Use Social Media – Don’t Let it Use You

If you’re a small business owner or marketer, you are probably well aware of the power social media holds. Taming the social media beast isn’t as easy as some would have you believe, however. True social media success should grow your bottom line by creating brand credibility and fostering customer engagement, trust, and loyalty. In order to accomplish those goals, you need to create a defined social media strategy, here are our tips for doing just that.A man's hand reaching out of a black computer screen to symbolize social media engagement

Know Your Competition

The first step in designing your social media strategy is to check out what is already being done in your market. You don’t want to construct an awesome social media campaign only to find out it’s already been done. Identify your competitors and look into who specifically they are trying to reach their customers through social media. Check out their various social media platforms and how they are used as part of larger campaigns. Pay close attention to customer comments and feedback so you can get a sense of what they like and don’t like about your competitors’ social media usage.

Know Your Brand

Once you’ve identified the strategies that do and don’t work for your competition, you need to identify the voice of your brand. Your social media strategy needs to be consistent with the tone of your brand. If you’re at a complete loss as to what your brand’s social media style should look like, brainstorm a list of words that describe your business, and boil it down to ones that can be applied to social media.

Part of your social media branding needs to include your company’s narrative. Map out your company’s narrative, and reduce it to the components that make your company tick. These highlights should honestly communicate your company’s identity, and should be in used in determining your tone, the content you share, and how you talk to people through your social media platforms.

Develop a Content Strategy

This topic could easily take up a series of articles on its own, but the long and short of it is you should be promoting and curating high quality content through social media and blogging. You should use social media blog in conjunction with blogging, because your blog content will drive shares, engage your audience, and create brand credibility all of which will be reflected in your social media use.

Just like you need to think strategically about how you use social media, you also need to create a blog content strategy. Once you have done this, you can refer to a social media guide in order to integrate your content and social media strategies and processes.

Diversify Your Platforms

Once you have your content ready, it’s time to share it. Make sure that your social media efforts are concentrated across multiple platforms. You should create a profile on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Google+, if not all of the top ten most visited social media sites. Many of these platforms are compatible with each other, making cross-platform sharing easier. For example, it is common to see a Facebook update containing a tweet that has a link in it that directs the customer to a blog or website. Make sure you choose similar and relevant usernames and handles across all of your social media, so your followers can easily find you.

Build Your Audience

After you start to become active on your social media platforms, you should start to focus on building your audience. Customers are much more likely to follow or like companies that already have a strong following. Build your followers by posting timely, actionable content, photos, videos, articles, and links to interesting resources. You want to give your followers a reason to come back to your platforms, and keeping your content timely, relevant, and interesting will go a long way. You also don’t want your content to be overly promotional, because it will drive your audience away. A good rule of thumb is to keep only 10-15% of your content self-promotional.

Engage, Engage, Engage

Using social media actively allows you to connect with your customers and expand your audience, but this is not a one-way street. Social media sites are in many ways an instant form of customer service. If a customer has a problem with something, they can reach you on Twitter immediately. Your ability to meet any problem head-on and instantaneously will greatly reduce the amount of customers you lose if any problems do arise.

Measure Performance

Your success in using social media is measurable. This goes beyond looking at your sales for this quarter. Are you generating web traffic? Are you gaining followers on Facebook? Are your blog subscribers increasing? These are all telltale signs. Charles Osmond breaks down how you should be monitoring social media success into four categories:
1. Traffic and conversions from social media sites
2. Fan and follow numbers
3. Conversion participation
4. Social reach performance

Avinash Kaushik, on the other hand, thinks the best social media metrics are conversion, amplification, applause, and economic value.

There are obviously differing opinions on what exactly determines social media success. Check out what social media and web experts are saying about how to measure social media performance, and use the ones that are most applicable to your social media campaigns’ goals.