If you are serious about using social media as a weapon in your marketing arsenal, then you need to come up with answers to the following five questions:
1. What do I want to accomplish through social media?
It is amazing how many business people fail to ask this question. Often the response we hear is that "somebody told me I ought to be on (fill in the blank)."
Social media can be used for multiple purposes, so identify your specific business goals. Figure out whether you are looking to drive sales, find new customers, provide customer service, or just give your brand a boost.
2. How much do I want to spend?
Too many small businesses treat social media as a game or something to dabble with. If you are going to participate, you are wasting your time (and money) if you just dip your toe in. Make social media part of your overall marketing strategy and treat it with the same level of attention as you would any other marketing initiative.
Tempted to portion off just a small chunk of the budget for social media? Don't skimp: Too small an investment can damage your brand. Social media is all about providing useful, helpful, and interesting information to your target audience. If you disappoint with poor content or infrequent interactions, you send a message that you are either not interested or you are not a quality operation.
3. Who will execute my social media strategy?
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is putting your social media efforts in the hands of interns or the youngest members of the team. They might know their way around multiple platforms, but it doesn't mean they have the knowledge or judgment to deliver your business's key messaging on those platforms.
The ideal candidate doesn't just know Twitter inside and out, but also knows your customers, your target audience, and your business goals.
4. Which platforms are best for my business?
There are dozens of major platforms and if you run a small- to medium-sized business, you won't be able to compete effectively on every one of them. Because money, time and human resources are limited, choose wisely. Here are a few things to think about:
- LinkedIn is great for business-to-business conversations, establishing and demonstrating expertise, hiring, and finding appropriate clients and strategic partners.
- Twitter is perfect for putting a human face on your business, providing useful information to your target audience, and listening to your customers/clients and responding in real time.
- Facebook: The audience is more diverse than you think. Over half of Facebook's users are over 26 and the fastest growth is in the over 25 demographic. Consider Coca-Cola's Facebook page: 41 million fans have opted in to communicating with the brand. Imagine what even 1,000 fans could mean for you.
- YouTube: YouTube has become the No. 2 search engine. If you can create informative, entertaining, and even humorous videos about your company and products, then you can use YouTube as a highly effective tool in attracting and retaining customers/clients.
- Pinterest, the photo-sharing service, is the new kid on the block, but it has developed a huge audience. With women representing over 80% of Pinterest users, it is a great venue if your products or services are geared towards women.
- Foursquare, the premier location-based social media platform, works well for local businesses looking to drive immediate traffic to their brick-and-mortar operations. Foursquare also tends to skew toward a younger demographic than the aforementioned platforms.
5. How do I know if my efforts are working?
If you've already answered the first question on this list, then you already know your goals. The next step is to measure against them. Be vigilant. Like any marketing efforts, there will be growth pains as you learn the ropes. But by keeping up with your metrics, you can change course or make tweaks while you still have money in your marketing budget.