Heard enough about Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and the rest of the social networks and ready to tackle social media marketing for your business? If you haven’t yet begun, it may seem like a daunting task.
Where to start?
What to do?
How to go about it?
And, if you’re thinking smartly, why?
Even if you’ve waded in a bit you may still be doggy paddling around trying to get the hang of it.
But with a little bit of planning you can be sure to get off to a good start, and you can do it without anxiety. Follow these steps and you won’t feel overwhelmed.
Start With The Ws
I’m talking about who and why.
Before you try any type of marketing you always want to know who you’re marketing to. Knowing your audience is the most fundamental step in any marketing process and without a clear understanding of the who there is a very good chance you’re going to miss the mark and watch your marketing plans take a nosedive.
Determine the characteristics that your customers – and people who you’d like to turn into customers – share. What do they love and hate? What drives them nuts or makes them happy? Knowing something about their personalities will help you later as you find and create content to share with them.
Define relevant demographics like age, gender and education. Again, knowing these things will help you choose the right type of content to share and it will also help you set an appropriate tone.
Knowing the who will lead you a whole lot more seamlessly to the second W – why.
Why are you using social media? If you’re looking for hard sales numbers, you may want to reconsider your methods and stick to something like email marketing. Social marketing is a softer sell and is more about relationships and indirect sales than pushing out offers or product information and waiting for the numbers to add up.
That isn’t to say you can’t make sales with social media but you want to be thinking more in terms of how you can move people through your sales funnel from social followers to engaged fans to loyal customers.
Only after you’ve laid the foundation – which, incidentally, is always the hardest part and requires the most clarity and the deepest understanding of both your business and your audience – should you tackle the next steps.
Claim Your Name
Compared to the brainpower required to get your Ws in a row, this one may seem like a beach party. But don’t slack! Staking a claim on social networks should not be done haphazardly.
Consider the fact that there are billions of people out there looking to claim a bit of social media real estate and you start to realize how competitive it can be. Facebook alone claims over a billion users and each of those users has a unique identifying URL. That means that out of all the Bob Smiths in the world, only a single one of them can claim facebook.com/bobsmith. The rest of them get stuck with bobsmith1 or bobsmith563726.
And it gets exponentially challenging when you think about coordinating your name across multiple networks.
So before you stake your claim, make a list of all the possible usernames relevant to your business and all possible permutations. If you have a unique business name, that should be pretty simple. Otherwise you may have to consider abbreviations, nicknames or other variations.
But wait, there’s more!
Different networks have different character limits. What you may be able to claim as your business URL on Facebook may not work for Twitter. And just because your username is available on one network doesn’t mean it’s available on another. Be mindful of that because you don’t want a completely different username on every network. That could be quite confusing for your followers.
And… as if that’s not enough to give you a few gray hairs, some networks limit how many times you can change your named account. So while you may be able to update your Twitter handle every five minutes, Facebook gives you one shot to change your URL. Be prepared before you start so you don’t get stuck with something you’ll regret.
Check the availability of your username on all social networks. Even if you don’t plan to use more than one or two, consider this a branding exercise and make sure you – and not your competitor or some other random company – owns whatever username you choose across every network.
Set Up Your Content Buckets
Put on your brainstorming hat because this is where you should have some fun. Social marketing is all about connecting with people and you do that through the content you share. Whether that comes in the form of a personal status update, a photo, a link to an educational article, a question… or myriad other content types, this is your chance to put a voice to your business.
This is also the part where you save yourself a lot of headaches later because the better you can define your content buckets, the easier it will be for you to find or create that content when you need to.
Do this step in two phases. First, consider the broad content categories that you will be sharing. You might include text updates, photos, video. Don’t choose a bucket that you can’t fill! You may really, really, really want to share videos but if you have never looked into a camera and don’t understand YouTube then that’s probably not the best content bucket for you.
