Objective of The Course: To help trainees craft social media strategy for profit and non-profit ventures.
Social media is a broad term used to describe all the different online technology tools that enable people to communicate easily via the Internet through sharing information and resources. Methods used include posts on blogs or forums, sharing of photos, audio clips, videos and links, creating profiles on social networking sites, and posting status updates—usually with a feedback mechanism. Although social media started out as a medium for friends and family to share information, smart marketers quickly caught on to how they could leverage it to promote their various ideas.
Key Social Media Platforms and Tools
There are many different types of social media. Depending on the industry you are in, certain types of social media may be more relevant than others. For example, those in the travel industry will find a site like Trip Advisor a useful social media tool. In addition, the use of social media may be more prevalent in some industries than others and will work differently for businesses in different fields. It is important to do your research to find out if and how your customers and prospects are engaging with social media.
Are You Ready for Social Media Marketing?
- Does your target audience use social media and, if so, do you know where your prospects congregate online?
- Do you know what goals you are trying to achieve by engaging in social media?
- Can you allocate time and budget?
- Is there someone well suited to be your voice in social media?
- Do your employees require training?
- Do you need to hire or outsource a social media manager?
- Do you have clear key messages and branding to disseminate in the social media realm?
- Can these various online tools integrate with your offline marketing methods?
- Do you have a plan in place to guide your use of social media marketing?
Benefits of Social Media To Businesses
From a marketing perspective, social media tactics can help you:
- Extend your marketing reach affordably.
- Increase brand awareness.
- Drive traffic to your website.
- Personalize customer service.
- Create excitement for events.
- Promote product/service launches.
- Build a community of customers who, by virtue of membership, endorse your products/services.
- Test market ideas.
- Open up new markets.
- Complement other marketing efforts such as paid marketing campaigns.
- Integrate a social element in your business by personalizing your company.
Steps for Creating a Social Media Strategy
Having a solid social media strategy can really make a difference to the success of your marketing campaigns. Note that your plan will likely evolve and change accordingly as you learn what works for your business and what doesn’t.
- Conduct your research: Listen to the conversations and identify the industry thought leaders you want to follow so you will learn how to participate.
- Define your goals and metrics: What is it you want to achieve and how will you measure its effectiveness? For example, are you trying to drive real targeted traffic to your site? For your Facebook metrics, the number of “Likes” to your Facebook page and the amount of shared posts or status updates will tell you if you are successful. Or perhaps you are trying to build a community of followers who will promote your products or services. If so, good measures of success will be the number of your followers within the social platforms.
- Develop a strategic message and method: For each objective, you may need different methods and messaging to reach the target audience. For example, driving traffic to your site will require a campaign such as a contest or submitting a request form for a free white paper download. Or, if you’re trying to build a community, you’ll need to first build trust and credibility by being authentic in your dialogue and sharing valuable content.
- Evaluation: When evaluating the success of your efforts, first review the goals you established in Step 2. Do the metrics show success? You might need to adjust some elements of your online activities to stay on course. Be sure to keep track of metric trends over time and don’t be afraid to experiment.
Resources Needed to Implement
Contrary to popular belief, social media marketing is not free. The platforms may be free or inexpensive, but the following resources are needed to do social media marketing well:
- Budget: Getting started with social media marketing is a very simple and inexpensive process, requiring only an email address. Most, if not all, of the applications are free to use but there are hidden costs such as your time or hiring someone to run your social media strategy. Some additional costs may include professional versions of plugins (small applications) that expand the functionality of the core application. For example, these plugins could include the ability to sell online or control spam.
- Proper training and Polices: Getting familiar with the workings of social media tools tends to be time consuming for most business owners and their employees. Proper training and social media policies should be put in place and key players assigned to manage your social activities. Even if you only select a few voices to represent the company, it is important that everyone from the top down is familiar with the policies, brand message and vision for the company.
- Self-editing website. Having a self-editing website or blog is paramount in order to frequently change the content you share on social media sites. Facebook and Twitter offer posts and micro-blogging tweets that can support your in-depth articles. These can be teasers that lead traffic back to your site to not only to read the full article or participate in viewing a video, for example, but to showcase the full offerings on the site.
Other hidden costs include the time to monitor your reputation online, to track results and to expand customer service.
Understanding Best Practices and Pitfalls
- Listen to the conversations related to your type of business and industry on social media sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook. For example, if you have graphic design offerings, you should follow other graphic artists or marketing companies to see how they are conversing with their audience.
- Whether you receive positive or negative comments, always respond in a professional manner and learn from the writer’s input or comments.
- Participate—be authentic, transparent and consistent in all your communications.
- Have a content posting schedule in place.
- Create high quality content to share.
- Be consistent with your branding and messages on all social media platforms.
- Create comprehensive, keyword-rich profiles to share on social networking sites.
- Place calls to action within your posts—that is, include links back to your website so visitors can read something valuable like a good article.
- Refrain from blatant promotion and selling.
- Do not spam.
- Avoid being too personal or social rather than business-oriented.
- Don’t react emotionally online to negative comments about your brand or product or service.
BEST PRACTICES FOR ENGAGING IN SOCIAL MEDIA FOR ENTREPRENEURS
- Listen and participate in social media conversations to understand the rules and market landscape.
- Develop a plan for what you want to achieve with your social media efforts.
- Create compelling, high-quality content that resonates with your audience.
- Contribute, collaborate, inform, educate but do not sell.
- Network with industry influencers who will share good content and promote you in the process.
- Optimize your social media efforts by tracking results and fine-tuning your strategy accordingly.
- When responding to a negative comment, don’t argue or become personal. Always reply in a professional manner and learn from the writer’s input or comments.
- Always address issues as they arise within the social media. Don’t stay silent as this will cause more challenges.
- Don’t sell! Be informative, transparent and authentic. Share quality content.
1. Create social media accounts for your business.
2. Create a social media campaign for your business or any startup you are interested in.