If yes, then that will probably be the best decision that your business needs to survive in today’s environment.
You’re convinced that social media should be a vital part of your business marketing plan, but you don’t really know where, when and how to start. You can hire an expert to help you draw an effective social media marketing strategy for your business, but what if you couldn’t afford one?
Expert strategists and consultants charge a lot of money to design a custom social media marketing plan for your business. I definitely advise you to hire one if you can afford it, because the return on your investment will be magnificent. However, if you’re a small business owner who’s just starting out, then you definitely need to know how to design the perfect social media marketing strategy for your business.
Note: This also applies to social media service providers who design strategies for their clients.
This series of posts will walk you step-by-step throughout the process of designing a perfect plan for your business. It’s true that each business needs a custom plan, but the principals remain always the same. After understanding the core principals of an effective social media marketing plan, then you can easily project that to your own business and apply the steps mentioned in this post to start getting real results from social media. Many of the strategies I’ve seen on the web work only for specific businesses and in specific markets and that’s why many small business owners are struggling to make social media work for their businesses. For that particular reason, I made sure that every step in this series of posts is applicable to every business in every market.
Defining Your Goals from Social Media
When I say that the first thing you should do in your social media marketing strategy is defining your social media goals, I don’t mean that you should focus all of your attention to counting fans and followers while the most important thing is focusing on your overall business goals. Remember, social media tools are only middlemen to help you achieve your business goals. If you’re not setting your business goals from the beginning, then you’re dooming yourself to fail from the beginning.
It’s true that setting expectation when it comes to social media marketing will help you track your business growth, but unless these efforts are converting to real ROI (whether short or long term), numbers won’t really matter. Defining the right goals will make the rest of the strategy easier to create and implement.
So What do you Want to Achieve from Social Media?
It’s true that the ultimate goal is to eventually make money out of social media. However, social media could be used in many ways to achieve the same goal (which is making more money). While most small businesses use social media for the sole reason of driving traffic to their websites so they can convert it into sales, larger companies care more about brand awareness than making a quick buck.
According to Jason Falls, CEO of SocialMediaExplorer.com on an interview on Entrepreneur.com, there are 7 distinct business goals that you can achieve from social media. These goals go from increasing brand awareness and improving your customer service to facilitating research and driving more leads and sales to your business. Business owners use social media in different ways and for different purposes, and that’s why you should define your goals first before you proceed with social media, because if you don’t, then all the effort and money you’re going to be spending will be meaningless.
Depending on your business goal from social media, the rest of the strategy will go accordingly. If you set your goals right from the beginning, then the rest of the strategy will be more focused and targeted toward that specific goal. If you’re not sure about your goal yet, then you should think of what your business needs the most. If you’re just starting out, then you’re probably looking for attention and traffic to your products and services. If you’re already an established business, then you can use social media for customer service, or just to let people know why your brand is so special…etc
In a previous post called what is your ultimate social media goal, I outlined why business owners shouldn’t focus only on numbers. I’m not obviously saying that the numbers of your fanbase and Twitter followers aren’t important, I’m just saying that unless you have good numbers of targeted people who are interested in what you’re saying, then all the numbers in the world won’t make a difference in your business.
So let’s go and discuss each of Jason Falls goals in detail
1- Enhancing Brand Awareness
This goal is for both small and large companies. While big companies are usually the best candidates for this goal, small startups also need attention and awareness of their brand. You can use social platforms to let people know of your brand and hopefully follow it. Brand awareness isn’t a short term goal and it definitely doesn’t have an instant ROI. It’s the accumulative actions that you take every day toward letting people know of why your brand is so special and why they should care that will make a difference in your business in the long run. Business owners looking to achieve this goal don’t usually use direct selling techniques on their social platforms because they’re not really appropriate for this type of goals. Their updates provide great value and always try to teach people something about their brand.
2- Protecting Your Reputation
One of the best uses of social media is to monitor and manage your reputation. Today’s web environment is way different from what it was few years ago. I’m sure you’ve heard many stories of how one simple tweet from an angry customer got viral and ruined the reputation of even the biggest brands. No one is immune to this, and that’s why you need to protect your brand if you want your business to survive. Social media is like a giant amplifier, and you surely don’t want to say or do the wrong thing.
