5 steps to get started in social media for business
As one of my services is social media strategy and management, I recently advised a client looking to align her use of social media platforms to her business objectives. My client had been involved in blogging and Facebook for some time, but she just needed some guidance on how to create space for her and her tribe to better connect with each other. With a plan in place now, she is making some adjustments and excited to see her relationship with her tribe grow.
My client is like many entrepreneurs starting in the world of social media for business. You may have been on social media platforms for personal reasons, sharing photos of your kids and getting back in touch with friends from high school. Now, though, you’ve heard about how these same social media platforms have professional benefits as well. You don’t want to miss out on this opportunity for valuable customer engagement, but where do you start?
Creating a social media plan
Your time and effort on social media platforms should be built into your overall strategic communications plan. Social media engagement won’t replace and isn’t meant to be a sole communications plan. You will need to incorporate social media efforts with everything else you’re doing to build your brand. Here are five steps to get you started.
1. Identify where your public/audience is
You must first find out where your customers are hanging out online if you want to connect with them. As we developed my client’s strategy for her tribe, we decided Facebook and YouTube would be the most appropriate for her business model. Most of her tribe doesn’t even know what Twitter is, so it wouldn’t make sense for her to be there. Asking your customers what social media platforms they use, finding out where your competitors are online, and doing some research into where your product best fits into the social media mix are all ways to determine where your public/audience is online.
2. Determine what your public/audience wants from you
What is it that you can offer your clients, and what is it they want from you? Hint: it’s not your sales pitches. People go online for information and entertainment. Your customers aren’t going to visit your social media platforms if all you’re doing is posting your products for sale. Though it might be trite, it’s still very much true: Content is king. My former employer recognized many of the Joint Base Langley-Eustis Facebook fans are military spouses who are running a household while their husbands/wives are deployed. To better serve them, the JBLE Facebook page now has a weekly guest post sharing nutritious recipes that can be made quickly and feed an entire family.
3. Build your presence around your public/audience
Once you’ve identified where your public/audience is and what it wants from you, you’re ready to build your presence on the social media platform(s) you’ve picked. You want these platforms to accurately reflect your organization’s personality, so be sure to personalize your space. Make your profile photo something appropriate to your business, and add information you want your followers to know about the company. Your first post should be your introduction to your tribe, what your social media platform will be used for, how you will engage with your followers, and what you will and will not tolerate on your space. The U.S. Army Facebook page lists its “rules of engagement” for acceptable interaction in its About section.
Your customers won’t know you’re on social media platforms unless you tell them. Include links to your new platforms in email signatures, newsletters, business cards and promotional materials. Place icons on your website, making it easier for visitors to move directly over to your new platforms and also engage with you there. If you have a brick-and-mortar location, put up signs with addresses to your social media platforms. Many restaurants include the “Like us on Facebook” thumbs up symbol on their menus.
5. Consistently engage
Once you’ve done all this work, why would you let it all go to waste by never being present on your social media platforms? All too often, though, we see the Facebook pages with no responses to fans’ questions, the Twitter accounts that haven’t posted anything in months, or the LinkedIn groups with no news from the organization. Yes, you do need to give up absolute control of your brand for it to grow among your tribe, but that doesn’t mean to be invisible on your own social media platforms. Develop a schedule to post at least three times a week (once a week for a blog) with content and stick to it. Your followers will anticipate these updates, and will continually visit your platforms to engage with you. Also, respond as soon as possible to your followers’ queries. That’s what social media is all about; being social.
This is a beginner’s guide to social media for business, and there is much more advanced information once you’re prepared to take those next steps. How do you use social media platforms in your communications plans? Share your social media platform links in the comments.