Just a few years ago, small business owners were skeptical about the effectiveness of using social media to promote their brand online. But today, it is no longer a question of whether you should use social media or not. Rather, the topic of interest is how to effectively use social media to boost your virtual presence.
It’s no surprise that small business owners are now taking social media seriously. According to studies and research – which have been undertaken from time to time to evaluate the power of social media in the consumer decision-making ecosystem – it is estimated that a total of more than 75% of online adults regularly leverage the potential of social media.
An increasing number of people are using social networking sites to keep up with close social ties; around 81% of this activity is for consumer research about a product/service before making a purchase decision, and three out of five small and medium-sized businesses claim that they have been able to gain new customers using social media.
Given the immense benefits social media offers, it requires no introduction why it has become a foremost tool for small businesses, not just for promoting and popularizing their product/services, but also for sustaining and surviving in this competitive ecosystem.
But small business owners face their own challenges: they may not have a budget for pricey marketing campaigns, they may not have a skilled team of social media experts, and worst of all, they may not know how to move forward when it comes to managing social media accounts.
If these are also your main concerns, and the reason for which you are yet to venture out with a social media presence, we have good news for you! Creating, running, managing, monitoring, and improving your social media accounts and its associated campaigns are not tough – if you are precise about your requirements.
Define your CORE Objectives
The first, and perhaps the most, decisive element to effectively using social media is to clearly define your objectives. Not all social media campaigns are created equal; some are precisely about attaining a specific goal.
For example, a startup’s initial social media efforts may be to only create awareness among its audience, whereas an established brand might be using social media to drive sales – by redirecting its audiences to its websites and then inspiring them to make a purchase. The difference of call-to-action and call-to-inform plays a major role here.
Likewise, if you have defined what you require during initial branding and subsequent processes, you can actually save your time, effort, and money. If you’ve ever heard about SMART criteria, you can apply that into your strategy.
- Specific – The more specific you are about your goal-setting, the easier it is for you to define what you need.
- Measurable – Define the tools, techniques, and strategies you would use to measure the fruits of your efforts.
- Attainable - Are the goals you are trying to achieve reasonable? Be realistic about it.
- Relevant – Will your goal compliment the timing to launch your social media presence?
- Time – Last but not the least, goals are worthless if you’re undefined about a proper schedule.
Pinpoint your TARGETED AUDIENCE
Social media is an awesome way to reach out to your potential customers – even ice-cold prospects can literally convert into paying customers. But a lot of its effectiveness strategically depends on how you use it, and on who you want to inspire and impress.
An important note of use: “DO NOT WASTE YOUR VALUED TIME TRYING TO IMPRESS EVERYONE”. This is because not everyone – even if s/he seems to offer potential – is your target audience. So, you need to pinpoint who you want to hang out with, and intelligently market your brand.
Being accurately specific about your target audience is an almost impossible task, because the entire social consumer ecosystem is unorganized and complex and to some extent, vastly uncluttered. Despite this, you can serve the purpose of profiling a group if you measure the following demographic attributes about them:
- Interests and hobbies
Having this important data will help you target a more specific audience in a timely manner, and that can save you much of your valuable time because you won't be throwing the arrows off target.
Identify the Most Relevant Social Media Platforms
Once you have defined whom you want to target, the next step is to understand which platforms to choose. Different companies have different preferences in terms of audiences, type of business model, and tone of their message
The good news is that, whatever type of content you want to publish online to generate audience interaction – be it plain word format, video, images, or slides – there’s a social network out there to help you. So, you need to identify where your audience frequent, and which type of media generates maximum audience attention on that platform.
For example, if you are a recruiting firm, you might want to target employable resources on LinkedIn by publishing custom slides created on Slideshare. If you sell nail polish, you could attract teenage girls and even housewives by publishing custom nail design pictures on Pinterest. For a news agency for on-the-go folks, you may want to try Twitter which sums up the most important messages in 140 short characters.
Offer a great Customer Care Service
Many brands create a whopping social media presence, but lose it because of being unresponsive. The key to maintaining a good social media presence is to connect, collaborate, and communicate with your audience rather than only self-communicating.
Brands that actively answer customer queries, in a timely and honored manner, are the brands that survive. It requires little introduction to speculate that audiences would be most interested in being a part of you if you are making them feel special and important.
Use proper Social Media Management Tools
Many useful tools are freely available in the marketplace. Assess your strengths and weaknesses, and try to find the tools that will help you fill out those gaps. There are tools to freely publish your status updates around the networks, in addition to tools that keep you “in the know” about scheduled updates.
There are also tools that pinpoint a strategic set of active audiences during a specific timeframe. These tools are either available for free or for a fee. Needless to say, if you are starting out, you can leverage on the free ones, but as you grow, you may need to buy a plan.
Evaluate Results and Repeat
Once you have been actively engaged in social media promotion for some time, you can easily filter out the learning. The learning refers to understanding what you did well, and what you didn’t. Maybe there are things that need to be rectified before you jump-start another promotion. The process keeps evolving as time and social ecosystems mature.
About the Author:
Sonal Maheshwari loves pursuing excellence through writing and has a passion for technology. She has successfully managed and run personal technology magazines and websites. She currently writes for intellipaat.com, a global training company that provides e-learning and professional certification training. The courses offered by Intellipaat address the unique needs of working professionals. She is based out of Bangalore and has an experience of 5 years in the field of content writing and blogging. Her work has been published on various sites related to Hadoop, Big Data, MapReduce Training, Business Intelligence, Cloud Computing, IT, SAP, Project Management and more.