Some businesses leap on to LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or Blogger (other blogging platforms are available) etc. without really knowing why, or what they expect to achieve. Without a clear plan, including outcomes that they want to achieve for the business, the most likely result is they'll get disheartened and decide that 'social media doesn't work for them'.
If your business hasn't taken the plunge yet, but is on the brink of diving into the social media sea for the first time, I'd suggest you work through these five steps:
1. Think about your ideal customers. Which social platforms will they be on? What do they want and need that you can supply? What type of content will appeal to them most?
2. Be realistic about how much time you can spend each week on your social media presence. Who will create the content and manage the updates? Are you going to outsource some or all of the work?
3. Research the social media platforms that you think are a good fit for your business. For example, if your business involves appealing images - food, fashion, pets, interior decor, crafts - you may want to explore what Pinterest could do for you. What are your competitors doing? Spend time browsing social media. Look for the posts and pictures that are being shared and see if that inspires ideas for the type of content that you could create for your business.
4. Create a content plan that focuses on articles, posts, images and videos that your target audience will like, share, be inspired and entertained by and not just what you want to promote. Create detailed personas for your ideal customers, their age, gender, location, interests and always have them in mind when you post.
4. Create a social media marketing plan, which can be just a single page when you are starting out. Set down why you want to be on social media (your overarching objectives), which could be raising awareness of your business; establishing yourself as an expert in your field; generating new leads and sales; building customer loyalty. Decide what success would look like for you/your business and set some targets you can measure, such as new sign-ups to your newsletter, direct sales (of course), enquiries, click-throughs to your website and perhaps downloads of a free factsheet you offer.
5. It's called SOCIAL media for a reason. When you are up and running keep watching, listening and responding. Congratulate others on their success, be generous with free advice and look to connect people that you know could do business together. The etiquette of social media marketing is a lot like face-to-face business networking. And finally, don't post or re-post anything that you wouldn't be happy to see on a giant billboard in your town or city.