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Do You Have A Social Media Plan?

PrintI recently read a statistic that claimed 60% of small business owners felt that social media for their business was not working for them. I pondered the reasons why, and the answer seems obvious to me: most people just don’t get how to do it.

At the root of the issue is that most people don’t have a plan. A plan for the five w’s: why, who, where, what and when. Now don’t get me wrong, plans are made to be changed, and if you’re not able to fluidly measure and adapt to the ever changing social media climate and consumer behaviors, you will undoubtedly find yourself in that 60%. But, let’s talk about a successful social media plan.

The most important factor for success to remember as it pertains to social media marketing is that it’s all about building trust. So when answering the following questions, be sure to keep the relationships between you and your audience at the top of your list and not the transactions. Trust first, the rest will fall into place.

  1. Why? Do you have goals for your social media efforts? Consider these goals for your social campaigns:
    • Create brand awareness. Think about the most active brands in social media, the ones who are regularly posting and have lots of active participants in their arenas. These don’t have to be big name brands. I recognize plenty of small, local business names purely from their social media activity. Just by showing up to the party, they are creating an impression in the minds of the public.  Just by being present, you are building your brand. Later on, I talk about content strategy, and that’s where good branding comes in.
    • Offer a customer service portal. Social media can be a good opportunity to show the world your excellent customer service skills. Businesses have to be careful with the use of this in social media because unless it actually is excellent customer service, trying to field customer requests and complaints could come back to bite you.  Nevertheless, if ongoing and frequent customer service is a big part of your business, it would behoove a business to dedicate time and a budget to developing great customer service responses within their social media.
    • Establish oneself as an industry expert. This is a big one for me. I use my social media platforms to help people understand and manage the online marketing world; therefore, building trusting relationships and establishing myself as a knowledgeable marketing professional. By offering valuable information to your audience, you are filling a need and building trust. The idea of reciprocity would suggest that if one trusts you and finds your content beneficial, that you will be thought of either when that person is ready for the services that you offer or when someone they know is in need of those services.
  2. Who? Most people have an idea of who their target market is, but I am still surprised by how many people either think their target market is everybody or do not test their hypotheses against the facts. When is the last time you checked your Google analytics or Facebook insights to see who your audience really is. Often you may find that you are right on with your demographics, but it is wise to monitor the stats. You might find some surprises. A good place to start is Alexa.com. You can key in your website address and get some basic demographic information giving you valuable insight to who your audience actually is. Of course, seeing as how this is all bout your social media plan, it’s absolutely essential to keep an eye on your social stats. There are several social analytical tools out there such as Sprout Social and Hootsuite which can give you some pretty good insights across your social platforms. For my own monitoring, I personally like to use the native Facebook insights and Google Analytics, but I am open to suggestions if anyone has a favorite tool. As a sidenote, remember that you have to have a minimum of 30 fans in order to access Facebook insights. Once you get an accurate picture of your “who,” developing a content strategy will be a much more focused process.
  3. Where? When I say where, I am referring to which social media platform you pick as your outlet. I’m speaking namely to small businesses when I say that although a presence in all social media platforms is beneficial, I am a strong believer that for the most part you should pick one or two and work those. It is over ambitious to think any small business owner can handle more than that, and can be detrimental to your overall effectiveness if you spread yourself too thin. So, decide what social media will work best for your business based on both your audience and what feels good to you. I often tell people if you hate doing it, chances are it’s not going to work. Pick a platform that you are comfortable with, commit to it, and have fun!
  4. What? This is what’s called your content strategy; it is the meat and potatoes of your whole social media marketing plan. Although the plan should be a holistic approach, this is the biggest contributor to social media success. What benefit do you offer by being present in social media? I’m of the opinion that if you’re not entertaining or educating or offering some other value to your relationships, you’re missing the mark, and people will not engage. Watch your competition. What are they doing right? What are they doing wrong? What topics are people talking about? Listen and learn. Then devise your own content strategy. Once I created a basic schedule, actually developing content became much easier. I know that I should post 2-5x daily. Out of those postings I stick to themes: marketing tips, success quotes, personal struggles and victories, industry and local business news, and client projects. Notice that NONE of my content themes have to do with direct marketing of my own business. People don’t use social media to be sold, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t be. Just make sure you’re focusing on building those relationships and offering value, the rest will follow.
  5. When? Everyone has a different audience; therefore, optimal posting times will vary for different businesses. This is a big reason why it is oh-so-important to keep tabs on your analytics. Take notice of when your getting the most traction, and leverage that knowledge by scheduling your posts for the absolute best times of day and week. As a general rule of thumb, my best times are just before noon and just before 4pm. It makes a difference! The more people you reach, the better chance you have of engagement, and when you have better engagement, Facebook recognizes you as being an influencer; therefore, putting you in front of more eyes.

So now that you have a better idea of the components of a good social media plan, make your own! Figure out why you’re doing all this, set some goals, pick your platforms, design your content strategy and schedule your postings to achieve consistency. Most importantly–stick with it! I encounter many frustrated individuals who wonder why after a month, nobody is participating or it’s just not working for them. Because of the nature of the game being so focused on relationships, it’s not supposed to be successful in no time flat. As a matter of fact, I would be wary if it was. Good, solid relationships are built and nurtured over time. So as the meme goes, “Keep calm and carry on.”

Please share your experience with social media. If you have any questions, struggles or tips, feel free to comment below!