How to use social media to grow your business
Why is that some people approach social media like a bull at a gate. Push this product – push that product – push push push! Using social media to only push products disengages your audience. Is this happening to you?
How about your own posts on social media, are they working for you? If not, perhaps you don’t have a social media strategy.
Bring back the social in social media!
If you attended a networking event would you go up to someone you never met before and say to them “Good to meet you. By the way here’s my business card. Go to my website, I have just the product or service you need!” Seriously, would you?
If you were a travel agent and you attended a birthday party, would you go up to a complete stranger and say “I’m a travel agent and have a fantastic holiday package for you rock climbing in the Andes!” Seriously, would you?
Even more seriously, would these people take you seriously? Chances are they would look to run away from you and couldn’t do it fast enough. Yet this is exactly what I see happening on social media platforms, people constantly pushing their products and services in the ‘hope’ of selling something or generating a lead.
Bring back the social in social media. Why? Because people couldn’t care less about you and what you sell. They will only care, when they know, how much you care about them.
Social media can be a very effective tool as part of an overarching marketing strategy. But first things first. Here’s a very important question for you.
What are you trying to achieve on social media?
Are you looking to gain more followers, generate leads, build your brand, spread a powerful message, stimulate discussion, raise capital or seed money, promote your products or services? As the late Stephen Covey says, “Start with the end in mind.” Before embarking on a social media campaign, you need to know what you want to achieve.
Understand your social media goals and objectives
If you were to set off on a journey across Australia or the USA from coast to coast, chances are you would need a road map or GPS to guide you along the way. You know where you will start your journey and you know where you want to end up. Without a road map or GPS you could end up anywhere or worse still, go around and around in circles and end up where you started.
Social media is no different, you must know where your starting point is, where you want to go and what you want to achieve along the way. In other words, you need a social media strategy or social media GPS.
Define your social media objectives
What do you want to achieve through your social media efforts? For example;
- Do you want to create awareness of your brand and build brand equity?
- Do you want to drive people to your website?
- Do you want to build trust and customer loyalty?
- Do you want to build a following and subscriber list?
- Are you looking to promote your products and services?
- Are you looking to increase your sales?
- Do you want to generate new leads?
These are only a few of the possible goals and objectives of a social media strategy and these are not mutually exclusive in terms of your marketing goals and objectives.
The point is, you need to plug in the end objective into your social media GPS.
Create SMARTER Goals
As with any marketing activity, your social media objectives need to be SMART or better still – SMARTER. Specific, Measureable, Agreed, Realistic, Time-Bound, Ethical and Recorded. For example, if you are looking to build a subscriber list, you might create a SMARTER goal where you want 2,000 subscribing to your blog over the next six months by providing value added posts providing information that helps them grow their sales.
Target the right demographics
A successful social media strategy is where you align your social media objective to the right people with the right message using the right social media platform. If your target audience is ‘business to business’ and you are selling process improvement technology, you would not be targeting the 16- to 21-year-old age group delivering messages about business software. However, if you were selling a mobile phone app suitable for this age group, then of course social media would make sense. Therefore, before creating your strategy and defining your objectives, you need to really understand who your target market is and what you are looking to achieve.
Who is your target market?
If your objective is to use social media to grow your business, then you must know exactly who your target market is. Depending on the business you are in, you may have more than one target market contingent on your social media objectives. For instance, purely increasing your followers is completely different from building a subscriber list or sending potential buyers to your website.
What age are your target market? Where do they live? What social media platforms are they likely to hang out on? What are their likes or dislikes? What kind of posts do they respond to the best? Are they likely to engage with you, like or share your posts? Why would they be interested in your products or services and what’s in it for them? In other words, how will they benefit from using your products and services?
An easy way to identify your target market, is to create what is known as a buyer persona aligned to your social media objectives.
Create a buyer persona for each of your target markets
A buyer persona is a fictional character that represents your ideal customer. Buyer personas help you identify and refine the right audience so that you can create the right messages, at the right time using the right social media platform.
