After setting the right business goals (Step 1) that you want to achieve from social media and identifying your “Ideal Customer” (Step 2), now it’s time to see which toys we’re going to be playing with (No, not really!).
Social media marketing is mandatory in today’s business environment, that’s a given. It’s not a fit-for-all solution or a magic pill that will cure all of your business diseases, but it can literally transform your business and move it to higher levels that you could have never achieved without it.
The next logical step that goes after defining goals and identifying your typical customer is choosing the right social platforms and tools for your business. This step will help you get the most out of your social media marketing investment so you don’t waste your resources on platforms and tools that have no real ROI for your business.
Should You Go For The Whole Package?
Many business owners think that they should go for the whole package and use every possible social platform that they stumble on. They justify this by saying that the more platforms they will use, the more people they’re going to reach and the more business their companies will generate.
What many don’t realize is that each platform has its own audience. In a previous post called “top social networking sites”, I explained every popular social platform and what type of audience use each the most. Also, check out “3 tips to help you choose the best social networking sites for your business” for more information about how to choose social platforms that will help your business move forward.
The biggest mistake that you can make is setting up a profile on each popular social platform. If you do so, then after a while, you’ll realize that you’re allocating lots of resources in areas that will generate very few to no benefits for your business. The wise decision will be implementing all of your previous findings to determine the priority of each social platform to your business. If you see that your audience spend time on Facebook and Twitter, then that’s the place to start from. If you discover that your customers are females and you happen to operate in the home decoration industry, then Pinterest will be mandatory. If you’re a B2B business who your ideal customers are companies’ decision makers, then LinkedIn is the way to go…etc
So Should You Only use One Medium?
Although focusing on only one platform could have a great return on your investment, you’ll actually be missing a lot of opportunity to communicate with your audience via other channels that they might use as well.
Let’s say that you already have a good Facebook fanbase. You can leverage it to build following on other platforms that your audience are using as well. Some of your audience use email a lot, so it would be wise to start an email newsletter as well. Others might prefer to consume content as videos or podcasts, so you might want to use Youtube and iTunes…etc
Do You Need to Create a Different Content For Each Platform?
If you provide exactly the same thing on all the platforms you’re using, then why would someone subscribe to all of them?
If you want people to remain subscribed to most of your channels, then you need to uniquely provide your content in a way that suits each platform.
Notice that I didn’t say that you need to create a unique content for each platform.
I said that you should repurpose the same content you’ve already created to suit each platform.
Let say that you’ve written a blog post; the next move is to create a podcast and a video that explains the best tips that your post discusses (if it’s applicable). You can also email your email subscribers and tell them that you’ve published a new post. From that post, you can create an infographic and publish it on Pinterest…etc.
You see! The opportunities are endless when it comes to communicating with your audience. You don’t actually have to do all of these, but if you repurpose your content frequently, then you’re going to build a loyal following on multiple platforms! I’ve seen many people repurpose their blog content into a video or podcast series, and it ended up doubling their traffic and increasing their following on each platform they’re using.
The Benefit Of Using Multiple Platforms To Communicate With Your Audience
1- You Will Reach More People
It’s true that Facebook has a billion user as I write this, but that’s not a reason to throw all the other platforms and work only on Facebook. I personally like to consume content in different formats and there are many people I follow on multiple platforms because of that. If Facebook has most of the people you want to target, that doesn’t mean that they will subscribe (like your page) to receive your content on Facebook. They might like to receive your blog updates via email. Your interviews via iTunes or Youtube. Your graphical content via Facebook or Pinterest. Your tips and news via Twitter…etc! You got the point.
If you’re only using Facebook to market your business and you see that many of your potential customers are spending time on LinkedIn, then it might be a good idea to start working on your LinkedIn marketing, especially if the return will justify the investment. This way, you’ll communicate with people via multiple platforms, and you make sure you reach many other people that you might have never reached with Facebook alone.
2- What If They Decide To Shut You Down?
As a business owner, I like to plan for the worst (not that I’m pessimist or anything). What if for some mysterious reasons Facebook decides to shut down your page?
Remember when marketers tell you those horrifying stories of how some blogs that were hosted on third party platforms got wiped out without any warning. WOO!
