With new social media platforms debuting all the time, larger audiences engaged online, and increasing traditional advertising costs, it makes sense why more businesses are turning to social media marketing. According to the Social Media Research Center, 78% of Fortune 500 companies use Twitter and 74% use Facebook. Additionally, research from LinkedIn and research firm TNS found that 94% of small businesses use social media as a marketing tool.
I have shared before why social media is worthwhile for your business and whether small businesses can benefit from it, but how do actually achieve success on these sites? With such a large percentage of businesses on social media, it isn’t easy to stand out and achieve the goals you might set for yourself.
Just like baking, you need a great recipe to get a great result. While you could succeed by throwing every ingredient into a bowl, the chances are very low. A delicious chocolate chip cookie comes from quality ingredients, precise measurements, and knowledge of the recipe. Although there is more leeway with social media, the basic principle still applies.
- 1 clearly defined purpose
Why are you using social media? You need a definitive purpose to justify your use, otherwise what is the point? Think about how social media will help your business or what you want it to do for you. If you don’t have the slightest clue, your chances of success are slim.
- 1 – 4 set goals (to begin with, feel free to add more as needed)
Goals help drive you to triumph. Knowing what you want to achieve informs your strategy and gives you the tools to reach those goals. Say you want to increase your website traffic. With this in mind you could post many links to different pages and try to get many shares to increase awareness and clicks. If you didn’t define your goal, you wouldn’t even know if you were getting closer to it.
- 1+ buyer personas (depending on company)
Know your audience. It is as simple as that. Buyer personas are an essential part of the inbound marketing process, including social media. How do your customers typically speak? How are they expecting you (as a business) to talk to them? Companies like Denny’s and Taco Bell use very casual and funny language on their profiles since their audiences skew young.
Although that works incredibly well for them, it would probably fail miserably for other companies who don’t have the same audience. What will work for your business?
- A generous helping of quality content
Content is the heart of social media. Pictures, videos, articles, gifs, and infographics populate almost every social media feed. On sites like Twitter and Facebook, the ability to share/retweet something drives engagement. The better your content, the more likely it will be shared. According to Statistic Brain, an average of 58 million tweets are sent every day! To be heard through the noise, you need to offer something exceptional.
It isn’t enough to post a boring, bland something daily and expect a big response. Consider your buyer personas again and what they want to see. You don’t need hundreds of people to respond to your posts, just the ones most likely to become customers.
- 1+ employees dedicated to social media (depends on needs)
Some companies will throw all their social media responsibilities on one of their current employees, who already has a full set of other duties to do. Social media is often treated as a superfluous frill and not taken seriously. It is generally easy to tell which companies think like this because it is reflected on their profiles.
You don’t need a sole social media manager, if that isn’t in your budget right now, but you should have someone who spends a portion of their day or week to social media. This person should know the overall strategy, goals, purpose, and how to implement these. It definitely makes a difference.
- A handful of creativity
Even the most “boring” industries can succeed on social media. It takes creativity and imagination, but it is possible. With the millions of posts going live constantly, there has to be something that sets you apart. Social media allows companies to be creative with their content in a much different way than typical marketing. It isn’t as serious or rigid. There is much more opportunity for fun and innovative thinking.
Check out a post I wrote a while back about some B2B companies like FedEx, which are generally not considered very cool, yet do very well online thanks to creativity.
- Define your purpose and goals
Figure out why you are using social media and what you want to accomplish. Write these down so you can refer back when necessary. Remember that these don’t have to be set in stone and can be adjusted as you continue to learn and experiment. The most important thing is to have something directing your efforts.
- Pick one or more social media platforms
Your purpose and goal will likely inform which platform will be best for you. If you are looking to reach out to a large audience and promote your products, you might turn to Facebook. If you want to highlight your business visually, then Instagram is a great choice. Look at each of the popular sites, and compare the pros and cons of each. I would suggest focusing on just one to begin with and then grow from there.
- Learn everything you can about the platform
Do as much research as you can and read as many tutorials or guides as possible on the social media site you choose. There are so many facets and tools within each site, and it is important to know as much as possible. Learn about the best times to posts, what type of posts typically perform well, what type of audience uses the site, and anything else relevant to your goals.
Don’t expect to know everything about a platform just because you use it in a personal capacity. Many times there are specific business tools that can be extremely helpful.
- Plan out your strategy
How are you planning to achieve your goals? Think about what kind of schedule you want to keep and how often you want to post. Will you post certain type of content on certain days, will you participate in many different groups, or will you schedule posts weeks in advance? Don’t go to in depth with your original strategy because it will likely change once you begin, but it is good to have a basic plan.
- Dedicate time to implement your strategy
You need time to put your social media efforts into action. People often underestimate how long it can take and get overwhelmed. Set aside some hours each day or each week to work on your strategy. Don’t let it go to waste. People will often start unfollowing accounts that are inactive for long periods of time. Make sure you are putting in the effort.
- Analyze your data
Almost every platform comes with analytics where you can monitor just how well your posts are performing. Do not ignore this! After a week or two, check this data to see whether your hard work is paying off or if it is failing miserably. Pay attention to what the data tells you, and adjust accordingly. If week after week, you see that your posts are getting absolutely no clicks or likes, then you need to change. Social media is a fickle friend, and you need to constantly stay engaged with your accounts. Don’t feel completely tied down to your plan; be open to change.
Following this recipe will hopefully bring your company closer to achieving success on social media. As far as how long this process will take, it depends entirely on your goals and your strategy. For some, they could see improvements immediately and for others, it could take weeks or even months. Be patient, adapt as you go, and listen to what your audience is telling (or not telling) you.
You unfortunately won’t get any delicious cookies from the recipe, but social media has the power to generate leads and even bring in sales, which I suppose is as good as cookies.