Social Media For Small Business – It Boils Down to 2 Steps

There’s no getting around the fact that involvement in social media takes time. It’s the one thing I hear small business people fret most about when they decide to get involved. “How can I find time to do this?” “I have a business to run!” “I’m overwhelmed before I even begin!’ The next thing I hear from them is “What will I write about?”Can you relate?Social media marketing is all about sharing content and connecting with people across the web. In the early days, critics dismissed social media channels like Facebook and Twitter as little more than gossip and chat outlets, leaving many business people with the impression they weren’t serious enough for business interactions. That is no longer the case. Facebook and Twitter have both evolved into critically important communication channels for business of all sizes and industry types. LinkedIn has also evolved from a networking tool to a major resource for discussions, information sharing, and prospecting. Blogs have become a primary source of expertise sharing, discussion, and basic education for professionals and consumers everywhere. Bottom line: whether you think you have time for it or not, social media is fast becoming the norm for business communications. And like anything you do in your business, you’ll be more successful if you approach it with clear goals and a deliberate strategy. Here’s a simplified, holistic way to build your social media strategy.At its most basic level, social media marketing consists of 2 primary activities:Creating content
Sharing contentHere’s a summary of how to execute those 2 things effectively.Creating Content Requires A Content StrategyStart with clear goals. As with any activity in your business that requires significant investment of time or resources, make sure you know why you’re using social media and what you hope to gain. Are you looking to build awareness and establish your brand online? Do you want to generate leads for your business? Are you focused on building customer loyalty? Typically, companies engage for one or more of these three reasons. Your content should be written with a clear eye on your goals.Create an editorial calendar. “Publishing is the new marketing” (a term coined by Joe Pulizzi of Junta42). That’s the latest cliché floating around marketing circles, because continual content creation is the best way to provide value, be heard, and make your customers and prospects take notice. So, if you’re serious about establishing your brand in Social Media, you need to start thinking like a publisher. Like a traditional newspaper editor, you’ll need to plan ahead, which means identifying topics and assigning them to dates – an editorial calendar. Identify your target audience, do some research to understand what they care about, and plan a series of blog or Facebook posts that will address their needs or answer their questions. And stay aware of what’s happening in your industry or customer community so you can continue providing valuable content that will keep your target audience coming back for more.Write compelling content. It always comes back to basics, doesn’t it? If content is the key to marketing in this new world of social media, then good writing is your key to success. So, apply some of the age-old rules of journalistic writing. Tell a good story. Make your key points upfront. Keep it short and succinct. Provide diversity with pictures, video, and varying story lengths. And apply tips that are known to appeal to social media readers: use numbers in your title (“Top 10 Ways to…”), include bulleted lists, include humor or entertainment occasionally, ask questions and invite comments.Involve Others. Is your editorial calendar causing you stress and sleepless nights? Then don’t do it all yourself. Share the authoring task – recruit other voices in your company, invite your customers to tell their story, ask partners or industry colleagues to guest blog. And remember the wealth of content at your fingertips – find and share posts from other bloggers or Facebook pages, and share them with your own commentary added (and give credit, of course). Content is indeed the new marketing – but it doesn’t have to all be yours — and shouldn’t be.Sharing Content Requires a Social Media RoadmapStart with clear goals. Same thing applies here – determine your goals upfront and build your strategy around them. You may want to focus on only one goal to get started – and be sure to determine the metrics you’ll use to gauge your success; this will help you hone and improve your efforts over time and determine which tactics bring the greatest return for your business.Listen and learn first. Social media is all about engaging with others. It is NOT about pushing your content on people or starting one-way conversations. So, before you start talking (writing), do some listening. What are your customers talking about? What’s being said about your company? What are competitors saying? What topics are hot and getting lots of discussion? What styles of communication are you drawn to – and not? As you listen and learn from the dialog going on today, you’ll start to formulate ideas about how to comfortably (for you and your audience) join the conversation and add value. And remember – that’s the goal, to add value…NOT to push your own agenda.Create Your Own Social Media Roadmap. Do your research (or ask for our help) to determine which of the many social media channels is the best place to start, given your goals, your audience, and your content. Where are your customers spending their time? We recommend choosing one source to use as your content hub (typically your website or blog, sometimes a Facebook Fan page), and one or several supplemental channels to broaden your reach and point people back to your hub. We also recommend developing a deliberate strategy that clearly maps your chosen social media channels to your editorial calendar. This is your social media strategy and roadmap. For more information, ask us about our Social Media Starter Kit.Feel your way, then engage with gusto. Once you’ve had some ramp-up and planning time, there’s no other way to get started than to jump in. Follow your carefully laid plans, stay open and flexible, and have some fun with it. If you undertake this task with passion and enthusiasm, others will want to be there with you.