So, you have taken the initiative to establish social media accounts for your small business or nonprofit organization, but where do you go from there? If you have already started activity on your accounts, you may be wondering why it is evolving at the speed of molasses. Many small business owners don’t consider drafting a social media plan before they join online communities and that can often increase a user’s frustration level and produce more negative results than positive.
With that in mind, I tell you, “It’s best to start with a social media plan.”
1. Develop a Strategy
When diving into social media operations, it is important to tailor your efforts to your current goals. Your intentions to maximize the benefits of social media pages are likely to fall under one of the following categories:
- Increase traffic to your page and/or the number of followers
- Increase the level of engagement and discussion on your page
- Increase in-store traffic through cross-promotional opportunities
Your objectives are likely to shift over time and you should do a regular assessment. It is unlikely that each of your social media accounts will burgeon at the same pace and your efforts should match the objectives of each.
While planning for your objectives, it is also necessary to remember that at times your labor will require a giving mentality. A well-executed discount or promotion can bring additional vigor to your campaigns and the ability to tailor future endeavors to your customer base.
2. Choose a Management Platform
If you find yourself managing multiple social media accounts, it is recommended that you make use of one of the numerous social media management platforms available for this task.
A management platform can help you schedule posts for various social media sites from a one place. Scheduling your posts can be helpful in maintaining a once a week system for posts. Some management platforms even grant the ability to track engagement from one central base. This will allow you to ensure that you are communicating a consistent brand identity throughout each social media platform and to track the effectiveness of your posting schedule.
There a multitude of free and subscription services to help you manage your posts and interpret their effectiveness. Check out this comparison of management tools.
3. Learn the Basics
With or without the use of a social media management platform, it is important to understand how to interpret the data available through the various analytic services. Facebook offers their personal analytics under the Insight feature. In addition to being able to gain an understanding for the demographics the fan base, you can also understand the effectiveness of your posts. They recently underwent a revamp to make it easier to understand the data. You also have the ability to export data in the form of a spreadsheet relating a specified period of time.
Reach and engagement are the most foundational aspects to understand within social media metrics. Reach pertains to the number of people who saw your post through their own feedback and/or when a mutual friend shared your post.
Reach is a quality indicator in determining the effectiveness of your post times and the activity trends of your fan-base. Engagement rate measures the number of clicks, comments, shares, and/or retweets your post received.
This is an important indicator to determine the effectiveness of the content you share, the format of your posts, and the demographic trends of those being engaged or neglected. Do not be too quick to write-off a seemingly unsuccessful posting strategy based solely on the data of one or the other.
Efficacy should be based on a balance of the two. Let the data lead you to find the gaps in your strategies. There is no precise formula as every fan-base is different; it is likely to be a process of educated guessing until you find what works for you. As your fan-base grows, you will need to revisit these factors to adjust for the paradigm shifts.
As for other basics, it is equally important that you use each social media platform as intended. Facebook and Twitter have a less formal approach than LinkedIn. Most likely, your fan-base on the LinkedIn, a professional social networking site, will not be identical to your fan-base on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Keep your posts relevant to the audience for each platform. What works for one, may not work for the others. This may require a slight change in phrasing or a variation in the content, which you share. This includes the appropriate use of the hash-tag–unsuitable for Facebook and most definitely the professional setting of LinkedIn.
4. Interact With Your Followers
When it comes to business accounts on social media, fans have several reasons for following a page. Providing a quality product or service is foremost, but it is unlikely to be enough to establish a solid social media operation. Another reason people follow is for the quality of content that is shared through a page, but that will be discussed later. Both of the aforementioned are of lesser worth without a unique presence and vice-versa.
To begin with, whether selecting a single person or a team to manage your social media efforts, they must be present beyond the task of posting content. Do not just take to bombarding followers with marketing materials. Engaging with followers is key—after all, these are social networks. Show the faces of your team and the business; people like to know with whom they are communicating. Share photos of the work environment, share anecdotes, and speak highly of employee achievements. Give character to your page. Go beyond asking arbitrary questions. Engage in conversational dialogues, respond to questions, and request engagement. The goal is to establish a repertoire with your followers.