I’ve witnessed many cases of people starting a blog on platforms such as Blogger or WordPress.com and growing it to the full-time income mark and then losing them without any prior notice.
The same thing applies to social platform. I’m not saying that these people are evil or anything, but you might not be familiar with all the regulations and terms that each platform might impose (who reads terms of service anyway!).
Let’s say that you’ve started a Facebook contest and you didn’t use a third party application to host it. This is against Facebook’s terms, and they can shut you down easily.
What if Twitter decides that you’re involved in some sort of spam activity?
You’re going to lose all of your hard earned following over a simple mistake that you didn’t even know it’s a mistake. These platforms have millions of users, and they can’t email everyone who doesn’t play by the rules. They sometimes SIMPLY shut you down!
Your self-hosted blog is yours, your email list is yours, but your Facebook page, Twitter profile, Youtube channel isn’t. I’m not trying to scare you or anything, but caution can save your business.
If you build a following on multiple platforms, then you’ll be disaster proof, because if one of your channels goes off for some reason, you’ll use others to easily rebuild it, or otherwise you’ll start from scratch.
3- They Get Exposed To Your Content Multiple Times
You know what multiple exposures leads to in today’s web?
Yes you guessed that right! It leads to a SALE!
The more your content reaches your audience (not in an annoying way of course), the better positioning you’re going to achieve in your market. If you’re everywhere as some marketers would like to refer (and you can with today’s technology), people will perceive you as an industry leader and start treating you that way.
How To Determine Which Platforms To Use?
Now that you understand the implications of using multiple platforms to market your business, let’s see how we can choose the best social networks that will work best for your business:
1- Use Data Collected Previously
If you’ve done the second step of identifying your ideal customer properly, then now you should have relevant data that will help you determine what platforms to use. The first rule of thumb is to use the platform that most of your potential customers are using. If you find out (from your segmentation) that your audience are females who are aged between 25 and 35, then Pinterest must be the first platform that you should invest into, especially if your company offers some visual products. If you find out that your audience is tech savvy people who like to geek around, then Twitter must be in your arsenal. For people wondering about where Facebook is located in the whole equation, I should point out that since Facebook is the biggest social platform right now, it’s logical to use it no matter what market you’re operating in, because almost everybody is on Facebook (LITERALLY!).
Customer segmentation isn’t actually the only place you can get useful information from to learn more about the social platforms that you should be using. You can make use of the information mentioned on the first step (defining goals) to decide on which platform will best work towards achieving your business goals. If you’re looking for brand awareness, then Facebook is the way to go. If you’re looking for customer service, then Twitter must be used. If you’re a company offering physical products, then Pinterest is great for generating direct sales (it’s also good for ranking your webpages higher in the search engine “if they keep the DoFollow tag”). If you’re looking for traffic and lead generation, then a blog is mandatory to achieve that. Anyway, no matter what business goal you want to achieve from social media, there will be a suitable platform to support it. You should put in mind that you should focus on your main platform and make use of other complementary networks to amplify your messages and reach another segment of your audience that you could have never found elsewhere.
2- The Amount Of Resources Available
This plays a major role when you’re considering starting out with social media. They may tell you that social platforms are free to use, but if you want to make the best out of them, you need to allocate resources for each platform, and believe it or not, each one requires different sets of resources. If you have the budget to hire a professional social media marketer who will take care of every social channel that you want to communicate through, then go for it. However, if you’re on a limited budget, then you might consider starting with platforms that doesn’t require a lot of resources until you have the budget for it. Things will move slowly this way, but it’s better than waiting while your competitors are crushing it via social media.
When I talk about resources, I don’t only mean MONEY obviously! But I also mean time, effort and people. If you have money, then you don’t have to spend any time or effort into social media marketing as you’ll be hiring a professional marketer who can handle most of the tasks for you. This way you’re trading your valuable time and effort with money. If you don’t have money on the other hand, then it’ll be necessary to do most of the work yourself. This will save you money, but it’ll cost you time and effort that might be more valuable if you invest them in other areas of your business.
So What’s Next
Now that you’ve determined which social networks to use, it’s time to choose the tools that will work best for these social networks you’ve chosen as well as for the business goals you’ve outlined.
