So you’ve decided that the time has come to finally start using social media to help build your business. Or maybe you’ve decided to revisit your social strategy in light of some new platforms you want to try, like Snapchat. Both are exciting ideas! But before jumping in, you first need to make sure you have clarity on what you want to accomplish and how you’re going to get there.
Read on for the six important questions you should ask – and answer – to get the most out of social media for your business.
1. What are you trying to achieve?
This might sound trivial, but it’s a critical first question to answer. Unless you have a clear picture of your social media goals, it will be difficult to focus your efforts on those that will drive success.
Goals to consider might include:
- Building brand awareness
- Attracting new customers or leads
- Engaging/supporting existing customers more effectively
- Increasing customer loyalty
- Making sales or closing deals
Social media marketing efforts are rarely successful without first defining both short-term and long-term goals. You need to decide what your own primary objectives are, make them clear to everyone on your team and focus all your decisions and efforts on achieving them.
2. Who are you trying to attract?
Once you have defined your goals, you’ll have a clear picture of the types of people you want to attract to your social media assets – and how to do it.
For example, if your primary goal is to retain existing customers, then you want to focus on getting those folks to start engaging with you via social media. This involves steering your customers to your social channels at every opportunity, providing content of value and being responsive. A great way to get started is considering what channels you already own that you’re using to communicate with existing customers, like email, and think about how you can tie them to your social accounts. Adding share buttons to your email newsletter or follow buttons to your website is a great first step.
On the other hand, if you are primarily trying to build your brand and attract new customers, you will need to focus on defining who those people are, where you’ll find them and which messages and content will most likely reel them in. In this case, you will want to work hard at getting the attention of, and building online relationships with, bloggers and influencers in your space who will be willing to direct their own followers to your social presence.
Easier said than done, right? If you’re just starting out and the idea of getting influencers to notice you seems out of reach, consider mid-tier influencers or others who are also just starting out, but have a growing number of followers. Getting in on the ground level can pay off in the long run.
3. What social media platforms should you use?
Once you’ve determined what you are trying to accomplish and who your target audience is, you can decide in which social media platforms to invest. Not all platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc.) will serve your particular goals and target audience equally well.
The most important factors to consider are the behaviors, preferences, and demographics of your target audience. If you haven’t already done so, spend some time perusing the social media presence of other companies and people in your space (competitors, influencers, suppliers, etc.) to see where they are investing the most resources and where they have the biggest followings.
A helpful resource for getting an overview of different social media platforms and their users is the social media demographics report published by Pew Research Center. You can also check out our “Social Sites Explained” (with donuts) infographic by clicking below.
To start with, select just one or two platforms to focus on building. Unless you have the resources and momentum for more, it can be difficult to launch on several platforms at the same time.
Once you’ve chosen the platforms you will use, make sure to invest the resources in learning the dynamics, best practices, content types, advantages, and pitfalls of each, and then develop a strategy to take advantage of each one in the best ways. It’s important to match your activity patterns and responsiveness to what is customary for each platform. For example, Twitter users expect prompt and personal replies. If you don’t have the resources to consistently keep up with these communications, Twitter is probably not the best platform to start with.
Remember, this takes time. It’s not something you pick up overnight, and what works one month can change the next. Some of the biggest successes we’ve had with the AddThis Twitter account is due to being flexible and experimenting with different tactics.
4. What style/tone/voice should you use?
As is true with all customer-facing communications, it is important to develop and maintain a particular “brand persona” that people will relate to and want to engage with. This includes deciding what kind of writing style to employ, the tone/voice to use (e.g., informative and serious or casual and funny) and the types of content you will create. To achieve the best fit for each of the various social platforms, your brand persona might even need to be varied slightly from one to another.
Having an effective and consistent voice is a valuable method for attracting and retaining social media followers. It can be a key factor in how your business is perceived, both by customers and by the general public. While the tone/voice you use in social media should be in line with the one you use for your website, advertising, and other materials, social media generally lends itself to a lighter, more casual tone. Also related to this are the visual designs you will use in your social media presence and the types of content you will create (articles, images, guides, videos, apps, etc.).
5. How will you measure your progress?
Once you launch your social media efforts, it is critical to track your progress and tweak your strategy as necessary. The first step in doing so begins before you even go online: deciding what metrics matter the most and how you will measure them.
Every social media platform provides metrics that help you understand how well you are performing on that platform. Many social media metrics are the same across platforms, while there are also platform-specific metrics you might find valuable. You will also need to weave in metrics from your website (e.g., using Google Analytics) to understand how your social media efforts are impacting website traffic and activity. Kissmetrics has a great primer on social reports in GA.
While delving into all the different metrics and how you can use them is beyond the scope of this article, the message is clear: you need to learn what’s available, which metrics will help you determine how well you are achieving your goals and what your targets should be.
6. Who will manage and execute your social media strategy?
Once you’ve answered all of the above questions and have a basic strategy in place, it’s time to execute! The final important question to answer before you start is, who is going to manage and your social media strategy day-to-day?
It’s important to realize that many different skill sets are involved in successfully using social media to help build a business: strategy, product expertise, content creation, visual design, community management, customer service and analytics/measurement. Even if you assign one person to manage the overall effort, such as a community manager, he or she will need the collaboration of others within the organization, and perhaps outside consultants as well.
It is important to build a team with a clear structure and a clear division of responsibilities. Like in any team, each member needs to have both responsibility and accountability for his or her particular duties. If you are executing across multiple social media platforms, you might need to divide responsibilities for certain activities across multiple people.
However you go about doing it, make sure you’ve got the people, the structure, and the collaboration tools that your particular team will need to succeed.