It’s a simple yet enticing formula for businesses starting out on social media for the first time: From nowhere to everywhere. That’s what happens when small businesses overcome their understandable confusion and apathy and get social media right for their business.
I think most would agree that while social media has received some negative press recently, overall it is still a very worthwhile and effective communication platform for today’s fast paced and ever changing social and business world.
The facts speak for themselves. Over seventy percent of consumers say that social media influences their buying decisions and even more intriguingly, it has been estimated that over a billion potential social media users are born every day! Whatever your own view on polls and statistics, one thing is clear; if you are looking to start a new business; social media marketing is a crucial part of an overall digital marketing strategy if you are looking for long term business success.
As with anything that leads to ultimate success though, there are pitfalls and potential problems which need to be understood before you can achieve a profitable and relevant presence for your business on social media. Here are 5 tips and solutions which will help you kick start your business’s social media success journey:
1. Understand the basics. Research why social media is important for your business.
As popular as social media is, a massive number of small businesses still don’t understand how relevant and important it is today. This is understandable, many small business owners do not have the time or indeed the interest to take on yet another task or commitment in an already hectic schedule. They need to rethink their priorities.
Social media can transform the fortunes of small business if it is understood and managed properly. Social media for business provides exposure and opportunities to build audiences which would otherwise be out of reach.
You don’t have to research every element of what makes social media work, but at least get an understanding of the positives; how it helps your bottom line; how it quickly helps you get your brand out there; and how you can leverage and personalise it for your business’s exact needs and requirements.
Once you have been uplifted by its benefits, you will then be motivated to take the next steps to implement it as part of your overall business marketing strategy.
2. Identify what you want social media to do for your business.
Social media works in many ways to benefit businesses. However again understandably, many small businesses have limited resources in terms of manpower and time to understand every element of it fully. So make things easier for yourself by identifying a simple but clear agenda which tells you what you want to achieve from social media for your business.
Once you have done this you then need to identify what resources you have to fulfill these goals. For example, is your business ready to spare time and resource to fulfill your needs? Is your business ready with a suitable product or service to fulfill the needs of your social media audience? Who will manage the social media for your business? Once you have addressed all of these you can begin outlining a basic strategy for a social media marketing and management plan for your business.
3. Strategize your social media business agenda. Keep it simple and to the point.
Once you have decided what benefit or benefits you want for your business from your social media plan, you should begin outlining a basic strategy. This is not as difficult as it may seem, as long as you keep your goals simple and don’t over complicate them.
As with anything, start from a simple goal. For example, if your aim is more sales, then look at which social media platforms will be best for your product or service. How do you start engaging potential clients on social media? Do you have a product which will entice an audience on social media? How do you make it appealing?
If you don’t know enough about how to do it, then who can manage your social media marketing for you? Once you have identified and understood these factors, you can get to the crucial management side of who will manage your business’s social media.
4. Outsourcing your business social media management. Identifying the right Social media agency.
Digital marketing agencies who ‘specialise in social media’ are everywhere. As with most industries, some are good and some are bad. Experience and speaking to many small business owners tells us that the good ones (and there are many) will often charge prices according to their calibre and expertise. They are often too expensive for small businesses to take on.
At the other end of the scale so to speak, are the ones who for a particular fee each month will ‘post this and post that’ each week and update you on progress. This is where you need to be extremely careful. Any form of social media management involves a certain level of understanding, research and strategy on your particular business and industry. Has your chosen social media agency done this correctly?
A huge emphasis, quite rightly, has to be on content and writing articles on your business and industry and the service or product you are putting out. When a social media agency tells you that they will post and engage, you must ask them how and what they will be putting out there, how will they engage positively to show you in a good light, how long do they take to understand your business, how much time do they spend on your account?
Remember yours isn’t the only business social media account that these social media agencies will be managing. Chances are they will be doing social media management for numerous other businesses. Is your business social media really that important to them? Or are they just interested in undertaking the basics for your business so that they can show you something is active for the sake of their monthly fee?
Again, not all external social media agencies operate this way, but a lot do, and some are way better than others. If you don’t ask them the right questions and just take on their services blindly, it’s your business that will suffer. Be wise, rigorously question your social media agency on how they are managing your business’s social media management.
5. Consider social media training for yourself or someone within your business.
Why invest in social media training? Simple; because the best advocates and brand ambassadors for your business are your own employees or you yourself, not some faceless and expensive external marketing company. You trust them, they trust you and your brand, they know and want to show you that they know what your business is all about. They want to feel proud and they want to make you feel proud of them when they act as brand advocates on social media. All you need to do is empower them and empower yourself.
It is quite staggering how many businesses, particularly smaller businesses and new ones, don’t at least invest in ongoing social media training for their business. The fact is that social media for business benefits go beyond the figures and bottom line of your business.
You can manage sales, recruitment, customer feedback and campaign management inhouse and through your own team. Granted, it’s not an overnight process to get it all right and correct straight away, but in the long term the amount of money and time that could be saved by your business from avoiding outsourcing to external agencies will be of great benefit to your business. The proof is in the pudding. Well, just take a look at how many larger businesses and organisations are investing in inhouse social media departments and ongoing development.
So there you have it. 5 steps to help you prepare an initial social media agenda for your new or existing business. There are of course further specifics involved in getting social media set up correctly, however the tips outlined in this article should help those businesses new to social media get an idea of where to start.
Article by Junaid Malik business digital marketer and entrepreneur.