What happened over the last ten years? For me, it went from door-to-door salespeople and a mailbox full of advertisements to electronic overload. My gosh, my inbox fills up fast. My Facebook feed runs faster than I can run my fastest mile. My phone battery now dies quicker than ever before, and at times, I want to say to heck with it all and delete every one of my apps. But then, I remember I #like to be social.
You can’t avoid social media. Maybe you’re a person who fills up Instagram with more pictures than I can count, or someone who hasn’t updated their Facebook status in years. Whatever the case, being social in business is different than the randomness of your personal pages. There, you can post what you want, when you want, based on how you feel. Certain days get more of your attention than others. Your content is sporadic, based on your mood. But a business requires organization, content strategy, brand management and marketing focus. Not knowing what you’re doing and what you should be posting could be detrimental to building your business. No one wants to be stuck in the past and not letting your business be social on the WWW is, well, unsocial. So here are four areas to focus, strategize and implement if you want to have the impact you should with your social media efforts.
Do you know who your business is representing and what you want it to represent? If you’ve never done branding work before, you could be creating a horribly mixed and confused image of what your business is all about. Your brand is the felt experience you want your customers to have. They aren’t just buying your product or service, they’re buying your business: the experience it offers, the reputation behind the product and even the values your company promotes. You’re trying to create unconscious and conscious associations that make your customers feel you have what they want, at a price they desire. Making your business accessible in a way they expect will seal the deal.
When working on your social media strategy, ask yourself these questions:
- How do you want your clients to feel in every interaction with your business?
- What do you want your company to be known for?
Do you want your company to make people feel welcomed? Does the tweet you’re writing sound welcoming? Are you interacting with your customers in a way you want to be known for? You want every post you make to reflect your brand, and answering these questions will help you get to the core of what your company is all about.
Channels are the methods in which you deliver your message. There are a lot of ways to be social these days and it can get a bit overwhelming at what to choose. Facebook and Twitter are easily recognized as a way to market your business, but what about Instagram, LinkedIn and various blogs and review boards? You’ll want to think about your target market and their media-consuming habits. Someone interested in makeup will follow the beauty bloggers on YouTube or style-trends on Instagram. Does it make sense to post pictures of your office on Pinterest as a way to market your consulting firm? Not really. But LinkedIn is a great place for you to connect with people interested in your professional services, and for you to spread the word about what you do.
When picking your channels, ask yourself:
- What’s trending on this platform? Are the top posts similar to what I’ll be posting?
- Who is my target market (think: demographics, needs, wants, habits…)?
- Where would my target market go to find the information/product/service that I provide?
Once you commit to your channel selection, you need to commit to when you’re going to make posts, drop newsletters or upload images. Consistency is much more important than a bunch of updates one week and nothing the next. Generally, this is the hardest area for people to maintain. Why is consistency so hard? It takes dedication, loyalty and persistence. Don’t get me wrong, you will have good weeks and bad weeks, but the difference shouldn’t be that vast and you should land with more good weeks than bad. Make sense?
Here’s my secret to keeping up with those faster-than-fast tweets: A social media management program.
I use HootSuite, but you can use Crowdbooster, Buffer and even Bitly (yes, it does more than shorten links) to manage multiple social media accounts. They offer features like scheduling posts in advance, so you don’t have to spend all of your time working on social media. All of them have one thing in common: they’re a one-stop-shop for you to focus on your customers. You can use these types of programs with multiple users too, just make sure you’re properly delegating the work and responding to replies in a timely manner.
Being careful with content is just as vital as staying consistent with the timing of your postings. When publishing an update, don’t be random or you’ll risk setting up the wrong expectations for what your company does. Your strategy should, however, take in consideration things like the time of year, holiday’s, hot-talking points or societal trends and things that are new and happening in your industry. Designing and planning content strategy well in advance will help you front load content and get ahead of the curve. But again, you have to be careful. Really, really, careful.
For example: McDonald’s released an ad campaign about #McDStories, only to have hundreds of bad customer experience tweets sent to them instead. Kenneth Cole tried to hijack the trending #Cairo to promote their spring collection during Egypt’s revolution and was properly met with outrage. If McDonalds or Kenneth Cole had stopped to think about their customers' perceptions of them and the subject at hand, they might’ve avoided the social media firestorm that followed.
So, if I was to draw this out for you, you would see this cycle back up to brand. Avoiding mishaps and having a successful social media strategy comes down to how you represent your company, the values you want reflected in your work and your understanding of your brand. When the hard work is done, social media becomes an easy and fun part of your business. The return on investment is huge and one that keeps a marketing budget reasonable. #BCNU and don’t forget to have fun…#gday