But social media marketing isn’t just for big brands – far from it. While you’ll certainly find companies like Ford and Reebok engaged in marketing through Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, they’re not the only success stories.
In fact, it’s small business owners who likely have the most to gain from marketing their business via social networks. It’s a free (or at least cheap) and efficient way to build up your audience and share your message.
If you’re a small business owner trying to learn the ropes of successful social media marketing, here are some important tips to get you started.
Start with strategy
You would never start a traditional marketing campaign without a full strategy first, would you? You would need to know the initial costs, the potential returns for each marketing channel and the length of time it would take to see results.
The same thing applies to social media marketing. It’s essential that you have a strategy before you start engaging with your customers here. Your strategy might be low- or high-level, but it’s vital that you have one.
Engagement, not sales
On the surface, social media marketing seems pretty simple. You create an account, post updates about your products, services or company growth and reap the rewards.
Not so fast. In order to see success, think about your audience first. How can you create and share the kind of stuff they’re going to love? Social media marketing require that you do more than just post endless updates plugging your products. Engagement is the key factor here, and that requires more than just pushing your sales pitch.
Quality over quantity
Social media is ideal for creating a person-to-person conversation, even between a business and its customers. The most important thing to remember here is that quality trumps quantity every time.
You can post 15 updates a day and not see a single benefit, but just one quality post that your followers actually want to share can provide substantial traffic to your site or location.
Moreover, posting too often (and posting the wrong things) can lead to people perceiving you as a spammer, which is not something you can afford.
Know your goals
Goal setting should be part of your initial strategy development and planning, but you must also ensure that those goals are measurable and attainable (SMART goal setting can help here).
What goals might you set? It depends on the social media metrics that matter to your brand.
You could set a goal to get a certain level of audience reach within the next three months. You might set a goal of increasing social referral traffic by a certain percentage, or you might choose to focus on conversions. Regardless, make sure that your social media goals mesh with your overall business goals.
Providing great customer service on social media is one of the most foolproof ways to win the goodwill of your customers and community. That means responding to the questions and comments of your followers – whether they’re posting directly to your Facebook wall, mentioning you on Twitter or commenting on one of your blog posts.
Not only is this polite, but it gives you the chance to engage in further conversation, root out problems, improve customer service, get new product ideas and much more. Always be responsive no matter what social network you’re using. You may want to look into a social media monitoring solution to make sure you’re not missing any mentions.
The temptation for business owners in social media is to blast out a stream of endless self-promotion – why else did you sign up if not to promote your business, right? But playing it cool – although it seems counterintuitive – will net you a better result.
Overdoing it on the self-promotion creates a one-way street where you’re talking at your customers instead of to them. While you can post news about your company, products or services, limit this content to about 20 percent of your overall posts as a general rule.
Generally, your social media marketing efforts will be geared to getting your followers to visit your website and eventually become customers. However, for this to work, your destination needs to match the promises you make.
No matter how effective your social media message might be, if your website or blog is lacking in design, quality content and other important features, you can expect your followers to be unimpressed. So continue the goodwill you started with social media and make sure your site has amazing content, easy-to-understand navigation and optimization that values humans, not robots, first.
What tips have helped you use social media effectively and grow your business? Share them with me in the comments.