate to higher sales, but it didn’t happen. It could be that your ideal customer may look at social media differently than you do.
- You thought social media was a one-and-done thing. You didn’t understand that it takes a lot of work and you have to be consistent.
It’s frustrating to spend time and money on something and fail. No one likes to fail. To ensure you will no longer fail and social media and to remove the confusion about what to do, we’ve put together this 10-point plan. Follow this approach and you will have better social media results in 2017.
- Always begin with a strategy. The use of social media marketing will not go well if you don’t have a strategy. Building a beautiful presented social media profile doesn’t do much good if your ideal customer never sees it. Knowing what your ideal customer wants from your social media presence, which applications they prefer, how they consume content all go into your social media strategy. You will need to decide if you want to use social media marketing to build brand awareness, gain new customers, service and strengthen relationships with existing customers, or drive product innovation. Most small businesses cannot do all of those things well and having a strategy will help you identify the things you will do and just as importantly, identify the things you will not do. For more on developing your strategy, download this guide: Strategy Matters.
- Be practical and realistic. To be successful in social media marketing you need to be realistic about the outcomes you expect. For example, if you want to use social media to build a loyal following of satisfied customers, you need to design the customer experience to extend beyond the point of sale and into value attainment and education. Content (again) that shows how to use your product or the value they can achieve after your service will give them a reason to stay engaged and provide the opportunity to deepen your relationship. You can begin your realistic approach to social media by setting SMART goals. Download this worksheet to get started.
- Develop quality content. Content is the fuel for your marketing fire and it should be developed in a way that demonstrates your commitment to your audience and business. Quality content requires planning and work. But, quality content is also the key to connecting social media efforts with results. Strive to create content that can be repurposed. For example, a written blog post about the 10 Steps to Social Media Success could also be visual content (infographic), a short explainer video, a Slideshare, and a LinkedIn post. By concentrating on valuable content you’ll be able to repurpose and increase your available social media opportunities.
- Use a calendar. Establishing a calendar will make your social media marketing easier to manage and ultimately more successful. Begin with content (again) and determine how content helps you inform, engage, and educate your audience. Establishing monthly or quarterly themes is a good approach here. Once your content themes are in place, use a detailed calendar plan for the development and promotion of the content. That could include daily social media posting or weekly, depending upon the number of social media profiles you are using and your posting tempo and cadence. To get started identifying your content themes feel to downloaded this Content Themes Calendar.
- Get comfortable with OPC. One thing to keep in mind is that most audiences don’t want to see a steady stream of self-promotion and sales oriented posts. A good rule of thumb is to establish a 4:1 ratio of the material. That’s 4 posts of other peoples content (OPC) and 1 post of your own. Using OPC often seems counterintuitive for many business owners, as they think it could diminish their brand or authority. I think it’s the opposite – I’d much rather subscribe to a social media profile of a business that has the desire to educate and inform me with all available information than one that believes they are the only source of information. Find OPC by examining your business partners, finding experts in tangential areas your audience might have similar interest or a shared audience (i.e. think a CPA and attorney sharing content), and advocating for local organizations. Your audience will appreciate your inclusion of quality content from others.
- Design customer engagement. If you listen to the marketing gurus of the world you’ll hear them say that “engagement” is the pinnacle of social media success. They’ll point to shares, comments, and conversations as the end results you should be striving for. I don’t disagree. But for small business owners, orchestrating those moments of engagement is a struggle. You should be using your own well designed, quality content (again) to achieve engagement. Think about the most advantageous topics, times, and techniques and then plan and execute your social media activity that will encourage engagement. That could be monthly education series (“What you should be doing in January to have a lush lawn in May”), a seasonal theme (“Our Annual Toy Drive”), or even a contest (“Best Summer Vacation Photo”). Don’t expect every post to generate a huge swell of audience participation, especially if you using the OPC method mentioned above, but do give thought to how to achieve the greatest audience engagement.
- Use automation wisely. If you are like most business owners, you can’t rely on the “Remember to post to Facebook every day at 10 AM” method of consistency. It is perfectly acceptable to use automation to help. That doesn’t mean you should use automation to the exclusion of interaction and engagement. It does mean that consistent posting of on-topic content is better than singular and random postings every few months. Use automation to achieve consistency and you may find it is exactly the social proof that a potential customer is looking for in your social media activity.
- Build social proof. Reviews are an important element of online marketing success. They are relevant to search engine results and are also user-generated content that potential customers trust when making buying decisions. Your social media profiles are a natural place to collect and showcase reviews and testimonials. Check out this post for more information on reviews and a 3 step approach to getting more reviews.
- Think CX. Beyond the goal of engagement is moving the potential customer along the buyer’s journey. The progression from one stage to the next, for instance from Know to Like and Trust, doesn’t happen without consideration of the customer experience. The customer experience should outline the entire marketing process of how people become aware of your business (Know and Like), how you can gain their trust (Trust and Try), the process you use to convert them to a paying customer (Buy and Repeat) and ultimately how they become evangelists for your business (Refer). Social media can play a role in each of those stages – but it has to be designed and planned in advance. And be advised: content plays a prominent role in your customer experience plan. Download this guide and learn how you can Build a Remarkable Customer Experience.
- Pay to Play. With all the noise on social media, it’s hard to gain anyone’s attention. If you rely on organic reach of your social media posting, you are probably only reaching a single digit percentage of your audience. Even if they “Liked” your business on Facebook doesn’t mean they will see every post. Experiment with paid social media promotion and you might find it’s a great way to build your list of contacts, ensure your audience has the opportunity to consume your quality content, and help you identify what content is best for your audience. Facebook is a great place to start with paid promotion. They offer affordable ways to boost the distribution of your posts and great tools to analyze the audience that is seeing and responding. I recently attended training with John Loomer and he has some great resources to get you started.
Social media doesn’t have to be confusing and frustrating. You can get better results by using the steps outlined above. It does require a strategy, plan, and work – but the results are well worth the effort.
Want help outlining your marketing and social media strategy? Start with our Marketing Checkup.