5 Steps to Help Build an Effective Social Media Strategy

  • May 04, 2016
  • Brian Moran
  • Integrated Communications

Social media strategy can be key to building a business, and yet some small-business owners still haven't mastered their plan. Here are 5 steps to help get in the game.

I am dumbfounded when I meet with companies that have no grasp on how to use social media in business. They don’t see it as an integral tool for having online discussions with customers or for gathering information on the marketplace and competitors; rather, these companies view social media as a distraction for their business and something that is used mainly by teenagers for keeping in touch.

If you fit this description, it’s time for your wakeup call! You should consider building a social platform that can help you retain existing business, find new customers and build your brand.

Here are five steps you can take to help you correctly use social media as a business tool to reach your goals:
Using social media is not about you and your company; it’s about creating a dialogue and listening to what other people and companies want from your business.

Step 1: Learn how social media for business really works.
Used correctly, social media can be a “means to an end” for your company. After you set up your strategic goals (e.g., “We want to generate $1 million in revenue in 2016”), the next step is to create the plan that takes you from where you are now to your goals. This is your business plan, or as I like to call it, your “GPS plan.”

Within your GPS plan is where you overlay your social media strategy. In other words, social media can help you: connect with existing customers (business retention), engage with new prospects (lead generation), conduct market research, keep an eye on your competition and help increase brand awareness. How many of these goals are you trying to achieve using 20th century methods? There can be an easier way to achieve your business objectives, and it’s called social media.

Step 2: Build your social platform.
Where do your customers and prospects congregate online? Do they post product or business reviews? Do they take pictures of your products/services for their Instagram account? What social platforms do they use to gather information on your category of business?

If you don’t know, don’t try to guess! Instead, ask your customers and prospects these questions. While you're at it, consider asking them if they want to see more information or would like to see some discount coupons or contests from your company online. If you want to engage with customers and prospects, you should try to go to where they are online, not the other way around.

Step 3: Start slowly and listen more than you tweet.
Try to remember this important rule: Using social media is not about you and your company; it’s about creating a dialogue and listening to what other people and companies want from your business.

Think of social media as a welcome reception at an industry conference you're attending for the first time. You wouldn’t walk to the middle of the room, pick up a microphone and start telling everyone about you and your company. In all likelihood, you would walk around and introduce yourself to people while asking them about who they are and what they do.

Social media is the same thing! On Twitter, start by following people you know or whom you've met in business. Like their tweets, reply to them and retweet them. Consider taking a similar approach on Twitter with company pages (if that’s the platform people and companies are using in your industry).

Step 4: Set social media goals and chart your progress.
One mistake when building your social platform is to create it … and then walk away because you might not see initial results. This is why I tell companies (and people) to start slowly.

More importantly, try to set monthly goals for engaging with others and chart your progress. How many times did you interact with others on Twitter? How many new likes do you have on your Facebook company page? Customers and prospects may reciprocate by promoting your products and services if you take an interest in them and what they're doing.

Step 5: Review your social media strategy on a regular basis.
Once you have built your social platform and are using it consistently, try to take time to review the work you have done. Are there any success stories you can identify (any social sales)?

If social media is a team effort in your company, consider setting up a monthly meeting with your employees and listen to what they have to say about the new way to interact with customers. Make adjustments if necessary, and make sure your team members understand that they're representing your company when posting online.

I always advise companies, regardless of their size, to have a social media handbook or policies in place before something bad happens.
Overlay these steps onto your GPS plan, and your company may be well on its way to a successful social media strategy.

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