The growing opportunity cost of ignoring social media has led even the most 'old school' businesses to get started with this engaging form of market communication. However, the lack of understanding of how to implement a social media strategy has raised the barrier to entry for many in this group. I've put together an easy to understand three-step process for jumpstarting your social media strategy.
If this is your first time interacting with social media, remember this: Social media is simply a communication channel. Social media alone cannot build your brand or attract new customers. Brand building and market attention are generated through value-add content and conversations. Social media is only a messenger, but it may be the most important one you have since it enables your organization to instantly reach millions. Targeting your audience, engaging in conversations and providing value are all at the core of social media's benefits.
1. Define & Find Your Target Audience
Social media is valuable because it allows anyone to engage, communicate and provide value to a target market. If your market is so niche that only a few people in your industry interact on social media platforms, targeting these platforms becomes even more essential. These niche markets typically have interactions that are much more meaningful since you can get closer to a 1:1 interaction with your target market. The first step is to find out which social media platform has the largest following of users that define your target market. Here are a few steps to get started:
- Define your marketing objectives and find the appropriate target audience. Borrow your marketing department's playbook and use the target personas in these documents as inspiration for search strings when searching for your target market.
- Visit industry association websites and look for any social media links. Many industry associations will have their own unique groups or lists on social media platforms. You may also find that these associations have their own social communities on their websites. Don't confine yourself to the most popular social media platforms. Industry communities and forums still count as social media!
- Find relevant social media groups such as Twitter lists using Listorious, the LinkedIn Groups Directory, Tumblr blog search or Facebook group search. Use existing groups with trusted members as a platform to engage your audience and provide value. Start an industry group if none exist!
2. Understand the Customs & Lingo
Visiting a social media platform will be like visiting a new country for someone new to social media. Even if you may not pick up on it immediately, it's important to understand and embrace the customs and lingo of the citizens.
Understand customs by reviewing and monitoring user posts. For example, you may find that your industry's LinkedIn group forbids any work topics on Monday mornings. In this case, you would obviously want to avoid launching industry value-add content during that time.
Local lingo typically uses unique abbreviated words or an idea tagging structure to deepen communication. For example, a Twitter hashtag is simply a way of tagging an idea or sentiment to add context to a short statement that could otherwise be misunderstood. You may also find that your target groups on these platforms have their own unique dialects within the broad social media lingo. Many of these platforms have user guides such as the Getting Started with Twitter or the LinkedIn Learning Center. Use these guides to embrace the local customs and the lingo to enhance market communication.
3. Engage & Provide Value
Speak up! After you have done your research in Step 2, it's time to jump in and join the conversation. Conversational topics are just as important as business advice. Many new social media users want to know how many posts should be business related versus personal. The best way to determine this ratio is to look at the posts that are happening within these social media groups and follow the trend.
Ideas for conversation starters include:
- Ask a thought-provoking question that relates to your industry.
- Answer questions that others have posted. Scroll through user posts and use a Find command in your browser for a "?" to quickly find questions within user posts.
- Link to a piece of engaging content and ask others' opinions. The content that you link to doesn't have to be your own! Find an industry poll or news article that others may find interesting.
Be sure to avoid creating an 'echo chamber' by duplicating one social media post across multiple platforms. Many organizations fall into this trap because they feel that they can easily scale messaging and cover their bases across multiple social networks. Social media users will reject or ignore these types of posts, so no real upside exists by using an echo chamber strategy. Above all else, engage genuinely with users and provide value-add content to get the most out of social media channels.