According to the “Infinite Dial 2013: Navigating Digital Platforms” report recently released by the Arbitron research agency, approximately 86% percent of all respondents ages 18-24 have a profile on at least one social network – in addition to 80% of respondents in the 25-34 year old demographic, 73% of participants ages 35-44 and 58% of all 45-54 year old consumers surveyed.
As a business owner, this is huge!
By actively marketing your business on social media websites, you have an unprecedented level of access to your target market. Instead of paying for expensive TV ad space or waiting for the long lead times of magazine advertising to pay off, you can reach out directly to your target customers using the process of social media marketing.
Of course, there’s a bit of a learning curve to proper social media marketing – just as there is with any other promotional strategy. But by understanding and implementing the following three pieces of advice, you’ll position your business well for long-term social campaign success.
Key #1 – Get to know your audience
The first rule of social media strategy is that… there are no rules!
Although you can head over to Google and discover plenty of different “social media marketing game plans” that give you a pre-set script to follow, the reality is that no audience is the same. As a result, it’s up to you to get to know your audience and to determine how to best connect with them on popular social media websites.
As an example, suppose you read an article that states that all businesses need to be advertising their services on Twitter. That’s all well and good – but what if your audience members use Facebook far more frequently than Twitter? In this example, focusing your social media engagement efforts on Twitter would prevent you from connecting with the bulk of your audience.
Given that all audiences are different, it’s up to you to do the investigative work needed to understand your readers’ online behaviors. Pick up your spy glass and try to gather all of the following types of information:
- Where does my audience spend most of its time? Be sure to check smaller social media websites and niche forum communities in addition to the big social networks (including Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest).
- What types of content are my readers sharing? As a business owner, one of your goals when engaging in social media marketing will be to get readers to share your updates with their friends and family members. As such, you need to know what types of content they’re sharing. Tally up the number of articles, videos, infographics and other content pieces you see being shared, as well as the general topics of these shared pieces.
- When are my audience members most active? Even if your brand has only a few social profile followers, try to determine whether you can see any patterns in terms of when they’re most active. Because information moves so quickly in the social space, timing your updates to your readers’ active periods is vitally important.
- If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the thought of putting together a social media marketing plan for your small business, don’t worry. Start by paying attention to how your profile followers and other members of your target audience behave online – you’ll eventually get the hang of this unique form of communication.
Key #2 – Engage regularly with your social communities
When it comes to social media, simply creating profile pages and visiting them once or twice a month isn’t enough to generate any kind of meaningful results from this marketing strategy. Instead, you need to make it a point to engage with your followers every day in order to forge connections between your followers and your brand.
A few of the different types of activity you’ll want to engage in include:
- Posting new content to your social profiles (as in, sharing any blog posts you’ve written, videos you’ve created, pictures you’ve taken, etc.)
- Commenting on updates made by your followers
- Sharing profile updates from your followers or from thought leaders in your industry
- Following new people or businesses in order to expand your network
- Answering questions that have been posted to your social profiles
Again, because there’s no “one size fits all” social media marketing plan that will work for all businesses, there’s no way to say for sure how much time your company should spend on all of the different activities listed above.
Really, the best thing you can do to improve your company’s social media strategy is to experiment. Start by committing 20-30 minutes per day to your social media accounts and give different types of updates a try. Monitor the response you receive as you go and eventually shift your focus to the types of activities you identify as delivering the best results for your brand.
Key #3 – Measure the impact of your social efforts
This tip is a bit more advanced, but it’s an important one to keep at the back of your mind – whether you’re just getting started with social media or whether you’re further along with your marketing efforts.
Ideally, the point of social media marketing is to generate measurable results for your business. These results might be something as simple as increasing the number of people who “Like” your brand on Facebook or it might be the more complex task of determining whether any sales have resulted from your social media promotions.
No matter what type of impact you’re trying to track, there is a way to measure your results. If you’re trying to increase your number of “Likes” or social media shares, you can track this manually or use a social media marketing tool like TwentyFeet or Sprout Social that tracks your brand’s stats automatically. If you’re measuring sales, you’ll need a more complex setup that tracks when sales are completed and from which visitors they’ve originated (for example, by combining Google Analytics Goals with Google’s Advanced Traffic Segments).
While it isn’t necessary to implement a measurement system right away, keep the idea of quantifying your efforts in mind as you begin the process of social media marketing. By having a general idea of what you’d like your social media efforts to achieve, you’ll position yourself better to determine whether your investment in this strategy is paying off in a positive ROI or whether you need to adjust your tactics to bring about better results.