Every business owner understands the importance of social media as a tool for marketing and communication but most would also readily agree that they are not exploiting it well enough. So many small business owners complain of not having the time or the money to invest in social media marketing or any form of marketing for that matter. The irony however is that without marketing, you will eventually run out of business or at best you will have a hard time sustaining your business growth.
Marketing is not optional; it is the lifeblood of business. How do you hope to win customers if you don’t put the word out there and let people know what you do? Now, you’re probably saying, “I understand what you’re talking about Philip. But I don’t have the kind of marketing budget that is available to big companies.” Yes, I know. And that’s why I wrote this piece to help you overcome that challenge.
As a coach, consultant, freelancer or business owner you understand the need to not only hold the attention of your prospective customers but to actually drive them to take action, not just once but continuously. You can only remain in business for as long as people continue to pay for your products and services. Consequently, you need to consistently turn prospects into paying clients.
Perhaps you’re aware that the social media universe is brimming with tremendous potential to make that happen but you just don’t know how to do it. Maybe you’re even intimidated or overwhelmed by the sheer thought of what you have to do – so overwhelmed that you can’t seem to make any progress. Well, that’s about to change. If you read and implement the practical principles in this post, you will start seeing amazing results that will transform your business.
It will not happen overnight; it’s a process that demands the investment of time and creativity. You don’t think you will achieve your desired result without working for it; do you? I believe you’re ready to do the work or get someone to do it so you can free up time for other things. What you need is a straightforward guide that simplifies the process and shows you exactly what to do. And that’s what I’m sharing with you.
1. Begin with the end in mind
Before you start out at all, it is important that you clarify your goals. When I talk about goals, I’m not talking about social media goals like increasing likes and getting more followers; I’m talking about business goals like generating leads or establishing yourself as an expert in your industry. Your goal is not to become a social media superstar; your goal is to become a business genius because of how well you harness social media to achieve your business objectives.
Do you get the point? Vanity metrics – (e.g. number of followers) have their place but they won’t necessarily grow your business or pay the bills. Your focus should be on how to translate your social media assets to practical business growth. Are you looking to create awareness, humanise your brand, introduce a new product, offer customer service, increase your sales or garner support for a cause? Your destination will determine the route that will get you there.
2. Choose your platforms
You don’t need to be active on all platforms; you only need to be on the ones that matter to you and your prospects. So, using the insights you got from the first step, determine the bare minimum social networks where you need to establish your presence. Your choice will generally be based on how much time and resources you can devote to each platform and how well the platform suits your business goals especially in terms of ‘hosting’ your ideal clients.
For a start, you should plan to invest at least one hour per day per social media platform. As you progress, you’ll get better at it and be able to save time by batching tasks and using tools like Hootsuite, Crowdfire, Commun.it, Followerwonk and Bufferapp for valuable insights and smart automation. Apart from time, you should also consider your available resources. For instance, before choosing to go with Pinterest, check if you have the capacity to generate infographics and other visual content. If you’re considering YouTube, do you have the skills and resources for creating video? The point is to make sure you have what you need before diving in.
3. Optimise your profiles
Now that you’ve determined your most suitable platforms, you don’t want to leave anything to chance. Before you start posting content, take some time to thoughtfully, deliberately and completely fill out your profiles. Ensure that your profile photos, cover images, bio and profile information are up-to-date, professional and consistent across your chosen platforms. This will require a fine blend of text and graphics.
For your profile picture, use a high quality image, preferably your business logo or a professional headshot. The most important thing about your bio is that it should reflect who you are, what you do, who you do it for, what those people want or need and how connecting with you will change or improve their lives. It’s not a sales pitch – see it like a brief introduction that helps you get your feet in the door and make your target audience interested in connecting with you. Make it personal and use keywords (not buzzwords please) that suit your target audience.
