If you’re just getting started with social media, or you’re about to hire your first social media manager, then it helps to understand the basics. Social media is an incredibly powerful inbound marketing tool, but the sheer amount of platforms now out there can make it a little daunting when it comes to taking the social plunge.
With that in mind, let’s consider how you should get started, what you need to begin and how you should choose your platforms.
Preparing a Strategy
It’s far easier to prove social media ROI if you have a strategy, especially one that’s written up that the team can refer to. Your strategy isn’t all about which platforms to use and what content and brand messages to distribute, it should also be about how you’re addressing your audience.
When it comes to any marketing activity, it’s likely that you thoroughly understand the importance of branding. Your logo, style, tone of voice and brand personality should all work in harmony and be consistent at all times. With online marketing this is even more important as it’s not particularly easy to ‘cut through the noise’ and achieve brand recognition.
This means that all of the social platforms that you choose should use your branding across all channels. With this in mind, it’s useful to create a brand personality and style document so that the team understand not only what kind of content to post, but also how to reply to comments on posts.
If you haven’t already, it’s also highly useful to create buyer personas for your intended audiences. This is especially the case if you intend to participate in any form of online advertising, especially social media.
Your strategy should include:
- Premium times to post when your audience are active. This will require some research initially, but over time you will be able to use social analytics which most large social networks now have. Tools such as Hootsuite also have analytics to help you to further tweak your social campaigns.
- Content. Which should include a good mix of media such as blog, images and video. You should research what content your audience likes by visiting competitor sites and noting what content the visitors most engage with.
- Competitions. If you’re considering boosting or launching your social presence with a competition or offer, then this should be planned out to ensure continuity across channels.
- Tools. Before launch, you should identify the best tools that you can use for scheduling, replying to comments and picking up brand mentions.
- Hashtags should be researched too, try to choose tags that are searched for and remember that hashtag research is an ongoing process. Sometimes jumping on a hashtag trend can really amplify your reach.
- Cover/profile images should be professionally prepared, be consistent with your branding and catch the eye. Try something a little different perhaps, if you want to stand out, but do make sure it doesn’t deviate from the brand message.
Preparing for Launch
It’s far better to start off using a few of the networks than to join all of them at once and find yourself overwhelmed. Depending on your resources, start off with Facebook and Twitter (you should also fill in your personal LinkedIn page so that you can start a company page later). If your brand produces products that are visual, then consider using Pinterest and Instagram too. Once you’ve mastered these, you can then begin to expand into using the other social sites – social media marketing, even when using tools, can be very time consuming.
As for G+ – well, that’s something of a contentious issue for me personally, as despite the constant predictions of its doom for years, I continued to find it a highly useful and engaging platform (and wrote about it pretty frequently). However, since the last big shake up and the removal of Google Photos and especially since Alphabet, I’ve noted a fairly big drop in engagement. I’m still not saying it’s dead and it does almost instantly index your content, so it’s worth using right now, I believe.
Prepare for launch by advertising your intention to go social in your email newsletters and print marketing materials. Set a date, ensure that all of your covers/content/competitions are ready to go and then on the day, send out an email invitation to your list.
Managing Social Media
Over the few short years that social media has been around, some hard and fast rules have come about. It’s still a little like the Wild West at times, and there will always be things that you find distasteful, but you should follow these simple tips.
- Never be rude to followers, no matter how rude they are to you. If you find that you’re in a situation where a customer becomes abusive, politely explain that if it continues you will end the dialogue. And do it.
- If you find yourself on the wrong end of a poorly thought out social post that brings internet ridicule, humour is the best way to ride it out. Unless the post was offensive, in which case a sincere apology could be called for.
- Always reply to comments and messages as quickly as you can. Social media users quickly become frustrated when they don’t receive an almost instant reply.
- Engage with your community whenever you can, personally.
- If a customer complains, don’t delete the comment. Social media users will respect and trust a company who attempts to rectify a problem publically.
Social media is a great way of connecting with customers and driving inbound leads. This is a pretty quick and dirty guide as to what you should do, but it will get you started. In coming weeks I’ll be bringing you more advanced social tips and advice on getting started with social advertising.