Social media is daunting, that much is blindingly apparent. With every day that passes, it seems like more and more social networks crop up. Sure, the big names in the business are obvious: Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Google Plus. There are also plenty of alternatives that are just as popular like Pinterest, Tumblr, StumbleUpon, Reddit, MySpace (yes it’s still around), Orkut and more.
The question sticks out like a sore thumb; as a small business, how you could possible maximize your exposure while trying to manage so many networks at once?
The answer is actually pretty simple. You need to draw up a complete social media strategy. No matter what kind of business you have, or what your long term goals are you need to approach social media as you would any other project. There are several defining factors that will directly affect how well your social media campaign works. Defining a proper strategy allows you to visualize all of those elements and address them as necessary.
Identify Your Goal
The first thing you need to do is identify what you want to accomplish with your social media campaign. Do you want to increase your sales or leads? Do you want to use social media as a customer service platform? Do you want to boost customer awareness for your brand or business?
Yes, it’s reasonable to want all of those things and more, but you need to choose one clear-cut goal that you can shoot for. What do you want most out of a successful social media campaign?
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Who is Your Audience?
What type of audience are you trying to reach? Believe it or not, the ideal social network will depend on your demographic.
You should focus on the big networks like Facebook and Twitter, but you would do well to incorporate some of the other networks into your strategy too. Don’t forget there are web forums, wiki sites and a lot of other platforms out there that don’t exactly fall into the primary definition of a social network.
It’s important to note that what works for another business will not necessarily work for yours. Explore the social networks that are available and pay attention to the types of posts and content everyone is sharing. Do you want to focus your campaign on sharing information about your brand, or would you much rather encourage others to do the sharing?
Generate a Usage Schedule
One of the biggest requirements for using social media is that you have to remain active. Posting a few times here and there and then disappearing for months on end will do you no good. You need to focus on broadening your audience, and that means acquiring followers daily. Social media is all about networking, the higher the number of people seeing or sharing your content means an exponentially larger total audience. You have to remember that when someone “likes” a page or brand on Facebook all of their friends can see it- even if they’ve never even heard of your brand before. The same holds true for other networks as well, seeing as many of them are public.
The only way to boost numbers and grow your audience is to continue posting on a regular basis. Stay on a schedule, and be patient. Widespread exposure won’t happen overnight, and it takes just as much work to grow a follower base on each of the networks.
The most common strategy is to generate an editorial calendar for your social media team. This even has the added bonus of helping them organize and coordinate general themes or strategies.
Treat it Like an Advertising Campaign
I’m not proposing that you follow this point for your entire campaign after all social media is a different kind of monster. That being said, while you’re coming up with a central strategy treat it like other marketing campaigns. You need to have a single theme or long term goal in sight.
When you brainstorm advertising campaigns or launch a new marketing strategy, one of the first things you do is come up with a theme. You take that central theme and tailor all of your ads to match it, even across mediums. You should do the same with your social media posts.
Sometimes this means thinking outside the box and coming up with an ingenious way to grow brand awareness. You could encourage everyone to use a unique hashtag on Twitter by implementing it into all of your posts. You could launch a virtual scavenger hunt for followers, which affords them the opportunity to win a prize.
Whatever the idea is, your social posts and content should all follow the same timeline. For example:
Consider this PPC ad:
What sticks out to you?
The Google+ integration of course! The phone number, reviews, and taglines are standard.
PPC social integration opens up the door for new customer acquisition. It demonstrates that a business isn’t just an automated, eCommerce store – it’s an organization that gets social media.
Stick to Your Plan, Learn from Failure
It’s naïve to think that every brand or business ever created was successful. Sometimes you fail, but people are too scared or frightened to talk about it. Marketers, social media strategists and even business owners shun the idea. After all, there’s no money in failure.
It’s unfortunate because you can learn a lot from a mistake. By no means am I saying shoot for failure, far from it. I’m just saying don’t be afraid to fall down when it comes to a social media campaign. The honest truth is that there are so many ways to use each platform, the possibilities are nearly endless. Strategists focus on all of the same points and ideas constantly, but every day companies are rewarded for trying something different.
Draw up your social media strategy and stick to the plan, all the way to the end. Even if you realize halfway through that it’s not as successful as you want it to be, keep going. When it’s all over you will have plenty of information to use. If anything, you should be able to pinpoint what went wrong, and what you can do differently in the future.
Unless you’re lucky, you’re probably not going to get it right the first time you try. Use that to your advantage and learn from mishaps or slip-ups. Hone future social campaigns and strategies by using what you know.