There are probably thousands of social media tools that each can accomplish a different task for your business. I’ve been able to group all of these tools into 6 main categories:
1- Audience Building
These tools accomplish one specific goal, which is building a targeted audience across all of our social profiles. I should tell you that you should stay away from any tools/service providers that promise you to build a gazillion of fan and followers over night, because that will be a waste of your resources. What you can do instead, is to invest in legit tools that help you build your audience organically. Most of these tools are free, but even the paid ones won’t cost you a fortune and they’ll be worth every penny you put in them. While there are hundreds of tools that can accomplish such a task, here are some of the ones that will help you build an audience online:
There are many tools out there that will help you acquire new targeted followers on Twitter. One of them is the Twitter directory called Twellow.com. This directory will help you search for targeted users by keywords. They also offer a wonderful feature for local businesses called Twellowhood which allows you to follow people who live near your business.
You can also use the Twitter search feature to search for profiles that have tweeted about a keyword you’re interested in. If your business is organic food, you can search for this keyword and start following people who have mentioned this keyword in their tweets.
If you’re looking for a more automated way, a great software that can help you build a following on Twitter is called TweedAdder (Affiliate link). This software can automate almost every aspect of your Twitter marketing, but if not used correctly, your business could easily be associated with spam. Automation always has its cost, so you should think twice before you decide to use any automated feature. Your interaction is always recommended even if you’re using an automated software, because if you don’t interact, you’ll be missing the whole point of social media!
Another great option that Twitter has recently introduced is advertising. You can now use their advertising platform to build a highly targeted audience. This will surely cost you some money, but I believe it’ll be worthwhile the investment.
Facebook is a little different in nature from Twitter. While following targeted users on Twitter is usually more than enough to build you a great audience (as many of them will follow you back), this won’t happen on Facebook. I believe that Facebook makes it clear that if you want to build an audience, then you either create highly valuable content, leverage other following you might have on other platforms or use their ADVERTISING PLATFORM!
I believe that Facebook advertising is the cheapest, easiest and fastest way to get highly targeted fans on your Facebook page. I know that most small businesses struggle to get what I call the initial spark (following) to start seeing measurable results on Facebook, and that’s why I advise you to use Facebook advertising for fan acquisition just to build that initial following while you keep engaging them with your posts if you want them to keep seeing your updates. Once you have some following, it’ll become easier to amplify your message and acquire new following.
There are other tools that you can use on Facebook to build your audience fast. Some of these are contest related apps that you can use effectively to acquire and engage new fans really fast. A popular and very effective app that many people use is called “The Wildfire App”. Using contests to increase engagement and build your audience is very effective, but only if done correctly. If you don’t plan it and target it for the right people (like giving away general things like iPhones and iPads), you could end up with giveaway seekers/opportunists that might not be interested in your business at all.
For Your Blog
Many people still think that blogs aren’t parts of the social web. Who makes this assumption will never be able to harness the true power of blogging. Blogs are the central hubs for most successful businesses. The great thing about them is that they can get you targeted traffic that you can convert after into leads or sales.
There is a variety of blog plugins, especially on WordPress.org that can help your content attract more traffic. Most of these plugins are made for SEO. You can use them to improve your On-Page SEO, so search engines like Google can index your content and rank it according to many other Off-Page factors. There are also many tools that identify link-building opportunities that you can take advantage of to acquire high quality links that will end up moving your pages on the search engine result pages. While these tools are SEO related, they can help you get traffic as search engines are still the number 1 traffic referrer on the web. When you have traffic, you can make use of it to convert it into fans, followers, email subscribers…etc.
You Get What You Pay For!
Many business owners still don’t realize this, but there aren’t shortcuts in building a solid-based business. You can either build a following by investing in your time and effort through building an audience organically, or invest your money into advertising. Either ways, you’re paying for it. The same thing applies to tools. There isn’t a single tool that can build you big targeted following over-night. All of them require time, effort and some money in order for them to take a positive effect towards your business. So don’t be fooled by false claims.
Important Note: I know that I emphasized on this so much, but no matter what happens, don’t get involved with service providers who promise you thousands of followers for a few bucks. You WILL regret it!
What About Other Platforms?
The same principle applies to other social platforms like: Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, Youtube…etc. If you want to build your audience there, you need to provide high quality content that people will want to share on the web. This way, people will circle you, pin your content, subscribe to your Youtube channel and connect with you on LinkedIn. Once momentum gets built, you’ll notice that your audience will be growing organically without your direct interference.