5. Format Your Posts
The quality of the content, which you share with your followers matters, but first you must get their attention. When it comes to your initial posts, communicate with purpose–small talk and forced questioning is not an effective means to garner engagement. However, there is a stark difference between trying to squeeze engagement from a dry post and a sincere response to interact with your followers.
Be sure to change the format of your posts; do not always rely on the same structure to lure viewers into engaging with them. You can employ several of the following variations:
Facts: Create intrigue with rare or interesting facts. Relevant novelty items can also have the potential to spark discussion and reach. Use them sporadically.
Tips: When sharing helpful hints, use the prefix “TIP:” Request the engagement of your followers.
Questions: Ask for comments; don’t just always ask questions. Again, find ways to request engagement without forcing a question. When you do ask questions, follow up with a response.
Images: Naturally, images tend to draw more interest than a standard post and they have the ability to be more effective when used in the proper manner. There are no recommended limits, but try not to make every post an image—again, try to deliver variation among posts, Photos are most suitable for promoting links to article, sharing novelty items, and contributing to the personality of the social media page. Make use of your cover-photo by displaying current promotional campaigns.
Info-graphics: Info-graphics are a relatively recent trend in visual communication. Essentially, it they are visual representations of data, which goes beyond the style of pie charts and graphs. Make use of these when you are able. A general search for relevant info graphics should suffice or you can look through databases such as Visual.ly.
Links: Using a bit link can also help you track the engagement with your shared posts. Sites such as Bitly allow you to shorten the URL links and track the number of clicks to that link. This is particularly helpful in Twitter where every character counts. Again, relevant images are recommended to prompt attention from followers.
Endorsements: Give credit when credit is due. If you share something from an external source, it is simply good practice to make a reference to the source. This is especially important when sharing content from other social media pages. In fact, go beyond making a reference to a page, which you admire—endorse them; establish a peer relationship with them. This act of goodwill opens the door for future promotional collaborations and mutually beneficial social media campaigns. It may also help you to establish yourself as a trusted source of authority with your followers.
Videos: Males, ages 18-35, tend to spend a considerable portion of their social media activity on YouTube. In order to reach out to your male followers more effectively, you should employ the use of relevant
Promotions: Linking in-store promotions and discounts to social media efforts can increase traffic to both the social media pages and in-store. If used effectively, promotional strategies can help to acquire a deeper knowledge of the interests within a customer base and the extent of their relationship with your in-store business. For a deeper understanding of social network promotions, review these guidelines for choosing a Facebook contest.
Tread carefully along the lines of sharing external content. Do not share too much from one source or it may have the potential to negate your own placement on your followers’ newsfeeds. Developing original content can grant you a great deal of leverage in this case. Again, this goes hand-in-hand with the necessity to establish a personal repertoire with your fan-base.
As you can see, managing an effective social media campaign can be quite an extensive mission. Adhere to these guidelines and above all, listen to your followers. Streamline the process to the best of your abilities. It is a time-consuming charge when done well. If you find that you have become overwhelmed with the duties amidst the other aspects of your job, there is the option to bring in or establish a team with experience in social media management.
However, it is essential to note that even in those circumstances, your continued involvement is necessary to ensure the best results. You cannot expect extraordinary results without maintaining a personal connection to the campaign. An external team can help you manage analytics, schedule posts, and monitor the progress of the campaign. Only you and/or key members of your team can deliver the personal connection with your followers and deliver relevant, original content.
- Search Engine Journal | Lesser-Known Secrets for Better Social Media Results
- Fox Business Small Business | Social Media: A Race You Can’t Afford to Lose
- Social Media Examiner | How to Track Your Facebook Ad Conversions
- The Huffington Post | Can Public Relations Be Measured? 6 Tips for Proving and Improving ROI