by Tracy Vides | Featured Contributor
Sometimes strategies themselves could lay the foundations for disasters waiting to happen; but more often than not, not preparing leads to the same result. It’s fine not to plan for adventures, travel, or even business in some cases. With social media, however, lack of a roadmap could lead you to wander off aimlessly into a plethora of tasks, hundreds of pointless discussions, idle chitchat, and staying tuned to mindless updates.
As a business owner, you just don’t have that much time. A plan can help you stay focused, aligned to your goals, and accomplish what you need.
Condense. Focus. Execute. That should help you achieve the right kind of results with your social media efforts—here’s how to be consistent with your social media initiatives:
Get the basics right
Not all businesses are the right fit for every social media network. For instance, Facebook generally works well for B2C businesses and LinkedIn is better suited to B2B. Facebook and Twitter usually drive traffic and engagement with content sharing while LinkedIn leads to discussions. FourSquare lends itself better to businesses with a physical, brick and mortar setup, and Yelp isn’t exactly available all over the world.
Just getting your social media profiles set up will get you nowhere. What is your business model? If you don’t have a product or service that gives value to your customers or have a revenue-generating business plan, what good will social do? Get your business right and then go social!
What is your marketing plan? You need to have an overall strategy for approaching customers on and off the web. Decide whether you want to advertise on TV, billboards, or Google (and then integrate those campaigns with social media). Consider streamlining your email marketing with tools such as MailChimp and managing your leads with SalesForce.
Find the kind of content that engages
On social media, interesting facts, insights, statistics, and content that dives deep into topics are usually well shared and find a lot of traction. It also makes sense to produce and share audio, video, and images, according to their suitability to the content. Some businesses use trends, events, and custom made graphics with great effect. If you use visuals for social media, Facebook and Pinterest make for a potent combination. You’ve got to find the right mix of content that works for you and helps you engage harmoniously with your target audience.
Interesting content is not the only kind that “engages.” Useful content does too! Useful content is that which answers a question, solves a problem, compiles a guide, or lights a match. An example is comparison: Who Is Hosting This helps you make a long-term purchase decision in the hotly-contested web hosting provider market, which has little competitive differentiation. Another is reviews: NY Times’ Sunday Book Review helps you make that quick choice on where to invest that free time that you hope to find soon. These guys are doing it with their websites – why can’t you do it on social media?
Build a community, not an inventory
Here’s the marketing lesson of the century revisited: your customers won’t buy from you because you decided to launch an online store or that you have remarkable products (that are also eco-friendly). You can have the world’s largest list of features and an equally large list of benefits but they still won’t buy until they are ready to buy. They need to see if all their buying parameters fall into place. They’ll then want to decide if you are best merchant to buy from.
You can’t control these personal buying parameters but you can influence consumer behavior. What’s the best way to do it? Build a community around your products.
Don’t bother with fancy features; you’ll be surprised to know that ugly ecommerce stores also manage to do business. Forget about faster servers, professional photography for your products, and everything else – you can work on these as you go along. But if you need to get your site into the profit zone, you need to start fostering a community yesterday.
Create a social media blueprint
Going random on social media is the only thing you shouldn’t do. If anything, social media content needs planning in advance. As with any editorial, you need a “social media calendar.” The calendar doesn’t have to be anything fancy or a work of art – any random spreadsheet can serve the purpose.
Plan out in increments of weeks with columns created for each social media network you will be targeting. Figure out the best days to post content for each social network and then plan your social content accordingly.
First, you need a framework to work your content within it – call it your social media blueprint. And it has to be time-bound.
Be specific as to what you plan to use social media for: Is it for brand building, customer engagement, or customer service? Your plans and blueprint will change according to what you need from social media.
Making customers reach for their wallets is now harder than ever. It’s incredibly hard to target your audience, provide them value, make them come to your store in droves, buy your products and crash your servers. Whatever you do, don’t ignore social media though. It’s that big pink elephant in the room – confusing but too big to ignore.
Tracy Vides is a content marketer and social media consultant who works with small businesses and startups to increase their visibility. Although new to the digital marketing scene compared to her illustrious She Owns It counterparts, Tracy has started off well by building a good online reputation for herself. She’s now a “serial blogger” with posts featured on Sprout Content, Steamfeed, Soshable, and elsewhere.
Connect with her on Twitter @TracyVides for a chat any time!