Every small business faces challenges in integrating social networking into their marketing mix.
But there are ways to make it easier.
Check out these 10 tips to conquer your social media strategy >>
Tim is the author of Managing Interactive Media Projects and Return on Engagement: Content, Strategy and Design Techniques for Digital Marketing.
Keeping up with the Joneses is all well and good, but don't just jump on the social media bandwagon because everyone else is.
Define some tangible reasons why this makes sense for your or your organisation before diving in.
Jumping into the very wide world of social networking without a strategy for business identity and content can leave you overwhelmed and your message fragmented. Try creating a strategy that includes: specific goals, an outline of your approach, and a competitive analysis of others who do what you do. Here's why an effective strategy makes sense:
- It gives your organisation the infrastructure to support ongoing online efforts.
- It helps you figure out timelines, budgets, editorial calendars, and resources.
- It defines roles, authors, and content experts, as well as expectations from each.
- It helps you define guidelines to stay 'on message'.
Don't fall prey to the free myth. Best practices for social media optimization require a lot of time and expertise, both of which cost money. Small businesses can learn from bigger businesses in this respect.
Take a quick look at several job sites and you will find executive-level Social Media positions. These companies have learned that the effort and know-how to achieve a significant return on engagement, and ultimately business growth through social media is not having it done by a revolving queue of college interns.
Whether you have a fully-developed in-house staff handling your strategy, marketing analysis, implementation, daily management, content and media creation, or you work with an external vendor, such as an agency, firm, consultancy etc., it's not free and it's worth earmarking a budget for social media. Luckily, a vast amount of online tools for creating and utilising social media are free, but the time it takes to reap what you sow in it is not.
A comprehensive content strategy that includes your website is essential, but realise that many (if not most) conversations relevant to your specific area of expertise won't necessarily take place on your site.
Rather, they will occur on blogs, social networks, Twitter and other niche communities online. Step outside the comfort zone of your own domain and engage your customers where they are most willing to converse.
Social media is social. So get to know the people that are influencing or buying your business.
People like to give their opinions. Why don't you ask them for it? You'll be amazed at the response you get.
Online communities have an uncanny knack of crying shenanigans on members who try to monopolize the conversation or use morally questionable social tactics (like comment spam, for instance).
You may be able to influence a conversation, but trying to control it, or worse yet, barraging other community members with one-way marketing messages will put you on the fast track to the naughty list.
Make sure keywords and phrases that people are using to find business like yours are used regularly in your site and social media content. Just don't overdo it.
There are no real hard and fast rules for keyword density, but somewhere in a range of 2% to 10% of total content seems to work. Most importantly, write for people, not machines. If your content sounds awkward due to too many keywords, rework it to sound natural.
Just like with email marketing, you don't want to overwhelm your customers or audience with too much. Recently at a conference, someone stated they tweeted 1400 times in one day and got a communication from Twitter themselves that it was a little much.
Figure out how much time you can realistically devote to web and social media content and stick to it (but don't overdo it). And try to focus on making your content share-worthy.
Keywords and phrases are important, but good content isn't just about the words on your pages or profiles.
Use photos, PDFs, rich media, or video to better engage your audience.
Google and other search engines track content from many social networking resources in search results.
Use tools like Google Alerts, Senseidea's SocialSeek and Social Mention to keep track of what is being said about you, your company or organisation, and its key employees. Address negative comments and concerns immediately and preferably with a proposed solution.
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