A couple of weeks ago I published Part One of my two part blog on social media and I know that you’ve all been waiting ever since with breath that is baited so, to put you out of your misery, here is Part two. You can thank me later.
Just to give you a quick recap, in Part One, I laid out my three most hated excuses that clients give me to get out of doing their social media homework and, I’ll be the first to admit, it did turn out to basically be a page and a half of me having a little rant. As the hottest SEO slinger in the (North) West, I naturally gave these paltry excuses short shrift but, in this blog, I’d like to give you something a little bit more constructive to help you get your social media campaign off the ground.
So, if you’re the owner of a small to medium business and need to get a better grasp on your company’s social media, then lock the kids/dog in a cupboard, get yourself a brew and have a seat.
Why Social Media?
I’m not referring here to why social media is important; not only have I already written more blogs than I care to remember about this, but I also discussed it in Part One and I’m sure I don’t need to go over old ground. You already know why social media is important, that’s why you’re sitting here reading this.
Instead, the question of ‘why social media’ should refer to your business and should be the very first thing that you ask yourself when planning your social media campaign; why have you decided to embark upon a social media campaign and what do you hope to achieve from it? Is your primary goal to attract new customers or to build a better relationship with those that you already have? Do you need to build your brand or reinvent your image? Why now?
These questions might seem like corporate fluff on the face of it but they are actually crucial in shaping your entire social media campaign. As with any plan, if you don’t know where you’re going then you will find it very hard to figure out how to get there! More importantly, though, knowing the answers to these questions will give you a good idea of who your ideal social media audience is and, once you know that, you will then be able to plan which platforms are going to suit you best.
How Do You Choose?
So now you have the beginnings of your social media campaign set down; you know your ultimate goals and your target audience. What you now need to do is decide from that which social media platforms are going to be the best ones for you and/or your business.
Unfortunately, this may be where the plan starts to get a little bit trickier and you may need a little bit of help. This is not because social media is a black art whose secrets are known only to a chosen few, but because there are now so many of them (with new ones being invented almost daily) that, unless you’re a teenager, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll understand exactly what each platform does and who is most likely to use it. Whilst you could unravel this mystery by doing your own research or speaking to your SEO Consultant, I find that by far the quickest and most reliable method is to just ask a teenager!
Narrow It Down
Once you’ve got a vague grasp on what all the different social media platforms do, the next thing to do is narrow it down to the bare minimum that you can get away with using. All SEOs, me amongst them, will tell you that the best way to ensure maximum impact is to have a presence on as many sites as you possibly can and, in theory, it’s great advice, particularly as different people prefer different platforms. In practice, however, trying to keep track on upwards of seven or eight different sites is a logistical nightmare and time and your sanity are precious.
The best solution is to find a compromise; decide which are the three most crucial platforms that your target audience are likely to be using and make these the cornerstones of your social media campaign. So, for example, for my personal life I primarily use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as these are where my friends and family are most likely to be, whereas for GrowTraffic we use Facebook, Twitter and Google+, as these are the most likely to grow our profile and drive traffic to our website.
Under no circumstances though does this mean that you use your main three to the exclusion of all others; it is still vital that you have at least a presence on other platforms too. Again, which ones will be unique to you; if photos are important to your company then use Instagram or, if your product is largely aimed at younger people, then use Vine but, whatever you do, use something.
As a very rough guide, and taking into account current trends, I would say that you need to have a minimum of three secondary platforms in addition to your primary ones, of which Pinterest, YouTube and LinkedIn are probably the most vital (providing you haven’t already used them). However you choose to mix your mediums though, make sure at least one of them is Google owned (Google+ and YouTube are the main ones) as this will actively improve your search engine rankings.
Find A Way Of Keeping Track
Even once you’ve whittled your social media platforms down to the bare minimum, it can still be a little bit like blindfolded juggling trying to keep track of them all. Luckily, as I mentioned in the last blog, there are some great sites out there that can help you view, post to or even analyse your social media.
Hootsuite is one of the most popular and is my personal favourite, but there are others that will offer different functions depending on how much and for what you will be using them. As with everything, if you want the all-singing all-dancing versions then it’s going to cost you, but none of them are exorbitant and, for the amount of time and hassle they will save you, they are well worth it.
