Social media used to be simple. Create a Facebook page, sign up for Twitter, and start posting. It was new, it wasn’t too noisy, and it was totally, 100% free.
Those days are long gone. If you want to get any value out of promoting your business via social media you can’t just jump in unprepared. You need to think about where your time is best spent based on the results you want. Should you even be starting with social media? You need to think about what’s going to be right for you.
What do you want?
Okay, first thing’s first: What do you want? Obviously more money. Who doesn’t? Let’s take that as a given and look at the broader goals that all (hopefully) lead to this ultimate aim.
There are a number of straightforward objectives that can either directly or indirectly help you drive sales and grow your business. I’d argue that these five should be among the first anyone getting started should think about:
- Selling your stuff via social (an obvious first goal)
- Increasing traffic to your item pages
- Getting people talking about you (for the right reasons)
- Building a strong follower base
- Standing out for great service & support
A good social media strategy will have two or three of these goals, but don’t try and do everything all at once. Any channel you’re using for marketing purposes will give you greater benefit if you pinpoint two or three essential benchmarks and focus your attention on these. This will make it much easier to measure what’s working, what’s not, and make corrections as required.
It’s also important to remember that bit back in the first paragraph of this post; social media was free. As social platforms move towards monetization, your results are going to be more modest and your growth slower without paid activity. Social media marketing can still work if you don’t spend, but it’s going to be more work and require you to stand out in an extremely noisy space without paying to be seen in people’s feeds.
It’s often good to allocate a small amount of spending to get started, however make sure you do your research first. Every social media platform will have advertising guides designed to help you make the most of targeting and the different ad units offered.
What are you going to measure?
Working out whether it’s all paying off can be one of the trickiest elements of social media marketing. Sure, you can track how much traffic is coming directly from your social accounts and converting to sales, but what if your primary goal is brand awareness or customer service?
You may be using measurements that you can automatically match up to your social activity immediately (item sales for example), but others are going to be a bit more social media specific. In social media circles we love talking about engagement. Being able to interact and engage with content is at the core of social media marketing, and measuring this engagement can tell you a lot about your progress towards your goals if done right. Trying to improve support? Look at positive versus negative interactions and whether you’re increasing the former and reducing the latter. Want people talking about you? Measure how many people comment on, reply to, share or retweet your content.
Choosing the right tool to measure your performance
There are a lot of incredibly powerful social media monitoring tools around, tools that make social media geeks like me swoon. Unfortunately, many of these tend to have a hefty price tag and a reasonably steep learning curve.
Luckily there’s a much simpler (and cheaper) option. Most social media platforms will have their own analytics dashboards built in, and for the most part they’re very solid tools for measuring your social media performance. Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics, YouTube Creator Dashboard; these are all bundled with each platform and will give you solid information on everything from audience interests to a full breakdown of how people interact with your accounts.
If you’ve already picked what you’re measuring, you’ll be able to simply pull out most of the data you need from these built-in analytics tools. At times getting the data you need may require a bit of manual tweaking, and this can be a bit more labor intensive. In some cases it may be a manual search; your brand name combined with keywords like “great” and “wonderful” can give you a basic starting point to measure positive feedback on a platform.
Managing your social accounts
If you’re managing one or two accounts, you may just choose to use the platform’s own app or desktop site, however there are a number of free and low-cost tools around that can help consolidate your accounts into a single and easily manageable platform as well as providing you with a few more analytics tools. These include tools like Tweetdeck, Hootsuite & Buffer. Many of these have a trial period even if you decide to go for their paid subscriptions, so once you’ve established your accounts it’s worth trying them out. These will allow you to schedule content, set up streams to monitor keywords or specific accounts & mentions, and in some cases even provide recommendations on when to post and what content your audience will like.
Keeping it going: monitor, tweak, and don’t get discouraged when things don’t work
Facebook, Twitter, whatever; social media platforms never stop changing, so neither should your social media marketing. The steps above will help you set up the foundation for getting the most out of social accounts, but to maintain this it’s important to regularly review what you’re doing and what changes are happening in the social media environment more broadly.
There are any number of resources to keep up to date with major platform changes that may require a strategy rethink. Subscribe to updates for businesses from Facebook, Twitter et al and have a weekly browse through social media news websites like the Social Times, Mashable’s social media section and Social Media Today. As major changes are announced, factor this into your ongoing strategy.
Finally, some things might just not work. Don’t be afraid to reduce how much time you invest in a particular platform – or even exit it entirely – if it isn’t working for you. Divert your attention to what is working. If you’re a designer and people are interacting with you on Behance or Pinterest, there’s no rule that says you have to also stay on Facebook and Twitter just because everyone else is there. Play to your strengths, stick to your goals and you’re much more likely to succeed.