As someone who runs a business in the social media space, I'm often asked 'where do I start? There's so much out there these days.' There's YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and the list is getting longer and longer, with no signs of stopping. The most popular platforms are seeing their growth continue to increase. Twitter, for example, boasts about 500 million IDs and Facebook recently hit the one-billion user mark.
It can be overwhelming to keep up with the fast-paced digital world we live in, but learning to evolve your business with it is critical. If you're heavily involved in social media already, you're likely aware of the potential it has when it comes to connecting with and engaging consumers for greater brand awareness and sales. If you haven't jumped in, it's worth a shot to discover the benefits it can have for your business. So, back to the original question: where to start?
1. First ask yourself: Why are you using social media? Just like when you started your business and wrote a business plan (or even just scribbled your vision down on a napkin), it's a good idea to pinpoint what you want to achieve using social media tools for your business. Since the aim of these tools is to 'social', gaining new clients isn't your only goal. Consider objectives such as: ongoing engagement of current customers, building brand recognition, positioning yourself as an expert in your field, offering amazing customer service or gaining more exposure in your niche and local area.
2. Who are you targeting? A focused social media plan will have better results than a random, broad campaign. It doesn't matter if you have ten thousand followers and fans, if only two of them end up being qualified leads in your target demographic. Re-familiarize yourself with your business's specific target markets and where they are. Keep your eye on the prize.
3. Where are you posting? Unless you have someone managing your social strategy, it's nearly impossible to have a fully active and valuable presence on every single one. I recommend, based on your niche, to identify which platforms your target audience is on. Choose a couple to make your presence known and commit.
4. What are you trying to say? Content is still king, but this can be tricky for some companies that don't have much existing content to share. If you have a blog, for example, itwill be a bit easier to begin. If not, now is the time to start creating content for your desired audience that is either relevant, engaging, interesting or entertaining. This can come in the form of articles, videos, pictures, etc. Curating content is also key. If you don't have your own articles to share for example, scour the Internet to find content that is relevant to your audience. Whether or not your content is engaging will become obvious quickly. You'll know by the number of shares, re-tweets, or comments you get – depending on which platform you place it on. No action? Keep on trying until you get the reaction you are looking for.
5. Commit. Hard. Consistency is key to a successful social media marketing approach. You can't go hard for a month and then stop – that's like telling the people who did follow you that you no longer care, which will do more harm than good. Put together a daily plan detailing what you will be doing and assign time limits to it. Also, decide how you will manage the various results you get through social media like customer service questions, new sales leads, requests for information, etc. You may need to delegate certain areas to people within your organization.
6. Let technology help you. Do some research on some platforms and software which can help you manage your accounts, depending on where your online assets will be. Hootsuite, TweetDeck, SocialOomph are just a few examples. These platforms help to organize your efforts, and make it easier for you to manage your campaign.
Committing to a social media strategy is worth your time if you approach it strategically and thoughtfully. If you don't have time to spare, there are people out there who can help you, just make sure they are qualified. Social media isn't something you should ever hand over to an intern to manage. Your online brand assets will quickly become your most visible and vocal representation of your business. It's well worth it to invest time to making sure it's done right, the first time.
Special to The Globe and Mail