It's Only Social Media, Why Do I Need a Strategy?
When something has the potential to become your major source of business opportunities, you need to make sure you're getting the most from it. Setting a strategy for using social media within your business will enable you to get better, more cost effective results. As well as helping you to keep track of what's happening in this fast moving environment.
Here are some of the key items to consider when establishing your social media strategy.
You need to establish what you actually want from social media. Is it to keep in touch with existing clients? To raise awareness of your business? To find new prospects? To improve your websites search ranking? To look like your up with the times? Or maybe all of these things?
By defining your major objectives up front, you'll be much better placed to shape the rest of your strategy. And give birth to something that is both effective and measurable.
Bearing in mind your objectives, who should your campaign be aimed at?
Remember it's social. Strengthening relationships with real people is the name of the game. Who does your business need to connect with? What are their job roles? Who do they work for? What industry sectors are they in? Where are they located?
Can these targets be reached on social media? If they've got a pulse, quite probably. You'd be amazed whose now online. And if they're not, how long will they remain influential within their own business sector anyway? Check out my previous article - Go Where The Buyers Go. Right Now - if you'd like to find out how buyers are now running rings round many salespeople.
Content, Content, Content.
Do you go to networking events and talk incessantly about your own business? Of course you don't. Unless you're the chap standing over there in the corner by yourself.
The harsh truth is that most people simply aren't that interested in your business. They don't want to know how terrific your products are. What they really want to know is - how can you solve their problems. And some times they want to be entertained. This applies in the real world and the online world.
So how are you going to get noticed on social media and other online forums? How can you prove that you solve problems? Think in terms of giving away useful information - the Internet still has a culture of being free. Think in terms of stories you can tell - success stories, personal stories, industry developments, client stories, problems solved and other valuable news. Find great images to use, images are gold on social media.
Once you have this information, decide how you're going to adapt it to the selected channels you're going to use.
The big five in social media are Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube. Some would suggest that you focus your efforts on just a single channel. To me that's dangerous. Each of these channels has their own strengths and weaknesses. By using well selected online tools, it's almost as easy to manage 3 or 4 channels as just one. Using multiple channels also avoids having all your eggs in one basket, should a particular channel decide to change their focus or ground rules.
You will need to employ slightly different tactics on each channel. But it's worth the effort to maximise your coverage. And don't forget to consider other online resources apart from the big players, such as, running your own blog or using niche social media channels.
Keywords and Hashtags
In compiling your strategy be sure to list the "keywords" that should appear frequently in your content. These may be similar to the keywords used within your website to attract search traffic. But probably using broader terms to attract a wider audience.
Using "hashtags" within social media updates can gretaly increase exposure. You need to decide upon the most important hashtags to use on a regular basis. Not familiar with hashtags? They are words with a # affixed and used within social media to signify that an item is about a particular topic e.g. #socialmedia
You don't want to end up running your social media activity in a silo. Social media should be used to support other marketing activities. Make sure you have a plan to ensure this happens. Consider how you might use social media to enhance joint marketing initiatives with clients and business partners. Make sure you also facilitate the flow of traffic back and forth between social media and your website.
Most importantly, if you are looking to develop prospects through social media, it's vital to have a scheme which strengthens initial online connections and turns them into real-world clients.
Nowadays it's just about essential to invest in some advertising on social media channels, in order to extend your reach. Establish a reasonable budget and decide upon where and when to spend it. The good news is that social media advertising can produce remarkably cost effective exposure to highly targeted audiences.
Using online tools will make the utilisation of social media much more time and cost effective. Select appropriate online tools for your needs, both in terms of content generation and reporting.
If you're thinking that most businesses wouldn't have the internal resources needed to create such a strategy, you'd be right. Social media is complex and fast-moving. Unless you can afford to hire full-time specialists, you will need to outsource some, maybe most, of the above activity. So part of building your strategy should be finding people outside of your organisation who can help you with the strategy itself and the ongoing implementation. Make sure these people not only know social media but also have real-world business experience. It's not a game, it's going to be a vital part of your business going forward.
Why bother? Social media and other online resources should be an important, maybe the most important, part of your prospect development efforts in coming years. If you don't have an effective strategy for social media, you can be certain that your prospects will increasingly leach away to competitors who are being more proactive.