Connecting with people on social media can feel impossible, especially at first. But remember — even the small businesses with the biggest, most successful social media presences started awkwardly.
Even if they had a good list of contacts to start, they had to work hard to attract new followers and maintain the kind of energy that keeps effective social media effective.
So, how do get your business to stand out in a sea of other businesses trying to get the attention of your prized demographic?
It takes much more than making your social media accounts look pretty (though that’s a start). Setting up your social media accounts and inviting your contacts is just the beginning.
If you don’t have a good social media strategy, you’re basically waiting for lightning to strike you. Effective social media is an important part of your business that can bring in a lot of business — but only if you use it well.
Auto-posting links to your blog posts alone doesn’t cut it. Checking your account every few days and liking a couple of posts doesn’t cut it.
Neither does sharing articles every once in awhile when you happen to see something your followers might like.
10 Effective Social Media Strategies
If you really want to be in the game, you need to be using these strategies now.
#1 You Must Know Your Demographic
The internet is huge. But if you’ve used social media a lot for personal use, you’ve probably noticed that when you narrow the focus to a specific topic or interest, you start finding what are essentially communities — and no place is this more true than on social media.
Think about your social media space as a social venue in the real world. Who would be interested in hanging out there?
What generation do you think your business appeals to most? Geographic area? Profession? Attitude?
In the example above, SaveHoney helps Millennial shoppers save money. Their brand appeals to a generation geared towards saving money and coupon clipping.
The fact is, you can’t attract everyone on the internet, and if you don’t narrow down your demo, you won’t stand out to anyone.
#2 You Must Make a Content Plan
One of the biggest social media mistakes you can make is to post on the fly, without planning. Sure, it’s good to post relevant, timely articles as soon as you see them (fresh content is good!), but you also need to plan ahead.
Planning your content includes creating and finding good content that will be of interest to your followers.
This goes hand-in-hand with your demo: If your demo is, say, 25-50 year-olds who are into physical fitness and the outdoors, you’ll want to share content about health, top hiking spots, and outdoorsy things.
MilkLife on Twitter and Instagram puts out content showing the product as part of an active lifestyle.
Your own content creation (your blog posts, for example) are especially important. Make a list of topics with bold titles and a writing/posting schedule. These posts will draw people to your website via social media.
#3 You Must Integrate Social Media Platforms
These days, businesses need a presence on several social media platforms: Twitter and Facebook are must-haves, as well as (depending on your demo, product, business type, etc) Youtube, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Periscope, and/or Tumblr.
Your social media platforms should work together and be connected, but each should be treated independently.
That means no auto-posting Twitter posts on Facebook or vice-versa. Different platforms work in different ways.
Twitter, for example, is the place for attention-grabbing “soundbytes” that people want to share, Facebook is a good place to share video and start conversations, and of course Instagram and Pinterest are all about the visuals.
ThinkGeek grabs attention — and likes — with eye-catching Instagram posts.
If you find that some platforms work for you better than others, great! You don’t need to use them all (for example, if your demo is Baby Boomers, you really don’t need a Tumblr presence).
But use the ones that do work for you in the most effective ways.
#4 You Must Be Creative
Don’t plan to do the exact same thing every day. Keep things fresh!
Throw in a contest, poll or game here and there. Post a Periscope video or podcast instead of a written blog post sometimes. Relate your posts to the season, and not just in December.
Coregear mixes it up with a contest.
Do actual real-time posting when you can. Nothing is less engaging than a social media page that looks like it’s running on autopilot. It’s when you do something different that people take notice.
#5 You Must Use Your Branding
You’ve created your branding (and if you haven’t, it’s time to do it). Use it for all of your social media, from your banners and icons to your self-created images to your ads.
We put our branding on every picture we post on social media.
The important thing here is cohesiveness and consistency. If someone knows your brand from Twitter, they should immediately recognize it on Facebook, Pinterest, and any other social media platforms.
#6 You Must Be Interactive
Possibly the most important aspect of your social media strategy is to be interactive.
I know. You’re too busy to spend time socializing on social media, even for business. But you have to find a way. Have an assistant or partner take it over, or, at least designate 30 minutes your day to interacting.
Teefury posts a personal note to followers — they quickly respond to comments, too.
Set up alerts on your phone, so you’ll know when a someone comments or sends you a message. It’s vital to do this, and to check when each alert comes (I’d also recommend disabling alerts for your personal social media so each one is a business alert).
Why should you know when people are commenting? Because you should be responding to followers as quickly as possible. Especially if they have a question or are having an issue.
#7 You Must Balance What You Share
If your social media pages are primarily self-promotion, you’re doing it wrong. In fact, only about 1 in 4 posts should be promotional.
Promotional posts are necessary, but don’t overdo them. CoPromote is great at sharing other’s content and spreading the goodness of working together to promote each other’s businesses.
The other 3 or so posts should not be about you directly. They should be about things your followers are interested in, whether it’s an informational article published by someone other than you, a relevant quote, or things that are completely for fun, like a funny (short) video or a meme.
Even your info/entertainment posts should have some relevancy. Industry humor or entertainment that relates to your demo’s interests.
For example, going back to the health/fitness demo, you could include healthy recipes in your feed. If your demo is focused on corporate business, that might not work — look for workplace humor instead.
#8 You Must Keep Up with Your Stats
Most social media platforms offer free analytics — use them!
Keeping track of your most popular posts and most active times of the day will help you improve you social media strategies.
Facebook, for example, can alert you when a post does significantly better than other posts. Keep track of which posts are high performers, and look into what they have in common.
At the same time, look at posts that get little to no interactivity and think about why they flounder. Are they text-only posts that get lost among more visual posts? Are you posting links without comment? Are they off-topic?
#9 You Must Stay Current
The internet, and what’s hot on social media, changes constantly. You need to be on top of that. Don’t post relevant news days after the fact, out-of-date SEO articles, or yesterday’s memes.
People who use social media frequently are savvy and they know the trends — stale memes make you look out of it.
Don’t be that company that posts Left Shark jokes on Tumblr 11 months after the halftime show.
Of course, a lot of content on the internet is evergreen, and it’s fine to post evergreen content, as long as it’s not noticeably dated (an article about running a Facebook contest based on Facebook’s old policies, for example).
Always check the date of any article you share. If it’s still relevant but not recent, add a self-aware comment such as “this is still great advice!”
#10 You Must Be Flexible
You might spend weeks figuring out your perfect social media strategy, which puts you ahead of the game — but don’t lock it in.
Social media is not static. You can’t rely on that one great strategy for five years. Or even one year, at the pace social media is evolving.
This is to say, adjust as needed. Your analytics will tell you when a posting strategy is growing stale.
And always keep an eye out for the next big platform. Twitter and Facebook may still be effective mainstays for your business, but if you’re resisting new platforms like Periscope, you’re not going to get the most out of social media.
Don’t be afraid to try new platforms.
Social media is vital to any business, including small businesses. Having success on social media, with a large number of organic followers who interact with you and, most importantly, utilize your business, takes work.
The right social media strategy — one customized to your business, for your clients and potential clientele — makes all the difference.
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