If you think social media is merely a forum for sharing what you’re having for lunch or where bored housewives fritter away hours building virtual farms – and that social media has no role in business… you’re wrong.
Social media provides a relatively low-cost platform for marketing and promotion and it can be extremely effective. But it takes time and planning before you can expect the marketing magic to work.
The mistake a large number of businesses make is to rush online, set up their profiles on a whim, and send out updates and posts in ad hoc fashion. They focus on self-promoting posts and fail to engage with people; which means they’ll fail to grow their following – and fail to reap the benefits of social media.
To use social media effectively you need to think strategically. This starts with some research to find out which social media platforms your target audience prefers – this tells you where you should focus your efforts.
You then need to decide whether you’re going to have one or more social media personas for your business. Identify the purpose of each persona and the sort of information each will share.
Don’t rush setting up your social media accounts. You’ll want your business brand and different personas (if applicable) to be easy to recognise, and the best way to do this is to use the same name over all your social media platforms. This means you might need to do a fair bit of searching to find one that is available on all the platforms you plan to use, but it is worth it.
Take the time to complete your profile. Add an avatar, logo or photo. Fill in your bio, add a link to your website or blog, put relevant text in the about section. It all helps to build trust, and people are more likely to engage with or share information from brands they trust.
Engage and network
If you don’t know the rules of engagement – take a crash course in social media etiquette now. Although your primary purpose for using social media is advertising and promotion, it’s a fatal mistake to treat it as a self-promotion channel. You need to share useful information, post interesting updates, communicate and engage with people to turn them into potential followers.
Follow thought leaders and interesting people in your industry. Become familiar with any hash tags that might be able to attract the right audience. Post items of news, or tips and how to information, relevant to your audience. Respond to queries, blog about interesting ideas or provide innovations – and aim to build up a solid follower-base of customers and potential customers.
Help your network growth by paying it forward. Repost or retweet useful information to give others a hand. They will likely do the same for you in return.
Don’t forget to cross promote your social media efforts where possible. Include your website on your profiles, and also include your social media contacts in your email signature, your LinkedIn profile and anywhere else appropriate.
Social media can consume a lot of time for very little reward if you don’t plan how you use it. Allocate a set amount of time, say 45 to 90 minutes, to social media each day – and stick to it. Then use this time to best effect.
Schedule tweets to go out at times when you get the best response and limit yourself to going online a few times a day to look for news or engage over your respective networks. Have a rough outline of the type of posts and frequency with which you’d like to post and work accordingly.
And don’t forget to monitor your social media efforts. You want to find out what works in order to replicate it – and find out what doesn’t work so that you can try another approach. Make refining your game plan based on performance part of your on-going strategy for social media success