Social media generates a lot of excitement amongst SME Owners and Managers. All too often that initial excitement is followed by a sense of frustration and disappointment. The potential that the owners had seen in social media to transform their business fortunes simply hasn’t materialised – and the business is left having invested a lot of time and effort but with no tangible business results to show for this.
As the owner of a social media agency, this is one of the most common situations I encounter when I’m talking to business owners. So to help prevent you from finding yourself in this position, I thought I 'd share with you the 4 steps we consistently see small businesses need to implement in order to become successful business brands on social media (note: when I say successful, I mean they are extracting tangible business results from being active on social media). So do pause for a moment to ask yourself how many of the following steps are you genuinely doing in your business?
It All Begins With Having Your End Goal in Mind
This initial step sounds very obvious but a great many businesses we speak with actually haven't taken this conversation to its natural conclusion. The first key step is being very clear about the audience you want to reach with your social media presence - and precisely what do you want your growing social media audience to have done several weeks or months down the line. What do these social media users / prospects need to have done that will have made your investment in social media worthwhile?
The answer to these questions will be different for each business. Some will be focused on bringing customers to their premises. Others will be eager to boost the search engine rankings of their website through stronger social sharing activity. The overall goal will be influenced by what it is that your small business sells and how you sell it. The key thing is to have actually defined this at the outset so that all your social media activities are undertaken with this objective in mind. This is the surest way to then create an activity funnel that you can refine and perfect with each passing month that you’ve been investing in social.
Become a Magnet for Your Ideal Business Prospects
The second step is to contemplate what will make your social media profiles amongst the most valuable, insightful or entertaining for this target audience. Often small businesses are guilty of their social streams being nothing more than a parade of their latest product and services, plus maybe the occasional team photo or special deal. This invariably means only appealing to people who were already considering buying from you. Whereas having a focus on helping, entertaining or informing your ideal prospects is what draws swarms of brand new prospects to you! Include some more personal touches to appeal to your prospective customers on a more personal level and you will have differentiated your social presence from the majority of small businesses you compete with. But remember, just because your goal is to sell doesn't mean your social media page should reflect this – in fact, quite the opposite is usually the better option.
You see, if you want to become a magnet in your industry that attracts your desired target audience, a focus on selling, selling, selling simply doesn’t produce the desired results. You must become an invaluable resource in your niche market, one that people will come to view as indispensable and whose updates they will want to share with others in their network. This is where the huge value on social media can be derived. For example, several of the accounts we manage have twitter followings of 30,000 to 60,000+ followers. But when we examine the reach these twitter accounts enjoy each month, their messages are often seen by 1million+ people.
Even with smaller accounts, a similar multiplier effect can be achieved if the right things are being done. It's this network effect that gives your business huge visibility amongst - and access to-- the prospects that you want to reach. But this is only achieved when the updates you post are consistently valuable or entertaining and therefore share-worthy. It's also paramount that you are regularly active, posting updates on all your accounts ... not letting your activity levels dip. It doesn't take much to slip into obscurity either online or on social media, so carve out the time to ensure that this doesn’t happen.
Attract Customer Interest - Don't Wait For Them To Come To You!
The 3rd step is also crucial. If all you do is Steps 1 and 2, you will have built your business a social media presence that looks professional when people click to your profiles from your website. But you will not be growing an ever larger audience who go on to do the things required to start bringing your small business really tangible financial results.
That's why Step 3 is absolutely critical. Step 3 involves understanding each of the social platforms where you have built a presence and determining the steps that are needed to get your profiles seen by more and more of your target audience. This topic alone would warrant an article for each social site, so suffice it here to say that you’d want to be doing things such as following people, commenting, liking, being active in groups, tweetchats, paid promotions of your accounts, etc. rather than just sitting back and waiting for people to find your profiles. This is how you accelerate the size of your social media audience – and therefore ultimately the results you can get from social media.
The Real Gold Is In Engagement!
Last but absolutely not least, Step 4 involves engaging with your prospects on social sites. This includes reviewing the profiles of everyone who has interacted with your business on social media and following up accordingly. Or it may mean discovering conversations taking place in your industry and jumping in and participating in those conversations. Or paying to run targeted adverts to a subset of your followers, the aim of which being to entice them to take the desired next step to move along your sales funnel.
What we’re really talking about here is taking that awareness that your company brand now has on social media and turning it into meaningful conversations that are taking place between your business and your prospective customers. This last step is absolutely crucial, since almost all leads from social media come from having built relationships with prospects on social media and then proceeding to encourage them to take the action you want them to take. Without this last step, you’ve just built a larger and larger audience who know your business – but who’ve never actually bought anything from you!
To stress what is hopefully already obvious, you can't ever fulfil Step 4 effectively if you haven't already done a great job of implementing Steps 1-3, since it’s these activities that spark those conversations being started in the first place.
I hope the above has given you some good food for thought and sets you on your way to enjoying greater social success this year.