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Creating your first social media strategy

Tuesday, 12 February 2013 | By Alexandra Cain

feature-social-media-sky-thumbEngaging in social media is essential if you run a start-up. It allows you to connect to your customers quickly and cheaply and find out what they think about your products and services.

 

It’s also a great way to sneak a peak at what your competitors are up to and position yourself as an authority in your sphere of influence.

 

Despite this, recent research highlighted the fact that Australian small businesses are continuing to overlook the importance of social media, with only 27% utilising this increasingly vital medium.

 

So where do you start when putting together a social media strategy? And why do you need one in the first place?

 

Matt Thomson from Connect Social Media says every business needs a social media strategy because their customers are already there.

 

He says the potential viral impact of social media, the ability to strengthen relationships and loyalty with customers and the real time nature of the medium makes it a fundamental communication tool.

 

“Social media is also a great way to target specific audiences,” he says.

 

For Rebekah Campbell, founder of Posse – a social media platform that allows users to share their favourite places – social media helps the business increase the number of people that use the site and its profile, as well as the merchants that form the site.

 

“It also means that when someone has a problem they can post a message on Facebook and seek advice about how to use the site,” she says.

 

Which social media channel works for you?

 

According to Selina Power, social media adviser for Bluewire Media, the best advice for social media newbies is to sign up, watch and listen.

 

“Watch conversations and identify trends, who is influential and how people are talking to each other. Start to look for the problems that you can solve for people and then when you are confident start to deliver the solution,” she says.

 

Once you’re familiar with the different social media channels the next step is to work out which platforms best reach your target customers.

 

Campbell’s advice is to work out which platforms your audience is using and base your decision on that.

 

“You join Posse through Facebook so that’s an important forum for us. We are also able to create different communities in different cities on Facebook,” she explains.

 

Instagram and Pinterest are also key social media platforms for Posse.

 

“Because our site is visual we’re constantly posting pictures on Instagram. We’re still working out how to use Pinterest.”

 

Campbell says she has recently contacted people who have Pinterest boards about their wedding to contribute to a wedding street on Posse and share merchants who offer a great service.

 

A client of Power’s, Suzie Wiley, founder of architecture firm Surroundings, uses social media to help her clients become comfortable with the process of building.

 

“It’s difficult for clients to get comfortable quickly with what we do because they haven’t normally had any exposure to designing and building homes or seeking building approvals. So it’s about getting information to them before we start,” she says.

 

Wiley uses Facebook to post behind the scenes messages and photos of the home design process, rather than just shots of completed projects.

 

“You can follow a project from start to finish and begin to understand what you don’t know about the process.”

 

She also uses Pinterest to create project boards for collaboration with other stakeholders such as interior designers to share and pin ideas during the design phase.

 

“It allows us to create a story board for client meetings, filled with ideas they can draw on.”

 

Wiley says she’s also keen to start using Twitter as a tool for her business. “It’s an opportunity to form a relationship with editors and publishers and people who might be interested in publishing our work.”

 

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How do you integrate social media into your daily operations?

 

Power suggests devoting 30 minutes a week to social media.

 

“I usually do this on Tuesday. I take 30 minutes out of the day, put all of the content I want to share for the week in an Excel spreadsheet and then pre-schedule the posts either from the platform or via a third party program like Hootsuite or Sprout Social.”

 

The spreadsheet should work as an editorial calendar and content you share on social media platforms should also match content on e-newsletters, media releases and major events. I create an editorial calendar for the year and I plan up to six months in advance.”

 

Thomson, however, sets aside time each day to devote to social media.

 

“You’re probably already reading news online about your industry. So when you read something of interest, share it,” he says.

 

“But consistency is very important, which is why you need to set aside a specific time each day, as opposed to logging in every now and then.”

 

What are the potential returns?

 

Power says potential returns are considerable and include increases in website traffic, brand engagement and advocacy, potential leads and database size.

 

“The other added benefits are profits, media and press in relation to your use of social media and also a reduction on the amount of money spent on staff recruitment,” she says.

 

Campbell says for her business, social media is hugely effective for seeking feedback and generating support for Posse. “It’s not free because we have full time staff focused on social media, but it’s much more effective than advertising.”

 

Thomson says if you’re engaging with your audience on social media there’s a good chance they will purchase from you.

 

“The real value is when your followers start to recommend you; that’s when you get the viral effect. The idea is to create brand advocates who will share your content and market your business for you. That’s where the magic happens.”

 

What are the common mistakes you need to avoid?

 

Campbell says spamming and annoying people are high on the list of things not to do. She says people are aware of this and have become reluctant to use social media as effectively as possible.

 

“Pinterest heavily used Facebook in its early days to attract millions of users, even bordering on spam. They pushed the boundaries but they got results.”

 

According to Power, if you are considering starting a blog, keep in mind this is a much larger commitment then a Facebook or Twitter page.

 

“Blogs have one of the highest abandon rates of any social media platforms and can do the opposite of bringing a positive return to your company. It reflects poorly on your business if your blog is a museum of four-year-old posts.”

 

Thomson says a common mistake is not identifying your target audience properly.

 

“Don’t try and target anyone and everyone. And without genuinely interesting content you’re unlikely to offer real value and people won’t buy from you or refer you. There’s no point just getting any old like – it has to be a targeted customer.”

 

Five social media tips to get you started

 

1. Why does social media matter to your business?

 

What’s the purpose of engaging in social media? What benefits will it deliver to your business?

 

2. Start small and build your presence gradually

 

There’s no point starting accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn and then running out of puff in a month’s time. Start with a Facebook account for your business and once you think you’ve mastered that platform, dip your toe in the other ones.

 

3. Develop unique content

 

Anyone can share someone else’s article on social media. The best contributors come up with their own content, which authentically reflects their point of view. This is also the best way to encourage others to share your posts and start great online conversation.

 

4. Measure your efforts

 

A great resource is Social Sprout, which allows you to see which posts prompted the most interaction.

 

5. Results should dictate strategy

 

If you find conducting straw polls of your customers’ opinions and sharing the results on social media is the best way to engage with your audience think about upping those sorts of posts. Similarly, if you find no one’s reading the articles you share, focus your efforts on tactics that do deliver results.

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