Getting great business results from social media is just like baking a cake. There are heaps of key ingredients needed - and if any are overlooked, the end result may prove a big disappointment!
This characterises what I hear day in and day out when talking with small business owners and marketing managers, dejected by the poor results they're getting from social media. Naturally some of these businesses just don't have a clue how to leverage social media - and that's fine. A quick call can soon fix that. But others are doing a really good job with certain elements of their social media presence - they're just oblivious to the parts they're neglecting, undermining all their hard work in the process!
So with this in mind, I'm going to detail 5 activities that you should be looking to regularly undertake so that your social media cake isn't lacking any of the key ingredients:
1) Make Your Profiles Truly Valuable
The chances are your business operates in a niche market. You serve certain geographies, sectors, types of customers - and you want to build your network and brand presence within that niche. That's what's going to enable you to generate client leads via social media or produce a regular stream of sales from your social profiles.
To do this you need to make your profiles a magnet for people in your niche market - by consistently finding and sharing content they will want to devour.
Find and share reports, interviews, data, tips and insights that enrich people's professional lives each day. Or make your profiles a source of humour and inspiration. Don't stick with just the most obvious sources in your market though. People are much more likely to have seen those already. Uncover hard-to-find or enthusiast niche blogs, reports, interviews and cartoons whose content is excellent but is much less likely to have been read. This way you turn your profiles into information sources that potential customers feel compelled to follow and willingly choose to interact with and reshare.
2) Proactively Get Your Profiles in Front of Your Target Audience
One of the most documented causes of business failure is the belief that "if we build it they'll come". The same is true of your social media presence. Just because you've made your profiles incredibly fun or informative doesn't mean everyone's going to find out about your social media presence and flock to it. No - you have to proactively get your profiles in front of the types of people you want to attract to your business (and ultimately convert into customers).
This topic warrants a whole article in itself. But whichever social platforms you aspire to having a presence on, each and every day you need to be doing things to ensure that the right people become aware of your social media presence. This includes activities like following people, commenting on posts, contributing in groups, participating in tweetchats, running paid sponsorship campaigns ... Every time you invest in doing these things your audience grows - building your business an asset for the future.
3) Make Others Warm To You
Make it part of your routine for your company to find and share other people's content, mentioning them in your updates so they know you're doing so. Find relevant people's updates that you can comment on or re-share, adding your own insights or compliments to give your presence that personal touch. Like, +1 and favourite updates where appropriate.
If you think about it, the majority of social media users get less than one retweet or re-share per day, so just think how much you can stand out in their feeds if yours is the business that gives them the warm glow of feeling appreciated ...
4) Build Relationships With Influencers
Lots of business owners I speak with are obsessed by their follower or fan numbers. This, they perceive, is the audience they can reach with their updates - and therefore is the size of the potential client base they've amassed on social media.
A key thing to consider is that businesses can easily get a 20x to 30x increase in the reach of their messages if influencers start to reshare some of their updates.
For me, influencers are people who have a significant follower base of the types of people your marketing manager would like to be reaching. They're also people whose followers actually interact with them (ie. they've not just bought followers but have a really engaged audience of people who act on the things they share).
You need to target your influencer efforts though, as not all influencers are of equal value to your business. You see many influencers only ever share their own content and very rarely re-share or retweet others. As a business you could invest a lot of time trying to cultivate relationships with such influencers, but this is unlikely to ever result in them sharing your updates with their followers.
So what we're looking for are those influencers who have a large following, an engaged following ... and who have a track record of regularly re-sharing other people's updates. I personally like to use Buzzsumo to identify such people. But the key thing on a day to day basis is to be taking little steps to build rapport with the influencers you have identified as being key to your marketing strategy.
5) Engage With Your Audience
As a small business owner or marketing manager, there are things you 'd like people to be doing that would take them from being a mere follower to someone who is now a potential customer for your business.
Engaging with your audience is a great way of cementing that these actions are taken. If people have started re-sharing your updates or commenting on them, hearing back from you is a great way to turn that one-off action into more of a habit. But equally important is the fact that engaging extracts the marketing value from all the other social media efforts you've been making.
Whenever someone engages with your profiles, or a discussion relevant to your business, have a check on their social profile. Do they look like a prospect for your business? If so, interact with them. Do so conversationally, keep the dialogue going, befriend them. Then when the moment is right, prompt them to think about taking the step you 'd like them to take next.
For each business that step will be different. Maybe you would like them to submit a request for assistance. Maybe you'd like them to book in a call time with one of your team. Maybe you 'd like them to sign up for a demo or request a discount voucher code.
The key thing is to ensure that every day you are jumping on the hidden opportunities to turn social media followers into real business results. Social media, you see, is like a sales funnel. Each step can be refined and optimised. Eventually you arrive at the point where you know that every 100 new targeted followers you attract will lead to X number of customer enquiries in the subsequent months - and then it becomes a lot easier to justify the ongoing investment in your social media presence.
If you're like most small businesses I speak with, you've probably had a number of "Aha" moments whilst reading the above. Things that you can see it makes sense to be doing, but that to-date you've not been doing or have been inconsistently doing.
A key element of success on social media is consistency. So get into the habit of doing the above 5 things on a regular basis and you'll start to see the results you're getting from social media inexorably creeping upwards.
All the best.
P.S. By now I hopefully have your brain whirring in terms of fathoming out how you can put this all to work in your own business? If you'd like to pick our brains some more about what your business should be doing to leverage social media, we'd be very happy to help. We can provide an outsourced service to build your social media presence and maximise your chances of success; or just schedule a call to brainstorm what your next steps should be.
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You might like these blog posts How To Improve Customer Loyalty In The Age Of Social Media, Q&A: A Formulaic Approach to Building a Brand through Storytelling, 6 Winning Social Media Tips for Business Newbies, and 7 Ways Your Business Content is Failing to Hit The Target (and What To Do About It).