There is no doubt that social media can be a powerful tool with the potential to connect a business with customers and influencers across the globe. Every day I hear from business owners, "I have all my social media channels set up but how do I actually make them work better so I can achieve my business goals?"
Creating an account on a social media channel is relatively simple, however gaining followers, maintaining a presence and achieving real results can be a challenge.
The first thing I tell anyone who is getting involved in social media is, "Create a social media strategy". Without a strategy you are flying blind and if you're blind you will have little chance of being successful.
However, to many this all sounds well and good until they sit down to write their strategy and they have to figure out what actually goes into a strategy. To be successful, a social media strategy needs the following:
Before jumping online, it is important to map out your business aims and goals and how social media channels can help. There are many different motivators for promoting a business online, and each one requires a slightly different approach. Does your business want to promote products, create brand awareness, be seen as a thought leader, support sales, or engage with customers? It is important to plan ahead and decide what it is you want to achieve. This will determine how you engage with your audience.
Determine who your target audience is, that is who you want to engage with on social media. By researching the target audience you can identify their characteristics, interests and priorities which can be used to help determine the best social media channel/s to use.
Not all social media channels are the same in how they engage users. Facebook and LinkedIn have different purposes so how you interact with your target audience and what you post should be adjusted to suit the channel.
For example, LinkedIn is designed for professional networking, which makes it more suited for thought leadership rather than promotions. Facebook however, can be used in a somewhat relaxed manner. Depending on the business you can take a more conversational approach to engagement.
3. Content strategy
For a business to succeed on social media, it is imperative that engagement is consistent. To create engagement, identify the main 3-5 topics that relate to your business and your area of expertise that will be appealing to your target audience. Use these topics to create content that you want to be recognised for. A good idea is to have a brainstorming session prior to writing content to come up with story ideas that align with your topics.
When it comes to engaging audiences, images are just as important as the story. An eye catching image can be the difference between your content being engaged with or not.
Also, it is a good idea to put your stories into a content calendar. This will allow you to plan ahead and schedule posts to appear at optimum times of day or night to reach your audience.
4. Measure success
The only way to know if your strategy is working is to review the results. Your analytics will assist in understanding how many people saw, "liked", shared, commented and clicked on your posts. Social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter have analytic tools within the site, for others such as LinkedIn you can utilise tools such as Hootsuite, which let you know which content was popular. Analytics is vital to understanding what resonates with your audience.
5. Review and assess
Once you have obtained the analytics, it is important to review how you engage with your audience. Once you have an idea of what content works best or even the optimum time to post on certain channels, you can adjust your strategy to get even better results.
A good social media strategy is fluid. What works today may not work in a month's time. It is essential you review how you are engaging with your audience to ensure the message is being received. Staying on top of online trends and researching the competition will also provide added insights and help to understand what is engaging to your audience.
Achieving social media success is not an easy task. There isn't a one-size fits all approach to engaging with your audience. Careful consideration needs to be applied before creating an account on any social media channel to decide if it is worthwhile for you and your business. With the right strategy, a social media presence can help you to meet your goals.
Catriona Pollard is the author of 'From Unknown To Expert', a step by step framework designed to help entrepreneurs develop effective PR and social media strategies to become recognised as thought leaders and influencers in their field. www.UnknownToExpert.com. Catriona is also the director of CP Communications, which merges traditional PR tactics with cutting-edge social media strategies that engage consumers as well as business.