A great way to protecting your reputation is having what we call “Brand Advocates”. These people are the ones that will spread the good word about your company and also defend you against any non-constructive negative feedback. These people are probably the ones you helped the most, and they feel responsible to defend your brand and say good things about you in case of crisis.
The biggest mistake that you can do in social media is to ignore negative feedback. I’ve seen many brands delete negative feedback or even pull a bad status in front of their fans’ eyes. Ignorance isn’t bliss here. If you try to ignore the signs, then your brand will SINK!
A good way to handle negative feedback is to have a strategy for it as well. Just put in mind that no matter how great your products or services are, there will always be complaints either legitimate or not. You should admit if you’ve committed something wrong and try to fix it ASAP. If you do that, then even the most angry customers will see your professionalism handling their issues, and they will be more than happy to recommend you to their following as well.
With all of today’s technology advancements, it became super easy to monitor your brand online. Tools like Google Alerts and Social Mention could notify you whenever a person talks about your brand. This way you make sure that you’re on top of every discussion that happens about your brand, which makes it super easy to join the conversation, amplify the message if it’s good or justify your brand and solve the problem if it’s a negative feedback.
3- Enhance Your PR
It’s already clear that companies who don’t make use of today’s social media won’t be able to survive against their competition. The matter here isn’t whether to use social platforms to market your business or not, it’s how you can make the best use of them to build and maintain an engaged audience.
Building good relationships with journalists and bloggers (influencers) is probably one of the most powerful forms of public relations. These people are probably responsible for a large percentage of any company’s reputation. If they are happy with your products and services and decide to endorse you, then that will impact the way the public looks at your brand. The key here is to be found online (through website, social platforms…etc), and build relationships with these influencers.
The best social platform to communicate with reporters and bloggers is probably Twitter. Unlike Facebook, people who are most active on Twitter are journalists, bloggers and tech savvy professionals. You can follow these people and start interacting with them providing useful content, retweeting their content, replying to them…etc. Twitter also has a very powerful feature that you can use to segment your followers. You can make use of Twitter lists to put influencers in your market in separate lists. This way, you can stay ahead of everything they’re talking about.
Facebook, LinkedIn, Youtube, Google + and blogs could also be very powerful platforms to communicate with the public as well as with influencers in your market. If you become a publisher, then you don’t have to rely much on other mediums to help you spread the word about your products and services, because now you are the one providing the content, and we all know that content providers rule in today’s world.
4- Extend Your Customer Service
It has been reported lately by Forbes that big companies aren’t using social media for customer service yet. Many companies use social platforms for the sole reason of marketing which I believe isn’t a suitable model for social media. Big companies like Zappos and Best Buy are making the best use of social media for customer service, and this has contributed immensely to the wonderful success stories you hear about them online.
The best social platform for customer service is probably Twitter. This microblogging platform could be easily used to receive customers’ issues and complaints and fix them. Seeing its instant real time nature, it can help you address all of your customers’ problems in a timely manner (customers love instant replies). If you don’t want your stream to be messy, you can make use of the DM feature to communicate with customers who have issues and let them know that you’ve sent them a DM (in case their inbox is overwhelming to scan through).
With the introduction of direct messaging in Facebook’s new timeline design, this platform has also begun to be used for customer service. Because most people are on Facebook already, you can receive complaints through your Facebook page and reply accordingly. If you don’t want to use your brand’s social profiles for customer service, then you can easily set a separate Twitter account and a Facebook page dedicated only for customer service. The key here is to provide the most professional experience to your customers so they can recommend you to their following and you get to acquire new customers just from doing proper customer service.
5- Build a Community of Advocates
As you know, we are all getting sick of all those conventional and annoying marketing practices. Social media has opened the door for serious businesses that really care about their customers to step up and excel online. The ones who used to profit from annoying people by constantly pushing their messages in front of their audience, won’t be able to do so in today’s web conditions.
What social media marketers mean by brand advocates is the group of people who is most active on your social profiles. They share content, recommend and defend your brand against any false claims. The great thing about brand advocates is that the more you have, the less money you’re going to spend on marketing because they’re already doing a lot of work on your behalf and most of all for FREE!
