Do you love engaging with social media or begrudge every minute? Are you engaging with social media strictly to support and grow your business or do you use it as a vital lifeline that makes you feel part of a community?
Whether you like social networking or not, it is now a required part of overall marketing for your business. You need to be focused and use the correct tools to ensure you are getting the most out of your time.
In this article we are going to look at how to set up a social media plan. We’ll take a look at the following topics:
- Your reasons for spending more time with social media.
- How to choose your social networks.
- What should be included in your profiles.
- How to engage your audience.
- How and when to promote your business.
- How to stay organized and not waste time.
- Introduction to tools and resources that can help you.
Let’s get started.
Step 1: Create your Social Networking Objectives
It is essential to understand and clarify exactly what you are hoping to accomplish by becoming more interactive on one or more Social Media websites. It is very easy to spend many hours online, without accomplishing anything constructive.
Why are you using social media?
- To build your business profile and visibility
- To network with other businesspeople
- To reach new clients/customers
- To stay connected with existing clients/customers
- To gather feedback and provide customer service
- To launch new services or products
If you are new to social media, I would recommend that you first focus on building your profile and visibility. Creating a consistent brand across networks is very important. After you have done that, you can pick any of the other tasks.
I highly recommend focusing on one task at a time; you will create a greater impact and use your time more efficiently.
Step 2: Choosing your Social Networks
There are dozens of social networking sites. It can get very confusing, but it can easily be simplified. Ask yourself two questions:
- What are my online preferences?
- What are my audience’s preferences?
You might be new to social media sites, but which ones are you most drawn to? Is it Facebook or Pinterest? How easy is it to use? Are your peers or competitors there?
You will need to spend some time doing research. You need to determine if your potential clients/customers are spending time on social media, and if yes, on which sites. You can ask them! It’s so simple, right? You can also look at the groups on each networking site.
This is going to take some time, but it will ultimately save time because you will know exactly where you should be spending your time.
I recommend that you start with one of the “big three”. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are considered the biggest online social media sites today. Google + and Pinterest are quickly increasing in popularity, and it would be worth looking into them when you are more comfortable. Include other sites, as appropriate for your specific audience.
Again, focus on one network at a time to ensure it is set up correctly and is representing a consistent brand.
Step 3: Profile Must Haves
What essential elements are you missing from your profile? All these sites have a few aspects that are the same, so you should be using a consistent theme. This will increase your visibility, strengthen your brand and give you an SEO boost.
The most important areas of the profile:
- Your Name
- Description or About section
- Your picture
- Your website
Let’s start with your name. You would think this would be easy, but a lot of people struggle with it. And it really does depend on your name. Take my name: Lori Smith. I am sure there are thousands of us out there, so it would be hard to create visibility. I could choose to add a middle initial (Lori L. Smith) or I could choose to include the full middle name, Lori Lynn Smith. I went with Lori Lynn Smith. If you are lucky enough to have a unique name, you could also just use your first name, like Madonna. Do you even know what her last name is?
Your About or Description section is really a quick bio. This should be similar on all sites and what you would include in your “resource box” when you are guest posting on other websites. This will definitely change over time as you become more comfortable or as your business evolves. You just need to ensure you go back and make the changes on your social media profiles.
Now on to your picture. There are two different aspects with this one and it all depends on your brand, your audience and the network. I believe it is important to have a selection of professional pictures to use in your profiles. You would definitely want to have a professional picture for Linked In. But it is also important to let your more casual side show. This allows your audience to connect with you personally. Facebook, Twitter and Google+ all cater to uploading and sharing pictures. My recommendation is to use a professional picture for the profile pictures and then use other sharing features to include your more casual personality pictures.
Last but not least, your website. There are a lot of different options here as well. If you are new to social media, I recommend using your website “About” page; this allows people to easily learn more about you. You can go so far as to create a special/custom About page that is specific to the social network. The page would start with something like “Welcome Facebook Friends”. It would go on to have an extended Bio, and you could even include a special gift. Once you are more comfortable you can put together an entire marketing plan around the links from one or more networking sites.
The most important aspect to remember regardless of the network is “consistency” across the networks.
Step 4: Audience Engagement
Are you engaging your audience? What do I mean by “engagement” and how do you “do” it?
I believe engagement is really a conversation. Think about it this way: you are out having a cup of coffee with a friend. It doesn’t really matter if you have a few dozen, a few hundred or a few thousand friends. You need to engage them the same way, just as if you were sitting across the table from them while having coffee. Can I get you another cup? :-)
The easiest ways to engage:
- Facebook Interactions / Comments
- Twitter Retweets and @Mentions
- YouTube Interactions/Comments
- Blog Comments
The most popular ways to start a conversation with your audience:
- Wall Topics
Do a bit of research. Look at topics you love. See what they others are doing to engage with their audience. Also look at what your competitors are doing, how they are engaging their audience. You will know what works and what doesn’t. Take a look at what some of the big names as well; Coca Cola and Nike have a huge social media presence. What can you do on a smaller scale?
