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Crafting a strategy to build your business on social

February 4, 2016

By Kate Snyder, APR
From the November/December issue of Focus Magazine

Facebook: 42.1 minutes.
Pinterest: 20.8 minutes.
Twitter: 17.1 minutes.

That’s how long the average U.S. Internet user spends online each day, according to eMarketer. Each day! Add in Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat and LinkedIn and you’ve got a lot of screen time. Yet only 13 percent of marketers felt they were very effective in measuring their social campaigns, according to The Real Time Report. Not only is that a lot of screen time – it’s potentially a lot of wasted time for businesses trying to connect with Internet users. And according to that same Real Time Report study, 60 percent of marketers are measuring social marketing success by the numbers of people linking as friends, followers and likes, but only 35 percent are measuring based on qualified leads. So, is social media worth it?

Gauging social media return on investment is always tricky for small businesses, but it’s virtually impossible if you don’t know how or why you’re engaging online. And when you’re juggling clients, cash flow, employees and inventory, it can be easy to see social media as one more thing you don’t have time for.  What’s a small business owner to do?  Build a social media strategy to help build your business on social. 

What’s in a Social Media Strategy?
<Hint: It should feel familiar>

Just as you would with a business plan, marketing plan or sales strategy, the key to solid social media is setting clear, measurable goals and realistic, timely action steps – or tactics – to achieve those goals.  With social media, the only real difference than with any other planning process is the tools you use.

Where to Start?
In building a social media strategy, it’s important to set a baseline for tactical measurement (those likes, follows and shares so popular among marketers) and address some of the issues holding you back digitally.
Start by gathering all of your current social media stats – how many likes and follows you have as well as common engagement trends – but then take it a step further and ask:

● What are some of the primary challenges facing your company?
How can digital media help you to address those challenges?
● What do you wish you were doing better on social media? Why is this important to the business?
● Why aren’t you doing better yet? What’s holding you back?
● What do you want to change about your social media and why?

It’s okay to be candid about the challenges. If you don’t know how to use the tools, there are trainings,
webinars, blogs and other resources to help you improve, or you can hire outside help. If you don’t have time, you may need to delegate to a capable team member or shift something else off your plate to make social media a priority.

Understanding what you’re trying to accomplish will help you to decide if this is a task you need to tackle yourself, or if it can be delegated or contracted out. Which leads us to…

Know What You’re Trying to Say and Trying to Achieve
Like any other plan, without a solid strategic foundation, you can waste precious time and energy without getting results. For a social media strategy, you should build off your other marketing, sales and communications messages and strive to be consistent across all of your platforms. In addition to your consistent elevator pitch, you should be able to outline:

● What is the most important thing you want people to know or understand about your business?
● Why should people care what you do?
● What is it you can say or share that is of value to people? These are the most important things to convey via social media. 
● What do you want to change about your social media and why?

Oh sure, you may get 500 likes on a kitten photo, but if that photo doesn’t help your customers better understand what it is you do, does it matter? In social media, quality is more important than quantity.
And finding that quality means asking yourself and your team:

● What is it you are trying to achieve through all of your marketing efforts? What role will social media play in helping you to achieve those goals?
● How will you measure whether or not you’ve been successful in these efforts?

Your goal for social media shouldn’t be to increase likes. Your goal should help drive your business forward, such as increasing weekday, evening foot traffic or increasing online sales. Social media can be a tool to help you drive business change and growth.

Choose the Right Channels and Get Creative
Once you have your strategic goals and key messages in place, then you can move on to the “easy” stuff. Should your business be on Instagram? Is Pinterest a good vehicle for you? As a small business with limited
resources, it’s okay to be selective in your social media channels. Each year, the Pew Research Center publishes a fantastic Social Media Update to help you understand who is on each social network and how they’re using it. Let the data guide where you focus your time and efforts. And then, get creative. Tactics are what most of us think of when we first think of social media – contests, videos, photos and memes.

Blogs such as Social Media Examiner and Social Media Today are full of tactical ideas and success stories from which you can draw inspiration. But make sure those tactics have meaning. Your tactics should directly impact and support your strategic goals. And they should be specific and measurable, with a clear time frame indicated.

Building a social media strategy takes time, but just like anything in business, investing in the infrastructure and strategy now can help save you time – and build your business – in the long run. — SBAM
Kate Snyder, APR is principal strategist and owner of Lansing-based public relations boutique Piper &
Gold Public Relations.

To see her social media strategy in action, visit Piper & Gold on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @PiperGoldKate.

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