There is little doubt that social media is truly revolutionary, the 6.4 million users of Facebook since Febuary-2004, the 2.5 million users of Google+, the glitterati-twitterati and the numerous bloggers who found celebrity by dint of their blogs, they will attest to that. Hence, as a small business, you will want to take advantage of this concept and try to get as much benefit out of it as possible, which in this case is marketing. While trying to do so, you would want to also ensure that you don’t come across as a desperate company that is bent upon hooking customers every possible way. The trick is to maintain a fine balance between marketing and creating brand awareness, without overwhelming them.
Here is a checklist that will help you work out a social media plan relevant to your business and also guide you in your efforts to execute it.
Know What You Want From Social Media: On social media, brand awareness can go in either direction. If your social media plans don’t pan out, you can end up with a lot of unwelcome negative publicity on your hand. So, be clear about what you want to use the platform for, and how you intent to achieve it. Do you want to use it as an instrument to gauge customer reaction, or would you rather use it as a forum your customers can use to air their views and grievances? Unless you are clear about your expectations, your social media plan in all likelihood will remain a haphazard exercise that will leave you with zero ROI.
Test The Waters: if you are one of those people, still mildly bewildered by the very idea of Social Media (really, there is no shame in admitting it), my advice to you will be to take things slow. Pushing too much promotional information into their followers’ signal stream is a mistake that most businesses new to the space end up doing. You can start by building a blog or creating profiles in the more prominent social sites to touch base with your customers, then slowly ease into your interaction model. The goal is to lure in potential customers and familiarize them with the product, try not to go trigger happy (or more specifically in some cases, tweet happy), and inundate your followers with messages they’ll be forced to label ‘junk’.
Know Your Audience: Once you’ve established your presence on social media, it’s time to consider the different options you have to expand your outreach. Interact with your network to truly know them; if you find that more than half of your network is comprised of men in their thirties with a keen interest in technology, it is very likely that other technologically oriented men in their thirties will be interested in joining your network too. Venture out of your network and engage in discussions happening on other relevant communities, now that you have an idea who your true audience is, tech communities namely, give your business and network avenues to expand their reach.
Prepare To Commit: No business can have a successful run on social media if they aren’t ready to dedicate adequate resources and time to it. Adopting social media as a promotional channel will require that you have someone devoted to monitoring all the relevant signals and responding to them appropriately. The social media promotional model should not be seen as a stopgap measure, but rather as an ongoing process.
Know Your Place: Some companies tend to go out and out with social media, attempting to conquer too much without the right tools or ideas. This can be avoided by knowing where you belong and restricting your involvement only to this level. Hence, don’t get tied up with controversies. If you want to project a certain image of the brand, make sure that you do that with associating the brand with the right causes. Social media is an active and evolving platform, and one way to ensure your social media plan is successful is by taking part in causes that need not necessarily be of monetary advantage to you or your business. Generosity is greatly appreciated on social media, and rewarded too.
Keep Everyone In The Loop: All of your company’s employees are your valuable assets. Hence, when you are chalking out a social media business strategy, you would want to be sure that you are involving them as well. These are your best bets for spreading the word about something that your company produces or is involved with.
Learn By Listening: Social media is all about direct confrontations. This is the easiest way in which you can get close to your customers. Hence, when a customer has something to rant about, you must make it a point to listen to them and take that into consideration. A good leader listens more and speaks less, which is the golden rule with social media as well.
In the end, ensuring all of these aspects might not be particularly feasible, but the least you can do is to ensure that your social media plan at least comes close to the business plan that you have for your company. Don’t be overwhelmed by all these rules, as most of them will end up happening automatically when you are involved in social media.