Every small business absolutely, positively needs a social media strategy. Without one, you are underutilizing one of the biggest sales platforms available in the modern world—and that means your business will never reach its full potential.
Scary! But don’t worry. Even if the world of social media feels exhausting and overwhelming and you have no idea where to start, this post is here to help. Read on to find out exactly what you need to do to get started developing your own customized social media strategy. (Warning: You may even get excited about it!)
People use social media for all kinds of reasons, but for a business, there really is only one: to get people to buy into your brand.
Your brand is your mission, your vision. It’s what you stand for. Once you learn to convey this mission through your social media content, that’s when your business will start to thrive.
And creating an authentic brand statement is the first step.
Why is it important to perfect your brand statement? Your statement becomes your story. It provides you with your actions, including your marketing activities and your social media presence.
So, how do you get started? These are the questions you should be answering when it comes to defining the brand statement for your small business:
- Who are we?
- What do we do?
- Why do we do it?
- What other brands are we like?
- What do we stand for, and how do we make people’s lives better?
In answering these questions, you are getting down to the core of why you do what you do and what makes you unique. And in the process of answering, you will come up with a vision—and that will make your brand resonate as a single entity.
Everything will begin to align, from your mission statement all the way to your social media posts.
A helpful question to ask yourself if you want to define your audience is: “Who is our ideal customer?” Get a clear image of them in your mind, and describe (in writing!) who they are, what they want out of their life and what they want from you.
From there, you can look into the audience data from your online channels to find out who you are actually talking to.
Image credit: Isabelle Jacques
Other questions you might consider:
- Who are the people who are following you now?
- Do they align with your ideal customer?
- If so, how can you build on that relationship?
- If not, how can you change how you represent yourself so that you are speaking in a way your ideal customer will connect with?
To find this data, you can use the analytics tools built into your social media platforms, or even the Google Analytics data that tells you who is visiting your website (and what they do while they’re there: how much time on each page, how many internal links they click, etc.).
And if you want to dive even deeper into this information on your existing social media followers, there are more tools that can help. If you use a scheduling platform (yes, you should be using a scheduling platform), there are likely a lot of good analytics tools built into that.
For Elevate Marketing Summit (www.elevatemarketingsummit.com), we use the Later.com scheduling platform, but there are a host of others, depending on what type of tools you need. A simple Google search for “social media scheduling platform will give you tons of information and choices.
If you really don’t want to use a scheduling program or you want to go beyond the analytics yours offers, there are also great third-party social media analytics tools you can use, like Social Bakers.
Goal setting is a very important exercise because that's what gives you focus.
Setting your goals is a two-part process, because you can’t set your goals until you define the even larger issue of what it is you want to achieve. This has to be the defining factor for every element of your strategy. For example, if you want more social media engagement, your goals are going to be very different from those you’d have if you want more website traffic.
Here are a couple of examples of goals you could create around social media engagement:
- Grow my Facebook following by 100% in the next three months. (The metric is the number of new Facebook page follows.)
- Increase post engagement by 25% this month. (The metric is the number of comments and post shares.)
Social media is a unique beast: Never before have small businesses had access to such a wide a platform in which your potential customers actively follow you, and that encourages those followers to become advocates that you're able to nurture more engagement from.
By creating and expanding that positive engagement through community building, you're going to build a trusting bond between your brand and your customers.
But perhaps creating engagement isn’t the goal that suits what you want to achieve. Maybe, like the example I mentioned, you want to increase your website traffic.
In that case, this is what your goal might look like:
- Improve monthly website visits that come from social media from 10,000 visitors to 20,000 this quarter. (The metric is the number of page views and visits to your website from social media.)
Here's another way to look at creating social media goals based on your business objectives, and the correct KPI's (key performance indicators) to measure:
Image credit: Isabelle Jacques
The goals above are fine and necessary, but increased engagement is only a step toward your real goal: more conversions.
Here, specifically, is what conversion goals could look like:
- Generate 50 new sales for our new product this month. (The metric is the number of purchases that originated directly from social media.)
- Get 50 new subscribers to our monthly newsletter.
Yes, you do have to deepen your relationship with people by moving them more and more toward engagement. But the next step—moving them from engagement to conversions, like with the goals above—is how you actually grow your business. And that’s the whole point.
