You’ve got to start social media!
That’s what the pressure is like out there if you’re a small business owner.
You feel like you need to get on social media. But there are a million other things going on with your business and social media can feel like it’s really not that high on the list.
I agree that social media is probably not the most important item on a small business to-do list. But I don’t think you want to completely ignore it either. And most small business owners and managers I’ve met kind of feel this same way. Some are all about social media and others are really stepping back away from it.
It seems that one of the troubles is just not knowing what to really do with social media. Yeah, you can put up a few updates once in a while on Facebook, but that’s probably not the best strategy.
That’s why I’m working on this post. I want to give you the steps to setup a social media strategy for your business so you know how to approach social media from scratch.
Step 1 – The Best Social Sites For Your Business
One of the myths about social media is that you need to be on every site.
From my own experience and from observing what some of the best social media users do it’s actually not true. You don’t need to be on every social site or you at least don’t need to be active on every social media site.
It’s just not realistic especially for small business owners.
I worked for a large brand and it was difficult maintaining even three social profiles for the brand. It really could be a full-time job to maintain those channels and that’s not in the budget for many businesses of all sizes.
The first step, however, is to reserve the profiles or usernames you would want on just about every social site. You’re not going to use them, but you want to reserve them in case you do want them in the future or so others don’t get them.
You’ve probably seen the occasional Twitter account for a brand with one tweet that says, “This is our official Twitter profile, but you can find us on Facebook.”
Do something like that with all the social sites you can think of.
Next, we’re going to identify the best social sites for your business. It’s kind of creating a priority list of social sites. It’ll be different for your business and other businesses depending on what you do and where your customers spend their time.
With Facebook, it seems that businesses with a personal touch can do well. Facebook has always been more of a family and friends social site. So if your business falls into those areas I think it’s probably the best.
With Twitter, it’s a little more techy, a little more business-related. For my main business, Ghost Blog Writers, I’ve actually found that Twitter works best. Actually, I don’t have a Twitter account for GBW, but I do use Twitter personally more than any other social site.
Pinterest is one I don’t use very often, but it seems to be the best for visual brands; companies that do design-related services. Or things about home, fashion and things that are very visual. Instagram is very much in the same type of realm, but Instagram also works well for professional photographers for obvious reasons.
You probably have a good idea of what the main handful of social sites are like. Think about the priority they would go into for your business.
Step 2 – Starting With Just One Social Site
Then once you have the list ready to go just start with the top site on the list.
As I said, the best social site for me has always been Twitter. I’ve gotten the most engagement there. I have used Facebook in the past for a few different brands, but I’ve never gotten the kind of response and engagement that others have gotten. I don’t know if that’s because of the way I used it or if it was just that my brands and the target customers didn’t mesh well on that platform.
So I’ve kind of stuck with Twitter as the main site for me.
It might be different for your business, though. Facebook could be the best. Or Pinterest might fit better. Or maybe sharing regular photos on Instagram would be the best way to connect with your potential customers.
And that’s really what social site marketing is about – connection with your target customers, earning their interest and trust and eventually earning their business.
Step 3 – Content To Publish
Now we’re getting into the main meat and potatoes of a social media strategy – what to publish.
As you would imagine, there are a lot of different angles to take with what to publish on your top social media channel.
Here is a very general allocation of content to share. It’s not perfect for everyone, but it’s a good place to start and as you get feedback and engagement you can rework it to fit exactly what you need.
25% – Your Own Blog Posts, Articles And Other Published Content
It’s pretty straightforward. I believe that a good online marketing strategy starts with the content you publish on your own website. This way you own the content. You control the channel. You don’t have that with social media.
But you can use social media to share your published content. So this would be sharing the content usually using the title and a link. But you can mix it up with different lead-ins to the link to entice people to click through to your website.
20% – Other People’s Publish Content
It’s also good to mix in other people’s content. If you’re starting from scratch this one might be a little higher of percentage. But you don’t want to go overboard with only sharing articles and things.
This also helps you get new followers in a way. People like when others share their content. So you’re kind of paying it forward and you might get a little notice when you share someone else’s content.
20% – Photos And Videos
Most social sites are very visual places. It seems like on Twitter that they add some new kind of visual experience every few months. The reason they do that is because people want to see photos, graphics, videos and more. So to tap into that need you have to share visual content.
