SMBs typically have a big problem while marketing in social media. What compounds the problem is the fact that some of them might be getting into social media for the first time. It is another thing that you use social media for your personal use. It is a completely different ball game when you use it monitor your brand. It is this problem that most of the small businesses face today.
We have understood this problem and are going to address this starting today. This is the first in a series of articles that will take you through the entire process of framing and executing your social media strategy. It would start from giving you an overview of how a social media plan has to be developed, the different platforms that are available, how to use different platforms to fulfill your goals to the tools that are required to manage different aspects of your social media strategy.
This series is intended to be a guide to teach you the basics so that you become confident enough to get your social strategy going. We start with the most fundamental question, the ‘why’. Why do you need social media marketing to grow your business.
1. WHY YOU SHOULD USE SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING
In 2015, active Internet users had reached the amazing number of 3.2 billion, which means there are endless possibilities to build a successful business online. Considering that there are 2.2 billion active social media users, you should definitely leverage social media to grow your small business!
According to a recent study by Emarsys, 70% of marketers have successfully gained new customers via social networks and 74% of consumers rely on social media to make purchase decisions (while 55% of consumers even share their purchases via their social profiles).
The most popular networks used by businesses for social media marketing are Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and Twitter, but Pinterest has become a must for any e-commerce owners, while Instagram is increasingly important for its visual impact.
2. HOW A SMALL BUSINESS CAN LEVERAGE SOCIAL MEDIA
By reading the previously mentioned stats, you should have understood how social media marketing can be a powerful tool to promote your business on the web. As a small business owner, social media represents the glue that helps sustain brand retention among your consumers.
It’s a fantastic instrument that you can leverage to reach a new audience and potential new customers with a small (or zero) advertising budget.
Be warned, however, that this new way of marketing can be devastating and frustrating if approached without having the right knowledge. But if implemented properly (by reading this blog series), marketing with social media can bring great success to your business.
This blog series is designed to provide useful information on social media marketing, improve your business and offer a valid alternative to an advertising agency. Throughout this series, you can start working on your social media marketing in a professional manner.
In detail, this blog series is going to help you understand:
- how to choose the right social networks to use in your business
- how to naturally and organically grow your social media audience
- the tools that will help you improve your social media efforts
- how to measure your ROI
- the important benchmarks to reach success
3. Start With a Plan
Before you begin to create a social media marketing campaign, you need to consider your business objectives. Kicking off a social campaign without a plan in mind is like walking into a forest without a map: you will end up being lost.
Create a plan (start simple, write it on a piece of paper or a Word file) and reflect on your goals:
- What do you hope to achieve through social media marketing?
- What is your target audience?
- Where can you contact your potential customers and how they use social media?
- What message do you want to send to your audience with social media marketing?
4. Develop Goals
Social media marketing can help you achieve a number of objectives, such as:
- Increase your website traffic
- Improve your conversions
- Enhance your brand awareness
- Create a brand identity and a positive image
- Communicate, interact and engage with your audience
Remember, only by establishing your goals, you can measure the ROI of your social media marketing efforts. So be sure to set yours.
5. Identifying Your Audience
Addressing everyone means not to be heard by anyone: a rule that applies in real life as well as in the virtual world. It is therefore necessary to carefully study the target audience to whom you want to address and maximize your available resources to reach them.
In practical terms, considering which industry your business is in, think about who these people are, what they like and desire, what motivates them, taking into account age, personalities, geographical areas, gender, average knowledge and how likely they are to use specific social media channels.
You need to select the network that is best suited to reach those interested in your services and products and forget about the others. This is the only way to be truly effective. Go to your chosen social media and do your research to identify your audience (more on this in the forthcoming articles in the series).
6. Create Great Content, But Most of All, be Creative
It’s the most important factor. As with other areas of internet marketing, content is the most important thing when it comes to social media marketing. Be sure to provide valuable information that your potential customers find interesting.
Create a variety of content by adding images, videos and infographics, as well as the classic text-based content. But apart from content, creativity is what will make the difference in a social media marketing campaign.
Do you remember the #IceBucketChallenge? During the summer of 2014, everyone was posting images and videos about challenging friends with ice water showers. This actually started with a man suffering from A.L.S. (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) to raise awareness and encourage donations for research. This trend became so popular that the A.L.S. Association made it an official charity effort. Regarding social media stats, it had resulted in more than 1 million videos on Facebook and more than 2 million mentions on Twitter. This was one of the most successful social media fundraising and awareness effort ever seen, born from a creative idea.
7. Being Consistent
Using social media marketing allows you to advertise your brand through a wide range of different social media platforms. Although each platform has its own unique environment, the core of your business must remain constant.
Setting up a calendar can help you in this matter. GatherContent is a popular premium management tool, but you can also use Trello (which is free) to build a calendar, by creating boards and cards for your social media marketing campaigns.
8. Listening to Customers
While working on your social media marketing, you need to interact with customers. Even if it is a one-on-one interaction that seems small and not very useful, it is important to listen and empathize with each client who chooses to communicate with your business (consider that a single conversation with a unique user can be seen by many, as your social profiles are public).
If someone makes a comment or question, you must promptly address their request. Remember, every customer feels special when a company takes the time to answer directly. In fact, now Facebook shows response time on a fan’s page. It is important for the brands to reply quickly to the complaints in social media to stay on top of the game.
9. Content Curation
Although the use of social media for marketing is mainly to share unique and original content related to your business (so to gain more followers, enthusiasts and fans), it’s also a great practice to link out your content, articles or blog posts.
If other sources provide information that you think are valuable to your target audience, it is useful to create a dedicated connection through content curation. Links to external sources improves the confidence and reliability (while it is also possible to receive the same favor).
Remember, content curation should build value to your audience, which means you should always share anything related to your business, that is really worth and interesting. Scoop.it is a popular and free tool to curate content and share with your audience, based on different topics. Also, Storify is another great tool. Users can search, browse and build stories taken from social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest, Instagram and easily share them.
Branding has become a key to success. Without a brand that allows you to recognize your product, you might disappear in the ocean of offers that today everyone has available on the internet.
For the average consumer, by now, it is almost impossible to make a choice based on experience: too many products competing, too much effort is required to try them all and compare them. This is why they rely on someone else, and the suggestion offered by a well-built brand is crucial for making a choice.
Every time you share a post, an image or a video, it should be part of your strategy to build a strong brand presence with social media marketing. Your messages should be consistent across your website and all your social media profiles. Add social icons on your website, as well put links in your emails and make your social profiles search engine friendly (e.g., when someone is Googling your business name + Twitter, they should get your Twitter handle at the first position in the search results.
11. Keeping Track of Competitors
It’s always important to keep an eye on competitors, which can provide valuable data for the keyword searched, on the links associated with the asset, and other relevant information.
If your competitors are using a certain technique of social media marketing that seems to work for them, you may want to try the same (or do one better).
12. Measuring Success
It is not possible to determine the success of your social media marketing strategies without having proper data.
Google Analytics (as well as other tools – more about this in the forthcoming articles) can be used to measure the degree of traction generated, as well as determining which strategies are better than others.
Always remember this important rule
The only way to develop a successful social media marketing is by engaging closely with your audience.
These are the rules that we have identified for a small business to succeed using social media. Have you used any other idea which has yielded good results. Let us know in comments below and we will update it in this article. I will be coming back next week with the next article in this blog series about different ways to choose the right social media platforms for your business.
Until next week!