Social media is now an indispensable tool for small businesses to build engagement and reach new markets. Yet many businesses set about it with no strategy other than building a Facebook page, a Twitter feed or a LinkedIn profile.
There is so much advice out there about how to approach social media, or more correctly how not to approach it. But there are some universally agreed rules about where to start if you want to make it part of your marketing toolkit.
Here are seven basic principles:
1. Know your goal
What are you trying to achieve by building a presence on social media? Perhaps it is simply to increase brand awareness. Maybe you want to generate new leads. Or do you want to establish a community presence? Your ultimate goal will drive later decisions on channels and content.
2. Know your audience
If you want to reach a professional audience, you are more likely to start with LinkedIn than Instagram. If you want to position yourself broadly in a regional community, Facebook may be the best place to begin. Reaching journalists is best done via Twitter.
3. Listen first. Post later
A good campaign starts with listening. Where are your competitors posting and what about? Decide what metrics you are going to focus on – clicks, engagement, reach etc; Research your options via paid media versus organic. Facebook Ads or LinkedIn Navigator are paid options.
4. Build your content
Decide on your key messages. Look at how these connect to what people are already talking about. Develop themes and provide a consistent underlying message around different types of content — your own material, third party, text, audio, images, video, polls, podcasts, infographics etc.
5. Engage, don’t sell
Posting exclusively promotional content is a good way to get blocked quickly. Your goal should be building engagement with content that people want to share. A good story, a strong image, an irresistible meme will buy you more engagement than any puff piece.
6. Be responsive
This is why it’s called "social" media. If you just use it as a broadcast mechanism, you may as well restrict yourself to paid ads. You want to start conversations. But don’t get into arguments. If people get touchy, take it offline or bring them back to your website for deeper information.
7. Review and reassess
Don’t go six months with a strategy that isn’t working. Plan your posts and immediately measure the response. Do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. Communicate to the team internally and ensure everyone is familiar with what you are posting. Ask for ideas!
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but serves as a a framework for thinking about how social media might connect with your wider marketing strategy.
Remember, this is just another channel to reach people. What’s changed since traditional media dominated communication is that the users themselves are in charge and are resistant to be ‘sold’ to.
Social media is a much more democratic, fast-changing medium where good ideas and rich content are quickly shared. The potential for firms to reach target audiences efficiently and effectively is enormous.
Picture: Camilo Jimenez via Unsplash
But like anything, unless you have a clear idea of your goals, your audience and the content to engage them you’ll be wasting your time.