One of the biggest mistakes people make with social media marketing is not creating a valid plan with a course of action they can carry through to the end result and meet their goals.
I can’t tell you how many times clients have come to me and said things like:
- I made a Facebook fan page and nothing happened.
- I use Twitter but no one ever talks to me.
- I never made a sale from social media. It seems like a big waste of time.
If you’re not using social media for your business correctly, it is definitely a huge waste of time. If you’re not going to make the investment of creating a social media marketing plan that works for your business with goals and a clear strategy to reach those goals, then you may as well not bother with social media as a marketing technique at all.
When used correctly, social media can be an ingenious tool for reaching your target market, increasing brand awareness and connecting with others in your field. The key words are “used correctly”. Too many businesses are looking at social media as one more thing to check off their list that they are supposed to do to be successful. But they are failing to create a solid plan going into it and they neglect the time needed to learn why it is beneficial in the first place.
So many people just run at it haphazardly based on what they think they should do, how they manage their personal accounts, or what some friend or business associate has told them to do. Would you really handle some other aspect of your business in such a casual and uncalculated way? If you’re going to invest in social media as a marketing technique, commit enough time to keep a consistent presence in your community.
You aren’t going to become an overnight success just by reading this article (or any article), but here are some guidelines to getting started.
Create a Game Plan
It all begins with a plan. What sounds so simple can often become so confusing. Most companies and their representatives setting out to do social media just don’t know what they’re doing. They don’t know what their goals are and they don’t know where to begin. They might jump in, make some accounts and start posting on them but then they don’t get the results they want. What went wrong? Lack of planning is a likely culprit.
- What networks will you use?
- Who is your target reader?
- When you post, who are you talking to?
- What do you hope to achieve with each network?
Some business owners have the impression they will just create accounts and fans and followers will flock to them in the thousands. Others have the false impression that if they beef up their likes and followers (say by purchasing them) then other “real” people will believe they are popular and want to like them, too. “If I can just get more Twitter Followers, everything will become easy”. Even attracting followers isn’t easy, so how will it make anything else easier?
The truth is the numbers don’t mean squat. What is important is your engagement. Gabriel Shaoolian, founder and chief executive of online branding and marketing firm Blue Fountain Media has some advice for small business looking to market in social media: “Before you do anything, you need to think about whom your target audience is and what they are interested in. You don’t need to go after gigantic numbers. This is about quality, not quantity.”
Set Short Term and Long Term Goals
You need to create both short term and long-term goals with your social media marketing. These goals are essential to the success of your marketing plan. How can you measure your success when you do not know what your goals are in the first place?
Here are some examples of some social media marketing goals:
- Build more engagement with fans and followers
- Increase the numbers of shares, likes and comments to your social media content
- Build brand awareness and trust in your company
- Answer customer service complaints or issues
- Get people talking about your brand in a positive light
- To get people sharing your brand with their networks
- To make more sales/build clients
Your short-term goals might include things like an ongoing sale or contest or to engage with more people in your networks on a deeper level. Long-term goals might be to increase your brand awareness across more platforms and ultimately, have your fans marketing your brand for you.
Crescendo’s Senior Vice President, Kristen Schultz Jaarda gives some tips on setting your social media goals. She says to use the SMART method, which includes specific, measurable, and time-bound goals.
Determine which Platforms You Will Use
Once you create a plan with manageable goals, your next step is to determine which platforms you will use. There are tons of social media networks out there but more is not always better in this case. Rather than try to sign up for every network out there, you need to research and find out how they work and decide on which ones are best for your needs.
I recommend two to three of the major social media sites (such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+) and then a couple of social bookmarking sites that fit your niche and at least one community-oriented group, forum or network that fits your niche.
For example, one social networking site might be a forum for mothers, working moms and stay at home moms. If your product or business is targeting this market, then it’s a great place to be. Parenting, clothing, shopping, saving money/coupons, budgeting, cooking, homemaking and similar subjects will do well on a network like this. You can sometimes stretch the topics a bit to make them fit a network you really want to use. For example, if you are a car dealership and want to sign up for this “mommy forum”, you can write about car safety for children and families, choosing the right new family car on a budget and other tips related to your audience.
However, I advise against trying to stretch too far. If you sell men’s work boots, there might be some women in this forum who could use them or are interested for their husband’s but really, that’s too far of a stretch for your market. You’d be wasting valuable time on this forum when you could be in other more appropriate networks. Your posts and interactions will come across as spam and few, if any, users on that site are going to want to engage with you.
So to recap:
- Choose your platforms carefully
- Don’t choose too many or more than you can manage with the resources you have
- Learn all that you can about the platforms that you use and how to use them correctly
- Invest time in engaging on those platforms in a meaningful way
Set Up a System for Tracking Results
Once you have a plan in action, goals for the future and the networks you’re working with, it’s time to set up a system for tracking metrics that are aligned with your own goals. Just like any other marketing technique or plan, you need to track your progress, investment, and results. The data gained from this will tell you what’s working and what needs improvement.
So many business professionals go at social media haphazardly, with no tracking or analytics- or they measure success based on how many “likes” or fans they have. There are many tools out there to help make it easier for you.
Unilyzer is one to consider. It gives you:
- Facebook Fan Page Metrics
- Twitter Metrics
- LinkedIn Metrics
- YouTube Metrics
- Google Analytics Metrics
It automatically retrieves your data from all the different platforms and some other features to this software are:
- Professional Presentations
- Charts, Graphics and Reports
- Configurable Dashboards
- Compare Fan pages and Metrics
- Compare Twitter Accounts and Metrics
- Email, Print or Publish Dashboards and Reports
- Exportable Reports (Excel, PDF, *.csv and more)
- Effectiveness Scoring
There’s no contract and you can get a free trial to see if Unilyzer does what you need. There are several other social CRM tools for you to consider. Track the metrics weekly along with measuring sentiment (How do people feel when they mention your product or interact with your accounts?), the size of your communities and their engagement, the quality and relevance of content when your brand is mentioned (on or off your own pages/accounts) and your referring traffic. All of this data combined will tell you what your social media marketing is doing for you.
Continue to Evolve
Finally, you must remember to continue to evolve. Social media is constantly changing. Your business is always growing. Your social media tactics will also grow and evolve. Once you find something that works, you’re going to want to stick with it but once you see it is no longer working (based on your analytics), it’s time to move on to something else. Grow and evolve and social media will continue to work for you.