It could be your own photos and videos. It could be someone else’s. I would lean a little more toward your own, but you can mix in others to make sure you’re adding enough imagery to your social channel.
20% – Replies, Comments And Re-shares
Some people are really good at this one. They interact with others all the time. They probably use this in a much higher percentage than others. I don’t think you want to go too overboard on this one. If someone clicks on your timeline and all you’re doing is replying to others it can turn people away. They think you’re just having interactions with other people.
So mix this one in and do it at about a 20% rate. It’s good to interact with people. It encourages engagement with all your social media content.
15% – Personal Updates
Finally, I think it’s a good idea to mix in a few social updates that show your personal side. You don’t have to tell your life story. You can, but you don’t have to get that deep. But open up a little bit and let your followers get to know you.
We do business with businesses, but beneath that we’re really working with other people. And relationships always start with a little personal sharing.
Step 4 – How To Get Followers
Sharing the type of content we just discussed is a good foundation for getting new followers. When you’re sharing the type of content your followers want to see you’re going to attract followers over time.
But there are other ways to get more followers in the meantime.
Hashtags are one way. I never really used hashtags when I first started out with social media. Now I use them all the time. I don’t use them with every tweet, but on quite a few tweets especially in that 25% of the content I share for my own articles. And also for the 20% I do for others. You can use hashtags with a lot of updates and on most social sites these days.
Partnerships are another way to get more followers. When you’re starting out you don’t have an audience. But others do have audiences. Find ways to partner with others and tap into their audiences. It could be a charity event that you host together. It could be a webinar or something else online that is interactive. You could even co-write a blog post or write a guest post on their website.
Cross promote your new social presence on your other channels. The basic would be to add your social follow button on your website. The best places for this would be on your about page. Probably in the footer on your website. And also on confirmation pages or in the footer of your regular email newsletter.
Step 5 – How To Get Engagement
Getting engagement is one of the main points of social media. To build a community you need to see signs of engagement that people are interested in some kind of relationship with you and your brand.
The best way to build engagement over time is to build followers and share content like the two previous steps. But in the meantime there are things you can do to increase engagement as well.
The best way would be that type of content sharing above where you share other people’s content. Those people will love seeing their content shared. They’ll often re-share your share with their followers. That gets you exposure to their audience and opens it up for comments.
You can also get engagement by asking questions on social media. That can be risky in the early days, though, when you only have a few followers. But over time you can ask more and more questions to regularly get engagement.
Sharing visual content usually gets some engagement.
Sharing items that kind of split opinions can really work well for getting engagement. I don’t think you necessarily want to create fights on your social account, but you can have fun with it. Let’s say you’re in the remodeling industry. You could post an image of two colors that you might paint a wall and ask what people think.
Go with that type of content instead of politics.
Step 6 – Automation + Manual Updates
I’ve used automated social updates just about as long as I’ve used social media. I think there is a place for some automation in social media. I follow accounts that use automation. Some use 100% automation while others use a mix and others will only use manual automation.
For me, in a business sense, automation keeps me active on social media even when things get busy. It keeps the updating somewhat consistent. Then in between automation I can go in with manual updates.
Buffer is a great tool for social media automation. You can schedule a certain number of updates once a week and they can go out throughout the week based on the schedule you create.
But then you can go in when you have time and add manual updates. Maybe start with with a 50/50 split or something like that and see where you fall. You’ll have to push yourself to get into the habit of manually updating because it’s hard to keep that up, but I think it’s still important so you don’t become entirely automated.
Step 7 – Expansion
That’s a little bit of work, but it’s worth it. If you get past those six steps you’ll be in a good position to take advantage of social media. It’s about engagement, but it’s ultimately about growing your business. And I’ve seen businesses grow with the strategy and system above.
If you don’t do that or something similar you’ll just be flailing around trying to see what might work. That’s no way to spend your precious time. Follow the steps and get to a good place with one social site. Then you can move into something that might involve other social media channels.
I think that’s the best way to expand. Really focus on one and if you can do that and get to a good place then look to do the same in another channel. Go back to your priority list and start working on the second best social site for you and your business.
This is a pretty extensive way to go about building your social media strategy. But hopefully it’s been worth your time to read through it this first time. I would recommend bookmarking it and coming back again as you move through the process.
Just about all the businesses you see using social media with success have followed something like this process above. It’s not exact science, but it seems to be what works for most successful businesses that use social media. I think it will work well for you too.