4. Cultivate a distinctive voice and tone
No matter how good your social media plan is, without an effective content strategy, it’s like a car without fuel – it won’t get you anywhere. What kind of content do you want to share on your social media platforms? Now, as important as it is to have valuable text and visuals, content is a whole lot more than that. The ‘spirit’ of your content is more important than the ‘letter’. In other words, it’s not just about what you say; it’s much more about how you say it.Be mindful of your voice and tone. Let your brand personality bleed through your content. Click To Tweet
How do you want your customers to think about you and your business? Do you want to be seen as friendly and charming, bold and beautiful, casual and funny, corporate and technical, trendy and stylish, wise and inspiring, extravagant, conservative, accessible, charismatic, intelligent, iconoclastic? What kind of perception do you want to create? What feelings do you want to evoke when they relate with you? Think about this and let it shape the voice and tone of your messages. The principle is to let your brand personality bleed through your content.
5. Deliver amazingly useful content
You must consistently share helpful content that provide your audience with lots of value. You can deliver content in a variety of formats including simple text posts, images, videos, links, quotes and reshares. Rather than focusing on just one medium, use different types for variety. There’s overwhelming evidence to support the fact that visual content get a lot more views and engagement than plain text updates. It’s simple to verify this. How many likes, comments and shares do you get when you post a simple text update? Compare that with what you get when you post a photo. You can easily create graphic posts using tools like Canva or Pablo.
Now, it’s easy to know all the right things to do; the real work – and the difficult part – is actually doing it consistently. Most high performers agree that consistency is more important than frequency. And what gets scheduled gets done. I first heard that from Michael Hyatt. It’s better to have a system for sharing one post every day than to share six posts in one day and go blank for the next few days. Having come this far, you already know a lot about harnessing the power of social media for business growth. But to get the results you desire, you need to bridge the gap between knowledge and action. That’s where your content calendar comes in.It’s easy to know all the right things to do; the real work – and the difficult part – is doing it. Click To Tweet
If content is the fuel that drives your marketing engine, your content calendar is the fuel dispenser – or maybe fuel storage tank. You can use a simple spreadsheet or any of the tools available online. The important thing is to include a few essential components like the social media account, the publish date and time, the type of content (article, video, photo, etc.), the actual post you plan to share, and any necessary media you’d like to go with it.
6. Automate routine tasks
Once you have done the hard work of planning and collecting your content, you should make things easier for yourself by automating routine tasks like posting content. Tools like Hootsuite, Buffer, Crowdfire, Social Jukebox (Formerly Tweet Jukebox) and other such tools make it easy to ‘drip’ content into your social media feeds. That is, you can load up your social media accounts with content in advance and schedule the content to deliver at specified times or over a period of time. This helps you to keep your social media timelines fresh and active without having to always fret about posting content.Consistency is more important than frequency. What gets scheduled gets done. -HT @MichaelHyatt Click To Tweet
If you have a self-hosted WordPress website, you can achieve this by using a plugin like Revive Old Post (formerly Tweet Old Post). I’ll sound a note of caution here – you must be smart in your automation and not let it look like a robot is managing your account. For instance, if you’re going to be resharing old posts, do it at a reasonable interval and make sure they are evergreen posts, not posts that could expire – like announcement of an upcoming event. You get the idea?
7. Leverage the power of community
Jeff Goins makes many profound statements in his book, The Art of Work. Here’s one that particularly stands out to me: “Every story of success is in fact a story of community.” Now, on leveraging the power of community, this is a fact of life that is evident all around us. Except you’re Robinson Crusoe, it is practically impossible to survive alone much less thrive in isolation. So, it is important that you forge real relationships with people. And don’t do it for what you’ll get; do it for what you’ll give. It probably sounds counterintuitive but what you give will ultimately come back to you in multiple folds. You cannot downplay the place of building high quality relationships with influencers and other people in your field.“Every story of success is in fact a story of community.” -@JeffGoins artofworkbook.com Click To Tweet
You should also consider participating in groups and forums where your ideal clients hang out. Join relevant groups on Facebook and LinkedIn. Participate in Google communities. Join Twitter chats in your areas of business interest. Eventually, you should also consider launching your own group. A close-knit community gives you the opportunity to regularly engage with your ideal customers and bond with them as you listen to them, solve their problems and provide them with valuable resources for free, long before ever asking for a sale.