Once you have your broad content buckets you can start filling them in phase 2 with more specific types of content. For example, you may want to fill your text bucket with things like “inspirational quotes”, “daily tips”, “quick questions”.
The types of content you choose will be directly related to the homework you did in Step 1 where you defined your audience. Think about the types of content that would be most valuable and enjoyable to them.
Think in terms of themes. If you have a photo bucket, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and energy later if you create a repertoire of specific photo types like “original photo of the day” or “things we caught the cat doing in the office when she thought nobody was looking”.
Start with a handful of ideas so that whenever you need something to share you can reach into a bucket and pull something out that you already know your audience will like. And as time goes by, keep adding to your buckets – new types, new themes – as you think up new ideas and learn what your audience likes.
Choose A Schedule
Much like you don’t want to be throwing out random content, you don’t want to be doing it at random times, either. Having a set schedule for publishing content has two advantages.
One, it lets you space out your content over time so that you maintain a consistent presence on your social networks even when you can’t personally be there, and two, it saves you the energy of wondering when to post, worrying that you’ve forgotten or stressing over what you’re doing.
You might want to have a different schedule for different networks. For example, one or two Facebook updates a day may be enough but on a fast-moving platform like Twitter, one post per day may get utterly swamped in the raging stream of tweets.
As you set your schedule, don’t discount off-hours and weekends. Keep in mind that your customers may very well be working at the same time you are – not checking their social networks. You may have a better shot at getting their attention in the late evening after they’ve put the kids to bed or on a lazy Saturday morning. Again, it all goes back to who your audience is!
You can change your schedule as you learn what works best over time, but you have to start somewhere. So pick your days and times and then – wait for it, because I’m about to make your life about a billion times easier – combine those time slots with your content buckets for a full-on social marketing plan.
It may help to use a calendar (we just so happen to have one as part of our free Marketing Game Changer Kit, if you’re inclined to give it a try) so you know exactly what type of content you’ll be sharing and when you’ll be sharing it.
Find Some Tools
There’s a silly debate that pops up once in a while about whether you should automate your social marketing or you should be there in real-time. The answer is… both. It’s not an either/or question.
You should automate sometimes and you should be there sometimes. Without automation there is no conceivable way that you can maintain a consistent, effective social presence (and still actually do your job) and without being present in real-time there’s no way you can take advantage of the opportunity that social media offers.
In order to successfully automate when you need to, you’ll need a tool for the job. There are many and they vary in price and features. You may want to experiment with a few to find the one that you feel most comfortable with, or you may want to use a combination of tools depending on the type of content, your chosen schedule or the network you’re publishing to. Most tools have a free account level or at least a free trial so give them all a whirl.
Tools are not just for scheduling automation, either. They can provide you with valuable insights and analytics, like what content got the most engagement, what times of day were most successful for sharing, how many fans or followers you’ve gained or lost. They can tell you who your most engaged fans are and alert you to people you might want to reach out to.
There are tools to help you do everything from find content, to schedule it, to track your reach right down to how many clicks you got on a certain link. Tools can help you grow your audience or pare it down to be more targeted. They can help you monitor conversations so you can jump in where you may be needed. In short, there are a whole lot of tools!
But don’t get overwhelmed – there are far too many to use or know them all and you don’t have to. Start with a simple scheduling tool because that will help you run your day-t0-day social marketing. Most have built-in analytics too, so they’re great for a pretty well-rounded start. Later, as you feel more comfortable that your social media marketing is humming along, you can experiment with other tools and see what you can learn.
All Journeys Start With A Single Step
There’s a lot to do and know when to comes to social marketing but you don’t have to do or know it all at once. You only have to start, and you’ll save yourself a whole lot of time and worry if you do it with a good foundation. Following these steps will give you a solid base to work from so that you can continue to learn and grow.
Remember, social marketing is about people. Content, tools, schedules and plans only matter insofar as they help you reach and connect with the people you serve. If you keep that in mind as you develop your plan then you’re already off to the races.