A free social media strategy for your business

20 Dec

Building a social media programme is easier than it sounds

I was talking casually to a business owner the other day about what he could get out of social media.

It occurred to me afterwards that the advice I gave him is relevant to you too whether you are small, medium or humungous; whether you sell shark tanks, speech therapy or bleach.

So here’s the beginnings of a plan for your business – base your programme or strategy on this and contact me on Twitter or in the comments if I can be of further help. If this is useful, all I ask in return is that you ‘retweet’ the post or share it in your preferred way.

Start with….

STEP 1. Objectives

Decide what it is you want to achieve

Do you want more customers?

Do you want them to come to you more often?

Do you want them to spend more?

All of the above? Probably – so have a good think about this high level stuff first. Embarking on a social media programme because you ‘feel you should’ is not good.

STEP 2. Strategy

Ask yourself what your social media plan/programme/strategy will achieve, as opposed to what you will actually do. In other words: ask yourself ‘why’, not ‘what’.

Your strategy is likely to include some or all of the following aims, which each serve one or more of the objectives in Step 1.

A. Prospecting for business.

B. Pushing out (free) marketing and PR.

C. Building your brand.

D. Sourcing ideas for the growth of your business.

E. Networking with potential business partners.

F. Providing excellent customer service.

The last one (point F) is, for me, where social technologies really come into their own. We have always had channels through which we could push marketing messages (newspapers, radio, leaflets, websites etc). Social media is special (and ‘social’) because, essentially, consumers finally get to talk back – and to a real human being. So you should use the social web to engage meaningfully and to build profitable relationships, not just to broadcast messages.

STEP 3. Execution

Now you can think about the ‘what’. How will you roll out your strategy? What actions will you take using Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and the rest?

Some techniques you’ll use to achieve points A-F above will include the following (I’m shooting from the hip here to illustrate my point):

  1. For prospecting: eavesdropping – by which I mean searching keywords using Twitter search or a similar service you can locate people who just may need what you sell even if they don’t know it. It sounds wrong but it benefits both of you.
  2. For marketing/PR: publicising prices, special offers, new products and all the rest – the key is NOT to appear spammy; do NOT thrust marketing messages down people’s throats all the time, do it in a way that is interesting and shareable – create videos, podcasts, blogs, images. Be helpful when there is no obvious immediate return. When you begin a social engagement programme, you are building a community – you should be prepared to feed that community. Don’t just take.
  3. For brand-building: Firstly, by positioning yourself as an expert in your field. As you build up a following of people who are interested in your business share the best industry news and opinion (blogs, scientific reports, newspaper columns), link to articles on your own website and your ‘mentions’ in the media and on the web. Secondly, by being part of your online community and interacting, you will generate awareness of your brand within your audience. Thirdly, by involving customers in the growth of the business so they develop an affinity to your brand – and feel part of your enterprise. This could mean running a competition asking people to come up with an advert slogan, menu item or special offer. Tell them you’re writing a blog and ask about what sort of topic might interest them, even ask about your pricing structure…etc, etc. These actions will help build your brand as a business that cares what people think and that believes in excellence. If people feel a part of what you do, they’ll want to share in your success by evangelising.
  4. For sourcing ideas for growth: simply by following and copying other similar businesses and building on their ideas. Being original is far less important than executing your engagement well.
  5. For networking: follow the experts and interact with them, promote their stuff, help them build their businesses – they will help you build your own and business opportunities will follow, whether it’s a speaking engagement, a partnership or a better supplier than the one you’ve got.
  6. For customer service: there are a million blogs about this. Just Google “Zappos and customer service”. Essentially you can now offer new levels of engagement and service before, during and after a point of sale. This is a unique opportunity not just to persuade people to buy your product – but to get them to buy more, more often, and to become evangelists for your business.

STEP 4. Evaluate

There’s no point to any of this if it doesn’t eventually lead to the fulfilment of your business objectives in Step 1. So think about how you will show a strong correlation between the work you are doing on the social web and your business metrics. You might, for example, want to increase the number of customers who return after an initial purchase. If you achieve this during or shortly after a period of social web engagement, how can you be sure it was this and not something else, like a premises refurb or some paid advertising that was responsible? I wrote a blogpost a while ago on this exact topic, which you can find here.

Some general advice

These basics of how to grow a useful community and engage in meaningful conversations leans towards Twitter but the principles work for all social technologies, including Facebook, Linkedin and YouTube:

  • Talk about your passions – the things you genuinely care about;
  • Be conversational, search for ‘mentions’ or messages aimed directly at you and respond to them, don’t spam, pass on/share interesting content, like tweets, blogs and videos;
  • Be generous, help others, don’t be too self-promoting and don’t always look to help yourself;
  • Most of all be human; give your communities some of your personality (there’s nothing wrong with telling people what you had for breakfast – everyone eats breakfast).

These are excellent general tips and many more can be found simply by searching Google.

Some technical tips/talking points

Again, I’m shooting from the hip but this is a start. It’s a little Twitter-focussed again but the ideas are relevant to other social platforms:

  • Get a background designed; it makes a good first impression. Your Twitter page is your shop window and there are plenty of services out there that will help you design a great an relevant background, even with the smaller space the new Twitter. I blog about this here
  • Write a clear, simple bio with your website/blog url and other contact points.
  • Put a social sharing buttons on your website/blog.
  • Follow people who retweet/share your content – thank them, ask them what they thought?
  • Think about whether your social web engagement is structured in your business – who will do it? Will they have a ‘corporate identity/profile/avatar/Twitter handle or will they have a personal one – or both? (further reading here )

Further help

Ask me for advice – I’m here on Twitter and I’m always happy to help if I can.

One Response to “A free social media strategy for your business”

  1. Zaid December 21, 2010 at 3:11 am #

    Really thought your tips were very useful cheers zaid

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