So you’re convinced. Social media is here to stay and you want a piece. But how?
Social media isn’t a one-size-fits-all marketing tool. By definition, social media is an online space for people to communicate. More accurately, social media is a way of life.
How do you make social media part of your business’s “way of life?” Align your goals for your online presence with the goals of social media in general.
Goals of Going Social
First, stop thinking of social media as a toy and time-waster for your business (that’s what the teens use it for, not you). Many businesses are taking social media more seriously. Why? They recognize that social media “optimization” can be more valuable than doing the tango with Google.
Even businesses who think they have a “boring” industry or a niche that’s not “social worthy” are discovering the benefits of going social. Some of those benefits are more awareness, better branding, customer interaction and engagement, and more sales and conversions.
The trick is not to approach social media with the hope that you’ll make money fast.
In its nature, social media communication is much more, well…human than PPC or SEO. Think about it: people use their real names, upload pictures that they took of themselves just seconds ago, and communicate directly to their friends and family. People use social media to replace birthday cards, party invitations, emails, phone calls, classified ads, and much more. In order for your business to fit in, it too has to be human.
Joining or Creating a Community
Think of your business as joining an online community. A community is a localized group of people. Your ideal community could be literally a geographic location, or more intangibly, a group of people with similar interests.
Your job is to build your business credibility within that community. First, you have to find where your ideal community already exists. In other words, identify the right social media sites.
Start your research with the biggest networks:
Then look at smaller, niche networks, like Digg, StumbleUpon, and Flickr. Figure out where you will find most of your potential customers. (Law firms won’t have much to do with Pinterest, for example, and retail stores won’t reach many customers on LinkedIn.)
When deciding which sites to focus your time and energy on, use this brainstorming process:
- Business objectives and goals à target customers à Ideal site.
Another thing to consider is whether your business should have multiple accounts, such as a corporate-level account and a few local store accounts. Customize your social media accounts in a way that will help you connect in a human way with your target demographic.
Branding should be a consistent part of your strategy. Connect (link) your social media accounts and keep your “human” aspect consistent across all of them. You should also link your social pages to your business listings, to your website, and back again. With each click, your potential customer can become more engaged, more interested, and more trusting of your authority.
That is, as long as you have good content.
Being Human with Content
Great content on social media can accomplish:
- Reputation management
When using content on social media, remember to keep your message and your brand consistent. Content reflects your company’s voice, personality, and your human-ness.
Content should also engage or fulfill a need, for example:
- Question and Answer
- Hold a competition, contest, or sweepstakes
- Provide customer service
- Give tips and tricks for using your products or services
- And much more
Humans generally don’t focus on just one subject every time they post to social media. Thus, neither should your business. Oddly enough, it actually increases your relevance and credibility to comment or post about slightly off-topic but common interests of your “community.” If you’re a restaurant, for example, posting updates about healthy food choices or commenting on articles about eating out with kids can all be extremely relevant, because they’re subjects your audience cares about. Be aware of current events that may interest your followers.
Update frequently. But never just post fluff. Humans mark fluff as spam. Keep it high quality using images, rich snippets, links to sources, authorship credit, and schema markup that will make your posts look amazing.
Use social media to target problems or business needs. For example, is your competition beating you up? Do you want to develop a new product customers will love? Need a better way to manage feedback or handle a crisis? It seems less direct than saying, “I want a social media campaign that increases conversions and my bottom line,” but problem targeting can have just as big of an impact.
Consider: you can use social media to research what your competition is doing and what’s working. You can use Facebook to get feedback from customers. Develop products using customer input. Follow Twitter conversations to monitor and listen to customer complaints. Spend less time and money on crisis management in your office by addressing issues instantly and directly with your customers on social media.
All of it means more money in than out (plus all the perks of a better reputation).
Finally, measure ROI on your social media campaign. It’s hard to measure exposure and credibility, but you can measure your impact indirectly. Just remember, your social media goals could be driving traffic or getting more conversions, but they could also be saving money by handling customer service issues on Twitter instead of over the phone. Get creative.
Also, give it time. Don’t expect big monetary returns right away. However, if your social media strategies don’t seem to be having any impact, you may need to go back to the goal-setting and community-identifying stages.