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This is probably a bit of “horse after the cart” for most of us. By now, many businesses have long since jumped into social marketing and are tweeting/posting/blogging/pinning away. So whether you haven’t started social marketing yet and aren’t quite sure how to do it, or are already in the fray and are wondering if your efforts will pay off, here are some important questions that you can stop and ask yourself right now.
1. Why Am I Doing This?
This is not a question to shrug off or answer lightly. “Why” is the most important question you can ask because it will drive the when, who and how. Here is a post about how important it is to ask “why” no matter what you’re doing. When you’re done here, I recommend giving it a glance.
Here are two bad answers to the “why” question:
“Because everyone else is doing it.”
“Because my coach/boss/mentor/developer/marketing professional told me to.”
Your “why” has to go deeper than that and it must speak to your business goals. There are a few common and perfectly acceptable reasons to “do” social. You may have one or more of these goals but it’s vital to the success of your marketing to figure out which ones are important to you and your business.
To increase brand awareness. Who are you, anyway? For small businesses, it can be a challenge to be recognized beyond our group of existing customers. If you want to branch out, brand yourself and reach new communities then this is your social marketing “why”.
To build credibility. Why should I trust you? People do business with people they like and trust. You can build that trust by demonstrating your expertise through blogging or other means and by becoming a face and a personality that people can relate to.
To enhance customer service. This is a goal within a goal because it can help you build trust and also improve profits by lowering costs. It may be easier and more cost effective for you to deal with customer questions, requests, complaints or compliments in an online forum than via phone or email.
To keep tabs on the competition. What better way to stay on top of what your competition is doing than by following what they do online? You may be inspired to try something new or to improve your products or services, or you may find a way to capitalize on areas where the competition falls short. Our competitors will never knock on our doors and tell us their secrets, but watching what they do with their social marketing is almost as good.
To learn. You can learn quite a lot from your customers, your competitors, others in your industry and even perfect strangers about what people think, want and how they behave simply by paying attention to what they say and do online.
To drive revenue. At the end of the day, all goals funnel into this one because if all we’re doing is building a brand or learning about our customers without any money attached, our business is going to fail. Ultimately your social marketing “why” is to make money for your business, which you can do either directly through selling or indirectly through branding and trust building.
Before you start social marketing – or even if you’re already doing it – make sure you can clearly define why. It may be one or more of the reasons I listed or something completely unique, but know it, document it and refer back to it frequently. It will guide everything you do and keep you on track if you stray.
2. Who Is My Audience?
Now that you know why you’re doing what you’re doing, you need to know who you’re doing it for. You may want to sell your awesome chartreuse widgets but who’s buying?
There’s been a lot of chatter about whether it’s a good idea to buy email lists, Twitter followers or Facebook fans. I think that buying anything of the sort is… let me be very clear… stupid.
You can’t buy branding. You can’t buy loyalty. You can’t buy trust. You may be able to buy a few extra sets of eyeballs glancing over your content but what is that worth to your bottom line?
I mention this because people who buy people just for the sake of collecting their numbers clearly have no idea who they’re trying to reach. It’s a spaghetti-meets-wall approach that smart marketers avoid.
If you know who your audience is you can find them – for free – all on your own.
We’ve talked a bit before about how to define your audience and I recommend brushing up on the basics. I won’t get into the details here, but briefly, you should know your customers and prospective customers inside and out. What age and gender? What lifestyles and careers do they have? What interests and fears?
Write this down, too. Create a dossier on each of your customer types so you know who you’ll be gearing your social marketing toward. With the why and the who, you can develop the what and the how.
For example, you’ll take a different approach and tone and probably create very different content for your twenty-something college audience than for your fifty-something executive audience.
I hope you’re seeing so far how defining each of these builds toward a robust and successful social marketing program. And so…
3. What’s My Content Strategy?
That question sounds big and scary, doesn’t it? But if you know why and who, it’s not. All it means is that you need to choose the type of content that you’re going to share.
Here’s a bad way to go about content strategy: post stuff randomly, arbitrarily, whenever you feel like it and whatever seems good at the time.
A better way is to decide what type of content will be most valuable, interesting and engaging for your audience and will meet your goals (your “why”). Here’s a no-bs guide to finding and creating good content.
It might be educational content in the form of resources and how-tos. It might be fun or diversionary content. It might be inspirational. It might be a combination of any or all and more. Start outlining what type of content you’ll need to curate or create and use your outline as a guide.
Part of a good strategy is also choosing when to post on your social networks. First, know that there is no perfect time. Second, know that you’re going to have to experiment.
Start with some reasonable assumptions – if you’re a local business trying to reach people during business hours, posting at midnight may not be your best first choice.
And start with some best practices – post often, not too much, and consistently. Sounds vague, right? It is. Start with a plan then test, measure and adjust. It’s important to set a schedule so you know exactly what you’re doing without guesswork. If you choose to post to Facebook every day at 10AM then commit to that and stick to it until there’s a reason to change.
Here’s a little tidbit: many businesses post during regular weekday business hours but people engage the most on weekends. Social marketing doesn’t stop just because you left your desk! Schedule and share content on weekends when more people are paying attention and fewer businesses are adding to the noise.
4. Where Should I Focus My Efforts?
Different social networks have different audiences so if you know yours, you’ll be better able to find them. Here’s an interesting infographic about social demographics.
As you will see, Facebook is split pretty evenly between male and female but weighted toward the over 40 crowd, but the majority of Twitter users are under 40. Pinterest is vastly female while Google+ is vastly male. And LinkedIn folks tend to have higher education levels.
Do you see how knowing your why and who will help guide you toward social channels that will help you get the most bang for your marketing buck? If you want to reach college educated men, you’re probably wasting your time on Pinterest but if women are your crowd, then start pinning for heaven’s sake.
True story: a client of mine recently asked me to initiate and manage their Twitter marketing. Before doing anything, I asked them all the relevant questions and we conducted a survey of their customer base to learn more. Do you know what we found out? Exactly zero of their customers used Twitter. That’s right, zero. Given my client’s demographic and product line, it made sense. What wouldn’t have made sense was spending time and money on Twitter marketing! Talked myself right out of that job… drat.
There are many social networks and you can spend a great deal of time trying to manage and respond to them all. The good news is that you don’t have to. You only need to decide which one – or few – will work for you.
5. Do I Have Enough Time To Do This?
This question often gets nary a thought, yet all the great planning in the world won’t help your social marketing succeed if you simply don’t have time to implement it.
We are under the illusion that social marketing is free. Technically, it requires little to no monetary investment. What it does require is time, and that comes at a cost. You have to decide how much time you can and will invest in social marketing before you start. There’s the real time cost: the literal number of hours it takes you to manage your social networks. And there’s the opportunity cost: what aren’t you doing that could be paying off in bigger or better ways because you’re spending time on social networks?
Social marketing may be worth every second you spend doing it, but you won’t know that unless you devote time to it. Be honest and ask yourself whether you can afford the amount of time it requires to find and create content, share it, engage with people and continue doing so on a regular basis.
What’s worse than not doing any social marketing? Having a social presence that languishes. An unused Twitter account, empty Pinterest board or Facebook page that hasn’t been updated for 6 weeks is more damaging to your brand, credibility and business than having no social presence at all.
Think about this one – and if you’re ready to jump in then do it with both feet. Commit to the time and the place and commit to making it a great experience for you and for the people who fan, friend and follow you.
Got any other suggestions for must-answer questions? Let me know!