It seems as if every marketing blog I visit, someone is saying that social media is important for your business. The better question to ask is if social media is right for your business. Social media is indeed important for your business, but you have to be extremely dedicated to it. Social requires a monumental effort to extract results from which is why it is hard to see results.
Social media is one of the last things that I recommend for a business. No matter how big or small your business is, you have to start from the basics. For majority of businesses, everything starts from a website which acts as the originating source for all official customer engagements. Before jumping on the bandwagon and creating an account on social for your business, go through this checklist. If you are unable to meet all of these minimum requirements, you will be met with minimal results. Please don’t waste precious money, time, or energy in social until you are prepared to invest and meet ALL of these requirements.
Broadcasting – Talk mostly about how you make a difference (no, I don’t mean talk about your product, promotions, or deals)
It kills me to witness friends who are funny and hilarious on their personal social account, but then turnaround and act like a spammy pushy sales rep when they create a business account. This holds especially true on Facebook. I don’t know what it is, but most people hate getting “marketed” to or “sold” to, yet they end up acting like an annoying sales representative when it is their turn.
I feel for these people because I was in their shoes before. As consumers we have been accustomed to getting instant results. We’re a tough crowd to please especially since we expect excellence at every establishment we choose to do business with. This entitlement certainly gets us in trouble when we try to translate that level of expectation when we do business. It almost seems like we expect sales to instantly come pouring in when we simply ask them to. As most business owners will come to learn, the opposite is true.
At the end of the day, if you are doing social merely to drive sales then you are not doing social correctly. Talking about product features, deals, and promotions should be done sparingly. Focus on the customer, how you have made a difference. Share proud moments of why you exist. Tell your story and you will be less of an annoying marketer and more of a cause that people want to follow.
Engage – Don’t wait for conversations to happen, go find them.
One of the reasons why businesses don’t gain traction on social is failure to engage properly. Most often, businesses are in the habit of 100% broadcasting and 0% participation. Being engaged means more than just responding to private messages and comments. I can guess with a fair amount of accuracy that majority of social business accounts have relatively low engagement.
If you take a look at a business account and notice that most posts have little likes, comments, or shares you can conclude that the account is not properly engaged. Conversations related to your business are already happening on social. A lot of people think that conversations about your business magically appear on your account, but in order for this to happen you have to round up conversations.
It is your job to find where these conversations are happening and direct them back onto your account. One of my simple tactics to achieve this is to simply search for a topic or hashtag and join in on the conversation. For example, if you sell homemade soap, just search for “#homemadesoap” and conversations about this topic will appear. Read through some of the posts, join in on conversations that are happening and add your professional 2 cents. Again, joining in on the conversation doesn’t mean you start blasting people about your product. Add something of value.
24/7 Support – Be prepared to provide support in a moment’s notice.
Social is always there at anytime of day, which essentially means if you open your business to social you are offering 24/7 support. Be prepared to provide answers to customer inquiries, complaints, questions, and feedback at a moments notice. Some businesses pride themselves in having quick turnaround and you should act no different.
There are businesses who think it is ok not to provide responses after business hours. There are businesses who think that because they state when their hours of business are on their profile that it excuses them of responsibility when customers contact the business on social. The curse of social media is that it never sleeps. In which regard, even though you may think you are in control of the support hours on social, the opposite is true. Again, customers expect excellence and your acknowledgement of their issues at a moments notice. If you don’t want to commit to a 24/7 support line, don’t be on social. You have to live and breathe social in order to do it right.
Frequency – Post as often and frequently as your customers can tolerate.
It pains me when I come across agencies in which they produce asinine whitepapers and infographics about best times of day to create posts and how often businesses should post. I am of the believer that every business is different. The best way to get the best results out of social on your business is posting as much as possible that doesn’t piss your customers off.
Social media is there for you to push the limits. Best practices should be used as a benchmark rather than a guideline that is so often ingrained in businesses. My advice is to post as much as possible at any and all hours. This includes both broadcast posts as well as posts in which you are participating in conversations that do not happen on your social property.
Consistency – Make a commitment.
If you haven’t noticed, the theme of this article is all about hard work. Successful social media marketing takes a lot of consistent as well as persistent manual effort. As I have mentioned earlier, a lot of businesses expect instant results, but the bottom line is, you can no longer strong arm your way towards social success. Success is up to the business to define, but it should be understood that it is a never ending journey to bring happiness to customers.
