How Developing a Social Media Strategy Is Just like Making a Business Plan

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  • May 27, 2014
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If you’re in business, chances are you are on Social Media – whether you know it or not, want it or not. Even if your restaurant doesn’t have a website, your customers are Yelping about you. What are they saying? And how can you get in on the conversation to steer it in a direction mutually beneficial to you and them? The point is this: You’re already there – might as well make the most of it.

And, just as you don’t (shouldn’t) have a business in place without a plan, you best have a plan of action for your presence on Social Media.

Four steps you can take immediately will help you create (or make better) a strategy for putting your business in its best light on the Internet.

Step 1. Analyze Social Media Sites as They Relate to Your Business

Whether you decide to go with in-house or agency resources (or a combination of both) to establish your social media presence, you need to figure out which channels you should be on, how much budget you have and what the magic numbers are that will tell you your strategy is working. In other words, do your own homework.

You know your business best, so your research will help you see your company’s story within the context of a social world and aid in telling your story well. It’s important for you to be in the social landscape, but the terrain keeps changing. What used to work, no longer does, or it works for some businesses some of the time. The numbers alone are mind boggling. According to one site, there are no less than 23 types of social media sites.

The question is: Where are your clients (and prospects) “living”? Where are they searching for your products and services? Where are they finding you described positively – or otherwise. Sure, one statistic says that a Facebook fan is worth approximately $174, but is your audience on Facebook? And are they on Facebook for doing business – with you? Or is it Google?

Talk to your customer base, to businesses providing similar services. Investigate your competitors – where are they talking and being talked about? Before you retain the services of so-called experts, get the facts as straight as you can for yourself. No matter who’s steering the ship, you’re the captain.

Step 2. Build Your Social Media Team

Because you’re reading this article, you have a commitment to establishing a social presence. Whether the team is a team of one (for the present) or several, gather these people together to plan your social strategy’s future.

Share with the team what your research showed about the channels your company should be on. Decide what people skills are required. Map out the technology and time it will take to be on those channels and add to the team the people required to do the job.

Contrary to what you may have heard, social marketing is not free. Even if all your social media geniuses are employees, they are using a big chunk of the time you pay them to work to get your content out there. That’s not free!

Think about agency support. Would you benefit from outside help temporarily as you set your plans in motion? Would it be more helpful to have continuing support in addition to or in replacement for in-house? Agency help brings with it specific expertise and experience in effective online marketing strategy. Employees, on the other hand, can usually manage your social presence with greater accuracy, timeliness and cohesiveness with your brand voice.

Using employees to develop and maintain social media content has two big advantages – they know your company like the back of their hand, and their loyalties are not divided on the marketing projects they’re working on. They can access your database of knowledge to mine it for the nuggets of information other departments may be hiding that can turn into a blog article, a product demo or other online marketing tool that establishes your street cred and draws in new customers. But employees’ time and energy can be spread too thin.

Choosing an agency is a great way for the overwhelmed to offload their social media content development and the day-to-day maintenance of their online presence to those with the know-how (and new ideas) to develop content, deliver it regularly to the right channels and appropriately displayed for the different platforms. And they can measure it and monitor it for its effect on the bottom line.

And how about inviting some unpaid members to the social media table? Your customers form a community of believers in your products and services, of evangelizers of your expertise.

In exchange for being insiders with advance notice on a new release or a “member-only” discount, customers will offer up input for your content. They can be beta testers of your new app, provide testimonials in solicited and unsolicited formats and preach your good news. And when they’re talking negatively, that is when you need them most. Ignoring (or trying to delete) what they have to say – good, bad or indifferent – is bad business and a mistake.

In tune with the “social” part of “social media” you will get to know your clients and they, you. Listen to them and respond everywhere you can. Answer their comments on Facebook and Instagram. Join the Tweet parade on Twitter. Wherever they are, you should be, too. In the process, your customers will, ipso facto, become part of your social media team, which will be stronger because of it.

Step 3. Set Goals For Specific Channels to Maximize The Outcomes

If you really want to maximize the outcomes, you have to continuously optimize your priorities and approaches for every single social channel.

What works on Facebook will not necessarily work on Google+, Twitter or Pinterest. That’s why you need a channel-specific strategy to make the most out of your social media marketing campaigns. Your team needs to set up processes and role responsibilities for every channel you are (or want to be) on.

Will you use “pay-for-play” techniques – such as online ads? Before you answer “no” to that, consider this:

  • According to Olgivy & Mathers (and as quoted on the AdAge site), the average reach of organic posts declined from 12.05% in October of 2013 to 6.15% in February of 2014.
  • Even Facebook has admitted that only 16% of a page’s followers see a brand post –

and that paying will increase the post’s reach.

Beware of “experts” that tout the distorted notion that social media is all free marketing. While most of the platforms themselves are free, RG Logan, director of strategy at Carrot Creative, points out that social is an increasingly “pay-to-play” endeavor. Logan suggests that businesses serious about entering the social space allocate a marketing budget specifically for social media.

“It’s quite difficult to break through if you’re not putting money behind your efforts,” he says.

If you can’t compete on a paid level, then you should focus on building the right audience on social by getting your most avid customers to become a part of your social media audience and providing value for them once they’re there.

The key should be quality over quantity. Content is still king, and that intern you employ for free will cost you in the long run if you use him or her as your only support to feed the social media monsters – they eat up content faster than you can say “What is this, the olden times?”

Plan for mobile and other smartphones carefully!

An amazing 40% of mobile users are connected to one or more social platforms.So, a huge number of social media users are actually logging in from mobile or handheld devices. Hence, you definitely need to optimize the content for these platforms as well. You should have a plan that covers mobiles, smartphones, tablets and other handheld devices to help keep you miles ahead of your competitors.

Step 4. Measure, Monitor and Keep Your Social Presence Fresh

The old carpenter’s adage comes to mind, “Measure twice; cut once.” Just as your business plan is never really done, neither is your social media plan. For every channel you market on, tools exist to check on your campaigns’ effectiveness. Your social media gurus will know what those are and can report out on any changes that need to be made in your plan.

A comprehensive social monitoring strategy provides valuable insight into where you are succeeding and where you need to improve. While social media is about learning, listening, and building your audience in real time, you CAN’T ignore the analytics— you have to measure your results to know what’s working what’s not, and where you have opportunities for growth.

Apply these 4 principles to developing and enhancing your social media presence, and you will be ahead of the game. Your competitors will be studying you!

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About Geoffrey Purkis

Geoffrey Purkis is the owner and creator of www.techdesignstudios.com. He's a WordPress / Web developer, SEO and online marketer located in Lafayette, California. He is active on all of the major social networks and enjoys writing and teaching small business owners how to leverage the Internet to promote and grow their business. Click here to follow him on Google+.