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An essential introduction to social media for business… done right

Updated on April 7, 2015

Five steps to social media success

If there has been any social phenomenon worth speaking about over the past decade it’s that of social media. Websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have literally changed the ways in which we communicate with our nearest and dearest as well as the ways in which we manage our social lives. Some argue that the emergence and the now unstoppable force that is social media has and continues to turn us into an online world of narcissists; others argue that the empowerment provided by social media to previously powerless third world societies justifies our self indulgence over in the west.

Whilst I could (and in future will) debate the implications of social media on society, here I want to take a look at what social media can do for business and the ways in which you can supercharge your marketing tactics with a few well thought out social media choices.

Social media step one: Understanding the end goal

Social media marketing has many purposes and is far from a quick and easy marketing solution (although most certainly when done right, and gone viral, it can lead to literal overnight success).

Specifically through your efforts you'll be aiming to achieve one or more of the following end goals:

  • Building relationships through interactivity

  • Establishing trust through expert knowledge

  • Growth in fan bases

  • Create consumer to consumer advocacy (such as product reviews or positive comments to your profile; actions such as these really serve as the ultimate marketing tool)

Set your goal and make it 'SMART'

Social media step two: Choosing the right social media platform for your industry

Facebook: 1.19 billion users. Twitter users: 1 in 5 young adults. Instagram users: 150 million active users.

From these staggering figures many think that approaching each and every social media platform with a blanket marketing approach will provide the most exposure. However this can not only be ineffective, but can more over waste both valuable time and money.

Every business will, or at least should, have a well defined target market, which should then serve as a pointer to your platforms of choice.

For some this will be easier than others. For example, businesses that target young professionals will quite obviously utilise LinkedIn, but how about a company targeting the over 55s? For such companies Facebook would make for the primary choice, as this platform boasts a growth of over 12.4 million over 55s in just one year (notably over the same period approximately 3.3 million 13-17 year old Americans left the site [Facebook Demographic Report, IStrategyLabs, January 2014); and what then for the company targeting foodies to encourage the download of their App? For this business the choice should primarily be Pinterest, which accounts for 48.5% of all sharing on iPads (with a large majority of this being food and drink related [Business Insider 2013]).

It’s then clear to see that target markets should serve to dictate your choice of social media platform, so undertake a bit of research before moving to step three and crafting a pitch perfect content strategy.

Understand how social media networks work and the differences between them

Which social media network will you be focussing your main marketing efforts upon?

See results

Social media step three: Create an irresistible content strategy

To build relationships and drive traffic to your website an effective content strategy is a must.

You need to provide your fans (and potential fans) with a reason to head on over to read your content or watch your video. In order to be successful this must provide a personal benefit to your audience.

For me, who is a web designer as well as a copywriter, I may link to my newly written blog article that focuses on how my target market of SMEs could improve their website’s conversions in 5 easy steps. Better still, I may choose to visualise this in an infographic or a video (both of which are increasing in popularity as more and more businesses realize that visualisations engage as well as offer the potential to go viral through shares).

What’s more if you do target more than one platform then your social media strategy should also be tailored to the ways in which people use that platform, considering things such as the average length of time that consumers spend on that platform (with Facebook accounting for 405 minutes per month and LinkedIn in comparison accounting for just 17 minutes [Socially Aware 2012]).

Social media step four: Don't discount social media advertising

Social media platforms continue to increasingly move towards paid advertising, with a perfect example being the recent moves made by Facebook to show a business page’s posts to fewer of its respective ‘Likers’ than previously. However considering paid social media advertising shouldn’t merely be considered as you feel there is no other choice, instead credit should be given to the amazingly sophisticated advertising options that each provides.

The master of this, in my opinion, is Facebook. Advertising here provides you with the following targeting options (as well as many others!):

  • Interests

  • Region

  • Demographics (such as age, marital status and earning bracket)

  • Education

In addition to robust targeting options, Facebook also offers a wide array of placement options.
In addition to robust targeting options, Facebook also offers a wide array of placement options.

Social media step five: Be sociable and track your progress

Social media should be about building connections and establishing relationships, so be sure to always reply to customer’s comments, retweets or messages. These engagements should also be tracked as a part of your marketing campaign as a way of understanding what is and isn’t working. As a final point you may also want to look at the ways in which competitors are harnessing social media, and asses just what levels of engagement they are seeing through their marketing choices.

Whether you record your activities in a notepad or use something more sophisticated, be sure that you are able to assess the successes of your social media activities.
Whether you record your activities in a notepad or use something more sophisticated, be sure that you are able to assess the successes of your social media activities.

These five steps serve as an incredibly basic start to what should be a continual learning curve of social media marketing. I’d love to hear about your experiences when taking your first tentative steps with social media. Have you been befuddled with hashtags? Confused by a lack of Likes? Or done the impossible and seen unparalleled success with your first post? Tell me all about it in the comments below!

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