Brand advocates are like goldmines in social media. They need to be maintained and rewarded properly. These people are the ones who believe in your company the most, so acknowledging them will amplify their activity even more and that will lead of course in more exposure and sales for you. People today trust their friends and family’s recommendations, and seeing the viral effect of social media, a good recommendation from a well connected person, will lead to a substantial increase in awareness for your brand.
Let’s think about celebrities for a moment!
Celebrities rarely produce content online (unless it’s their movies, albums…etc). However, they’re mentioned all across the web without really doing anything. You know what’s responsible for that?
Yes, you guessed that right. The brand advocates (in this case it’s a personal brand) are responsible for creating content about their favorite celebrities, sharing it across social media and responding to it.
So make sure you find your brand advocates, engage them, entertain them and reward them and they’ll be more than happy to create interesting discussions about your brand and recommend you to their friends, family and following.
6- Facilitate Research and Development
One of the most powerful uses of social media and which you can make it a goal for your business if you’re just starting a company or creating a new product or service is market research. Companies used to spend lots of money so they can understand their market and create products that satisfy their market’s need. Today, social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter has allowed business owners to easily research their market, identify their main customers and create the perfect product for them.
Many business owners commit the mistake of starting with a product and then moving to look for people to sell it to. This is probably the worst business model that you can use mainly because understanding your market requires some time, effort and money. You could have a great product that you’ve created from your own perspective, but when you release it, you realize that it doesn’t really fill any gap in the market, and you end up wasting a lot of time, money and effort in creating a product that never sells.
You’ve probably heard this hundreds of times, but the reason for that is because it’s responsible for the creation of the most successful products out there. This thing is called “LISTENING”!
The more you listen, the more understanding you’re going to form about your customer’s needs. A great example of that is Brian Clark from copyblogger.com. He started with an idea, built a community and then created several products from the feedback he received from his audience. I like to call this the “No-Fail” way to creating a product that sells. You can easily conduct polls and ask specific questions about what your potential customers may need, and if you’re providing value, they’ll be more than happy to tell you exactly what they’re struggling with the most so you can create a product that end their frustration.
7- Drive Sales and Leads
This is probably the ultimate goal that every business owner wants to achieve from social media. Although social platforms aren’t suitable for hard selling, they can be used to soft sell your potential customers so they complete a transaction after repeatedly reading your messages. All the goals that I’ve mentioned above eventually lead to getting more leads and making more sales from social media.
Many business owners are still hesitant to going full on social media because they realize that followers need repetitive exposure to their messages before they decide to make a purchase. With face-to-face marketing, for example, they can complete a transaction in just one meeting. However, they are missing the big picture of social media. You can broadcast you message to thousands of your followers. It will take time before you can complete a sale, but the return on your investment will be justified with time. The other great thing about social media marketing is that your messages will be shared across the social web, and that gives you more exposure of your products and services. The more audience you’re going to build, the more traffic your products and services will attract and the more sales you’re going to make.
Social platforms can be a great source for collecting leads online. I personally use both Facebook and Twitter to get leads every day. Facebook also allows you to build custom tabs and gives you a unique URL to each one of them. You can direct people to these custom designed apps from external traffic sources to either build your fanbase or email list. The key here is to offer something really valuable to your email subscribers. Whether they’re valuable blog posts or a free ebook or podcast, if it solves a problem within your market, then people will be more than happy to give you their emails to solve that problem.
Are there other goals social media can be used for?
With the appearance of social platforms, Google felt obliged to incorporate social interaction in their algorithm. They knew that in order to maintain their search results relevant to their users, they had to add social signals to their formula. Because people interact with and share useful content, Google can spot high performing content and reward it with higher ranking in their SERPs.
Many SEO professionals incorporate social media marketing in their overall search engine marketing strategy. They know that if their content is present in social platforms, then Google will spot it and reward it. Even Google has realized the power of social, and that’s the reason behind them creating their own social platform Google +.
These were the most important goals that business owners can achieve from social media. After determining your business goals from social media, now you need to research your market and identify your ideal customer. Stay tuned for the next post in the series! Subscribe bellow.
Image Credit: lululemon athletic