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10 steps to Building Social Media Effectiveness for a Small Business

Many small businesses I speak to have a fairly low regard for using social media for business.

Their attitudes to social media include that it is irrelevant; using it but it doesn’t work or tried it and it didn’t work; they don’t have the time for it or simply they don’t understand it enough.

If this is your view, then I strongly recommend a rethink!

Why?

Well, most forms of outbound marketing techniques are becoming less and less effective. Time and money spent on online or offline advertising, direct marketing, email, telemarketing and even some aspects of digital marketing is, frankly, wasted!

If you don’t believe this, then ask yourself, how many times you have responded positively let alone actually acted upon any form of outbound marketing? Did you welcome the interruption? Did you click on that banner ad or respond to the spam or even pick up the phone when you saw a print advert?

You may have made a mental note to follow-up or look the business up in the future. But, more likely, you resented the interruption and at best you will ignore and forget about them.

Why would you want to be wasting your money like that?

There is a better alternative.

It is time to get serious about social for your business!

Here are ten steps to take to make social media marketing effective for your business.

  1. You need to ‘be in it to win it’: This may seem like a “doh! Obviously…” thing to say, but most small businesses are only partly ‘in’ social media. There are several different types of social media platforms and networks and you need to be active on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Instagram. You can, of course, have differing levels of activity, but you need to be on them and have your accounts all linked up, it matters!
  2. Continuously build out your network: This is perhaps the hardest part in which to build momentum. However, it is very much like rolling a snowball. The more people you add, the more visible you become and the easier it is to grow. An effective process is to search for the topics that are relevant to your business and follow those who post about them. Then check them out and follow people from within their networks that are relevant and interesting. Then check out the new people you have followed and repeat the above. Don’t be tempted to buy followers or pay someone to grow your network rapidly.
  3. Share, share and share again: Whilst building out your networks you will come across great content and posts from other people. Share it on – ideally make a comment– pointing out why you think it is By sharing great content, you build a reputation within the ‘subject matter area’ and you will help to build your network as a consequence.
  4. Can you do XXX? No, but I know someone who can! – The adage of what goes around comes around, or the law of mutual back scratching is never truer than on social media! Freely refer people from within your network and be sure you are known for your areas of expertise also.
  5. Do you have an opinion on things? Have knowledge and expertise? Can offer tips and pointers on how to do stuff? Well write it down and share it, even create a video or two! Creating useful and interesting content is the key to driving social media effectiveness and ultimately generating inbound enquiries to your business. You can create a blog site either attached to your website or on a hosted blog site like Blogger or WordPress.com. You can also publish on Medium or LinkedIn Pulse or simply write some short posts on Facebook. Be  generous with your views:

    THIS IS THE SECRET INGREDIENT – Don’t skimp on it!

  6. Tell the world: Make sure when you create content you tell people about it. Not just on Twitter but all the networks you use. Cross-link and cross-post across your different platforms. Tag people or brands whom you have quoted or referenced and also people you think would be interested. Do this at least five times with different headlines and on at least three different platforms. Finally aim to do this at least once every two weeks as a minimum, ideally once a week. Write it on a Sunday afternoon or whenever you can find a little time – little and often is better than something meaty every three or four months.
  7. Get visual! Pictures make us pause; they are easy to take in and they grab our attention for a brief moment. Pictures help your content get noticed and your audience is more likely to read on and engage – even if it is simply to share your post to their networks. Good headlines with the picture will greatly increase the likelihood of this.
  8. Do you use hash? Hashtags are everywhere now and whilst you do not want to overdo it, you do need to make sure your posts have 3-5 pertinent hashtags. They label your content and help people find it easily, especially those outside of your network. You can now use hashtags on all the main social platforms: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and now LinkedIn. The best way to use them is keywords from the post headline, then supplement your post at the end with other associated topic hashtags.
  9. Get Tooled Up! By now you are probably thinking, “I was right… I don’t have time for all this!”. Well, using the right tools will make all the difference. YOU can run a base level social media marketing program spending as little as 30 minutes a day. On average, I spend an hour a day split up into 20-minute chunks, morning, lunchtime and evening.

