Taking the plunge: Social media strategy for small businesses

social mediaSocial media has firmly established itself as a cornerstone of commercial CRM and most of our clients now request social media symbols on their websites as standard. It seems the pressure is on for businesses to navigate this virtual maze, become social media savvy overnight and establish themselves on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google + all at once. For small business the task is undoubtedly daunting but with a clear strategic plan of attack it is possible for all businesses, whatever their size, to harness the opportunities offered by these online communities.

Here is a simple four-step guide to social media success:

1. Clarify your objectives

Although it is true that the commercial world has moved online the explanation “because everybody else is” should not be used to justify creating social media accounts for your business. Before you start exploring, focus on why social media will benefit your business?

What are you trying to achieve? And whom are you trying to reach?

Whether your goal is to drive customers to your website, generate new product ideas or increase offline footfall, your overall objective should be a focal point throughout the campaign. No other business decision is taken on a whim, so why should your social media presence be any different?

2. Which platform?

The number of social media channels out there grows everyday, the sheer volume is enough to overwhelm even the most experienced social strategists. In reality small businesses shouldn’t need to look past the big 5: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google +. While it is tempting to hit all 5 at once, it’s sensible to start small and grow according to your business needs and learn as your customer trends are identified.

When deciding which platform would work best for your business there are three key factors to consider:

• Your customers
• Your content
• Your competitors.

What platforms are your customers engaging with? Which channel is your content best suited to? And where have your competitors made their mark?

The saying ‘the customer is always right’ holds true even when it comes to social media. Follow your customers to the channels they participate in and use this knowledge to add value to their experience.

3. Content IS king

The content you share via social media will ultimately determine success or failure of your campaign. It is a noisy world out there and it is only through regularly producing fresh, high quality content that your business will earn the attention of online audiences.

The golden rule for all businesses when it comes to content is VARIETY. Don’t talk solely about your brand and your company news; add some spice. Content comes in many shapes and sizes from 3rd party articles and direct questions to your audience, to visual media and competitions. Your business’ social stream shouldn’t just be about self-promotion but interaction.

Planning ahead and having a calendar for content release can help ensure posts have a purpose, cohesion and consistency. There are many social media management applications including HootSuite and Tweet Deck that enable you to schedule and coordinate your social streams.

4. ROI: measurement and analysis

The most effective way of measuring the success of your social media campaign is to look beyond the number of followers you have and find metrics that align with your key business goals. Whether that be traffic conversion, conversation participation or community reach your KPI’s (key performance indicators) need to be identified and targets set. Again there are many online tools that help quantify thee metrics including Facebook Insights, Tweetreach and Google Analytics Social Reports.

Although social media appears instantaneous in many respects there is a lot of planning and analysis involved if your campaign is to be a real success. You are looking for organic growth and followers who are truly interested and engaged and these take time to cultivate.

Social media is no substitute for failure offline; it is a tool not a miracle cure but a tool, that if used strategically, can give small businesses the unique opportunity to talk directly with an engaged audience, listen to your customers, generate interest and importantly learn from online analytics.

Flo Gillingham, Infotex.

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