Social networking is a tool that its possibilities can leverage on to give your business that definite gain from it. With a good strategy, some creativity and additional tools you can achieve marketing goals with less resources.
Having leveled the playing field when it comes to marketing and communication, your business can now use social media to tell your story, and demonstrate your expertise on a global scale in real time with very little cost.
Here’s how you can use social media channels like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat to grow your audience and customer base, and build your brand and business in a strategic way.
Why use social media?
As traditional methods of marketing to customers become less and less effective, businesses are turning to social mediums to connect in positive ways with consumers and the people who influence them. We need to be acutely aware just how social media has fundamentally changed the way we are connecting, communicating and collaborating as individuals, and therefore society as a whole.
The key to social media success is not to get hung up on the tools and technology, but to focus on how you can use them more effectively to:
- increase the visibility of your personal brand and that of your business
- build and cultivate your personal and professional networks
- develop and grow relationships with customers and influencers
- engage in real-time two-way interaction with people, including answering queries
- publish and distribute original content that demonstrates your expertise
- share curated links to relevant information that adds value to the lives of your customers
- communicate with your community of followers, advocates and supporters
- Ultimately generate new leads and boost sales for your business.
Creating content with the customer in mind
Your content should provide utility, it needs to be useful, relevant and add value to people’s lives. It could simply be information that answers people’s questions or satisfies a need they have relevant to your business, it may be more around providing ‘thought leadership’ and demonstrating your knowledge and expertise.
Once you create your content, it’s then simply a matter of publishing it to one or more other platforms which is best suited to your business needs and sharing the links with your followers on social networks.
Building your presence on social networks is important not only because they make for excellent content distributors, search engines such as Google use social media shares to determine the usefulness of content to an audience, so social media presence can also positively affect search rankings.
Small businesses around the world know that social media is here to stay, so if you haven’t optimized your social media presence, there is still time, and the benefits will be well worth the effort. There are many advantages to cultivating your brand on social media, including that it can help you improve your customer service, allow you to communicate with customers and prospects on a new level, help you engage your audience and reach new audiences, help you build authority, and drive traffic to your website.
A solid social media strategy can drive growth for your business by fostering lasting and loyal relationships with customers and prospects
1. Choose the Right Networks
Social media has exploded since Facebook went public back in 2012, and there are thousands of networks out there dedicated to anything from connecting old classmates to social activism and everything else under the sun.
So with all these options out there, how does a business hone in on the right ones? The advice from most experts is to join four of the most popular, and choosing the right ones comes down to your audience (and where they are) and your goals.
- Facebook: the largest platform, has 2 billion-plus active monthly users, and the site is ideal for businesses that want to generate leads and build relationships
- LinkedIn: the platform for business networking can be used to create trust, build authority, and engage audiences
- Twitter: is perfect for businesses whose major audience is under 50 and who need to stay apprised of time-sensitive information like breaking news, announcements, and trending topics
- Pinterest: the photo sharing site, is a fantastic platform for businesses with visual appeal (think restaurants, fashion, art, travel, and weddings), and it’s great for driving sales because so many users look to the site to plan purchases
- Snapchat: the expiring content platform, is one of the fastest growing social networking sites, and businesses can leverage it by offering promotions, providing personalized content, giving exclusive access, and building relationships with influencers in order to drive brand recognition and loyalty
2. Set a Goal
Being active on social media has a number of benefits for business, and there are many things you can accomplish with your social presence, such as performing customer service, engaging customers, generating leads, expanding your audience, driving sales, increasing web traffic, gaining valuable insights and feedback, and much more.
But in order to achieve these with any measure of success, you must have a goal in mind that you can work toward because you’ll need to create a strategy to get there.
3. Come up with a Strategy
Start by designating the person or people who will be part of the social media team, and break up their roles and responsibilities clearly so everybody knows what’s expected and when.
You should also decide on your posting frequency, and create a content calendar that will help you plan posts and make sure you don’t miss days. The content calendar is a big part of your strategy because it should lay out:
- Who your audience is
- What topics and subjects your audience is interested in
- The usable content you already have
- What kind of content you still need to create or curate
- When and on what platforms content will be published
- Make a Content Creation or Curation Plan with Your Audience in Mind
Knowing your audience is critical when it comes to finding success with social media engagement because the interests and needs of your audience will determine the type of content you should be sharing and the way you engage your followers.
Some of the important things you should know about your audience include age, location, gender, goals, likes, needs, behaviors, challenges, and pain points.
No matter who your audience is, however, the content you share should always be high quality and relevant, and you should prioritize video, images, and other types of visual content as often as possible because these are popular among all demographics and all audiences.
- Actively Engage Your Audience in Relevant Ways
Social media is also about connection and engagement, and that’s the only way you can foster the relationships you want to build and gain the trust of your audience.
There are many ways you can engage with your audiences, and they include:
- Commenting on posts
- Starting and participating in conversations
- Sharing relevant information
- Sharing user-generated content
- Posing and answering questions
- Addressing complaints and criticisms
- Showing appreciation for customers
- Minimize the Time You Spend Promoting
The practice of social selling is becoming increasingly popular among salespeople and marketers, the actual process of using social networks to drive growth is much different from what most people are used to. Rather than using social as an active promotional platform, it’s best to use it as a tool for engagement and communication.
In fact, it’s recommended that businesses keep their promotional content to 20%, while the lion’s share of content should be dedicated to meeting the needs of your audience.
- Maintain a Constant Presence
Social media isn’t a one and done deal, and it takes time and patience to cultivate a reliable presence. With the right automation tools, you can minimize the time you’ll have to dedicate to social media, but even still it will require at least 15 minutes a day to monitor your channels and respond to questions and conversations. In terms of posting frequency, the right number really depends on the platform you’re using.
- Present Audiences with a Consistent Voice
Social media is ideal for brand building and recognition, so it’s crucial that every post you make is in line with your brand and image. This can become problematic if you have multiple people assigned to the task of social, because everybody will bring their own personality to their posts.
For this reason, it’s best to limit the number of people responsible for posting, and make sure everybody is on the same page in terms of the voice and image you want to present.
- Watch the Right Metrics to Monitor Your Progress
Social media use is growing all the time, and every month there are more active users than the one before, especially on the top sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Snapchat. It’s not necessary to have a presence on every social network out there, and it’s a much better strategy to define your goals, locate your audience, and pick the sites that are right for you based on those factors.
Social media relationship building has a number of benefits to confer on your business, but it’s important to put in the time cultivating your presence if you want to take advantage of them all.