    The tools I recommend include:

  • HootSuite for social media posting, reading and management across all major social networks – web-based and app. This is my first port of call for social media management. It has loads of features but is straightforward to use.
  • Tweepmaps for audience monitoring (followers/unfollowers). A great tool to keep on top of your network, best used every 2-3 days.
  • Buffer for content and posts; This is the biggest time saver. In the free version, you can schedule 10 items ahead of time meaning if you post six times a day (a good level to aim for) you can have nearly two days pre-scheduled. If you use it daily, then you can always be on top of your social posting calendar. You can also schedule retweets as well. However, I recommend paying for a subscription and then you can load up much more content. For example, you could schedule a week’s worth of content on a Sunday evening and then use your daily time for reacting, replying and managing your network.
  • Other premium product are SproutSocial and BrandWatch, which are very useful for tracking social influence, reach and engagement. It also includes extensive reporting and competitor/topic.
  • PLUS — Make sure you use the inbuilt analytics features provided by the social networks. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc all provide great insights for free.

10. Top 10 things to track:(The list within a list) – As with anything worthwhile you need to be able to track your progress and see how effective different activities are. Social media growth does take time, but it does not take years. Done right you can have a network of thousands in just a few months.

The top 10 things you should track are:

    1. Overall audience/network size and growth of your network over time (split out by each of your networks).
    2. New followers / Prune those that unfollow you if they are not adding any other value to your network i.e. as a source of relevant content.
    3. Reach and engagement of your social network posts (including retweets, shares and mentions).
    4. Most influential/engaged members of your network (review size of their networks and level of activity).
    5. Popularity and engagement of your content (views, likes, shares and comments).
    6. Comparison of engagement using different post headlines.
    7. Competitor activity on social media (active on your target hashtags and area of interest).
    8. Business time and money spent on social media activities (necessary to build a Return on Investment view).
    9. Inbound enquiries from social media and what content triggered the enquiry.
    10. Revenue associated with social media activity (sales from inbound enquiries, referrals, customer retention and repeat business).

You can find most of this information included within the social network’s own analytics tools as well as some third-party tools.

US Army Light Artillery

A military metaphor for grasping Social Media.

Recently I’ve been discussing the importance and far-reaching impact of ‘social’ for military organisations. There are many opportunities and scenarios where understanding and effective deployment of social media skills and the reach of social networks can have a significant and lasting effect.

The use of social media and social techniques for communicating and influencing diverse audiences is well recognised in the commercial domain and in recent years within the political domains; we have also seen social media used both overtly and more subtly in defence related activities by insurgent groups and state powers alike.

One of the first steps in building competence in ‘social’ is to have a common and clear understanding of how it all works and fits together.

During my conversations with military folk, I found the following metaphor seemed to resonate quickly and helped form the basis for discussing strategy and tactics for social media communications and influence building.

If we consider influencing our target audience as territory to be gained; the different digital and social channels are our deployable platforms and weapon systems and the ammunition required is our content and just as you have different types of ammo you have different types of content. Finally, of course, you need trained personnel to be able to deploy and utilise the platforms effectively.

Carrying this metaphor forward there is clearly a need for training in using the different platforms, but importantly there is a need to have strong supply lines to produce and deliver the ammunition which in this case is well produced, engaging content; just having snappy messages and repeatedly pushing this out on Facebook or Twitter just won’t cut it; it’s like a guerrilla uprising, they may make some noise and have some limited success, but ultimately, a well-trained, resourced and disciplined professional army will win.

The last element I highlight in this military metaphor, is that of ‘Intelligence’ — prior intelligence on why, who, where and when to utilise the (social) platforms; careful monitoring of impact in terms of engagement and amplification during the (campaign) deployment and afterwards to report on effectiveness and what adjustments should be made.

