Developing an Effective Social Media Strategy for Businesses

Social mediums – and indeed social media in general – have become important tools for businesses and corporations of all kinds.

The fact is that social media can be an invaluable asset for businesses. And the stats pretty much speak for themselves: Facebook crossed the billion users mark last year, Twitter has more than half-a-billion users, YouTube is not only the second largest search engine in the world, it gets 3 billion views in a single day (!), and the likes of Google Plus, Pinterest, LinkedIn and others are showing impressive growth as well.

Moreover, it is said that more than half the world’s population uses social media!

In a nutshell, a large proportion of the people in the world are turning towards social media for entertainment as well as business.

Social media is therefore not only here to stay, but can be an effective tool for all kinds of businesses, especially small and medium businesses.

Creating, establishing and having a strong presence on social media is not a choice any more, but a necessity.

If your business doesn’t have a social media strategy, you’re simply missing out on potential leads, the chance to connect with potential customers and clients, the chance to create goodwill, and spread the word about your business, it’s products and services, and a whole lot more.

Above all, you’re missing out on a fantastic platform, that provides your business with a chance to contact and connect with people from all over the world.

Social media provides you with a fantastic opportunity to get in touch directly with your customers.

While I’m not a social media expert by any means, I well and fully understand its important as far as businesses are concerned. So here’s a step-by-step guide that should help businesses and corporations in creating a strong and effective social media presence for themselves:

 

STEP 1: Have a website/blog

The first step towards a strong social media presence is actually having a website and/or a blog. A website or a blog represents the first step in establishing your authority and presence online on the internet. It will be your business’s focal point online on the internet, and your social media strategy will be closely associated with your website/blog.

Setting up a website/blog isn’t all that tough. There are tons of free resources that allow you to quickly set up an online presence for your business. Alternatively, you may choose to pay someone to do it, especially if you’re unfamiliar with domains, web hosting and running a website. (Do leave me a comment if you need more information on this.)

 

STEP 2: Defining goals

Define what you want to achieve through the use of social media. This includes a set of real, tangible goals that you would want to achieve through the use of social mediums.

For example for some businesses, these goals might be to increase brand awareness, or generate leads, or develop a mechanism to get customer feedback, or even drive traffic to a certain website or a blog.

Your social media strategy will be driven by it’s objectives and goals.

 

STEP 3: Choosing the best social mediums

Choose which social mediums are relevant to your business, and will help you achieve your goals.

According to Kelsey Follett, president, Twelve Anchors Marketing: “The first step … is figuring out which platforms would be best for its particular business. As a small business, it is difficult to tackle all platforms — and even harder to do it well. Furthermore, some social media outlets are simply not conducive to certain types of businesses. Choose a few platforms to start with and dedicate a solid effort into building these before choosing to expand further.”

So one of the important things to consider here is that you don’t need to have a presence on all social mediums, however having a presence on Facebook and even on Google Plus is an absolute must.

Set up proper pages for your business on Facebook (here) and Google Plus (here). Creating a page or setting up a profile is free. Be as comprehensive as possible when filling out the information. Add a cover photo, a profile photo (preferably your business logo), and a few updates about your page. Facebook helps you set up your page properly via pop-up tips.

Creating social media profiles on other ‘niche’ social mediums, such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest depends upon the nature of your business; some businesses might find Pinterest, for instance, to be profitable. I suggest creating a profile on each of these social mediums, and browing through them to see what kind of content is posted on them.

 

STEP 4: Spreading the word

Start marketing your social media profiles, and get the word out. This will involve a bit of marketing, so be ready for that!

Remember that the objective here is to build a base of fans and followers on your page.

You want to let people know that you exist on Facebook and/or any other social mediums you have a profile on. Start by putting a link to your profiles on your website/blog – most blogs and websites have social icons on their sidebars, and adding a link at the end of all your posts as well.

 

Invite people on your own friends list to Like your Facebook page, and follow you on Google Plus or Twitter.

Add your Facebook page’s URL on all products that you sell, as well as all your business print material (business cards, banners, brochures, etc.). Make it a company policy to add links to all social media profiles in email signatures.

Send out an email to your subscribers. Or run Twitter or Facebook-exclusive contests with the purpose of boosting your followers on these mediums.

There are tons of things you can do to increase your followers for free – however it might take time to build a large following.

For business owners who want to accelerate this process, it might be a good idea to sign up for Facebook advertising, and target Facebook users of your choosing in order to spread the word and get more ‘likes’. Facebook ads are not only cheap, they can bring in highly-targeted traffic to your Facebook page, and of course, your website as well. Twitter and LinkedIn also offer ad-based solutions for businesses.

 

STEP 5: Developing a content strategy

Develop a content and update strategy: how many times will your page be updated and what kind of updates will you send out. This will be the most important part of your social media strategy – one that could make or break it!

A good idea when posting updates is to use the 80/20 rule – 80% external content, 20% your own (links, products, etc).

Avoid posting too many links though, and post images, pictures, infographics and the like. Stats show that images and videos garner a better response from people, as compared to ordinary text-based updates.

When posting updates on social networks, it is essential to adhere to certain etqiquettes: never spam your followers with too many updates, and be wary of what information your post online. Refrain from posting anything that might offend any of your followers.

Timing is also an important aspect here. Through a bit of research and maybe trial-and-error, you will need to know when (what hours) the people in who you’re targeting are most active on social media.

Finally, use a social media management tool to manage your updates, schedule updates, and look at statistics. I personally use and recommend HootSuite.

 

STEP 6: How to ‘use’ your page

Converse, respond, engage. Speak with people, your customers and your fans and followers. Listen to what they’re saying about your business, your brand, it’s products and services, and it’s image. It’s valuable marketing intel!

According to Ray Young, the president, Razor Sharp Public Relations: “Listen to your customers, find out what they are saying and what they are doing online, and then draft a social media plan to engage them. Without understanding what people are saying about your company or brand and not having a game plan, you are setting your company up for failure in the digital space.”

Run contests, and Facebook-exclusive promos. Offer exclusive deals to your fans and followers. Provide people with an incentive to ‘like’ your Facebook page, and be an active part of it. Remember that the objective here is to make people on your page feel special, and offer a sense of exclusivity to them.

It is also important to keep in mind that you need to connect with your fans on social media.

Above all, think of ways through which you can provide solutions to customers and your clientele through the use of social media. For instance do you think your social media profile can be used for customer support?

 

STEP 7: Make social media part of the culture

Social media should become a part of your organization, and it’s culture. Everyone in the organization – from top to bottom – should be involved in, and have a say in your organization’s social media strategy.

Hire a social media manager or a team if it becomes unmanageable for a single person to handle.

Keep an eye on your short and long-term social media goals and objectives. Use analytics (such as those which come with Facebook itself, as well as HootSuite) in order to know how well you’re doing.

 

Did I miss something? Would you like to add something of your own? Feel free to leave a comment in the comments section below!

 

(The quotes in the article were taken from here)