Even the best adventures have maps... Why planning will improve your Social Media journey
When visiting a foreign city, you stand a far better chance of surviving for a day or two if you take a map. We all know that. Whether travelling on foot or by rail, bus or road, you probably wouldn't dream of setting off without knowing where you were going.
And so it is with Social Media. At the start of your journey into using it for your business, you're faced with a range of different platforms, and you have next-to-no experience in using any of them. It can be quite overwhelming – how are you going to learn to use them, never mind find the time to keep your sites up and running?
For most business owners, time is the greatest investment. Indeed, it's often the only investment you can make. And yet this is why Social Media, with its freedom of access, offers you such amazing opportunities.
"All one needs is a computer, a network connection, and a bright spark of initiative and creativity to join the economy." - Don Tapscott
The benefits are there for the taking, if only you can use your limited time to its greatest potential. This means ensuring your Social Media activity has a strategic focus and conforms to a plan.
What can make this journey easier is putting together some kind of route plan. First, you need to identify where you're going, so ask yourself these questions.
What do you want to achieve by using Social Media? Your goals should reflect your type of business. If you deliver a local service, your Social Media presence needs to achieve different outcomes to that of a company that sells online. For example, a local retailer would require a very different strategy to that of an online business selling their products or services internationally.
Next, what are your marketing goals in using Social Media? You might want to:
• achieve direct sales, quickly;
• achieve great PR by establishing a social connection with your clients;
• create a positive enough impression to attract new clients;
• build general awareness or promote your brand;
• increase the overall number of customers your business has; or
• identify and attract into new business opportunities.
Be aware that the more personal nature of Social Media interaction means that blatant selling often doesn't go down well. More subtle approaches are needed, along with – dare we say it – a sense of integrity.
The safest goals to work towards when you're starting out are those relating to PR and brand promotion. Letting customers know who you are, what you're like and what you stand for will help to build increased sales over time, even if not immediately.
"The goal of Social Media is to turn customers into your personal evangelist." - Shane Barker
Think about platforms
As you can see, your Social Media plan needs to both reflect and fit into your 'marketing mix'. It's easier if you think of the Social Media platforms as additional communication channels, which you can use in different ways.
In these posts, we'll be looking at the 'awesome foursome': Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest. You'll see how they have different strengths and learn how these will help you to achieve different outcomes. They need to be approached in different ways, but as with our analogy at the start of this post, each can take you to your destination.
The beauty of starting on Social Media is that you can take a look around first, seeing how it all works and watching how other people do things. When you've finished planning, you can set up an account and start at a steady pace, learning the ropes by using them, and playing it safe until you feel ready to really get out there.
Integrating Social Media
What's important to remember is that all the elements of your marketing plan should be integrated, so that the 'whole is greater than the sum of its parts'. Social Media should slot right in there. Your website should always remain the hub of your business – it's a central reference point for your customers and, unlike Social Media sites, isn't subject to sudden changes that you can't control.
Despite this integration, Social Media does require that you communicate with your customers in a different way. By entering into direct conversation, you are starting to change their expectations of you – and your relationship may never be the same again.
Are you ready to embark on this exciting Journey?
"How can you squander even one more day not taking advantage of the greatest shifts of our generation? How dare you settle for less when the world has made it so easy for you to be remarkable?" - Seth Godin
I am Irma the owner and director of Tell IT Media. We offer Branding, Web Design and Social Media Solutions for Businesses. I specialise in helping businesses with holistic marketing and branding plans to leverage the power of online and offline media. I love creativity and communicating ideas and am currently producing a series of online cartoons about Social Media.
As a small business it is extremely important to work with and collaborate with different businesses and experts. Social Media is not only an amazing avenue for inspiration, but is also great for co-operation and collaboration with like-minded people in business. Hope to see you on Facebook ;)