How to Use Social Media to Grow and Market Your Business

The wide proliferation of social media sites–from Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to Pinterest, Google+ and Instagram–provide a myriad of opportunities for businesses of any size to connect with their target audiences. That can be good news and not-so-good news for marketers. Why? Because while the out-of-pocket costs for using most of these tools is low to none, the time investment can be significant. Add to that the potential risk of failing to connect with the right audiences, somehow alienating or offending those audiences, or missing other more worthwhile opportunities and the “costs” can rise significantly.

As we work with clients, two of the most common questions we hear are:

  • Should we be using social media?
  • Which tools should we use?

Our answers:

  • Maybe
  • It depends

The truth is that the growing range of communication tools (not just social media, but also other online options and a proliferation of traditional media niche publications and broadcast opportunities) can be overwhelming for any marketer. Still, the process of deciding which tools to use really hasn’t changed.

When considering the use of social media, as when considering the use of any media, it’s important to ensure that their use is in alignment with all of the other communication/marketing efforts that are either planned or in place. The process that we use to help clients answer these questions is the same, whether they’re considering social media, traditional advertising–or sky writing! The tools and opportunities may be continually evolving, but the process hasn’t changed. It involves:

  • Clearly identifying goals and measurable objectives. What will “success” look like? What are you hoping to achieve through your social media efforts? This could be anything from “increasing awareness” to “generating leads” to “driving traffic to web site,” to “generating sales.” Whatever these goals are, they should be quantified through specific objectives: by how much do you want to increase awareness and how will you measure this? how many leads do you wish to generate? how many visits to your web site? And, for all of these, by when (one month, the end of the year, two years)?
  • Carefully researching and evaluating target audience. Who, specifically, are you hoping to reach and influence? What do you know about them? This analysis will give you an indication of:
    1. If your target group is engaged in social media. Some audiences (CEO’s for instance) are still not highly engaged.
    2. What social media outlets they are most engaged in.
    3. How they use these outlets. For instance, while your audience may be on Facebook, if they use it primarily for personal socialization, it may not be the best venue for you to sell your plumbing services.
  • Choosing the tools you will use and developing a plan that includes what type of content you will convey and where that content will come from, how often you will post, specific ways you will engage with those who follow/friend/like you. We use a matrix-based tool here that identifies various “trigger” points that would prompt some online action — e.g. a media mention might prompt a post on Twitter and LinkedIn; a new white paper might prompt a post on a web site, on Twitter, on LinkedIn, and inclusion in a monthly e-letter, etc.
  • Ensuring that your social media activities are aligned, and coordinated, with your other communication activities, whether that be your web site, your PR/media relations, your advertising, etc.
  • Measuring and monitoring results. It’s very easy to measure results of social media and other online efforts so there is no excuse not to. This should be done on a regular basis — we do this informally during the month and through a formal analysis, review and report at the end of each month.
  • Make improvements based on your findings. The insights you gain from your analysis should be used to make improvements to your process, strategies and tactics — always driving toward those measurable objectives you defined at the beginning of this process.

The bottom line: social media for many organizations these days is not “nice to do,” it’s “need to do.” But, that said, it’s important that the strategy behind your use of these tools is designed to generate real, measurable, bottom-line results. Otherwise, it’s just noise.

Recommended Reading:

How to Sell Social Media to the C-Suite

How to Create Social Media Strategies That Rock

Tell Execs About Social Media Outcomes, Not Process



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