Surely a social media strategy is overkill for a small business?
On the contrary. With limited time and the growing importance of an online presence, a social media strategy is a must for effective small business marketing.
WHAT IS A SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGY?
A social media strategy:
outlines your aims,
supports your overall business objectives,
reviews and records where you are,
sets measurable targets, and
identifies platforms, tools and tactics.
It makes sure everything you put out on social media is seen by the people you want to attract, in a language they understand, in a format that catches their eye, in a way that makes them take action.
It makes sure your social media compliments existing marketing objectives and isn’t an independent activity.
It helps to keep you ‘on brand’ in terms of your company’s aesthetic and voice.
And, don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be a weighty tome. A few pages or simple spreadsheet are enough to get started.
It shouldn’t be set in stone either. Consider it a working document, constantly reviewed, tweaked and improved. See what works and do more of it. See what doesn’t and question it’s relevance.
If, like many small businesses, you have limited time and budget for social media marketing, a strategy is a must. It's essential to ensure the hours and cash you invest are well spent.
WHY YOUR SMALL BUSINESS NEEDS A SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGY
So, exactly how will a social media strategy help your small business?
#1. Support your business goals
It's vital that social media doesn’t become an independent activity. And, that’s all to easy when you are winging it from one week to the next. Social media is a marketing tool. Along with other marketing tools, it needs to support your wider business goals.
How can you be sure of what works? How are you measuring your random activity? A strategy will keep your social content on target, on message and measurable.
#2. Better time management
It seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it, to add another item to your to-do list if you don’t have much time? But, writing a strategy will save precious time in the long run.
If you want social media to help you increase brand awareness, drive traffic, build your mailing list, foster new leads or make sales, you need to do it well and consistently. And, to do it well takes time.
A strategy will make sure your time online is:
* spent purposely (aside from the odd meander and rabbit hole, of course),
* guided by your bigger goals, and
* time-blocked, scheduled and planned.
#3. Better ROI
You don’t need a massive budget to use social media marketing - another bonus - but there is certainly an investment of time.
Setting measurable targets mean you won’t be wasting time on things that don’t return. As you learn, your strategy gets further refined and your return on investment improves.
Something not working? Tweak your strategy and try something else. Something worked? Capitalise on it.
A strategy means your time spent on social becomes more productive and effective. And when you start to see those results, you’ll wish you’d been more strategic about social media from the start.
#4. Start a conversation
It's social, after all. It's tempting to push content out on social media and then get on with your life. But that would be missing out on the essence of social media marketing - the conversation. Conversations that can turn prospects into customers.
Unlike marketing tools of old, social media gives you a real-time platform to talk to your current customers and start conversations with people you haven’t even met yet.
You know people would love your product or service, if only you had a chance to talk to them about it. Well, you have. Join in live broadcasts, Twitter chats, answer questions in Facebook Groups. Just start a conversation.
#5. Listen to your customers
You want your small business to give your customers exactly what they want. You want to address their pain points. You don’t have a big email list yet, so how do you find out what your ideal customer is looking for?
Social media marketing offers you a wealth of customer insights. An open-access, in the public domain, daily stream of customer insights that are free for you to read, analyse and act upon. Feed these insights back into your strategy.
#6. Customer service in real time
Yes, unfortunately, social media is an open mic. And, I’m afraid there isn’t anything you can do to stop people saying exactly what they feel, whether rational or not.
But, as it's public to all, it means it can been seen by you. You can read what people are saying about you, respond in real time, and prepare ahead for those not-so-friendly comments.
Just because you’re not on social media, doesn’t mean your customers aren’t. It pays to monitor mentions of your small business, and diffuse situations or take them offline before they escalate. Include a procedures for dealing with difficult situations in your strategy.
It’s not all doom and gloom, by the way. You also get to share and bask in the great feedback too, which always outweighs the negative!
#7. Brand Awareness
No matter how amazing your product or service is, people can’t buy from you if they don’t know you exist.
You may be avoiding the social media swell, but your competitors aren’t. When people look for a local product or service, their first port of call is invariably their smartphone. Are you there when they search? Are your images popping up? What do you see when you do a search for your own product or service?
Social media can take your brand and splash it all over the Internet. A well-crafted social media marketing plan will make sure your words and images work in harmony, building brand awareness.
#8. Drive traffic to your website
For most small businesses, your online presence centres around your website or blog. This is where customers can sign up for incentives, see your products or services, read testimonials, have their questions answered, watch demos, see and hear you, and get in touch.
Inbound links to your website are an important element of overall traffic. Each time you share a link on one of your social platforms, you build a new road into your website. Others see and share your content, multiplying the links and, therefore, the number of roads back to your home base.
#9. Keep an eye on the competition
And, in the friendliest possible way, social media allows you to keep an eye on and learn from your competition.
Private Twitter lists are a good way to see not only what your competitors are sharing, but also what is popular with their followers (your ideal audience), what questions their customers ask, how they run campaigns, all from the comfort of your home without them being any the wiser.
If you are struggling to think of things to share, this is a great information-gathering exercise. If it works for them, can you adapt it for your own small business? Is there a format that seems more popular with your target audience? When do they get the most reshares or comments? How do they build up to a launch?
The advantages of social media marketing for small business are evident. But, the reality is, it takes time and planning to be effective.
Enter the social media strategy. It has your overall business objectives at its heart, it focusses only on what needs to be done, content creation becomes focussed and effective, and it makes the daily management of social media less of a time suck.
So, time well spent after all.
How do you decide what to share on social media?