Your followers might be in the 18 – 25-year old age bracket whereas your subscriber list of potential buyers may be an older demographic, say in the 35 – 50-year old age bracket. If you are looking to create brand awareness or sell your products and service, your perfect buyer persona might be business people. If you have more than one objective, you will need to create a different persona for each target market and define your social media objectives.
Your buyer persona is a fictional character and not a real one you give a name to like ‘Cautious Colin’ or ‘Knowing Nola.’ Creating a buyer persona will identify the following:
- Age bracket
- Income bracket
- Likes and dislikes
- Motivations and objections
- Problems and opportunities
- Preferred social media communication channel
The more specific you are in creating your buyer personas, the more likely you will achieve your social media objectives.
Choose your social media channel
Because not all social media channels work for each target market (buyer persona) and the messages you wish to convey, choose the right one for your message and target audience. If your target market is business to business, you might look at LinkedIn as a communication channel. If your target market is the younger generation, you might look at Instagram or Facebook.
You might create a blog or twitter account depending on your social media goals and objectives. You may have to use multiple channels to reach a different audience, one for each of your buyer personas matched to your social media objectives.
Create engaging content
Once you have matched the right social media channel for each of your objectives, it’s time to create your content. As mentioned above, your content cannot be push push push your products or services all the time. If you do, there is no quicker way for people to disengage. Social media is called social media for a reason, it is to engage your audience with something of value using a social medium. Think about how you can deliver value, content others will want to read and share. It’s about engaging your audience with new and fresh content to keep their attention and keep them coming back to you.
A general rule of thumb is, for every ‘sales’ or push message, you should have five to nine other messages that are of interest to your target audience that adds value.
Consider how you will deliver your content. Will you use video, infographics, photos or just text? Using a mix of mediums to deliver your content will keep your audience more engaged. Statistically people are far more likely to become engaged or read your message when accompanied by something visual such as a photo or video.
Social media is a long term strategy and can be very time consuming. If you don’t have the time or the resources to support your strategy, it may not work for you. Imagine you post an advertisement in a daily newspaper, once. After a day, the newspaper is likely to end up in the paper waste as not everyone will even take notice of your advert. You can’t expect that a month later, that single newspaper advert will still be relevant because it won’t be due to lack of frequency. It’s the same with social media, if you post once a month, you are unlikely to gain any traction. The same with radio, without frequency not everyone will hear your message unless you are advertising a one day special with a strong call to action.
In order for any promotional campaign to work, especially social media, you need to consider frequency. If you use twitter for instance, you have about 10-30 seconds to capture someone’s attention so you need frequency to build a following. Depending on the research, all of us are exposed to over 3,000 marketing messages a day so frequency helps cut through the clutter.
Growing your business
In any relationship, you have to build trust and rapport before people will buy into your social media messages especially if you are looking to grow your sales and customer base. Often when I’ve connected with someone on LinkedIn or Twitter I receive messages like this:
- Thanks for connecting if you are interested in ……. please send me a message.
- Thanks for connecting check out my (blog, profile) here
- Thanks for connecting. My company provides……
Delete – delete -delete!
When you receive messages like this you don’t have a reason to engage. Your audience will not engage with you if all you do is push product and ask them to buy something. Try building a relationship first with frequent value added messages instead. Once you have built trust and engagement, your audience is more likely to receive your marketing and promotional messages with greater interest.
Remember, social media should be part of an overarching marketing strategy, not the only strategy.
On a final note
If you balance your social media sales pitches with more value added posts, you are far more likely to keep your audience engaged and grow your business.
In a nutshell
Bring back the social in social media.
- Create a social media strategy
- Define your social media goals and objectives
- Create buyer personas which should be aligned to your social media objectives
- Create your content
- Choose your social media channel
- Build trust and rapport with your audience
- Balance your posts with value added material to keep your audience engaged
- Post frequently