Developing a Social Media Strategy

It’s easy to think that because you are adept at navigating real-world social interactions, you can easily manage online social interactions. However, this assumption has resulted in spectacular failure too many times!

In the real world, we chat with one or two people at a time in real time. In the world of social media, you are potentially talking to everyone on Earth, all at once, with words that last forever, with next to no context. It’s such a daunting task to get it right that some have turned their backs on social media altogether. This might be an even bigger mistake. We know of a well-respected, internationally recognized not-for-profit that decided to ignore their Facebook page. It’s now loaded with complaints and misinformation from people unaffiliated with the organization. Someone else has taken control of their narrative, which is never good. Social media is a megaphone, and you should be the one controlling your company’s message, not some random passersby.

Social media is a highly cost-effective means of communication that has become part of most people’s daily lives. In fact, it is often the first place people go to look for news and information, said Cathy A. Preece, a vice president and accounts supervisor at the New York-based public relations firm Adams Unlimited.

“In today’s media climate, every business should consider adding some form of social media to their marketing initiatives,” Preece said.

Her advice for developing a social media presence: Think before you post.

“One of the most common mistakes people make is rushing to start posting without first developing a strategy. Your social strategy should reflect your brand personality, core values, and mission in order to effectively communicate who you are as a business,” she said.

To start, decide on your goals. Do you want to…
● Expand your customer base?
● Inform current customers?
● Remind customers you are around?
● Show off a certain product or service?
● Show off a certain ideology, perspective, or corporate culture?

Once you’ve outlined your goals and a strategy to reach your audience, take some time to hone your perspective. What sort of images do you want to share? What tone will you use for your text? What’s your threshold for over-sharing? What sorts of feedback will you respond to and what will you ignore? Will workplace goofiness carry over into the online space, or should you be more conservative? Preece says to be yourself.

“Social media is a direct channel of communication with current and potential clients. Talk to them—be responsive, transparent, and authentic—and you’ll be off to a great start,” Preece said.

Generally speaking, a few (more-or-less) universal norms in social media platforms can confuse a newcomer. A hashtag (#) is used when referencing a common subject, and an @ (pronounced “at”) is used when referencing a person’s or company’s social account. For example: @iawomen did a great job during #womenshistorymonth. These simple tools will help your account reach new people.

Who Is Posting and Where
It does take some level of savviness to match your company’s message to the right social media platform (or platforms). Facebook, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, WeChat, and YouTube present content in different ways, and they have different user demographics. Other social media platforms with specific audiences may benefit your business. It’s a constantly shifting landscape.

Preece advises that you review various networks and learn how they are used by similar businesses prior to determining which networks are right for you. Once you’ve identified what platforms you’ll engage with, set different goals for each social media platform.

“For example, Instagram is the network most driven by visual content—do you have and will you be able to take enough photos and videos to support posting on a regular basis? Do your clients skew toward an older demographic? If so, Facebook may be your best option to connect with your target,” she said. You may want to start by only using one or two social media networks until you establish a level of comfort and then expand to additional platforms over time.

Once you’ve narrowed down the social media networks you will be posting on, decide who will do the posting. It’s a good idea to have a specific team—or individual—posting to your social media accounts. It will help keep your message consistent and avoid confusion. Even a modest social media presence can become overwhelming, however. Be realistic about your abilities and expertise on this front as well as your time commitment.

“It takes time to create a successful social media program, which is one thing most small businesses don’t have enough of. Outsourcing may be a better option for you if you’re unable to keep up with regular posting or simply can’t imagine adding yet another responsibility to your to-do list,” Preece said.

Whether your company is enthusiastic about social media or you wish it would just go away, it’s worth spending some time learning how to make it work for you and your business.

The way in which digital technologies have evolved means most businesses must have an online strategy to succeed. Get your copy of our FREE eBook: Marketing Your Business Online. Danielle Tenconi, a brand marketing expert and consultant, shared her four-step process for marketing a business online during a webinar, and now she’s back with this great resource for anybody with a business they want to market online.

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