By now you’ve probably recognized that social media is a valuable -- and necessary -- marketing tool for your business. But if your strategy is best summed up as “throw things at the wall and see what sticks" -- you’re not alone.
In a 2015 survey by Clutch, just 53 percent of small businesses said they actively use social to market their business. That means the other 47 percent is totally winging it, letting the social media universe dictate their brand’s image -- and that’s scary.
Related: 10 Laws of Social Media Marketing
You could easily dedicate a full-time staff member to managing your social-media presence, but that may not be financially or logistically feasible. The good news is, you can take control of your social-media strategy, and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune or a truckload of time.
Here are five actionable steps you can take today to start using social media in a meaningful way.
1. Get laser focused on your platforms.
One of the biggest problems small businesses face with social media is that the options are endless. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+, Snapchat -- and those are just the major ones!
Instead of trying to have a presence on every single platform, pick two and make them your dominant social-media channels.
Choose your platforms based on what makes the most sense for your brand.
For example, a leadership coach targeting 40- to 60-year-old C-level executives would likely see good results from participating on LinkedIn and Facebook. An Etsy shop selling baby clothes would be wise to hone in on Pinterest and Instagram, where 24- to- 40-year-old women spend a lot of time.
2. Practice batching.
If you approach social media willy-nilly, posting only when you think of it, two things will happen: Your results be lackluster because you’re inconsistent, and you’ll spend a lot more time than necessary because you don’t have a game plan.
Instead, practice batching your social-media activities. Batching is the process of doing many small, similar tasks all at once, knocking out a large amount of work in a short amount of time.
For example, you might set aside one hour every other Friday to schedule social-media posts for the next two weeks. I think two weeks is the perfect time frame, because you have a basic idea of what’s on tap for your business (sales, events, etc.), and you can incorporate posts about current events without them feeling dated.
Batching is also a great practice because it helps you create a meaningful flow with your posts. If you post a sneak peek of your upcoming sale on Monday, then on Wednesday it makes sense to announce that the sale has gone live. These are patterns you might not identify if you post at random.
3. Don’t reinvent the wheel.
You want your social channels to be filled with fresh, engaging content, but remember -- not all of your followers are going to see everything you post. This means much of your content can be re-purposed and used again and again.
Let’s say you’re an accountant and you wrote a blog post about 10 tips for tax season. Your social media posts for the week ahead might look like this:
- Monday: Share link to the blog post on Facebook.
- Wednesday: Re-publish the blog post on LinkedIn.
- Thursday: Share an offer for 10 percent off a consultation when someone mentions the blog post.
- Friday: Create an Instagram graphic with the title of your blog post and share the link in your profile.
- Monday - Friday: Create a single Tweet for each of the 10 tips contained in your post and share them throughout the week.
In this way, a single piece of content can serve as the basis for an entire week’s social strategy.
4. Use smart tools.
Changing a tire would be nearly impossible without the right tools, but with a jack and a wrench, it becomes a piece of cake.
The same goes for social media.
I recommend using the following free tools to aid in your social media strategy:
- Buffer or Hootsuite for scheduling posts in advance
- Canva for creating simple, clean looking graphics
- Buzzsumo or EpicBeat for finding great third-party content to share
5. Stop selling.
The biggest mistake small businesses make on social media is treating it like an advertising platform. If you feel like social media “isn’t working” for your brand, this could be why.
People don’t log onto Facebook to buy something -- they log on to be entertained, to keep up with friends and to see the latest news.
You must bear this in mind when creating your social media content.
Instead of trying to sell your product or service, think of social media as the “first touch” with a customer. It’s your chance to introduce yourself, to make them laugh, to teach them something new and to give them value for free -- NOT to ask them for money.
Your social-media channels should be the hook that lures visitors to your website or onto your email list. Then, on the second, third or fourth touch, you can convert them into a sale.
By getting focused and dedicating just a few hours each month, you can create a sensible social media strategy that wins fans and brings in new customers.
Do you have a trick for keeping your social media on track? Share it with me @TamiBrehse.