You’ve put together profile pages on a few popular social media sites, made occasional posts, and responded when you were aware of activity. Isn’t that enough for a small business like yours?
Not according to a recent New York University study, which found that although more than half of consumers communicate with businesses via social media, only 8 percent are satisfied with those interactions.
To fill that gap, here are our top social media tips on creating and maintaining a social media strategy that’s a brand-building, rain-making machine for your business.
1) First, ask yourself some fundamental questions: Whose attention am I seeking with social media? What do I want them to do? Why am I investing time (and therefore money) in social media? Are there social-media platforms that speak to segments of my market?
2) To succeed, your social media engagement must be part and parcel of your overall sales and marketing approach. “Social media is the vehicle, not the strategy,” says Lisa Tilt, president of Full Tilt Consulting in Atlanta.
3) When choosing social media sites to extend your company brand, marketing and sales efforts, start small and be selective.
Match the demographics of your market to social platforms. Before you build a profile on yet another social site, make sure that you have the resources (people and time) to post consistently and respond speedily to all customer and prospect activity. Measure the effectiveness of your choices with social media analytics tools.
4) Early in the game, choose and use a social media management platform like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to coordinate all of your social accounts and RSS feeds from one screen, schedule posts, assign tasks to your employees, and so on.
5) “Having a handful of trusted employees that can help disseminate your company’s message will make implementation more manageable,” says Cheryl Foster, marketing manager for accounting firm Brown Smith Wallace in St. Louis.
Even if you don’t hire a dedicated social media officer, choose carefully who does this work. You’re looking for social-savvy, energetic folks who know your business, understand its messaging, and can write in the clear, friendly voice of your company, while never losing their cool. Not always so easy to find.
6) As social media expert David Meerman Scott recommends, use social media monitoring to track your company’s social-media presence all over the Web.
This will enable you to make sure customer activity isn’t going unanswered, that your social media communiqués are staying on message, and that any false or negative postings about your company receive a measured, prompt and positive response.
7) As Ann Handley recommends with social media marketing to go very light on selling and on small talk that’s not related to what your business has to offer. Instead, be helpful. Jerry Sullivan, owner of Framework Media Strategies in Fords, N.J, agrees. “The most successful messages are the ones that answer questions that you can anticipate from your customers,” says Sullivan.
8) But remember, as with any branding, marketing or selling effort, your social media activity must have the ultimate goal of gaining and retaining customers and increasing sales.“Too many companies just throw something up against the proverbial social media wall, hoping something will stick,” says Paul Kurnit, professor of marketing at Pace University’s Lubin School of Business in New York.
9) Integrate your social media marketing with your customer relationship management and sales systems. Don’t let your social media be an island. Don’t lose track of leads generated by social media, and don’t treat customer communications casually just because they arrive via these informal media.
10) Formulate a social media policy, however simple, and educate your employees on what the policy means to them.
11) Measure your social media results. Experiment with your marketing approach, your social offers, your choice of social platforms. Then measure again.
Your small company will make a sizable investment of time in social media, and you need to see a return, not just an accumulation of fans and followers of unknown value. “The biggest problem with small business social media marketing is wasting time,” says Bill Corbett, Jr., president of Corbett Public Relations in Floral Park, N.Y.
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