One of the biggest mistakes business owners make when it comes to social media is they don’t put together a plan for making it work. Often, I’ve seen companies dabble in LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter only to claim it didn’t do anything after using it for a month or two. This approach to social media has to stop. If you want to make your business relevant, it’s time to create a social strategy that works.
Small businesses can no longer ignore the conversations, reviews and purchases taking place on various social media channels. Your customers and prospects are posting pictures on Instagram, writing reviews on Yelp, and talking to friends about their experiences and/or potential purchases on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Pinterest.
To create a winning social media strategy, you will need persistence, patience and a focused effort. Here are five ways social media can help grow your business.
1- Connect with customers and prospects. Social media is a platform to market your products and/or services in a non invasive, educational manner. Ask your existing customers if they want to engage with your company on social media. You can let them know about special programs, discounts, and changes in your business through various social channels. If they opt to add your company to their social networks, listen to what they are discussing and engage with them when applicable. Share content, answer questions, and congratulate them if they post good news. The more you engage with customers and prospects, the deeper your relationship becomes with them. Consider how you can help them achieve their desired results and how that connects to your unique value proposition.
2- Conduct market research. Benchmarking is one of the best ways to remain current on changes in your industry. Social media offers insights into the future of your business and marketplace. By following industry influencers, media people covering your market, and experts, you have immediate access to data that simply wasn’t available before the rise of social media.
In addition to understanding the many changes in your industry, social media can help you find answers to tough questions. If you struggle with a particular problem, social media should be one of your first “go to” resources. Use sites such as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn to conduct surveys or ask people for their comments on specific opportunities or overcoming obstacles. Think of these platforms as boards of advisors ready to help you manage and grow your business.
3- Network with experts, influencers, and media. Whenever I attend a trade show or conference, I always put together a list of key people I want to meet at the event. The list usually includes someone from the media, an industry expert or two, and people who are influential in that particular industry (e.g. a blogger or someone with a large following on one of the social media platforms). Before attending the event, I connect and engage with everyone on one or more social platforms. The prep work turns a cold call into a warm introduction. The engagements give me access to smart people while expanding my network. In turn, I share information I’ve gathered on their particular industries.
4- Track your competitors. Social media can help you virtually track your competition. In the course of a week, your competitors will post pictures from events they attended, tweet about client meetings, and write blog posts about new products or services they plan to offer. On LinkedIn, you can track new hires and recent layoffs simply by doing a company search (LinkedIn is one of the first platforms updated by employees when changing jobs).
5- Build your brand. Everything you do on social media has an impact, positive or negative, on your brand. It is imperative to be mindful of your blog posts, tweets, posted pictures, and status updates and how they are helping you build your brand. The simple rule is, “Don’t post something on social media you wouldn’t say or show to someone in person.”
Time is the biggest investment you will make in social media. Instead of looking at ROI (Return on Investment), you should measure R.O.T.I. (Return on Time Invested). If your business is new to social media, start with the one platform that is most popular with your target audience. Learn how to successfully build a solid foundation and then use that platform to connect with people on other social platforms. Before you know it, social media will be the core component of your successful marketing strategy.