Getting Started with Social Media

It is all to easy to treat social media as an afterthought in running your business, particularity at the start when you are not getting much response. If you want social media to work for you, you need to make a commitment to make it a priority. Below are some basics on how to get started.

  1. Determine your goals
    The first thing you need to do is work out what you want to get out of your social Web presence. What is your reason for doing it? Do you believe it is a way to increase sales? Or maybe you want to offer an extra level of customer service? Perhaps you want to build relationships with customers with a view to boosting loyalty? How you answer these questions greatly affects the type of content you publish and even which social media platform you publish it on.
  2. Listen To Customers Rather Than Just Promote Products
    Social media offers a platform to communicate and engage with your customers, so I recommend you use it as such. Make use of the time you spend on social media to understand your customers and address their needs, not simply to promote your products and services. In fact, if you only use it to promote your products and services, potential customers may actually be put off. There are exceptions to this, for example, perhaps your business model is all about deals and offers so customers may well appreciate you using social media to keep them informed. Even if self-promotional activates benefit your business, do not forget non-self-promotional activities. By listening to your customers, this will not only help you better understand their preferences, but it will also help you create a loyal customer base who trusts your business. An ideal goal should be to create a community of like minded people.
  3. Choose the Right Platform
    In an ideal world you would want to publish on the platform that you know your potential clients themselves use. You also want to pick a platform that suits your business and your social media goals. For example, Image based businesses (designers, galleries, artists, etc.) might benefit from Pinterest or Instagram. Whereas, if you see social media as about adding an extra level of customer service then Facebook or Twitter should be considered. If you just need a news feed then Twitter is an elegant solution.
  4. Kick Starting a Social Media Campaign
    Many people think you just have to put up a Facebook page, add the odd post and people will come. Unfortunately, with this attitude, your Facebook page will be like one of those abandoned Wild West ghost towns with tumbleweeds rolling through it. Establishing a successful social media presence requires hard work and dedication. So where do you start? Well, many small businesses already have some sort of contact with their customers. If they are selling online, then they will undoubtedly have their names and email addresses. Perhaps you have previously set up a Newsletter system and have subscribers in a database This is already a good starting point. At the very least you can announce to your customers they can now communicate with you on social media. Make sure that your newsletter or any communications have links to your social media pages. If you are a small local business, see if there is a local group on Facebook and find a way to promote yourself on that. Add an email signature to your business emails and make sure it includes your social media links.  Do not overlook something as old fashioned as simply talking to your customers. If you have bricks and mortar premises, get your staff to engage with customers, put up posters, hand out leaflets, what ever it takes.
  5. Evaluate your Skills
    Who is capable of creating quality content that will engage people? Who is going to maintain your social media accounts? Who is capable of respond to questions about your services and be the friendly voice of your business? You need to be sure you have the necessary people in place to manage social media before you start. For a small business, this is most likely to be the business owner. However, this is also the person with the least amount of time to spend. Consider a  member of staff with computer skills and, if you are really lucky, is social media savvy already. But remember that they also need to be tactful when dealing with customers, understand customers needs as they communicate, and not just treat this task as just an extension of their chatting with friends on Facebook. If there is a marketing budget available, you might consider a part-time freelancer. Do make sure of their experience before hiring anyone, and do talk to previous clients. Generally I do not recommend signing up with larger companies for managing social media, in particular anyone who sends you unsolicited emails, even (especially) if they claim knowledge of your business.
  6. Create Quality Content
    Once you know where your audience spends time and what kind of content audience members want, try and provide more of that kind of content. You need to continually offer your audience quality content that stands out, in order to build a loyal following of people who trust you as a source that can meet their needs and expectations. What might that content be? Well, if you haven’t got a clue what to write about, then you are going to struggle managing a social media presence. Ideally start by writing about what interests you. Presumably, you got into your business because there was some aspect of it that you found interesting, or even exciting. Why not write about that to start. Then, as you find what excites your customers, focus the content more towards that. You might be thinking, how do I fit in all I want to say in 140 characters of abbreviations and acronyms on Twitter.
    Many people forget that social media really started with Blogging. Try not be confused by what Blogging means, it could just as easily be considered a news feed, or authoritative articles, or your favourite recipes, or lifestyle stories (or a combination of all of these). Your website and Blog are where you store the real content. Think of social media as a gateway to that content.
  7. Create a Schedule and Stick to It
    Allocate specific times during the day to spend solely on social media. Allocate a specific amount of time doing research or learning form competitors social media efforts. Adding content to social media on a regular basis is crucial. Ideally the same time every day. If customers are hoping to interact with you, it is no good if they have to wait a week for a response. Remember you will need to prepare photos to upload. Put together some sort of list of ideas of topics and keep adding to it every time you have a thought. Consider having some sort of Notes making program on your computer/mobile to write down your thoughts as they occur. I have mentioned a mobile phone, using a mobile for the managing social media can actually make it less of a chore. When you create a schedule, it’s easier to stick to it and ensure that you don’t skip working on developing your social media.