How to properly use social media to fit your business strategy
This article, written by Chuck Cohn, originally appeared on Forbes.com. You can read the original here.
In our increasingly connected society, building a social media presence is as commonplace as getting a driver’s license. Personal Facebook profiles, LinkedIn accounts, and Twitter handles are common among students and professionals alike. However, frequently updating your Pinterest boards does not necessarily equip you with the tools and experience that you need when crafting a social media strategy for your budding business.
Whether you are operating a brick-and-mortar company, or a more tech-heavy startup such as my business, thoughtfully employing social media can help you increase your visibility, profits, and number of customers. One key is carefully linking your social media activity to your business strategy. How can you do so? Here are three pieces of advice:
1. Choose the right platforms and practices
It might be tempting to follow the social media trends that are considered “hot” in popular culture and jump on whatever platform is being talked about the most. Maximizing your social media use means choosing those platforms and practices that suit your core business strategy. For instance, it may or may not make sense for your company to update its Twitter account every hour; what works for another company may not have the same effects for yours.
One strategy could be to first determine which platforms your customers and leads use, and then build your social media presence with those outlets in mind so as to achieve predetermined and measurable business objectives. Even if revenue impact is hard to measure, you should have specific key performance indicators in place that will help you evaluate the extent to which you are doing a good job and generating meaningful value for your company.
In many cases, the objective of a social media strategy is to increase the reach and visibility of your company. Therefore, it would make sense to consider fostering a social media presence on most – if not all – of the major platforms to maximize those reach results. For instance, Facebook may be the largest social media platform, but Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram have the highest growth rates. Which outlets are likely to benefit your business most, both in terms of the users you’ll reach and how you do business? Twitter users, for example, often expect near-immediate responses when they mention a company. If you do not have the resources to answer quickly, Twitter (and other similar platforms) may not be ideal for your company’s social media strategy.
2. Set goals for your social media use
The location, purpose, and size of your business will naturally affect your social media goals. However, many companies use social platforms to:
- Increase referral traffic to their website
- Drive lead generation or e-commerce purchases
- Increase company credibility
- Demonstrate a corporate identity and culture that makes people more likely to want to work with as consumers or employees
- Increase the quantity of feedback that they receive from customers and leads.
Offer an additional avenue for customer service interactions. Your clients may find it more convenient to compose a Tweet or write a Facebook post than to call or email you. It may even help them like you more. One survey found that 43% of customers are likely to recommend a product or service to others when that brand responds in a timely manner on social media outlets.
Media outlets may even consider your online presence when deciding whether to feature your company in a piece. The stories that you portray of an exciting company through social media may help you connect with reporters and writers who are looking for interesting businesses to profile.
Whenever possible, track how your social media use influences your lead flow and customer conversion rate. Ultimately, good use of these platforms should be impacting your revenue and profit figures.
3. Take a systemized approach to content
Once you decide which social media outlets best fit your business strategy, you should develop a comprehensive plan for the content you will be posting. A systemized approach is key when developing your content plan, as this will allow you to maintain organization and consistency when sharing across your various social channels. Try to determine how frequently you will post, how you will quantify the results of your postings, and how you will attain maximum reach with your strategy.
To start, for instance, you should look into social media management tools, such as Hootsuite. These resources can be incredibly helpful for social media managers of any company, as they allow you to plan posts in advance and select only the specific channels through which you would like a particular message to be shared. This helps to keep your content plan less erratic and ultimately should assist you in engaging your target audience at the times of highest potential reach across all cohesive channels.
It is also highly recommended to create and maintain an ongoing editorial calendar for your content. Ideally, you should be able to look at the month or week ahead (depending on your business and particular social strategy) and have a clear view of when certain pieces of content will be published, as well as when you will share them on social media. Taking it day by day is not always wise, even if you are planning your posts one day in advance. That may help you for the short-term, but establishing and following an editorial calendar that stretches over a longer period of time can subsequently help your social strategy for the long-term.
Moreover, it is important to remember that you should present engaging content on social media. If you are only posting messages such as, “Check out our latest deals,” people will quickly tune out. Try to curate posts that are applicable to your product or service and that are interesting. The best content also encourages people to interact with your brand again. Take a company that sells shoes – it could post a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the design process for its latest model. Even content from other sources can work as long as it is relevant to your business strategy.
Whether your business relies on Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, or some combination of these or other outlets, the four words above – relevant to your business strategy – are key to a successful social campaign. By choosing the correct platforms and practices, identifying key goals, and planning your approach to content, you can ensure your use of social media supports your core business strategy.
Chuck Cohn is the CEO and founder of Varsity Tutors, a technology platform for private academic tutoring and test prep designed to help students at all levels of education achieve academic excellence.