When it comes to social media, there is a certain attitude among some startups of “everyone else is doing it; so should we.”
While, in my opinion, this is technically true, there is also another cliché that should be thrown into the conversation: “If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.”
Getting social media marketing right isn’t easy. There is much more to it than sporadic promotional tweets and the occasional meme.
The price of social media
It may be seen as free advertising, but – to go for the cliché triple whammy – nothing in life is free. It may not cost you to set up your profiles or push your content out there, but there is a cost. It requires time, attention, and resources.
If you’re not willing to pay that cost, to give social media the attention it needs, then you shouldn’t be using it. Don’t set up that Twitter account and only post once a month, or that Facebook page and then ignore the conversations that are happening on it.
Don’t get me wrong, I do think businesses big and small should be using it, not to mention that the modern consumer expects it, but a poorly maintained social presence can do more harm to the reputation of your business than no presence at all.
However, don’t let this warning put you off. You can make social media work for you, no matter the size of your company. It just requires the same thought and planning that you would give to any other area of your business. You wouldn’t put an advert in the paper without planning, research, and strategy, so you shouldn’t be setting up social accounts without the same due care and attention.
So, what should you be doing? How can you make the most of social media without placing too much of a strain on your resources?
Pick the right platform(s)
It can be tempting, when delving into the world of social media, to set up on all the major players. And that’s great, if they’re the right platforms for your business and you have the time and resources to maintain them all.
But they’re not all going to be right for you.
For example, if you’re selling cloud services B2B, then LinkedIn should be your first port of call, and Pinterest might struggle. It’s not that you can’t make Pinterest work for you necessarily, but it will be hard – people don’t window shop for cloud services (if you sell shoes on the other hand, stop reading this article and go and set up your Pinterest account…just kidding, at least finish the article first, there’s important stuff coming).
Consider your audience and your product and decide which platform(s) are best for you. Not only will this make your job a great deal easier, but it will also help you manage the time and resources that you spend on social media; it is better to set up one well-placed account, that you have time to manage, than it is to set up five that you have to divide limited time between.
Decide on your strategy
It’s so important to have a solid strategy in place for your social activity. Without it you will lack direction, and fail to see the bigger picture. Make sure you:
1. Decide why you’re using social media. Are you looking to increase your sales or do you want to focus on developing your brand? (It’s okay to say both!) Deciding what result you want is the first step in planning your strategy; it will shape all of the other decisions you make.
2. Research your audience. You may have already identified them when picking your platform, but do you know how they interact with that platform? How they will want to interact with you? When they're online? No? Then find out.
3. Check out your competitors – big and small. How are they using the platform? How often are they posting? How often are people engaging with them? What content are they engaging with? These are all questions you should be asking, and the answers will help you decide how to develop your tone of voice, online presence, and content.
4. Create an action plan. So you know what you want to achieve. When do you want to achieve it by? Write down a detailed plan of what you expect to achieve in months 1, 2, 3, etc., including how many posts, when you will post, and what content you will post. And stick to it!
Don’t forget when creating your action plan to research what is coming up over the next few months so that you can make sure you're ready for the social conversations that will be happening all around you.
Consistency is hugely important when it comes to social media; this is your brand, and it is hard to form strong relationships with your potential customers if your approach is erratic or conflicting. Whilst there are many broad topics that require consistency, they can be narrowed down to two main areas: brand and activity.
Brand consistency. Once you have decided who you are, how you want to look, and what your message and tone of voice is, you need to stick to it. Customers should be able to move seamlessly from your website to your social channels and know that they are still interacting with the same brand.
Each social channel shouldn’t work in a silo – once you have made your decisions, make sure the message is consistent across all channels.
Activity consistency. It’s all too easy to only post sporadically, when you have a product to push or have a rare few minutes to spare. But this approach will get you nowhere – how can you grow a social presence without being present? Ideally you should be posting several times a day (the recommendations vary between channels) because you need to increase your chance of being seen. If you can’t manage several times a day, then you should be aiming for at least once a day.
If you know that you can’t commit to posting every day, then set aside an hour on a quieter day and schedule your posts for the week ahead. There are so many tools that can help you get the most from the time that you have for social media.
Social media isn’t a billboard for you to paste your latest advert on and walk away. Yes, you can promote your business, but it is about so much more than that. It is about building relationships with your customers and peers, about networking, sharing, listening and replying. Social media is a two-way street and if you’re all take and no give, then people will switch off…they may not even switch on.
Make sure that you allow time for social maintenance – reply to questions (in a timely manner), share other people’s content (how can you expect people to share your content if you aren’t seen to do the same?), follow people back…be social!
Social media is a commitment, and it might seem like a bit of a stab in the dark. But put the time into it, respect it, and nurture it and you will see that it’s worth it.