In my last two newsletters, I've talked about social media - how to decide which platforms to use for your business and how to manage it all. But let's take a step back. Perhaps you haven't taken the social media plunge yet with your business. How do you determine when is the right time? And then how do you move forward?
The right time is now
Social media is a marketing reality. If you're not using social media in any way, you are missing out on the exposure and growth it can provide your business. Not only does it help drive traffic to your website, it helps you develop your brand and connect with your customers directly. You can see what people are saying about you, respond directly to comments (both positive and negative) and manage any negative perceptions of your business by dealing with issues directly.
Before you dive in however, you need to get your business prepared.
- Start by setting some goals. Do you want to build brand awareness? Generate sales? Promote your expertise? Provide customer service? Understanding what you want to accomplish will help determine the type of of content you publish, the platforms you choose and how you engage with them.
- Determine your resourcing. There is no point in getting started if you don't have time to manage it. Identify who on your team will be responsible for content creation and curation (finding shareable content) and who will monitor activity and respond to questions. Do you have the resources in house or do you need to hire/outsource? Make sure you have the resources in place before you get started.
- Understand your audience. This is Marketing 101 - know your customers. It will help you determine what social media platforms to concentrate on and what kind of content and interaction will have the greatest appeal.
Ease into it
You don't need to be on every social network right away and not every one is appropriate for your business. Start with one or two of the majors (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) and take the time to get them set up properly. Create your personal or company profile and ensure you fill it out as completely as possible. Have an engaging image for your profile header and background and a professional, properly-sized photo or logo for your profile picture.
Once you have one or two sites set up, start monitoring the conversations and activities on those networks by following others. What are your competitors doing, what are your customers talking about, how are they interacting? Start by following people you know, influencers in your industry and even your customers. Take the time to watch the activity before you start posting and sharing.
As you start following others, you’ll find great content that you want to share. In fact, some experts claim that social media should be 80% sharing and 20% your own content. Bottom line - concentrate on provide valuable, interesting and relevant content to your audience and limit the amount of self-promotion you do.
Let people know where you are
Once you've established yourself on a few networks, make sure you add links to your social pages on your website so your customers can find you and follow you. Include these links in your email signature, newsletter, advertising and your business cards.
With the right strategy in place and the resources to make it happen, just be consistent in your messaging, keep a regular schedule and have a bit of fun along the way. Let your personality shine through and be real and your customers will start to connect with you. After all, it's about building relationships.
Are you using social media with your business? If not, what’s holding you back? Share your experiences in the comments below.