Now that you’re ready to get your feet wet with social media for your small business, figuring out what your strategy should be is the next step.
Social media strategy is often talked about from a high level where experts give broad, even philosophical advice. While this can be beneficial, to really talk strategy—the kind of brass tacks strategy that leads to success—you first need to have an idea of your overall business goals.
Start with these questions: are you trying to increase sales? Is improving customer service a big initiative? Or do you want to create more awareness about your business’ leadership and involvement in your local community, or within your industry?
You may have other goals besides these, but the point is that whatever your social media strategy becomes, it should be molded around accomplishing your specific goals.
For our purposes, we’ll be talking about social media strategies as they relate to the example goals mentioned above. We’ll also give you some basic yet important tasks you can check off the list now as you get ready to implement your strategy. And we’ll share with you some tools to help you figure out who your customers are and where you can find them on the Web.
Then stay tuned, because in the weeks to come we’ll give you ways to put your strategy into practical application and suggest which social media platforms can help you do the job.
Based on increasing sales, improving customer service, and/or creating awareness about your business, here are three social media strategies to consider:
- Generate more leads. Last week we talked about avoiding the hard sell in social media. But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be tapping into your potential customers. In fact, quite the contrary. Engaging with potential customers through social media is an excellent way to generate more sales leads.
- Solve customer service issues online. Social media is well-suited to listening and responding to customer complaints and questions in real time. Because of this, one of the best uses of social media is to improve your customer service. And, if a customer is satisfied with your service, they may also praise the company through social media too, further building brand reputation.
- Increase networking opportunities. Don’t overlook the ability social media gives you to network with other businesses and thought leaders in both your community and industry. Social media provides many outlets for getting your name out there, speaking or appearing at local events, and being an avid participant in groups and forums. It allows you to create your own voice and participate in relevant conversations.
Take Care of the Basics
No matter what your strategy is, there are a few basics you should cover right away so that your business is poised for social engagement:
- Claim your business listing on Google Places. This free service lets you fill out relevant details and information about your business so Google users can find you. Premium options let you add photos and videos, mention the brands you sell, and even offer coupons. If you don’t yet have a website, Google Places is a way for your business to have an online presence.
- Sign up for a Flickr account. Also free, this service lets you post high-quality images of your products, your people, and anything else your customers may find interesting. You’ll be able to use the images for sharing, posting on your Google Places profile, and including on other social media sites later on.
Find Your Customers on the Web
A key part of laying the groundwork for social engagement is figuring out who your existing and potential customers are. To do that, you need to define your ideal customer - and determine things like gender and age, where your customers live, what they’re buying, and which social media networks they’re using.
But not to worry. Technology has made this easier by developing tools that compile and compare data for you:
- RapLeaflets you upload a list of email contacts you already have, and then delivers data based on what you want to know: age, sex, marital status, or any of their other 30+ data points you can select from. Use the information to target your existing and potential customers online.
- Flowtown (recently acquired by Demandforce) “helps businesses transform email contacts into engaged customers” using openly shared information from the most popular social networks. Import a list of email contacts and find out more about each person via any social network profiles they may have. Flowtown also breaks down your entire list by showing the percentages of people using each of the major social networks, as well as your list’s demographic and geographical data.
You can also find new customers by doing the following:
- Join online groups that cater to your industry or niche. When you do this, you’re opening yourself up to a much broader base of people anddifferent ideas and opinions. The camaraderie of shared experiences and lively discussions between people who understand the niche or industry you’re in will ultimately open up inroads to customers you haven’t yet reached.
- Create your own online group. Don’t want to join ‘em? Then bring ‘em to you. When you create your own group, you can steer its direction and conversations, and attract like-minded people in the process. The end result is the same: by seeking new relationships and interactions, you will eventually find new customers.
Doing the initial legwork before using social media is well worth your time and effort. It’s akin to entering the water with a canoe and some paddles, versus diving in without a thing. Sure, you may be able to swim just fine, but where are you going, how long will it take to get there, and how cold is the water?
Once your strategy is determined, the fun part can begin. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, a blog…any of it can be fair game for how you actually implement your strategy.
Next week we’ll talk about which social media platforms are best suited to the example goals we gave this week, in an article titled “Which Social Media Sites Should I Use for My Strategy and How Should I Use Them?”
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