Until recently, my Web design business had been turning down work that involved creating social media campaigns. We watched other agencies launch, struggle, and fail with them. We would hear of the good ones, of course—the campaigns that hit the lottery. But most, especially for small businesses, tended to fail.
The challenge they all face is getting a good return on investment. Although we had plenty of demand for business, we weren't sure we could deliver good ROI on a small budget. Until now.
We've come up with a process that focuses on results-driven campaigns, with goals more closely tied to revenue than to the number of "likes" or "followers."
Here's what we do:
Step 1: Set a goal.
What are you hoping to accomplish by using social media? Increase leads or sales? Reduce customer acquisition costs? Or maybe you simply want to increase brand recognition.
To figure out your goals, you need to (1) determine the value of your customer and (2) determine the value of a prospect. Then ask yourself the following: How much would you spend to convert a prospect into a customer? What if they are already a customer? What is the value of capturing their information so you can market to them to come back?
Step 2: Find your customers.
Do you have an existing audience? Who are they? Are you looking to tap into a new customer niche? Where does your existing or new audience spend time online? This can help you identify which places to put in the most effort and which platforms are not worth your time.
Step 3: Offer something compelling.
What can you provide your audience through social media? Will you share your expertise? Keep them updated on news and happenings within the company? Provide advice? Share exclusive discounts?
For instance, if you own a restaurant, what can you give patrons for "liking" your business on Facebook? A discount? A free dessert? Whatever the reason, get them to engage so you can re-market to them later.
Step 4: Choose your platform.
How will you communicate with your audience(s)? Which platforms are the most important? Don't just think about the big names (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) but also consider niche websites where your audience might spend their time. (Sports fanatics, for example, often spend time on particular message boards or online communities.) It's also important to take into consideration what you're already doing (for instance, email marketing or blogging) and how you can tie that into your new strategy.
Not all social media tools are right for everyone. For instance, Facebook and Twitter may be great for most, but Foursquare works well for physical businesses like restaurants.
Step 5: Execute.
How will you bring your strategy to life? If you're planning to blog, create a content calendar to generate ideas and keep yourself on track. For social media, consider what types of content you'll share on a regular basis and how often you'll interact with your audience. Create a plan and follow it. Be as consistent as possible.
Step 6: Measure the results.
How will you measure your efforts to see if they are working? Will you track visitors or readers? Monitor analytics on Twitter or Facebook? Keep track of comments, re-tweets, or followers? Did you know that with some tricks inside Google Analytics you can track conversions of your visitors through multiple stages of social media. ROI is the only way to measure how well social media is, or isn't, working for you.
Step 7: Rinse and repeat.
It's extremely important to experiment using small steps at first. The most successful marketing campaigns are planned, tested, measured, and adjusted regularly. Set a monthly check-in to see how your campaign is doing. Make some tweaks or scrap it completely and try something new. Either way, make sure you're measuring against a specific goal otherwise you won't know what success or failure means.
Is your small business active on social media? What has it done for you?