In the entrepreneurial world, there's a ton of pressure to be on social media. So many business "experts" demand that entrepreneurs sign up for company profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram--the whole gamut of social media platforms. And social media can be a great way to expand brand awareness and engage with current and potential clients or customers. But there's no use in being on social media simply to check off a box for what every entrepreneur "should" be doing.
In order to make social media work for you, you need to ensure that you have the clarity, resources, and strategy required to build a successful social media presence. Here are six questions to ask yourself in order to move toward that goal.
1. What are you trying to accomplish?
Developing an understanding of your reasons and goals for having a social media presence is critical to building a social media strategy that actually works for your brand.
You need to understand why you have a presence on any particular site, and what you're hoping to accomplish in doing so. For example, some companies choose to adopt social media in order to increase their brand exposure, interact directly with clients and potential customers, generate leads, or promote specific products or services. The best goals are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
It's also important to have a plan for how you'll measure success. Will your metric be the number of impressions, the click-through rate, user feedback, or something else entirely? Many social media platforms include built-in analytics, but you'll need to decide what those numbers mean to you in order for them to have a meaningful impact on your social media marketing efforts.
2. Who are you trying to reach?
While it's critical to understand what you're trying to accomplish via social media, it's not enough to stop there. You also need to consider who you're trying to reach, whether they're on social media in the first place (most likely, the answer is "yes"), and what motivates them to engage with brands on a given social media platform. Understanding potential clients' needs and/or desires on social media is critical to developing a social media strategy that meets those needs and develops loyal followers.
3. Do you have the resources to do social media right?
When social media becomes an afterthought, it's not really worth anyone's time. If you're a one-person shop or a small company with limited staff and resources, then you may struggle to create a social media presence of any real value (and no, posting a photo from the office every other month isn't going to cut it). Content needs to be high-quality, diverse, and consistent in voice and tone.
Ideally, you'll want to have the bandwidth to post on each account two to five times a day. That's because followers visit social media sites at different times throughout the day, so infrequent posts can be easily missed. In contrast, spacing posts out throughout the day ensures greater visibility.
If posting that frequently on multiple platforms isn't feasible, you can reduce employees' work load a bit by automating as many functions as possible. You can consider outsourcing the work, but it's important that freelancers have a clear understanding of your brand's voice prior to taking over social media accounts (especially because most experts maintain that authenticity is key to building a likeable brand). It may also be helpful to focus on one specific platform (and only one) until you're able to scale up. Which brings us to...
4. Which platform(s) should you be on?
As stated above, this depends largely on the resources available to you. If you're limited in scope, a good rule of thumb is to spend some time researching which channel will best enable you to meet the goals outlined in #1--and then focus your efforts on that platform alone. It's helpful to investigate where your potential client base is most present, which platforms support the kinds of content you're likely to post, and which platforms your team has the wherewithal to use well. As your marketing budget grows, you'll be able to expand to different platforms--and you'll be able to use the lessons you've learned from your first forays into social media to succeed on new sites.
5. Do you have a strong sense of your company's brand?
If you're not sure what your company is all about--what its core values and voice are--this will become painfully obvious on social media. A disorganized, inconsistent, or otherwise identity-confused social media presence is bound to repel potential clients or customers, so it's important to have an understanding of the voice, tone, values, and visual branding that you want to convey across posts and platforms. If you're not sure about the branding you want to present, spend time sorting this out before posting anything on social media.
6. Can you provide real value?
People follow brands on social media because they get something out of it--whether through education, entertainment, good deals, unique info, and so on. That means you need to consistently provide legitimate value via your social media presence if you want people to become loyal followers of your brand. This value should be so obvious that, if pressed, followers would be able to articulate how they benefit from engaging with your brand.
One key strategy for providing unique value is to share a variety of content--a mixture of original content and curated content is ideal; likewise for the ratio of visual to text-based content. It's important that your editorial calendar for social media is well thought out and is integrated with other marketing efforts across platforms and media. Spend time developing this calendar before posting anything.
Thoroughly answering each of these questions prior to initiating your social media presence will help ensure that you're able to achieve meaningful goals while building a loyal following. Even after you've established a presence on social media, it's a good idea to return to these questions on a regular basis--doing so will help ensure that you continually refine your social media branding in order to strategically pursue your goals.