Whether or not you are generating conversions is how you know how effective you are with your social media engagement.
Does the way you communicate with your followers lead them your newsletter, your email sign-ups, your “buy now” button?
Your engagement is creating growth, making people aware of your brand, building a community. As they become active advocates that feed more into your community building, that, if done effectively, will then convert into new leads and, ultimately, a sale. All while boosting your brand, which refuels this same cycle.
If we could, we would probably be on every social media channel, all the time, posting in every format and everything would be perfect. But you can’t—especially if you’re a small business with limited staff and a small or nonexistent budget. Focus your resources on where you can have the greatest impact.
One strategy could be to just focus on one social media channel. Then if that goes well, you can expand into multiple channels.
So, which one?
To pick the channels that are going to be the most effective for your brand, you need to go back to those two big questions we’ve already discussed:
- Where is your audience?
- What are your goals?
And then add one more:
- Who are your competitors, and where are they?
Focus your resources on where your audience already is—don’t waste time trying to lure them over to a platform they’re not interested in.
Check in with your goals and see how they align with the nature of each platform. (Just generally check in with your goals, all the time, with every decision.) And look at the people you are competing with—the big guns, and also the little guys who are coming up behind you with the fresh ideas. How are they portraying themselves?
- What platforms are they using?
- What kind of content are they putting up?
- Should you be doing something similar?
- Or something different?
There's no magic formula and no golden rule when it comes to when you should post your social media content. But what should dictate when you post is your audience's behaviour. So, always look into the dynamics of your platforms and identify the most popular times.
- On Twitter, you can tweak your posting strategies multiple times a day and then see which tweets work best.
- On Facebook, only 10% of your followers will see your content, so wait a couple of weeks and then repost the exact same content. See if it does better at different times.
- Instagram stories are best posted early in the morning because people often check to see what happened the night before.
Create a schedule, and be consistent so that you'll be able to track audience behaviour and expectations. See if you're meeting your KPIs (key performance indicators—the benchmarks you set to measure if you are meeting your goals). If you aren’t, change things up and test a new schedule, allowing time for people to get used to your new posting habits.
A final tip for content scheduling is to use an editorial calendar to organize your content for the year. What themes, events and ideas will we hit over the next 12 months?
A little work at the beginning of the year can save your mind down the road and prevent future you from having to scramble to take advantage of special dates that feel like they came out of nowhere.
You can just sketch out the main themes, sales, dates, events, seasons, occasions, or take the time to really dive into the nitty gritty of what to post and when to post it. You’ll thank yourself later—even years down the road when you’ve been able to evolve and perfect your calendar, tweaking and updating it rather than starting from scratch.
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Go back to your initial chart and the goals you set and see how you’re doing. Always take the time to extract your KPIs regularly.
For example, did you grow your Facebook following by 100% in three months? Or increase post engagement by 25%? If you didn’t hit your goals, it’s time to take a step back and ask yourself: Why not? Wrong audience, wrong platform, wrong content? What can you do to improve, or how can you present it in a different way?
These check-ins can be done at the end of the week, the end of the month, the first of the month. It honestly doesn’t matter as long as you stick to a schedule and always plan time for it in your calendar.
People tend to get really excited about the content and forget about the performance. Always keep a record of success and look back at your month (or term of your choice) to identify your top-performing content. This makes content sourcing easier, and is an easy mix of qualitative and quantitative analysis.
In the end, you should always compare yourself to yourself—because you are setting the benchmark for what you are doing. We can only control what we’re doing ourselves. It’s always good to know who your competitors are and what they’re up to. But what is it that you're doing? Where are you and how can you improve?
Here’s a last piece of advice to set you off on your strategy planning adventure: Don’t be afraid to try social media! Nothing on social media is forever. So experiment with new things, be creative. Social media is a field that's changing constantly. So try something one week and, if no one liked it, oh well, you’ve learned! Social media is a great testing ground for your business and your brand. And, ultimately, it can be the testing ground for a larger campaign down the road.
So use it, love it, hate it, grow from it, and in the end, with consistency and dedication, your business will flourish.
Check out the upcoming Elevate Marketing Summit—our 2020 virtual conference is all about the "three Cs" of content marketing: How to create content, how to curate content, and how to collaborate on content for exponential results. Hope to see you there!