How often you need to track your social media will again be personal to you but it will rarely ever be necessary to keep checking it every half hour. Once you have been running your campaign for a while, you will soon have a good idea of how often you will need to check it and, for the vast majority of people, a quick check once or twice a day will easily suffice.
Decide On A Content Strategy
This is a much more complicated subject than I can ever hope to cover in a single paragraph so I will not even attempt it; suffice to say that, once all the above are in place, your next step is to plan out what content you wish to put out via your social media platforms and why. Unless you are confident in content marketing, I would suggest that this is something best discussed with your Marketing Department and/or SEO Consultant and will require a degree of research into your specific industry, market and target audience.
In addition to this, you will need to decide on matters such as what tone to take in posts (for example, do you want to be serious or funny?) and what format your content will take (for example, do you want to publish mostly photos, infographics or do you prefer text?). Perhaps obviously, the best campaigns will be those with a good mix; yes, you will need to have an overall direction and tone, but mixing things up will ensure that you appeal to a wider audience and are ultimately more successful.
What’s more, I always believe that a good rule of thumb for structuring your content is to put out about 60% great (but relevant) content from around the web that your customers will want to see or read, 30% content from your company that is helpful or useful to your customers and 10% content that is personal in nature or a little bit of fun to lighten the load. Think of it from your own point of view; you wouldn’t want to read the same, boring and serious content from a company week after week, you would switch off. Your customers are the same; you need to engage them and keep their interest so throw in the odd video of a cat riding a bike and everyone’s happy.
Simplify Your Uploading
OK, so you know what you’re going to put out, now you need to decide when and how. In terms of the how, the internet has made this really easy for even the most cavemen-like amongst you. The vast majority of articles and blogs online now come with those handy little buttons at the bottom or the side of the page, so all you need to do is ‘click’ on the appropriate one and it will be shared on your social media to all your followers.
If it’s your own content that you’re sharing instead of other people’s, then the aforementioned management sites will let you post to all your social media platforms from the one place, so you only need to compose a post once instead of doing it four or five times. Additionally, most of the platforms will now interact with each other to the same end so, for example, if I want to post a fabulous photo that I’ve just taken, I can edit it on Instagram and it will automatically be uploaded to my Twitter and Facebook accounts too, which not only saves me time but allows me to keep everything going whilst I’m out and about.
Timing Is Everything
In terms of the when, choosing when to upload your posts can be even more critical than how because, as everybody knows, timing is everything. One of the major factors that people on Twitter cite as a reason for ‘unfollowing’ someone is that they post either too often or post all their tweets in one go.
Posting the correct amount of content is a balancing act, as post too much and your audience will switch off but post too little and they will forget who you are; both extremes could result in you being ‘unfollowed’ or ‘unfriended’. Similarly, saving all your posts up and uploading everything in one five minute blitz once a week will also drive your loyal devotees crackers. There is no hard and fast rule as to how often to upload content to your social media platforms, this will once again depend on you and your business but, however often you decide to do it, the best approach to take is a drip-feed one.
If you’re posting content from third parties, whether that be an article that you’ve just read or a funny joke someone has told you, then the best strategy is to post ‘as and when’. This not only saves you the hassle of having to store things up for a ‘convenient’ time (which, in my opinion, is just a way of giving yourself more work to do later!) but also ensures you adhere to the drip-drip approach.
When uploading your own content, on the other hand, it is always wise to take into account the time of day that you are posting it. Obviously, with the internet being global, time differences can fog the issue somewhat, but ensuring that you post at a suitable time is crucial. For example, unless your main business is in the adult entertainment sector, there is very little point in posting in the middle of the night or, at the other end of the spectrum, if your target audience is children or teenagers, don’t post during school hours; you may think that they could read it later but, in reality, it will have been buried under a million subsequent posts by then, so choose your time wisely.
Despite the fact that this is quite possibly one of the longest blog posts that I have ever written (and quite frankly, if you’re still reading, you deserve a medal!) it is still not an exhaustive blueprint for compiling a winning social media marketing plan. Having said that, I hope that I have given you some pointers and, at the very least, you should now have enough information with which to sit down with your team and your SEO Consultant to start planning your strategy out together.
There are so many variables in social media that it is impossible to come up with a one-size-fits-all template for creating a successful campaign but, with a little bit of research and a little bit of common sense planning, you are more than capable of devising a plan that will not only help you take control of your social media but also make it work for your business and be the worthwhile resource that it should be.