There’s a lot to think about when it comes to starting a social media marketing strategy – regular engagement, sponsored content, third party tools – and it can be intimidating at first glance.
More often than not, this results in businesses postponing their efforts therefore missing out on utilizing the power and potential of social media. I’m here to tell you that making the first step in coming up with a plan doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming.
Successful strategies have a few things in common, they have clearly defined goals and have a custom plan based on their business objectives. Companies that look beyond just getting users to ‘like’ their page or ‘follow’ them on Twitter have more success – they actually ask ‘why’. Is your goal to increase brand awareness or just to sell more of a product? Is it both?
Still not sure where to start? Below I’ll be listing some ‘best practice’ tips that will guide you to achieving that social media strategy you’ve always dreamed of but was too afraid to reach for.
Creating Your Strategy
Although social media seems to have been around forever, we still see businesses fail to dedicate serious time and resources to the process despite repeatedly hearing competitor success stories. Getting key members of staff together to discuss your goals, objectives and just what you want to achieve will help keep you on the same page, and create targets based on your agreed goals.
Having a social media strategy is a gym pass, just because you have one it doesn’t automatically mean success and visual improvement overnight – persistence is key.
You must start by looking at what you want out of social media as a whole. You should be asking yourself which of the following (for example) do you want to achieve or prioritise?
1. Attract new customers
2. Provide support to users of your service / product
3. Keep customers around for return business
4. Engage specific demographics
5. Real-time engagement for select keywords
Those were somewhat generic goals but are applicable to nearly every business. The point here is establishing clear, personalised objectives without being clouded by all of the noise that comes with social media and other businesses strategies.
Once you’ve decided on a list of 3-5 goals, you should think about how best to achieve them. Let’s take real-time engagement for keywords as an example. You could be a serviced apartment company using a tool like Hootsuite to monitor tweets in real time that are sent publicly. You can configure the software to return tweets in a specialised timeline for users tweeting about needing a hotel in the London area to which you can reply in a casual friendly way letting the user know that you are based in the area and offer a great alternative to a hotel and currently have a very competitive rate.
That’s just an off the top of my head example, if you are sat down with key members of staff I’m sure you could come up with some great keywords or hashtags to monitor based on what your business offers.
Using Readily Available Social Data to Know Your Audience and Improve Your Approach
If you already have a Twitter account, you will be able to log in and access the relatively new analytics tracking features that Twitter give you access to. This is a great place to start when it comes to seeing at a glance which angle to approach your audience from when it comes to promoting a product or service.
Sticking with the ‘serviced apartment’ example, if you find that under ‘Audience Insights’ and the ‘interests’ heading you see a lot of users talking about video games instead of travelling, maybe it’s time to try and refine the type of followers you have. However, if you find that the same people also tweet about travel, when trying to sell rooms for the night, you could mention that you offer free Wi-Fi which might be applicable to those wanting to bring their hobby with them.
It’s all about identifying the data and trying to be as relevant to their needs as possible.
Timing is Key
Think about when your target audience is most likely going to be online. Combine this with the previous part of the article and you’re putting in another puzzle piece that forms the bigger picture of your future social media success.
Still looking to sell your serviced apartment for the night? Well, you notice that there’s a well-known musician that just announced a gig in a months’ time. One quick thing you can do is tweet about the event and your discounted rooms available on that night, a lot of people will be talking about the event as its big news and you can include relevant hashtags to appear in results for that topic.
Again, it’s all the little things that add up to increase the changes of a positive return from your tweets and general social media updates.
Establish Authority in Your Field – Be the Go-to Source
Too many businesses look to replicate what their competitors are doing which can be a big missed opportunity.
“THERE’S AN OLD WAYNE GRETZKY QUOTE THAT I LOVE. I SKATE TO WHERE THE PUCK IS GOING TO BE, NOT TO WHERE IT HAS BEEN.” – Steve Jobs
When building your brand or creating a social media strategy, you really should be looking to stand out from the competition and set yourself apart. Become to go-to source when people want a professional opinion or advice on a subject within your field.
As 140 characters or a small text box on Facebook can be quite limiting, a great way to get the ball rolling with this would be to start yourself a blog to share your thoughts on changes impacting your business and write about what you are doing to move things forward for your industry and tell people what you are doing that is above and beyond what others are doing.
This is great to become an authority in your field therefor generating trust and eventually loyalty. This also gives you some great content to share on your social networks (with relevant hashtags, of course).
You can also let the data we talked about earlier from Twitter’s audience insights influence the topics for the blogs therefor increasing the chances of engaging the reader on your social media accounts, and getting them onto your website via your blog.
You can also follow other ‘industry leaders’ and share their content if you feel it’s a well written piece in hopes that they will reciprocate in the future.
Using Tools for Automation and Analytics
Don’t worry, not all automated messages are spam that flood inboxes with messages demanding that the reader visits a specific website. Sometimes, tools for automation can work really well and play a big part in achieving social media success, particularly with businesses with small teams.
As briefly mentioned earlier, Hootsuite is a great bit of software that allows you to schedule updates to be sent out at specific dates and times on your social networks as well as follow public tweet timelines based on certain keywords. This is great if you want to really hone-in on a niche and look to build your following.
As with most things in life, a healthy balance is key. You won’t want to send all of your updates out on a schedule – you will want to have someone available to jump into conversations in real time and react to current events in your field due to the nature of how fast things move on social networks. It’s just a great bit of software to have around for targeting and posting at specific times when you might be out of the office allowing you to still reach the right demographic at the right time.
Hootsuite also offers the ability to generate detailed reports displaying a lot of analytics data so you can find out which of your updates performed the best and in the case of Facebook, age and gender data is included too so you can understand your demographic even further. Hootsuite also allows the shrinking of URLs to trackable versions of the same URL which again, helps with end of month data and reflection on click-through rates and other analytics.
Using tools like this and looking at analytics data, it’ll be easier over time to see which content you put out has the biggest impact. This will allow you to constantly adjust and refine the content with time until all of the content that you put out has high engagement and click-through rates.
Tips and advice can be given but ultimately it comes down to you and your staff to really take this beginning template and use it to kick start your social media strategy. Like I said, it’s like a gym pass – you have to work for results so don’t get disheartened if you don’t see results immediately.
Create your goals and track any return – continue to stick to your goals while combining other tips such as looking at your audience data, identifying what works and what doesn’t in monthly reports, engaging in real time conversations relevant to your field, becoming an authority and trusted source by creating forward-thinking blog posts and articles.