Social media has quickly become a necessary component of a strong marketing plan. It can enhance your online and mobile marketing activities. It can also improve your offline outcomes. But how do you know which social media platform is right for your business? With over one hundred options currently available, you can easily become overwhelmed with choosing the ones that will further your goals.
When deciding on the social media you want to use, consider each alternative against your SEO and business strategies. Select those that will complement what you are already doing or that can take your business to the next level. Following are tips you can use to help with your social media screening process.
Define What You Hope to Accomplish
Too often marketers simply jump on the latest social media bandwagon. But just because Facebook has the most users or everyone seems to be on Twitter does not make these social media platforms necessarily the best ones to use for your business. You need to begin by defining your need – what do you want social media to do for you? Be specific. Maybe you are looking for another way to engage customers. Or perhaps you want to build your brand by increasing visibility and awareness. You may simply want to drive more traffic to your site. Each is possible with social media but you need to select the right platform to use to accomplish your goals. This is often the most difficult part of the process because most business owners have so many ideas of what they want to accomplish. However, when you frame your goals in the context of your current business strategy, you should be able to reduce them to a manageable number. If you have multiple goals, prioritize them in order of importance.
Decide How You Will Use Social Media
Review your business strategy to see how social media can best be used in your company. Do you want to use it solely to market your products or services? Or do you want to let people know about job openings? Many businesses use social media to obtain feedback from visitors and customers. It is also a great way to improve your overall customer service. These are all valid uses of social media. You need to pin down how you plan to use social media as early in the process as possible so you can make the best selection for your business.
Identify Your Target Market
This is a big step in the process. Don’t assume your current customers are your target market for your social media activities. How you plan to use social media will determine your target market. For example, if you are a retailer, your target market may be current and prospective customers. However, if you are an SEO company, your target market is online businesses. Knowing your target market will ultimately help you select the right social media platform since each caters to a specific type of user. Once you have clearly identified your target market, gather as much information about your target market as possible. This includes their age, income, education, and even their interests. You may want to target specific business niches.
Research Target Market Online Activity
Now that you have the basic information on your target market, you are ready to do some research to determine their online activity. Why do you want to do this? Well, you may find that Google+ and LinkedIn are where most of your target market spends their time online. And if you decide to spend your money marketing on Facebook, you will miss your target audience. Part of this includes determining who the current influencers are for your target market. What social platforms do they use? Is this where your target market is as well? This will take some time on your part but it will be well worth it in the long run. If you are not sure how to conduct this type of target market research, you can always outsource this component to a reputable online marketing firm who specializes in this type of activity.
Determine Internal Resources
Next you will want to assess your internal resources including budget and human capital. Every business has limited resources. You will need to decide how much time and money you want to commit to your social media marketing campaign. For it to be effective, social media may need to be managed on a daily basis. This will depend, in part, on how you plan to use social platforms in your business. If you have the financial resources but not the human ones, you can hire a social media marketing firm to manage your campaign for you. Many businesses outsource blogging activities to professional writers who can articulate messages clearly for target markets.
Select Multiple Social Media Platforms
Once you have completed the previous recommendations, you are ready to select your social media. Choose five to seven that interest you and meet your qualifications. You should not use more than three to five at a time but it is a good idea to have a few backups since you really don’t know at this point how successful each will be. Strategically select those that can meet multiple business needs. Decide if you want to use a public network like Twitter or a private social network like Yammer. Review all of your options and create a pro/con checklist for each. Remember, your ultimate selections need to complement your SEO and business strategies.
Research Shortlist of Social Networks
There are several ways you can do this. Begin by reading about best practices online. There are many great forums that business owners can participate in to learn about the advantages and disadvantages of each social network. Read past posts and participate in new discussions. Social media is constantly changing so don’t assume the something that was posted a year ago holds true today. You can also contact other businesses to see what their particular successes have been with a specific social network. There are plenty of news articles on social media, a recent one being GM’s decision to stop advertising on Facebook. Of course you should read these articles but always in context – you are not GM. Just because they did not find success with Facebook does not mean you will not either. Take all of your research as a whole to make an informed decision.
Become a Member Before a Marketer
As an individual member, you will get a taste of how your target market interacts with ads and marketers on the social network. Get a feel for what is acceptable and not acceptable. You can also learn what businesses can and cannot do on the network by reading the terms of service that is available by the network. In many ways, social networks are mini-cultures and you need to learn the language and rules of engagement before you begin to implement your social media marketing strategy or you will be done before you even get started. It doesn’t take much to alienate online customers. You can do this by how you market or the type of content you are sharing. Can you create the type of social media content that will engage your target audience? This should be a major consideration when moving forward.
Review SEO and Business Strategies
Your selected social media should complement your SEO and business strategies. Now that you have test-driven several social media platforms, you are in a better position to determine if they do in fact enhance your overarching strategies. You also have a sense of the amount of resources it will take to manage on an ongoing basis. You may end up weeding out one or two that you feel may be too burdensome or simply adds little value to your optimization or business goals. It’s okay to get started with a few less tools to work with – you can always go back and add more if needed.
Ultimately, the social media platforms you will continue to use are those that perform. They consistently help you meet your established business goals. And they drive traffic to your site. You will need to be patient as you begin the implementation phase of your social media marketing campaigns. Each social platform works differently, has varying levels of participation, and is successful for specific types of marketing efforts. But you should use site analytics to track how each of your campaigns are working. You can see which keywords are most successful and make adjustments where needed. Provide more of the type of content that gets the most reaction from your followers. After a period of time, you can end those campaigns that are not producing and replace them with your backup social platforms or research new options.
It is expected that nearly 75% of all online marketers will spend more on social media marketing this year. Clearly, social media can be a powerful tool for practically any business. Social media strategies take money and resources to develop and implement. Make sure it is money well spent so you get a high return on investment.