Another great idea is to seek or create opportunities for taking the relationship offline. You could arrange to meet an engaged follower in an industry event that you’re both attending for example.
8. Analyse and measure
Usually, you won’t get it right the first time. And even if you do, there will always be room for improvement. But you can only improve what you measure. So it is important to find out what’s working and what’s not so that you can do more of what’s working and redesign or discard what’s not. What percentage of your referrals and website visitors are coming from social media? What posts are attracting the most engagement in terms of shares, retweets, clicks, likes, comments and replies?
Although these ‘vanity metrics’ (likes, followers etc.) have their value, they are not the most important statistics to look out for. You should pay more attention to reach, sign-ups and conversions, leads generated, website traffic and revenue generated. The major social media platforms have their native analytics reporting systems that provide you with relevant data which you can then analyse and interpret in light of your overall objectives. Another good idea is creating a custom reporting system using RSS feeds and tools like Google Analytics if you have a bit of tech savvy.
Better still, you can opt for an easy-to-use social media dashboard like the ones offered by Hootsuite and Buffer. These give you the advantage of connecting multiple accounts and having all your information in one place. Measuring and analysing the results of your social media efforts will help you to have a clear picture of how well you’re deploying your resources. You’ll be able to recognise gaps in your strategy and gain practical insights on how to fill those gaps especially in content, timing and posting frequency.
9. Convert fans to family and connections to customers
You don’t need any convincing that effective use of social media is a great way to grow your business – you already know that – otherwise, you wouldn’t come this far. However, as great as it, you must also realise that building your entire marketing and promotion strategy on social media is like building your house on shifting sand. The social media world is transient – things change every time. Many platforms that were the rave a couple decades ago are much less successful today. Social media has come to stay, but the platforms and tools will continue to change.Social media has come to stay, but the platforms and tools will continue to change. Click To Tweet
As a serious businessperson, you want to squeeze as much juice as you can from your social media investment. The way to do this effectively over the long term is to consider social media marketing as a means to an end, not an end in itself. Use it to initiate relationships with your prospective customers and get them to give you their email addresses or some other means to connect with them more closely. That way, you can be sure of being able to reach them when necessary since they have given you access to their inbox.
Social media platforms are an excellent way to create initial awareness, interest and desire but eventually, you should get the prospect to take action either by buying your product/service or by joining your email list. The most desirable goal would be to make the potential customer do business with you right away but you may not always be able to achieve that. The next best thing is trying to get more information and securing permission for future interactions. This is one major boost that your email list provides for your marketing efforts.
10. Put your money where your mouth is
This piece will not be complete if I don’t remind you that every good thing has a price tag. You’ve probably heard it said that “The best things are free.” It’s a popular statement but that does not make it true. Essential things may be free but the best things are not. Every time you get a good thing for free, you should know that someone paid for it. The same principle applies to your social media efforts. You can get started for free but if you want the best results, you’ll need to invest your resources especially time, effort and money.
You’ll need to subscribe to paid versions of social media management tools like Hootsuite, Buffer, Crowdfire or whichever one works for you. You’ll need to run adverts too. Social media is not cheap as most people believe; it is actually expensive – in a different way. You need money to run social media campaigns but you don’t need to have the marketing budget of Coca-Cola before you can make significant impact on social media.
So, there you have it – a simple action plan to help you amplify your influence and generate a consistent stream of clients. Social media strategy will vary from person to person and business to business, but the fundamentals are the same. If you apply all you have learnt in this solid guide, I guarantee that you will be elated with the outcome.
A blog post can only take so much. So I wrote a book, The Minimalist’s Guide to Social Media Marketing where I expound on these principles with illustrations and personal stories. Get the PDF version here. You can also get the Kindle edition on Amazon.
Question: How are you using social media to build your brand and grow your business? Share with us in the comments.