Small businesses around the world know that social media is here to stay, but that doesn’t mean you’ve yet had the chance to put in the time or effort necessary to cultivate a proper presence on the right networks. But even if you haven't optimized your social media presence, there is still time, and the benefits will be well worth the effort. There are many advantages to cultivating your brand on social media, including that it can help you improve your customer service, allow you to communicate with customers and prospects on a new level, help you engage your audience and reach new audiences, help you build authority, and drive traffic to your website. In short, a solid social media strategy can drive growth for your business by fostering lasting and loyal relationships with customers and prospects.
1. Choose the Right Networks
Social media has exploded since Facebook went public back in 2012, and there are thousands of networks out there dedicated to anything from connecting old classmates to social activism and everything else under the sun. So with all these options out there, how does a business hone in on the right ones? The advice from most experts is to join four of the most popular, and choosing the right ones comes down to your audience (and where they are) and your goals. Here's some information to help guide you:
- Facebook, the largest platform, has 2 billion-plus active monthly users, and the site is ideal for businesses that want to generate leads and build relationships
- LinkedIn, the platform for business networking can be used by both B2B and B2C businesses to create trust, build authority, and engage audiences
- Twitter, whose platform is immediacy, is perfect for businesses whose major audience is under 50 and who need to stay apprised of time-sensitive information like breaking news, announcements, and trending topics
- Pinterest, the photo sharing site, is a fantastic platform for businesses with visual appeal (think restaurants, fashion, art, travel, and weddings), and it’s great for driving sales because so many users look to the site to plan purchases
- Snapchat, the expiring content platform, is one of the fastest growing social networking sites, and businesses can leverage it by offering promotions, providing personalized content, giving exclusive access, and building relationships with influencers in order to drive brand recognition and loyalty
2. Set a Goal
Being active on social media has a number of benefits for business, and there are many things you can accomplish with your social presence, such as performing customer service, engaging customers, generating leads, expanding your audience, driving sales, increasing web traffic, gaining valuable insights and feedback, and much more. But in order to achieve these with any measure of success, you must have a goal in mind that you can work toward because you'll need to create a strategy to get there. Your techniques for driving sales, for instance, will be different than your approach if you wanted to improve your customer service offering, so it’s important to know what you want to accomplish
3. Come up with a Strategy
Having a goal for improving your social media presence is great, but it’s only the beginning. Once you know what you want to achieve, you have to come up with a plan to help you get there. Start by designating the person or people who will be part of the social media team, and break up their roles and responsibilities clearly so everybody knows what's expected and when. You should also decide on your posting frequency, and create a content calendar that will help you plan posts and make sure you don’t miss days. The content calendar is a big part of your strategy because it should lay out:
- Who your audience is
- What topics and subjects your audience is interested in
- The usable content you already have
- What kind of content you still need to create or curate
- When and on what platforms content will be published
4. Make a Content Creation or Curation Plan with Your Audience in Mind
Knowing your audience is critical when it comes to finding success with social media engagement because the interests and needs of your audience will determine the type of content you should be sharing and the way you engage your followers. For instance, if you were a coffee roastery, your target audience might be interested in recipes for fancy coffee drinks, brewing tips and techniques, and other Java-related articles. Some of the important things you should know about your audience include age, location, gender, goals, likes, needs, behaviors, challenges, and pain points. No matter who your audience is, however, the content you share should always be high quality and relevant, and you should prioritize video, images, and other types of visual content as often as possible because these are popular among all demographics and all audiences.
5. Select Tools to Schedule and Automate Posts
Staying active and present on social media takes time and dedication, but there are plenty of automation tools available you can use to automatically publish posts and schedule posts up to a month in advance. These tools, which include Hootsuite, Sprout Social, Buffer, MeetEdgar, and BuzzSumo, can save you time by allowing you to plan and schedule batches of posts at once, but they also make it easier to monitor your networks and respond to messages quickly.
6. Actively Engage Your Audience in Relevant Ways
Although content is supremely important on social media, it’s not enough to just post your content and walk away. Social media is also about connection and engagement, and that’s the only way you can foster the relationships you want to build and gain the trust of your audience. There are many ways you can engage with your audiences, and they include:
- Commenting on posts
- Starting and participating in conversations
- Sharing relevant information
- Sharing user-generated content
- Posing and answering questions
- Addressing complaints and criticisms
- Showing appreciation for customers
7. Minimize the Time You Spend Promoting
Even though the practice of social selling is becoming increasingly popular among salespeople and marketers, the actual process of using social networks to drive growth is much different from what most people are used to. Rather than using social as an active promotional platform, it’s best to use it as a tool for engagement and communication. In fact, it’s recommended that businesses keep their promotional content to 20 percent, while the lion’s share of content should be dedicated to meeting the needs of your audience.
8. Maintain a Constant Presence
Social media isn't a one and done deal, and it takes time and patience to cultivate a reliable presence. With the right automation tools, you can minimize the time you'll have to dedicate to social media, but even still it will require at least 15 minutes a day to monitor your channels and respond to questions and conversations. In terms of posting frequency, the right number really depends on the platform you're using. For LinkedIn and Facebook, don’t post more than once a day, and limit posts to five times a week. Twitter, on the other hand, changes so quickly that the more you post, the better. With Pinterest, 11 pins a day seems to be the magic number.
9. Present Audiences with a Consistent Voice
Social media is ideal for brand building and recognition, so it’s crucial that every post you make is in line with your brand and image. This can become problematic if you have multiple people assigned to the task of social, because everybody will bring their own personality to their posts. For this reason, it’s best to limit the number of people responsible for posting, and make sure everybody is on the same page in terms of the voice and image you want to present.
10. Watch the Right Metrics to Monitor Your Progress
Social media use is growing all the time, and every month there are more active users than the one before, especially on the top sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Snapchat. It’s not necessary to have a presence on every social network out there, and it’s a much better strategy to define your goals, locate your audience, and pick the sites that are right for you based on those factors. Social media relationship building has a number of benefits to confer on your business, but it’s important to put in the time cultivating your presence if you want to take advantage of them all.
Your social media goals will determine the metrics that matter to you, and it’s important to measure these to ensure you're on the right track with your strategy. For instance, if you wanted to increase traffic to your site, then you'd want to pay attention to the amount of referral traffic coming from your social networks. There are many resources you can rely on for metrics, including Google Analytics, Facebook Analytics and page insights, Sprout Social, LinkedIn company pages report, Keyhole, Twitter analytics and keyword reports, Buffer, and BuzzSumo.