Social media is huge. We all know it. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linked In and the rest are now a part of everyday life for so many people that is has become impossible for small businesses to ignore. Whether you are a bricks and mortar or online business, having a social media presence is now an important element in business communication offering ever more sophisticated opportunities to engage with the massive online community.
On June 27th, 2017, Facebook announced their community had reached 2 billion people; Instagram boasts 700 million users and YouTube states some 1 billion monthly visitors. WhatsApp and Messenger both state 1.2 billion users per month. These are figures you cannot afford to ignore. Whilst some companies rely entirely on social media to deliver their message, others recognise its value as part of a wider marketing strategy.
So just how do you go about harnessing all this opportunity? You need a plan; a social media strategy designed to engage and grow your audience, maintain your business integrity and build your good reputation among your target audience. Here is our guide to a successful social strategy.
Know your audience
Firstly, think about your intended audience – who are they and what sort of things are they going to be interested in. It may seem obvious but if you are selling diamante browbands there is little point engaging with the horseracing fraternity! Understanding your target audience and their online and social media behaviour will help you to target your social media activities more appropriately.
Where are you now?
Carry out a thorough audit of your current social media accounts to see how they are performing. Decide which social media platforms are the most appropriate for your business – Instagram works well for those wanting a strong visual impact, Facebook is more conversational and is good for targeted advertising, Twitter is immediate and great for responding in real time and Linked In is known as a more professional network. Consider Google+ as content featured here is favoured by the Google search engines, so this can be an important platform for building SEO, page ratings and increasing visibility. Don’t forget YouTube for hosting and sharing your videos. Decide how many social media platforms you can realistically manage – it is time consuming to do it properly and so it is better to have a few platforms and working well, than have too many that sit there doing nothing. Now is the time to create new accounts or give your existing profiles a face lift. Make sure that your profiles are filled out as fully as possible and use relevant key words as this will dramatically improve your SEO.
Company Social Media Policy
Whether you are managing the social media yourself, or if you are going to entrust it to someone else, you should have a company social media policy. This is a set of guidelines beyond which your admin should not stray and they are intended to protect your brand and company reputation from inappropriate use of social media by those entrusted with the responsibility of posting on behalf of your business. Having said that, the social media arena is a place for interaction and communication – you do not want to stifle creativity, just channel it appropriately for your business.
Set your goals and objectives
It is important to be able to assess whether your social media plan is working, and to do this you need to set your objectives for each social network. SMART goals should, by definititon, be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. To formulate an engagement strategy, firstly it is important to clearly identify the purpose of each network and the business goal that it will address. Every post, like, share, reply and comment should guided by these goals.
Identify which metrics you will use for measuring success. It is important to go beyond counting the number of likes, shares and reach, known as vanity metrics, and to look at lead generation, web traffic and conversions. There are numerous analytics tools available and most networks have some form of built in insights to performance.
Time and resources are valuable and to manage your social media efficiently you will need to use minimum resources to achieve maximum reach. Having decided which networks you are going to use and identified a purpose for each network and how it will achieve your business goals, you can then start to gather inspiration for your content. Customers, employees, riders, trainers and industry organisations can all be a source of good content and keeping up with what is happening out there is an important part of managing your social media. ‘Social listening’ will help you read the ‘mood’ of your audience and understand how people feel about your company or brand. This can give you valuable insights in real time, helping you identify opportunities in the market and recognise strategic success or failure. A huge spike in engagement can be good news, but not if they are all complaints.
Create a content calendar
A content marketing plan and calendar will help you manage your posts and keep your message on track. Decide what type of content you are going to post, whether it is an image, video or link, how often and how you will promote it. A spreadsheet is a valuable management tool to keep track of what you will post on each network and helps to avoid the trap of sharing the same content across multiple networks, which could be regarded as spam. Content for each network needs to address its specific purpose, and so a video on one channel, an info graphic on another, a blog post and images can draw your story together across the various networks in different ways. Pay attention to the times your audience are most active, and post accordingly. You can be spontaneous with replies, shares and likes, leaving you more time to focus on creating quality content for your posts.
How Often Should You Post?
When it comes to deciding how frequently to post, it is important to remember that social media is just that – it’s SOCIAL! Your audience will quickly disappear if every post is a commercial, and there are various rules that you can apply to ensure that you get the balance right. The 4:2:1 ratio is 4 likes/shares/comments, 2 inform/educate/entertain posts and 1 brand promotion. Alternatively, there is the 80:20 rule – 80% of your posts should inform, educate or entertain while 20% can be brand promotion. Whichever rule you use, even if you invent your own, your content should always be relevant and interesting – it is better not to post at all than to drive your audience away with boring, tedious or repetitive content.
Analyse and adjust
Nothing is set in stone in the ever-evolving social media landscape, and so it is important to analyse and adjust your plan regularly. Identify the things that worked well and do more of them. Recognise the things that flopped – and don’t do it again!
So it really it is as simple as that!! I, however, that all sounds like a minefield but you still want to make the most of your social media presence, then give us a call to discuss our social media management package. We’re happy to take the strain and manage your social media activity, leaving you free to manage your business.