Make a commitment to be present on social. Having a non-active social account could be viewed as having a non-active business. I feel that if businesses don’t have time to be on social then they should either close the account or admit the fact that the account is not being actively managed. You wouldn’t want customers to find an inactive phone number just as you wouldn’t want customers to find an inactive social account.
Formatting – Understand the channel or you’ll look like a fool.
I’ll give it to you straight and tell you that if you don’t format your posts on social correctly you will look like a fool. Each social network is different in terms of how certain posts are displayed and published. If your posts are not formatted correctly, then it can be viewed as amateurish or someone that doesn’t “get” social. Therefore, formatting is important, so get it right.
I won’t go into great detail on formatting, but here is a quick overview on typical ways posts are crafted in different networks.
1. Facebook – You’re probably most familiar with how posts are created on Facebook. Facebook is designed to encourage people to share pictures. Text posts are ok, but in order to capitalize maximum screen real estate, post updates that includes an image. Stay genuine and authentic. I am not a fan of stock images or heavy photoshopped images. The best formatted posts include a picture, a description about the image, and a link as a call to action.
2. Google+ – Google+ is a unique social network because it allows people to stylized text in updates. You can bold, italicize, and strikethrough text in your updates. Fully take advantage of these options as Google+ posts are indexed in Google Search and Google takes these formats as semantic clues for SEO purposes.
3. Twitter – Twitter is all about 140 characters, but you should be actually tweeting things that are less. I would tweet around 100 characters because if you add a photo with your post, Twitter reduces your number of characters because it needs to add a photo link. Furthermore, if people want to retweet, add additional comments, or mention people in your post they are unable to do that if your tweet is up to 140 characters. Therefore, tweet as short of a tweet as possible. As an added tip, if you add line breaks in your tweet, it increases the height of your tweet which further increases the visibility of your tweet in people’s feed.
4. Instagram – Instagram is all about photos and videos. It started out as a photo sharing network, so photos still rule the network. To get discovered you pretty much have to be a hashtag whore. Instagram allows each post to include 30 hashtags. Choose them wisely. Look for hashtags in which other people are using. There is also a complimentary app that suggests hashtags to include with your photo called instatag. Because Instagram doesn’t allow people to attach hyperlinks in the the post itself, leave the link in your bio and encourage people to view your profile.
Analyzing – If things don’t work stop wasting your time.
After everything is said and done, would you continue to waste time on things that generated no results? In order to find out whether you’re gaining traction you need to measure and analyze your efforts. This piece of the puzzle doesn’t play much of a role in the beginning since the awareness of your business would be close to zero. With that said, after 2 – 3 months of sticking with it, you should evaluate if you’re able to move the needle.
There are a lot of companies with their own set of recommendations on what to measure and analyze. Conducting analysis on what you accomplished in social should not be rocket science especially for small businesses. Focus on a set of real and easy to understand metrics. My recommendation is measuring engagement, referral traffic, and conversions.
A lot of social analytics companies out there put their own spin on the definition of engagement. Engagement should not be some kind of fuzzy math. For me, I measure engagement by tracking three metrics that is most common across any social network. These metrics are aggregate number of likes, comments, and re-shares per month. You can calculate these metrics on a bi-weekly or weekly basis if you really want to get granular, but most often than not, you are way too busy to do this level of analysis. After 3 months of data collection you can easily see if you’re getting more engagement. If you’re not gaining traction, review all of the other points I have mentioned. You’re clearly doing something wrong.
Measuring engagement is only part of the picture. The next metric to focus on is the number of referral traffic your social platform is driving to your website. The data can give you insight such as where most of your customers come from. If more referral traffic is generated from Google+ as opposed to Facebook, well perhaps you should focus more of your efforts on Google+. Here is a blog post I’ve written showing how well Google+ performed vs my Facebook.
Ultimately, everything leads to conversions on your website. How many social referrals signed up for your newsletter, bought a product, made a call to you, or completed an action that is considered a defined business success metric? By understanding which social channel drove the most conversions you will have a better understanding of the real value of doing social media.
Goals – At the end of the day…
In order for you to feel justified in regards to having a social presence for your business you must define what you consider success. Social media success means different things for different businesses. Social media is a place for customer support, build new customers, develop brand awareness, and announce promotions. Focus one area means ignoring another. If you want to succeed in social, you must be prepared to accept and delegate inquiries of all types.
Now it’s your turn. Let me know in the comments below. What obstacles and issues do you face while managing a professional presence on social. What are your challenge and how do you overcome them? Share your own experience and wisdom below.