By now, I’m sure the need for social media in your business is apparent. That said, a recent survey indicated that only 6% of businesses were successfully using social media to generate sales leads for their brand.
If you are a part of the staggering 94% not using social media (or not using it efficiently) to generate sales leads, there is still time to create a plan and expand your reach.
Social is a platform that has completely changed the marketing landscape for both large and small brands. Never before have businesses had the opportunity to experience a two-way street of communication between themselves and customers.
Q: Why should we be using social media?
A: Because your customers are.
For small businesses, this is a wonderful competitive advantage. Many small businesses have the ability to focus on the granular-level details, truly focusing on the individual customer’s needs. This is prime social media fuel!
Understanding How to Use Social Media for Your Business
A common mistake when brands use social media is to apply traditional marketing tactics to a new marketing approach. Social media, like I said above, is a two-way communication platform. Traditional media is one-way. In fact, compared to traditional, outbound marketing, social media has a 100% higher lead-to-close rate. Don’t use social media as a bullhorn blasting out a universal message to all. Instead, think of social media as:
- A listening tool
- A single spoke in your marketing wheel
- A customer relationship builder
- A way to scale your customer service team
- An extension of your current customer outreach
- A rapid response tool
- A business opportunity finder
- A focus group
- A way to gather intelligence on your competition
- Gain market insights
You’ll notice that very little of those points are outbound focused. Social media is not your personal billboard, it is a conversation.
Key Success Factors in Social Media
Overall, social media success is based on a few key factors. These should form the foundational blocks of anyone starting in social media. In no particular order:
- Online Reviews, Endorsements, Testimonials
- Fans, Followers, and Friends
- Content Creation & Curation
Really, it boils down to understanding the needs and desires of your audience. I have talked a number about times about identifying your customer personas; this will help you determine which social platforms you should spend time on, what type of content to create and curate, and will lead to more fans, followers, and friends.
I would like to address the current rage of focusing on getting more fans or followers. Once you start poking around, you will find a number of appealing offers to buy fans or followers.
RESIST THIS TEMPTATION.
I don’t know how to make it more clear: this is a bad deal for you.
Do not buy fans or followers.
Nothing good will come of this.
It will cost you money in the short term and result in weaker results in the long term.
Instead, focus on building a vibrant community of real life supporters. Become obsessed with solving the problems they face within your industry.
It may be discouraging to see your fan number grow slowly, but it is better to have fewer fans who are loyal than more fans who are fake.
How to Build Your Social Media Audience
1. Online Reviews, Endorsements, and Testimonials
Getting started from scratch can be daunting. Don’t worry. We all have to start somewhere.You likely already have a healthy number of folks who can help you get started. Let’s break down some possibilities:
Who You Should Ask
- Existing Brand Advocates
- Former Business Associates
- Close Professional Colleagues
While your friends and family may not be your targeted audience, they can help you out tremendously! Likely, they were your first customers, so they have first hand experience of your product or service. Secondly, they can address your personal skills like trustworthiness, timeliness, professionalism, and responsibility.
Sites that you should focus your online reviews are:
- Google Place (also called Google for Business)
- Industry specific sites (Zillow for real estate agents or AngiesList for contractors, for example)
2. Fans, Followers, and Friends
Once you have asked your friends, family, and close business associates for reviews, it is time to start building your network.
Many social networking sites allow you to import your address book or contact list to their service to find people you already know. Do this, just make sure that the site won’t send unsolicited spam on your behalf, you only want to send an invitation to connect.
Next, begin to reach outside of your first circle of contacts and start seeking those in similar circles. Remember, you are not building your network focused on vanity numbers like followers and fans, you are building a foundation to reach your potential customers and serve their needs.
Twitter has an excellent “Similar People” feature. Search for those who also market to your ideal customer. If you are a woman and children’s fashion designer, look for popular mommy blogs, stay at home mom advocates, or time-saving tips geared towards women. These are not competitors, but complementary services.
If you are a gym or personal trainer, consider connecting with healthy food blogs (remember, they also likely have a Twitter, Instagram (food is wildly popular on Instagram), Pinterest, and Facebook)
You’ll quickly realize that looking at like-minded brands expands your potential reach with little competitive overlap. Establish a genuine relationship with the owners of these brands by Liking, Sharing, Repinning, and commenting on their materials. You will be helping them grow and they will likely be open to helping you spread your content.
3. Content Creation & Curation
Creating high-quality, educational content is the single most important element of any successful marketing program. Without it, your prospective customers will have no idea what you do or understand why they need your product or service.
If content is fire, then social media is gasoline.
Content creation can be many things, some appeal to specific audiences and serve specific purposes. Others are great for general awareness. Here are some content ideas that you can use for expanding your brand’s reach:
- Videos (YouTube, Vine, Instagram)
- Photos (Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter)
- Status updates (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter)
Content curation is also a powerful way to reach your audience. By leveraging someone else’s work, you can share insightful and relevant material with your network. Here are some examples of content curation:
- Twitter Retweets
- Facebook Shares
- Pinter Repins
- Linking within your blog
- Sharing on LinkedIn
Remember, when it comes to content creation and curation, have a clear focus over time (this is when a marketing strategy is helpful) to maintain consistency. You will prove your authority and expertise by focusing on the problems facing your ideal customers.
Best Practices for Using Social Media to Generate Leads
Often, it is best to know your desired results before starting a marketing campaign. Building a social media following is no different. Before we conclude, I want to establish a few guidelines.
1. Utilize Multiple Channels
Not all social platforms are created equal, nor do they appeal to everyone. Understand that you will likely maintain an active presence on 3-4 networks.
2. Develop a Strategy
Adapt a long-term plan designed for each platform with your overall campaign goals in mind. If you have more than one person on your marketing team, identify roles and expectations for each social monitor. Know when cross-channel marketing is appropriate.
3. Do Your Research
Know the target demographic and audience you are reaching for each platform. Know the voice and tone of each social media property while maintaining a consistent voice from your brand.
4. Engage With Others
Don’t live in a silo. Re-post, retweet, share, Like, and link to interesting content from like-minded brands or individuals. Always respond to questions, comments, and inquiries. Foster a connection with your community by encouraging conversation and dialog.
5. Cross Promote
Remember to promote your content across your different social accounts. The actual content may differ slightly (for example, a short story posted on Facebook will not translate well to Twitter, where you are limited to 140 characters; but a headline or snippet from the story with a link would be appropriate). Include social sharing buttons on your website/blog – this has shown to increase click-thru-rates by more than 150%!
6. Track Results
Sadly, only 45% of Chief Marketing Officers know which metrics or business outcomes their key stakeholders care about. Know what makes your business run. I recommend focusing on customer acquisition or sales rather than vanity metrics like the number of fans or followers. Use social monitoring tools to gauge and measure your efforts.
7. Search Engine Optimization + Social Media
Globally, internet users conduct approximately 4,000,000,000 (4 billion!) searches per day and 61% of internet users research products before buying. A social media presence boosts your rankings within search engines and positions you in the top of those search results.
At the start, it may be hard to imagine growing your social media empire from scratch. But hard work and planning will help you achieve the level of success that you’re dreaming of!
Remember to approach connections with a genuine interest in helping them, focus on the needs of your customer first, always be listening, and stick to a schedule that you can commit to.
Social media has proven to improve the number of inbound links to your website or blog, increases page rank, improves search engine ranking, and affects customer’s buying habits. Today is the day to start building or improving your empire! If you would like help mapping out a social media strategy, I would love to help.
Let’s schedule some time to talk about your business needs and goals. Drop me a note today at: firstname.lastname@example.org