If ever there were two words that struck fear into the hearts of business people everywhere they’re plan and manage.
Doesn’t it feel so much easier to be “doing” than “figuring out how to do”?
If only we could wake up one day and be in the middle of a process, we’d just keep going! But getting started is another story. So rather than pull your hair out, tackle your marketing with only half a brain cell or leave its success up to fate, try following this guide and then watch your social marketing practically run itself.
Focus On Your Target Audience
If you read almost anything else on this site that discusses planning or strategy you’ll know that this point makes it into each and every one.
That’s because the importance of knowing who you’re marketing to can’t be overstated.
And while I won’t repeat often-written advice to know and find your target audience, I will tell you that knowing this detail can save you a whole lot of time and energy.
I’ll tell you exactly the trick I use to focus our social marketing efforts: I think of the one specific person that I’m posting something for.
Facebook status update? Twitter post? Pinterest photo? I don’t have to wonder whether it’s a good idea because I only think of the single person who would find value in it.
Most times that’s a real person – someone I do, in fact, know. Someone from my audience who I’ve either met, or spoken with, or engaged with so that social updates aren’t about “marketing” as much as about having a conversation with someone I know.
Sometimes it’s a figurative person. A profile of someone who fits my target market. It’s a bit more abstract but it helps focus content on what someone may actually need, want and be interested in.
By the way, this is a great trick to pull out for your next email campaign, too. I never write a single email without picturing a very specific and very real person in my mind – and talking only to that person. Since that person fits my target audience, I know others in my audience will appreciate it, too.
Specify Daily, Weekly, Monthly And “Sometimes” Tasks
There are certain things you’ll need to do every day and some that you’ll only need to do once in a while. Unless you know what these things are and how often you need to do them, you won’t be able to plan them.
Start by making a list of everything that goes into your social marketing efforts. That can include creating or curating content, engaging with people, changing bits of your account profile like your cover photo, audience-building tactics and a host of other things.
Detail out what needs to go into your efforts – everything from “take photos” to “touch up photos” to “find new Twitter followers”.
Then decide how often those things need to be done.
You probably want to follow up on comments and questions daily, but leave “find followers” to weekly.
For me, I like to spend a few minutes every day sifting through my RSS feeds and curating cool blog posts and interesting news. I drop it all into a folder then once every week I schedule it to go out to my followers.
The better you can define what you need to do, and put it on the calendar so it becomes a regular part of your routine, the easier it will become to manage your social profiles – and the faster you’ll get it done.
Use An Editorial Calendar
This is a must for blogging and can also be beneficial if you’re regularly creating other types of content, such as white papers, eBooks or email series.
The last thing you want to do is haphazardly start pumping out content, one bit today, two tomorrow, none for six weeks… and not focusing your efforts on providing a good variety.
When we weren’t using an editorial calendar on this blog, we wrote whatever, whenever. Sometimes we had day after day on the same topic and that got boring to people. Sometimes we missed gaps in content that people wanted from us but we weren’t paying enough attention to provide it. And always we were at the whim of sick days, power outages, computer crashes and the biggest devil of all – inspiration.
With a calendar we map out the topics we’ll cover, who will cover them and when they’ll be published. That way we can monitor and evaluate our approach, avoid conflicts, deal with gaps and other issues and make some educated assessments about how well we’re doing.
A calendar frees you up to stop worrying about your content and actually produce it. A schedule will ensure you have timely topics, spaced appropriately and delivered effectively.
If you want to give one a try, you can download ours here.
Use A Social Content Calendar
There are about a million billion social channels (at last count) so how can you possibly know what content you’ll be posting on each one, let alone when?
I’ll tell you how: with a social content calendar.
This functions just like an editorial calendar except that instead of telling you when you’ll blog or release other types of content you create, it will define what and when you’ll be posting to each social network.
Without this, you’ll be guessing at best. You won’t be able to post consistently or on any regular schedule. And you won’t be able to test and measure your efforts.
A good social content calendar tells you a few things: what type of content you’ll be posting (curated links, videos, photos, graphics, promotional links, etc), when you’ll be posting it (down to the day and hour) and where you’ll be posting it (Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr…).
Then it’s just a matter of plug-and-go. No stress, no worrying what you missed or whether you posted enough (or too much) and a lot more time to do other things instead of agonize about what you should be doing on social media.
If you want to try ours, you can download it here.
Set Time Limits
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what a time suck Facebook can be. Or all those beautiful Pinterest boards. Or those thousands of unread tweets.
There is simply no way a human being (who still wants time for dinner) can possibly keep up with everyone and everything. There’s no point in trying.
What you can do instead is give yourself a reasonable time limit for checking in on your communities, responding, engaging and then moving on.
Only you can define “reasonable” and that’s going to be based on some combination of your actual availability, the activity in your communities and the current tasks on your list.
Instead of worrying about what that limit is, pick something, say one hour daily. Stick to it for a week or two and then adjust as necessary.
If you have a time limit and stick to it, you can stop worrying that you forgot to check in on your accounts today. You can stop beating yourself over the head for letting it suck up your whole morning. And you can deal with it as another marketing task.
You may discover that you simply can’t individually thank each and every person who retweets something you said. You may also find that you were spending way too much time chatting with people on Facebook and neglecting other tasks.
Being aware of the time you spend – and capping it – will go a long way to keeping you focused and being more productive.
Have A Curating Plan
I don’t know anyone who can churn out original content constantly, but that doesn’t mean our social streams need to be silent otherwise. There’s plenty of content to be curated, from photos and graphics to blog posts and news stories.
But you also can’t do this haphazardly. If you set out this morning with your one-hour of social media time blocked off and start randomly browsing the internet for interesting things to share, I promise you will miss dinner tonight, and maybe even tomorrow night, too.
You need to organize your curating plan the same way you organize your content creation, and that’s by knowing what type of content you’re looking for and where it will be coming from.
As I said earlier, I have an RSS feed that I use. It’s a collection of thousands of sources that have proven good for finding good stuff to share. I can’t read them all on any given day, but they’re available. At no point do I simply open up Google and wonder what I should be looking for.
I have a series of Google alerts set up with keywords that are relevant to my audience, and I glean from those.
I also use an app called Instapaper so I can bookmark anything I do randomly stumble across, which syncs from my phone to my desktop browser and saves it all for later.
Whether you use an app, a Twitter list, a bookmark folder or some other method, you should have a collection of sources that you can rely on. Add as you find more.
I saved this for last because it can be one of your biggest time-savers. Instead of coming up with unique original content each and every time, try working with a theme.
For instance, a pet supply store may want to share photos with its audience. But that’s a pretty broad topic and can leave you wracking your brain for good ideas. But this can be simplified by creating a theme around “dogs with Frisbees” or “guilty dogs” appended with funny captions.
A car wash may want to settle on a theme for sharing fun bumper sticker quotes.
A landscaper may want to snap photos of uniquely shaped rocks (and maybe challenge his audience to tell him what they “see” in the shapes – Facebook contest anyone?)
Those are quick ideas that I literally shot off the top of my head in ten seconds. With a bit of thought, you can create themes around your business that would be fun, meaningful and relevant for your audience so that next time you go into “create content” mode, you can choose a theme and have a piece of the hard work already done for you.
Oh, and still have time for dinner, at an actual table!
I bet if you combined a few or maybe even all of these ideas and incorporated them into your social strategy, you’d find yourself with a whole lot less guesswork and whole lot more time.
Do any of these strike you as something you can try immediately? Do you have any questions about how to make them work for your business? Let me know!