Recently a small business owner asked me if they should be participating on social networks and whether or not he should be on all of them. My response was yes, no and maybe. I waited for his puzzled look to settle in before I began to explain. Before you engage the public on social networks you really should have a goal, a plan and be comfortable with being publicly held accountable for your business.
Social Media Goals
Before a small business or any business for that matter embarks on a social media journey they should have some goals established and documented. You have to know where you want to go so you can make sure that you end up getting to where you want to be. If you begin tweeting, facebooking, or +ing just because your competitor is doing it you may end up getting to someplace you really don’t want to be. Goal setting can be tough but ask any successful businessperson one of the keys to their success and you will probably hear something about goal setting.
Social Media goals are not the same for everybody and there is not a one size fits all approach even in the same verticals. You have to decide what is right for you and your business and how much of a commitment you can actually make to your social media plan. You also have to be prepared to learn and change as the social media landscape changes rapidly.
Only you can decide what your goals are for your social media campaign. While setting your goals keep in mind that if you are going to be producing the social media content your own style and personality will be reflected in the content. Also, you need to decide upfront what level of separation between your personal and business life you want to try to maintain. I say try, because they will inevitably spread into each other.
Some of the goals you may consider are the number of followers or likes ect. you want to attain. Keep in mind if your customers have to physically come to you to conduct business make sure you build your connections full of local people. If you sell coffee in Tyler, TX a follower in Cleveland, Ohio is not that valuable to you unless they travel to Tyler often. Another goal you may consider is driving more traffic to your website or conversion pages. Whatever you set your goals at be sure to track your progress and don’t be afraid to make adjustments where it makes sense.
Social Media Plan
Sometimes the toughest thing for us to do is to create a plan. A successful social media marketing campaign needs a plan to help you achieve your goals that we mentioned above. Your plan has to be sustainable and you have to be committed to seeing it through. Your plan should contain the processes and assets that you will need to successfully conduct and monitor your campaign.
You must decide if you are going to outsource your social media campaign, do it in house or even do it yourself. If you decide to run your campaign in house make sure that you have the staff you can trust with your brand. One tweet or one status update can do major damage to your brand. If you decide to outsource your social media campaign make sure you research the social media firms you are considering and talk to their current clients. Before you sign any contracts with a firm make sure you understand all the terms of the agreement and the services they will be providing. Do not tie yourself up into a long term contract with a marketing firm.
Whoever is managing your social media campaign needs a clear understanding of your customer profile. If they don’t know what your average customer looks like how can they market to and attract customers that will actually convert for your business? Of course knowing your customer demographics is key to any marketing plan no matter what platform your are advertising on.
Now that you have decided who is going to run your social media campaign and what your typical customer profile looks like you can decide where those customers are hanging out online. You need to focus your social media efforts on the social media platforms your customers are on. For example if your business offers products and services for business owners and managers LinkedIn can be a great place for you to focus your efforts. You may find that you need to be active on all of the major social media networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Youtube, Foursquare or Google Plus for example.
Comfortable with Transparency
One of the biggest frustrations for business owners with social media is that they cannot completely control their branding online. Social media allows anyone with a social media account or blog to share with the world what they think of your brand, product or service. Also, if you decide to engage with the public on social media or a company blog you are opening yourself up to the negative as well as the positive.
You must be able to handle negative postings and opinions in a way that helps to positions you as a business that listens, learns and works to do what is right. If your first response to negative postings by consumers is to get defensive and lash out at consumers then you have no business participating in social media. When you or your business make a mistake you have to own the mistake and communicate the changes you are making to improve. Remember to acknowledge, apologize and express your efforts to correct the situation or improve your product or service.
At some point you will have to deal with negative postings and the way you handle them can make or break your business. Social media gives you an unprecedented opportunity to engage and interact with your current customers and prospective customers. The way you handle this new media will determine your success or failure.
Before you enter into a social media campaign get all of your ducks in a row. Determine you goals based on your ideal customer demographics. Develop your action plan based on whether you are outsourcing, running your campaign with an in house team or doing it all yourself. Be prepared to engage your customers when they engage on social media no matter if the engagement is positive or negative.Joey