The bottom line of engagement is “Do it”. Start the conversation!
Step 5: Business Promotion Strategy
You need a plan. Remember in Step 1, we looked at what the objectives were? Now we need to create the plan that matches with your objectives. Every time you sit down at the computer to spend time at social networking sites, read or think about your goal so you focus on the task at hand without distractions.
- Be selective with your comments and interaction, say what you mean and mean what you say
- Be selective with what you share, ensure your audience would gain value from the information (entertain, inform, help, share)
- Be professional and respectful of your audience
- Listen to your audience and focus on their needs
- Find the right balance of professional and personal information
When you are new and first starting out, you want to make sure that you are “getting it”. Each networking site has its own etiquette. Take the time to learn it. Do let your personality shine through, share tidbits from your life, ask and answer questions, share pictures. Let people feel your joy and passion for life. It will be much easier for them to get to know you.
Ultimately, you want to build your own personal social network; you want to attract friends, followers and connections. The first step is to be there, be active, engage and add value. This will give you the most natural growth.
Step 6: Time Management
It is very, very easy to spend too much time on social media activities. There is a lot of great information out there and you can easily be distracted. I know from experience! Creating a few simple personal guidelines and taking advantage of technical solutions will put you ahead of the game.
First, prioritize the networks that you are going to engage with. If your audience is on Facebook and Twitter, then ONLY spend your time there.
Second, set a schedule. An example would be spending 15 minutes in the mid-morning and 15 minutes at the end of the day. Set up the schedule that works best for you; it doesn’t have to be hours each day. Use your time wisely. I am definitely against social media first thing in the morning. This is NOT your most important task for the day, and it is not your money-maker.
Third, keep focus on your objectives. You have a plan for what you want as a result of your engagement. Always keep that in mind. Resist the urge to jump across the internet.
Fourth, automate. There are many great tools that can help you by completing redundant tasks. Just make sure you are not wasting time trying out a lot of new tools. Find a few that work for you and then use them effectively.
Step 7: Automated Tools
There are dozens of tools out there and more are being developed every day. Here are three that I have used for several years. They have freed up a huge amount of my time. These apps focus on the “big three” networks.
HootSuite is the Social Media Dashboard. It allows you to connect to multiple social networks from one website. HootSuite has a few great features: it allows you to connect multiple networks, it allows for team collaboration, it allows for scheduling of updates and it has extensive tracking. There is a free version and a paid version, I can easily do all my tasks with the free version.
The features that I use most are updating multiple networks as well as scheduling. This allows for organizing my market tasks weeks ahead of time. This is very easy to set up:
- Go to HootSuite and sign up.
- Add your social networks, like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
- Add Tabs and Streams
- Create a message and send it!
Twitterfeed is a utility that allows you to feed your content to Twitter, Facebook and other social platforms. It enables publishers to bring content to a wider audience and track their performance through real-time stats. You can add as many feeds as you like. Start out with your blog posts and then add in your favorites or partners you are marketing with.
This is a little more complicated to set up, but worth the time. If you are not comfortable doing it, you can easily have a VA or Social Media manager do it for you.
- Go to Twitterfeed and sign up.
- Create a feed and set the options for all the networks
- Twitterfeed will now do all the work for you.
Social Oomph is the Social Media Dashboard. It allows you to connect to multiple social networks from one website. It does have several of the features of HootSuite, and many people choose to use this application for everything. It has some features that are unique, like auto-follow, auto-unfollow and auto-message. It also has a free and paid version.
These unique features are why I use Social Oomph. You set them up once and you can forget about them for the most part. If you are using Auto-message it is good to change this every few months.
- Go to Social Oomph and sign up.
- Add your social networks and set the options
- Social Oomph will now do all the work for you.
These are just a few tools that will automate tasks so that you can focus on your personal engagement and other important tasks.
You now know how to plan, organize and simplify your social media efforts by looking at your objectives, creating a strategic plan and using tools that make the most of the time you spend on social media tasks. Now is the time to get started on social media engagement!
About the author:
Lori Lynn Smith is a passionate and authentic teacher who shares her real life experiences and strategies for creating a holistic lifestyle and business. At her blog Sacred Earth Partners you will find a wide range of topics relating to Lifestyle Design and Lifestyle Businesses. Get her FREE digital magazines Inspired Balance and Inspired Actions.
Image: Social Media courtesy of Bigstockphoto.com
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