Insight October 21, 2016

5 Simple Steps to Social Media Success


As a small business owner, promoting your company is crucial to its enduring success. Social media offers unprecedented opportunities to market your brand and connect with customers, but in today’s ultracompetitive world, it can be difficult to set your business apart from the crowd.

According to Statista, an estimated 78% of Americans now have at least one social media profile. As those numbers have grown, these sites and apps have become the go-to advertising medium for entrepreneurs and small business owners looking to engage current and potential customers.

Whether you are a seasoned social marketer or just getting started, here are a few tips to help you make the most of your efforts.

Step 1: Do your homework.
People don’t generally join social networking websites to discover new businesses. They are there to connect with other users and share valuable content. In order to ensure you are adding value for your followers, it’s important to do your homework.

Where do members of your target market like to hang out online? What type of content do they find valuable? Do they prefer longer posts or quick summaries of information? When you have a good idea of what your audience is looking for in their content, you’ll be able to choose the right social channel.

Step 2: Establish goals. 
It’s no longer enough to just be on social media. Businesses that thrive on social platforms know that determining what you want to accomplish and why is the first step to crafting a successful marketing campaign on any channel.

If you want to make your business stand out, you need to develop a social media marketing plan where every action you take online – including every post, like, reply, and comment – drives you toward your overall business goals. The social media marketing plan is a summary of everything you plan to do and what you hope to achieve. Without it, you’ll have no means of gauging success or calculating return on investment for your efforts.

Step 3: Follow the leaders.
Once you have figured out which networks you are going to join and set some measurable goals, identify other small businesses that have already seen success and follow their lead. See how these companies treat hashtags, what type of content they share, and where they address complaints.

How many hashtags are too many? Do companies mainly post self-promotional content or content from other sources? Is it more common to address complaints publicly or through a direct message? Studying what works (and what doesn’t) for others will save you from having to do everything via trial and error.

As you study your peers, it can be helpful to create a social media policy for employees. Consistency is key when it comes to building a relationship with followers, and having a social media policy ensures that how you interact with followers is the same – no matter who is posting the content.

Step 4: Curate the best content. 
Social media is for sharing stories, not pitches. Companies that go for the hard sell have the potential to lose followers – and quickly. Your company’s social media channels are a way to connect with customers, so focus your efforts on building those relationships.

Selling is still a necessary part of any social media strategy, but small businesses that have large followings know that you need to build trust first. Share helpful and relevant content that you think your followers might actually want to read. If you only post content that you have produced, you will appear too self-promotional. Think of your social feed the same way you might a conversation. When you only talk about yourself, no one wants to join the conversation.

Step 5: Revisit your strategy.
In order to craft a successful social media marketing plan, it’s important to develop clear goals and determine the best way to reach them without alienating your followers. However, once you have a strategy in place, you still have work to do. Revisit your strategy regularly to track progress and ensure that your content stays fresh in the eyes of your audience.

This article originally appeared on The Greater Memphis Chamber SBC Big Ideas blog.