When you hear that Periscope or Blab or Instagram are all the rage, you might think that you have to get on every single social media platform. While it’s important to keep your ear to the ground, it’s much more critical to understand WHO your target customers are. That will help you to determine where they are.
For some businesses, hopping on the bandwagon and rolling with the latest trend might be exactly the right strategy. However, I think that for most business owners it’s better to focus on established platforms and hit those platforms strategically and hard.
- Identify your target customers
- Determine where they are
- Identify their needs
- Build a trusting relationship
- Demonstrate that you understand their wants & needs
- Explain how your products or services will fulfill those wants & needs
While there are many social media platforms, when you’re first getting started I recommend one of the following combinations for your target areas of focus:
Twitter combined with Facebook for consumer, recreational, or entertainment businesses
Twitter combined with LinkedIn for professional services
*Add Instagram to either of these combinations as Phase II of your promotions*
Twitter does not come naturally to most people. I always hear the same reaction: “I don’t get it.” I can relate. I remember when I “didn’t get it” and just ignored Twitter as a tool. But here’s the thing; for most businesses, Twitter is the most important platform. It does require a bit of a learning curve but when approached with the right strategy, it’s an excellent branding tool. What takes some getting used to is that Twitter is mainly a platform for businesses to talk to each other. However, those businesses are run by real people, and when you engage those real people via their businesses, they grow to recognize and respect you. It’s a great way to build brand awareness.
Facebook is everybody’s favourite tool because most of us already use it for our own social reasons. Great! Except that Facebook is constantly changing its algorithms and no matter how many people “like” your page on Facebook, almost none of them will see your posts in their news feeds unless you pay to boost your updates. If you want Facebook to be effective, you need to create a budget to boost your posts. Otherwise, you can post daily but only a small percentage of people will actually see what you’re sharing in their news feeds.
When it comes to Facebook, it’s also important to know your audience. It just isn’t the right platform for certain types of businesses. Consumer, community, recreational, entertainment, etc. are all industries that work on Facebook but professional services usually don’t. Sure, you can have a Facebook page, just don’t make it a primary focus area for your marketing campaign unless you’re ready to invest a solid budget to boost your posts. Paid advertising on Facebook can also be effective.
LinkedIn is where it’s at for professional services. This is a great place to share blog posts that link to your blog and also articles that you publish directly on LinkedIn that will reinforce your expertise. This is the right place for all the serious, professional content that feels inappropriate on Facebook. Work to build your network and focus on your personal profile to build your own brand as well as your business page. Share information from your business page on your personal profile and add additional commentary so that the content you’re sharing feels professional but also conversational.
Instagram can be a great tool for certain types of businesses that are naturally visual. If you have a business related to food, recreation, fashion and style, beautiful objects, people, or places, Instagram could be great for you. I recommend Instagram for restaurants, retail, and other highly visual businesses. The nice thing about Instagram is that you can use as many #hashtags as are appropriate and generally, the more the better. Put most of the hashtags at the end of your update, with an occasional hashtag in the middle of the sentence if you really want to emphasize it. If your business isn’t particularly visual, put Instagram on the back burner until you’ve got to a place where your other platforms are really working for you.
Pinterest is a good option for businesses that will be generating a lot of imagery and a high volume of blog posts. The most effective Pinterest campaigns are those with strategic visuals, usually created to include written text to describe a “hook” that will draw people to click through to the website. To make Pinterest effective as a marketing tool, you definitely want to drive people to your business page. Linking to a blog post on your website is ideal.
**Small business owners should be cautious about Pinterest when first starting out. You can certainly start a designated Pinterest board but it can be a major distraction, sending you down a time consuming rabbit hole without much return. Unless you have a completely visual business, like a fashion store or restaurant, set Pinterest aside and focus on the other platforms. Pinterest, and an increased Instagram focus, can be good areas to build up once you’ve established a solid Twitter and Facebook base for 6+ months.
Google+ is also a good idea though it’s used primarily for SEO purposes. Set up your posts from Facebook or LinkedIn to share automatically on Google+. I always set all of my clients up with Google+, even if it’s just passive posting.
Hone in on specific platforms according to your customers. Once you’ve been up and running for a month, review your progress. Remember, one month is not enough time to really establish a successful campaign, but it is enough time to set a benchmark to mark your progress. Check in and conduct monthly reporting to make sure that your efforts are growing your networks. Tweak and course correct your campaign on a monthly basis if you aren’t getting the results you’re looking for.
If you need help with your social media marketing plan, either for the long term marketing or just to get it up and running for the first 2-3 months, please don’t hesitate to contact me.