Social media is not longer an option for entrepreneurs and small businesses. It is a must. Just as having a website establishes credibility and provides information to potential clients, social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn do the same thing, as well as show you are in touch with the latest technology and coolest tools.
How does an already overwhelmed business owner add social media to their normal marketing and networking responsibilities without spending hours on the computer, and away from serving clients?
By being very smart and strategic. Here are nine steps to developing a social media plan that enhances your marketing efforts and creates a buzz for your business, without wasting time and energy.
1. Know who you are trying to reach and go where they are. Chances are your potential clients are on Facebook, but how do they use the site? Do they only play Farmville or catch up with family and friends? Or do they use Facebook as a business networking tool? Knowing which sites they use and how they use it will help you customize your posts and online efforts.
2. Be strategic about your posts and tweets. Nothing get you “unliked” or blocked faster than hard selling. Be mindful of the type of posts you write. You want to offer quality content over self-serving comments. Think about articles or information that will benefit your followers while showing you as an expert or leader in your field.
3. Add variety to your communications. Mix your posts between services, products, testimonials, client spotlights, solutions to a problem, questions or market research, quotes, interesting articles and videos, reposts or retweets, blog posts, personal comments, general company information and fun stuff.
4. Set goals and measure results. This is a tough one and something most businesses are not doing with their social media efforts. It is important to know what you want to accomplish and how you will determine success. Will you track the number of followers and “likes”? How about the number of retweets, mentions, comments, interactions or page suggestions? How will you know if your hard work is paying off?
5. Think about interaction and influence, not followers and fans. Would you rather have 500 fans/likes that never interact with you or 50 very active fans that love what you do and engage in your conversation? It is not all about the numbers, but about the level of interaction and engagement.
6. Allow your personality to show through. People want to work with people they know, like and trust, and social networking sites provide a great avenue to show your personality and core values. Don’t be afraid to get personal with your posts, just decide how much you want people to know, especially if you decide to talk politics or religion.
7. Integrate your key messages into your online presence. Just because you have 140 characters to get your point across does not mean you abandon your key messages and go off script. You must still speak in the same tone and with the same intent as you would in all of your offline marketing.
8. Be consistent and patient. Give yourself a few months before you decide to make changes. You may need to make a few tweaks before you see benefits. If you get frustrated, consider hiring a marketing or public relations expert to help you with your messaging and help integrate your marketing plan into your online presence.
9. Make the commitment to making social media a part of your workday. Create a schedule and stick to it. Ten minutes three times a day (morning, lunch, before leaving work) should be plenty of time to really make a huge impact online. Use third-party sites like Hootsuite and TweetDeck to help plan your posts in advance and keep personal time online to a minimum.
10. Bonus tip: HAVE FUN.
Taking a strategic approach to your social media will keep you from wasting time online while creating brand buzz and building strong relationships.