Work out what you want to achieve
Before your business gets active on social media, you should think about what your social strategy is actually for. Is it for brand awareness? To increase sales? Having a goal will help you with other important parts of your strategy, such as the platforms to focus on and the type of content to create and share.
For a startup, your main aim when starting out on social media may be brand awareness, which means letting potential customers know who you are, what you do, and what your business stands for. If you sell goods online, the focus might be more on trying to get your product line in front of a wider audience. If you already have a steady stream of customers, your goal might be to use social to build a stronger relationship with them, to let them know about new services, and to increase the likelihood that they will use you again.
Beware of stretching your time and resources by trying to do too many things at once. Instead, focus on a couple of objectives. Each time you post, publish, share, or tweet something new, ask yourself whether you action is linked to helping you meet these objectives.
Look at your customers and choose the social platforms to focus on
To achieve your goal, you need to connect with the right kind of supporters and followers, which means potential and actual customers. To do this, you should not only aim to understand who those individuals are, but also the social platforms they use, and how they make their buying decisions.
Look at your existing customers as a starting point. As well as checking out their public profiles, you could also ask some of them to complete a survey to find out more about their social media and buying habits. You may find, for instance, that although your business customers are active on Facebook for personal use, they regard LinkedIn as a more valuable source of information when buying work-related services, and are much more likely to find and share industry news via Twitter.
You can also learn a lot by looking at your competitors. Your aim here is not to copy their approach, but to find out where they are most active to get clues on what works and what doesn’t.
For instance, if one of your competitors has thousands of Facebook followers and another seems to be struggling, what are the differences between the two pages? What type of content tends to get your potential customers to engage, comment, and share? You can use this to help you decide where to concentrate your efforts and what kind of content to create.
Allocate time to your social media strategy
Potential customers are likely to ‘check you out’ on social media. Customer service now plays a massive role in social media, so if customers’ attempts to make contact with you via social go unanswered, this sends out worrying messages about your attitude to customer satisfaction.
Before you can afford to employ a social media/digital marketing manager, it’s your job to ensure your social pages stay fresh, so aim to devote a set amount of time to them. This could cover time looking for interesting articles and news snippets that you think your audience might be interested in as well as time creating your own posts.
Fix the settings on your social accounts so that you receive an alert each time you get a comment. Even if you don’t intend a social platform to be a customer enquiry channel, some customers are likely to view it that way and if you answer those individuals swiftly, you have a greater chance of converting them into paying customers. Publicly demonstrating a quick response really helps to show your wider audience that you take customer care seriously.
Plan your content
A content plan can help you produce a steady stream of social posts without struggling for ideas. By no means does this have to all be original articles, videos, or photos. As a guide for getting the right mix, marketers often refer to the ‘80/20 rule’ for social media, where just 20% of your content relates to directly promoting your business and 80% to content that speaks to the wider interests of your audience. Consider, too, starting a blog to help increase traffic in these online channels through promotion.
As a start, identify the sources of news relevant to your line of work such as magazines, news sites and popular bloggers. Subscribe for updates from those sources to get a stream of information on trending topics. Some of this content could be shared directly with your followers; in other cases you might want to create your own content based on popular topics. Look out for opportunities for interesting content from the work you are involved in. For instance, photos from the last event you catered for or a virtual tour of the last property you renovated.
Look at the number of likes, shares, and recommendations your posts attract and use the successful ones as guides for helping you to decide future content. If your business is particularly suited to visuals and/or video rather than plan text, consider getting up to speed with how Instagram and Pinterest can be used for businesses.
For further tips on creating engaging social content, and for advice on building a successful online presence, head to our help centre.