2- Content Production
You probably heard this before, but content is the fuel of social media marketing!
If you’re not willing to provide high quality content that people want to read and share, then social media will never work for your business.
Content production tools include platforms such WordPress for your blog. A text editing software like Microsoft Word, a video camera if you’re providing video content, a high quality microphone if you’re doing podcasts, a screen recording software to do video tutorials like (ScreenFlow on Mac and Camtasia on Windows)…etc. Depending on the content type you want to produce, these tools will help you create great content so you can promote it later on the social web.
3- Integration Tools
These tools are mainly used to integrate all of your social channels together. They include social sharing plugins that enhance the shareability of your content. They include apps that you can use on Facebook to display other social networks’ content. They include plugins that help you post your content to your social profiles automatically…etc.
On my blog, I use a variety of social sharing plugins like: Digg Digg by Bufferapp. Shareaholic, Twitter tools…etc. There are also many useful tools provided by social platform that you can use on your website to enhance its social sharing functionality like Twitter follow buttons, Facebook like boxes…etc.
4- Social Media Management Tools
These tools will surely make your life easier. A tool that I personally use and appreciate too much is Hootsuite. This tools will help you schedule tweets on times you specify or use their great autoscheduling feature. The great thing about it is that it aligns all of your streams side by side so you can see everything without having to click to other pages. You can interact, reply, thank, delete spam, find great content, make lists all in one tab without having to switch back and forth for each stream you want to use.
Another great tool I use is called Crowdbooster. This wonderful tool will help you find and reward people who retweet your content the most. It’ll also help you identify the top influencers who are following you so you can reach out to them. It also tells you how many people your tweets or other people retweets have reached so you can determine which person has contributed to your content the most among many other wonderful features.
I used many other tools before, but these are the ones that I use the most. There are also many other paid solutions that are all-in-one tools. They have a dashboard for almost every single task you want to accomplish via social media so you don’t have to use multiple tools. As I said before, there are literally thousands of tools, so you better see which one suits you and your budget the most.
5- Listening And Monitoring Tools
These are very important since you need to monitor what’s being said about your brand across the social web. This way, you stay ahead of every discussion that mentions your brand so you can respond accordingly. The most popular tools (which is FREE) in this category is SocialMention. This wonderful tool can pick anything on the web that discusses your brand name and display it to you with great metrics like: strength, reach, sentiment, passion, top keywords associated, top sources and top users who talked about your brand. The great thing is that you can also set either an rss feed or email alerts to receive these mentions.
I also use another great free tool which is Google alerts. I setup an alert for my brand words and receive them via Google reader. This way I’ll make sure I reward any person who said good things about my brand or address any issue or complaint that people might have with my brand.
6- Tracking And Reporting (Analytics)
I see many businesses miss on the opportunity to use some of the tracking and reporting platforms/tools to improve their engagement, traffic, leads and eventually sales. Besides the analytics dashboards that some social platforms like Facebook offers, there are many other great tools that have better capabilities and additional features.
One of the tools that I’m sure many of you are already using is Google Analytics. This wonderful “FREE” tool has all the tracking and reporting functionality that a small business needs. Since your website/blog is your central hub, it’ll be more than necessary to track the traffic coming in from various sources of the web. It also offers behavior analytics so you can determine what people do exactly after they land on your website. With this tool ,you can determine what’s your best traffic referrer so you can see what works and do more of it. Books can be literally written about this tools alone, so I’ll leave you to explore its capabilities.
A great FREE tool that I personally use is a URL shortener called Bitly. This tool will help you track the number of clicks that each of your shortened links has got so you can determine which one of them performed better. This data will help you determine which copy works better, what time got the most clicks…etc.
Other great tools that you can use are PageLever (Facebook analytics), Radian6, Alterian, Lithium….etc. Klout also offers a great platform for measuring your influence as well as your influencers, top keywords you’re using to influence people, people who you influence the most…etc.
These were the cornerstones that you can rely on to determine which social networks and tools will work best for your business. When you determine which social networks your business will be using, now it’s time to allocating budget for social media marketing, which is the next step towards designing the perfect social media marketing strategy for your business. Stay tuned. Subscribe Bellow!
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