Marketing is an important part of any business.
Having a unique idea and being able to provide a great product or service is only half of building a successful business; work is unlikely to flood in unless you tell somebody about what you can offer.
There are various ways you can market your business including networking, speaking (if you are confident enough), creating a website, registering on forums as well as leaflets and advertising. In our digital world, you may also want to consider using social media. Like any other form of marketing, social media marketing needs to be allocated a budget (time and/or money) as well as being planned in advance.
Here are my 7 steps to social media success.
1. Know your why
It is vital you know why you want to use social media marketing. The goals of each business will be different so your reasoning needs to be more detailed than ‘someone told me to’.
Are you a small business happy with your size? Do you just want to offer better customer service and get to know your clients and prospects really well? Or, do you want to grow your business, find more clients and offer a wider variety of services and products?
The answer to these questions is really important. If you want to stay as a small business, you need a small number of clients who like you and will refer others to you. You may well need to concentrate on relationship marketing – building deeper relationships with clients and business owners in your area. Use social media channels to find, connect and engage with your clients and prospects.
If, on the other hand, if you want to grow your client base or offer a larger range of services, you may want to use relationship marketing techniques individually, but as a business you consider content marketing – sharing useful information through status updates and blog posts which build your credibility, extend your influence and get your brand known.
Identify 5 aims for your social media marketing that are related to your overall business objectives and set actionable targets. For example:
- Build a personal network including another 20 local businesses in the next 12 months.
- Increase visits to your website by 20% in the next 6 months.
- Achieve 2 new clients from contacts made on social media in the next 12 months.
For each aim, identify the steps you need to take to achieve it. For example, to add another 20 local businesses to your network:
- Use LinkedIn to search for local businesses and find shared contacts.
- Approach shared contacts or businesses directly to connect.
- Regularly engage with the new connections to find shared areas of interest.
Ask yourself, what does your brand stand for?
What do people think about you and your business after they have met you face to face? Now what happens if they search online? Is your branding all over your website and social media? Do your company’s social media profiles reflect the person who stands in front of clients? When was the last time they were updated? What is the quality of your branding images on your profiles?
- Search for your business name on social media – and identify where you can be found. If you are a small business owner, search for your personal profile too.
- Review your current branding in terms of logo, cover photos and personal images.
- Employ photographers or graphic designers as required to make any improvements.
- If you have not updated a social network for a while – consider whether it should be removed (see my next tip).
- Check what social media links are on your website and remove any that you are not using regularly.
3. Choose the right social media channel
Some people say that you should use all the social media channels. I discuss 14 or 15 in my book – if you used all these channels, you would probably go bust! I would recommend you use a few social media channels really well, rather than lots of channels poorly.
The question is – which channels should you pick? The trick here is not to think about the channels you want to use, but consider your ideal audience – which channels will they want to use and why?
If your ideal client offers professional services, you may find LinkedIn works really well for you. Similarly if you want to connect with businesses in your area, building a network on LinkedIn opens access to an incredible database – far better than a telephone directory. If however, your ideal clients are tradespeople – plumbers, carpenters and the like, LinkedIn might not be the right place. The tradespeople might be on Facebook. You need to do some research to find out where your ideal audience can be found.
- Create a customer persona for each product or service you offer.
- What does your ideal customer look like (gender, age, industry sector, size of business). What social media channels do they use?
- Review the social media channels you have a presence on.
- Identify any mismatches and close the gap.
- Delete any channels you are not using well.
4. Engagement is important
Whichever social media platform you use, you don’t want to set up a profile and then do nothing. You also don’t want to use the platform to do nothing but talk. I’m sure you’ve all been to networking meetings when you meet someone who doesn’t stop talking! Make sure that you share and reply to what others are saying as well as create your own original content.
Consider rough percentages of 40% original content, 40% shared content and 20% engagement on social media. Engagement could be as simple as thanking somebody for following or sharing your content, or it could be replying or commenting on something somebody else has shared.
- Plan original content – in the form of videos, blog posts, status updates. Original content should add value, be entertaining or solve the need of your customer and not just be about yourself. Share your knowledge to help others.
- Identify sources of content you could share – share content from business partners, influencers or clients.
- Set time aside every day to engage with contacts on your chosen social media channels.
5. Use social media consistently
If you are going to use social media, then do it – every day or every week depending on the channel. Use tools available to schedule content – plan your content or what you are going to say ahead of time. Schedule diary time to engage with your contacts – and keep to it. Be consistent in the tone of voice you use on social media – it should be the same tone you use to talk to clients wherever you see them.
- Understand the tone of voice you want to use on social media
- Schedule time
- Plan content
What are you going to say on social media?
This is often one of the hardest things to identify. One way of thinking about content is considering that buyer persona that I have already mentioned. What content can you share with your potential buyer to help them with their work, solve any pain that they are experiencing with their business and build your own credibility? This may be as simple as education about the basics of your industry area. Remember you are not selling your services but offering help which builds your relationships and your credibility.
- Plan original content that you can share on channels for the next 3 months.
- Reuse content across channels – but not at the same time. Avoid putting the same message out on a variety of channels – each channel has its own language and its own audience. Use the same content but spread it across the channels at different times of the week.
- Use images – text updates in an image work well to present information.
- Ask your audience questions to drive engagement.
- Ask your audience what they want to know.
7. Measure your success
Marketing should be measured so that you know what is working and what isn’t working. Social media marketing works very well for some – less well for others, but unless you measure you are not going to know whether it is meeting your aims. Be realistic though, it can take 3 to 6 months to establish an audience and grow your social networks.
- Every month, measure the number of new contacts, amount of engagement received (shares, likes, follows and comments) and website visits.
- Identify any updates that receive particular engagement.
- Ask clients how they initially found you.
- Consider the use of advertising on the channels to spread your message further.
Social media is an important string to your marketing bow. The benefits of using social media marketing include:
- It is a cost effective method of representing your business 24/7.
- It allows you to communicate with a wide audience.
- It can drive traffic to your website.
- It gives you social proof – social media adds a human element to your business instilling trust following social interactions.
Remember to invest resource into your social media strategy to ensure you see a positive change.
Mary Thomas is Director of Concise, a digital marketing agency and training consultancy. Concise Digital offers social media management, digital marketing consultancy, e-newsletter production and management, Wordpress websites and digital media design services. Concise Training provides public workshops, bespoke face to face training (when safe), CPD accredited e-learning courses and City & Guilds distance learning digital marketing qualifications.