Many small business owners start out with grand plans and expectations when they launch into social media.
They’ve likely heard or been told that social media – or Facebook, Twitter, etc. – is not a slam dunk, a piece of cake, but …
It’s understandable really. With all the talk of social media and its growth and importance. With the millions and billions of consumers active on social networks – like the 1.7 billion on Facebook. All of this could lead one to believe it is just a matter of planting a few seeds and watching them grow.
But, it ain’t so!
Real progress or growth with social media, in fact any growth for most of us, is a slow, steady and often painful process. For most businesses, social media rarely yields immediate or fast results.
Social Media Requires An Investment
Like most anything of value – including pretty much any marketing strategy – social media requires an investment of time, attention and often cash to produce results. And, along with these is the need for perseverance through the process and day-to-day work, if one hopes to see any tangible results.
And just one of these factors on their own is highly unlikely to bring you the results you envision. It takes all of them working together to yield results.
It’s not that dissimilar to any other type of marketing or advertising. There are no quick fixes! At least not for the majority of us.
Pretty much anything that has a hope of yielding tangible results requires an investment of time, attention and often cash to produce results. And without perseverance, to allow these investments to work over time, the results will be disappointing.
Unlike an ad in a newspaper or on a billboard, social media isn’t something spends all of the time up front getting it set up and then leaves it to carry on by itself and generate leads.
Social media needs ongoing work from the start through to the day you close the account, if you ever do.
If you’re a small business that started out with great intentions and have found your social media has fallen by the wayside. Or, if you’re new to starting out with social media, here are a few tips to help get you put in place the structure you need so that you can work to build on a solid foundation:
#1: Make the commitment!
Just do it, as Nike says! Get going, or start again. Make the decision you’re going to suck it up, and endure the pain – like exercise the pain diminishes as you get in shape and develop the habit.
#2: Start with what you’ve got going and build from there.
If you’re new to social media check out these …. steps to getting started. (After you’ve read this article fully.)
If you have a Facebook Page or Twitter account already set up, and if it makes sense for your business to have an active presence there, begin to build on what you started.
Make sure your business profile is complete – including the profile picture and cover image – and that it represents and is consistent with your brand. Start sharing (see #5), make sure your social networks have customized web addresses that are easy to print on your business cards and other marketing materials.
Establish a budget for promoting content and advertising on social media. Investing in reaching your target audience is becoming more and more important to growing your brand on social media. Read ‘Paying for Facebook‘ for more on the issue of paying for social media.
#3: Learn about the social networks you are active on.
Each social network is different. The reasons for your target audience being on any one of them is different too. The Internet is full of helpful resources about social media and specific social networks. Each social network has information that can help you better understand why people are on those networks and much more. Here are a few resources to help get you started with learning more about specific social networks:
#4: Establish a realistic schedule, and stick to it!
Rome wasn’t built in a day and thinking you’re going to build a social media empire fast is a recipe for failure. Establish a realistic schedule for posting content and checking in on your profiles to see if anything needs handling. Set manageable goals that may feel like a bit of stretch. Similar to exercise, no pain (work) no gain (progress).
If you’ve been been posting less than once every few weeks you have some work to do. An arbitrary number would be to start posting three times a week (on the platforms that make the most sense for your business) and build from there.
Each social network is different. They reach different groups of people, for different reasons, and at different times. As you become familiar with the network(s) you choose to invest in, tailor your strategy and schedule to fit.
Here’s also where a social media management tool comes in handy. There are a number of them on the market, many with free versions available. They can help you manage and schedule content in advance – especially helpful if you’re a one-person business and are planning to be away for a few days or more.
Two of the social media management tools that I’ve worked with and found valuable are HootSuite and Buffer. Both of these social media management tools also offer helpful information through their blogs and elsewhere to those using social media for business. If the only social network you are using is Facebook, you can schedule posts in advance using their scheduler.
#5 – Be relational. Remember, social media is social.
Again, each network is somewhat different, and in some cases significantly different. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ andLinkedIn may all be social networks but each one is unique. People are on these networks for different reasons. You need to have a basic understanding of each network and whose on it and why. What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another. For instance, LinkedIn has a business/professional focus and on Facebook most people are there to connect with family and friends.
Essentially this means, look for opportunities to engage. And, when a person comments on something you post, be sure to acknowledge their contribution with a comment or liking, favouriting, etc., depending on the platform and their comment. When someone sends you a message respond quickly. Responding within 24 hours doesn’t really cut it with social media. The expectation is much higher … especially on platforms like Twitter.
Tip #6 – Remember it’s all about your target audience/consumers!
It’s always about the customer or potential customer. And with social media too, it’s all about them: what they will find interesting, helpful, valuable, entertaining or inspirational. Social media is not like traditional media. Posting content that is continuously promoting your business, your products and services – essentially advertising – doesn’t cut it, as a general rule on social media. Again, each platform is different and some platforms this may work better than on others. If you keep your focus on what your target audience will find interesting, helpful, valuable, entertaining and/or inspirational you will have a better likelihood of capturing their interest.
Social media offers you an opportunity to build your brand but not in the traditional media sense. With social media when people/consumers decide to follow, like or connect with you they are giving you permission to market to them. But, it is a fragile permission and easily withdrawn if the content they see coming from your business doesn’t measure up to their expectations.
The Key To Success
Ultimately, the key to success with social media is perseverance! To persevere in doing the day-to-day sharing and maintenance of social media and, just as important, in continuing to learn, evaluate, revise and improve what you are doing.
Social media is here to stay – at least for the foreseeable future. While it may change and evolve, waiting to get a handle on how to use it for your business will only leave you further behind and with more catching up to do down the road.