New Years is a time for resolutions and you may have resolved that this will be the year that you finally eek out a corner of your day to pay attention to social media. You’re just in time. Take these statistics from the Harvard Business Review’s white paper “The New Conversation: Taking Social Media from Talk to Action.” http://www.sas.com/resources/whitepaper/wp_23348.pdf
“Twitter reached a benchmark of 50 million tweets this year. Facebook has over 500 million worldwide users, and based on current growth rates, projects one billion total users by 2011. The average amount of time spent on social networking sites increased 82% last year. And it is not just a phenomenon among the young: according to
Forrester research, a third of adults post at least once a week to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and about 70% read blogs and tweets, and watch YouTube.”
While most of us know this is something we should get on the band wagon of undeniably it takes time. In presentations and workshops that I’ve given on social media the number one question I am asked is “How much time does it take?” often by a person who sees social media as just one more thing on their already full plate. But just like a Business Plan, a Marketing Plan or a Communication Plan, creating a Social Media plan can be crucial to connecting you to your target audience. An important aspect of your business that deserves both your time AND your attention. I think we’re past the day when we considered it “just a fad,” and the statistics quote above seems to prove the point.
So does it take much time? The answer, not so simply, is “Yes” and “No.”
Yes, it takes a bit of time to get it setup and get in the groove. It also takes time periodically to review that setup and to revamp your practices or add new levels to it. But on a day-to-day basis? No. Once you have your setup done, your accounts linked, and you’ve figured out the kinds of posts you want to share with your clients, the day-to-day stuff becomes easy.
So, for those whose New Years Resolution is about finding the time to finally fully engage their clients on social media here are a few tips to help you get started:
10 Ways to Start Your Social Media New Year Off Right
1) Find another company that does what you do and follow their social media lead.
There’s no point in trying to reinvent the wheel. Yes, new and original content is the thing that will rocket your engagement to the top of the charts but that takes time and energy. If you want to simply get your social media accounts rolling, follow the lead of those who have gone before you who have successful accounts. Imitation after all is the highest form of flattery.
2) Don’t be afraid to step out of the “professional” box.
I’m not saying pull a Miley Cyrus and swing from a wrecking ball naked, but don’t be afraid to have a little fun, be a little silly and really try to relate to your audience on the level that stats are proving people enjoy. As a Saskatchewan company, we have the opportunity to see social media “fun” at its best in the Facebook and Twitter posts of our own Premier Brad Wall. (See Brad Wall’s Facebook and Twitter feeds here: https://www.facebook.com/PremierBradWall and @PremierBradWall ). While he dutifully posts the boring everyday stats of the successful and popular campaigns of his government in typical “government-speak”(and wisely makes little to no mention of the less successful ones), he also creates posts that endear him to the common folk.
You CAN have fun and be professional at the same time. Yes, there’s a line that you must be careful not to cross, but it’s the same one that exists everyday when you interact with your clients face-to-face.
3) Follow, follow, follow.
Aim to find and follow at least 25 people a day on Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus and/or follow other Pages on Facebook. Not only will it broaden the number of posts that can provide content you can share (see Tip #1), but it will also expand your own reach – which is the whole point.
4) Unfollow, unfollow, unfollow.
There are many who, decide that social media is THE thing to do, you see them, follow them, and then they proceed to stop posting any content. While you can sympathize, their now inactive account is taking up valuable space in your follow list that isn’t doing you a lick of good. Use a tool like www.manageflitter.com for your Twitter Account, and easily identify who is posting and who is not. Those who are “not” – unfollow and find someone that will add some value to your business. (Facebook, Google, Tumblr and Pinterest are more forgiving and allow you to follow to your hearts content with only a few limitations).
5) Target Followers
“Lists” are the most underused feature of many social media platforms. Where you have the option make at least three lists: one for clients/customers/target demographic, one for those who are in the same industry, and one for media and other “influencers.” When used properly they allow you to: a) find the timelines of your customers and clients easily to be able to read what they’re interested in and to help you find the “influencers” in the group. b) allow you to see what others in your industry are posting and then post the same, and c) allow you to easily interact with media and other influencers so that you, your company, your service and/or your product are on their radar.
6) Take a chance on a paid “promotion”
While I wouldn’t advocate that you only do paid promotions because building a following organically is really the best solution to growing your business, activating a paid promotion at key times in your business only makes sense. Paid promotions expand your reach and give you greater exposure which is what advertising is supposed to do. Just make sure there’s content available to them if you are successful in drawing them to your Page or Account. By saving such promotions for a key time in your business (like Christmas if you’re a toy store, or grad and wedding season if you’re a Bridal and formal wear store), and then posting like crazy during that period, you’ll not only engage new followers and potential clients/customers, you’ll also give them something to see once ensnared! Do it just for the sake of doing it, without any content driving your post and they’ll turn away rarely give you a second chance.
7) Schedule posts to free up time.
There are some posts that are those that just come to you in a burst of creative inspiration, and others that are “shared” content or part of pre-ordained targeted campaigns. For those posts that fall in the second category be sure to save yourself some time in the long run by setting aside some time in the short run. Whether it be once a month or once a week, sit down, create and schedule some posts for the future. Yes, again it will take a little bit of time, but by spending an hour on a Sunday you can make it look like you are actively posting all week when you’re at your busiest. It’s time well spent. Hootsuite is one of the most reliable for scheduling and you can amalgamate more than one social media account at a time. (www.hootsuite.com )
8) A picture says a thousand words.
Facebook algorithms actually favour those posts that include pictures and pictures are what drive platforms like Google, Pinterest, and Tumblr. Even if you’re not sure of what your picture should be, always try to find something that you can post alongside your text. Better yet, include that text right in your picture. If you’re not an avid photographer or a closet graphic designer, no worries, photo stock companies like www.istockphoto.com or www.graphicstock.com (cheaper than I-Stock, but a much slimmer selection) will give you photos to choose from, while an easy to use online program like www.pixlr.com/express will allow you to add text with ease.
9) Link your accounts so that one post equals many.
Thankfully most social media platforms will interact with each other in one way or another. This way you can do one WordPress Blog post (like this one), and when you hit “publish” you can automatically send it out across a number of our other platforms by linking them. This can be done on Facebook, Twitter, Google, Tumblr, Pinterest and more. Simply enter “how to link “x” with “x” – into your search browser and you’ll find plenty of easy tutorials to walk you through it.
10) Hire someone
I’m a big advocate of social media being one aspect of your business that NEEDS to be a personal representation of who you are as a company and as a big believer in no one knowing your business quite like you do. I’m also part of a communication firm that offers this type of service. So how do the two co-exist? Easy. By ensuring that those who are looking for help with their social media have a full grasp of what it is they are hiring us to do.
Never hire a company to take social media completely off your plate. Social media can be your biggest marketing tool – and just like any other marketing campaign you embark on it should be driven from the top down to make sure it’s up to your company’s standards. Do hire someone to help you set the whole thing up, to help you link your accounts, to help you identify what kind of posts you should be making, to help you schedule those targeted campaigns and give you ideas of how you can intersperse them with personal and creative posts. Someone who can review your analytics and help you see where the trends for your industry lie. Someone who can guide you as you make your social media resolutions for 2014 become a reality.
While a personal trainer can help you to get in shape – ultimately you have to do the bulk of the work and make the commitment to your work out regime. So too do you need to make a commitment to include social media in your marketing portfoli0, even though you may hire a communications firm to help you get your social media in shape.
Make this year the year you not only resolve to bring your business into social media – but the year you actually do it!