  • Different Social Media channels == Different Weapon Platforms
  • Content == Matched Ammunition
  • Content creation == supply lines and support
  • Analytics == Intelligence
  • Audience == Territory

Once we break down our deployable assets into different platforms and content that needs to be repurposed and matched to different channels then we can plan strategically. Starting with ‘Why’; we develop core messages that lie at the heart of our content production and then create a timetable or content calendar to deliver this content over time and we measure our progress.

Another aspect which I’ll discuss in a future post is the need to develop networks and the requirement to invest time building these networks.

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Sorry but you’re not on the list!

When I talk about using Twitter to people a very common question is;

“How do you make sense of it? I only have (some number) of followers and when I go onto my Twitter stream it’s just a random stream of content, yes some of it is what I’m interested in but I struggle to get a real consistent value.”

I can sympathise with this point of view and it only gets worse the more you use Twitter and the more connections you make.

So what’s the answer?

Well, Twitter has built-in functionality that allows you to filter, search and generally slice up the huge firehose that is the main Twitter stream.

The most useful of these are Twitter Lists.

I use lists to create smaller more focused Twitter streams that contain accounts that are within and specific community or domain of interest, I also subscribe to lists that others have curated for similar purposes.

Now using lists within the native Twitter platform, regardless of device or OS, is not particularly useful; other than for discovering new accounts that others have already added to a list. The real value of lists comes when you combine them with another Social Media management tool; my platform of choice is Hootsuite, but I also use lists within TwitterFall and Twitterific (on mobile).

Using these tools, you can create views/streams that only contain the content from accounts in a list. This means I can review my overall Twitter stream in manageable slices that are relevant to whatever I am interested in at that particular time.

Hootsuite using Twitter Lists

This screen shot shows a subset of my Hootsuite set-up; three lists are shown, Marketing, Analysts and Tech, as well as a stream that is based on the hashtag #Marketing – Hashtags are, arguably, the most powerful ‘feature’ of Twitter — this post talks more about how I use Hashtags.

Back to lists…

To make use of Twitter lists you need to create and add accounts to them. You can do this on Twitter or other platforms like Hootsuite or a follower management tool like Statusbrew. This can be onerous if you try to do it in a huge batch, but it’s worth doing and necessary if you’ve yet to build your own lists.

The easiest way to do this, and it requires some self-discipline, is to place new accounts in lists when you follow them or when you get followed, by the way – you don’t have to have a direct connection to an account to add it to a list – so if you are micromanaging your Twitter profile in terms of who you follow etc then this doesn’t prevent you from maximising your use of lists.

For more technical help on using Lists, here is the Twitter Help page on
Lists

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Twitter is Chum!

Have you ever watched the movie Jaws?

Do you remember the scene when Police Chief Brody (Roy Schneider) was leaning over, throwing blood and guts over the side of the boat?


If you didn’t know, that gory gunk in the bucket is called ‘Chum’ and game fishers use it to attract the big fish they are hoping to hook and land.


Well, that’s what using Twitter for marketing is;

Twitter is Chum… its purpose is to attract a target audience!

But…

If all you do is throw chum in the water, then you’re not going to catch any fish!
You need to have the rest in place; you need bait, hook, a rod and line that’s fit for purpose and the skills to use them effectively; you’ll also need a ‘big enough boat’ and once you’ve caught your fish, you need to get it ashore and to market to sell to realise a return on investment.

This is exactly the same for marketing; each of the elements above have their equivalent in digital marketing and without them you’re digital marketing plans will fail.

  • Chum – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn updates
  • Bait – engaging messages and
  • Hook – valued associated content (LinkedIn Posts, YouTube, Blog and ) and a Call to Action
  • Rod and Line – Website Contact Capture and ideally a Marketing Automation Platform
  • Boat – CRM
  • Shore team – Sales

Essentially, my opinion here is that effective digital marketing needs a strategy and joined up activities otherwise you’ll just be wasting time and money attracting fish for other better prepared fishers to hook and land.