Social media is a way to connect with potential and current customers. A way to increase word of mouth. You might not like using Facebook or Twitter yourself, but social media isn’t going away any time soon. People get their information and socialize online. So you need to figure out:
- Where your customers congregate online
- How to engage them
- How to avoid mistakes, because negative publicity spreads as fast or faster than good publicity
The Main Social Media Outlets
Before you invest huge amounts of time across all the different social platforms you want to figure out if your audience is even there. Here are the main platforms you will want to look into. Remember, just because one is the biggest, doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best. You’ll need to find your potential customers on each, and may have to do some tests to see how well you are able to engage them.
- Facebook - The largest social site and one with the most general audiences. Most businesses need to put at least a small amount of time into creating a page.
- Youtube - Create videos to get in front of potential customers and demonstrate your expertise. The world’s 2nd largest search engine.
- Twitter - Twitter is a place to share lots of little tips, links and tidbits of information. Often takes time to build a following but if done right they can be highly engaged. A more tech savvy crowd than Facebook.
- LinkedIn - Largely for business to business connections.
- Pinterest - A site where you can share photos of your products or services. Largely a female audience.
- Question and Answer Sites - Sites like Quora and Yahoo Answers. A way to connect with people with questions and demonstrate your expertise.
- Forums - Sometimes your potential customers can be found here. Be helpful and participate in the discussion and you can often find new customers here.
It is way better to put all of your time into one or two social platforms instead of spreading yourself thin over all of them. Maybe there is a popular forum where your customers hang out. You’ll want to become a regular and helpful contributor. If your business is say, custom designed handbags, maybe Facebook and Pinterest are the best places to find your demographic and get them to spread the word about your products.
General Guidelines for Audience Types
The older your audience is, the less tech savvy they’ll be. Think crusty old computers running Internet Explorer with Bing over Google, using Facebook over Twitter. These people are far more likely to click on ads and less likely to use a service that is overly complicated or feature rich. Traditional marketing still works with this crowd. They’re more likely to not own a smartphone or mobile device, so target desktop advertising.
If you have a very youthful audience they will be far less likely to click on ads but are more inclined to use the latest social platforms and do so in greater numbers. They use mobile devises as much or more than desktop computers. They are more inclined to use search over a phonebook and they probably don’t read the newspaper or watch the local news. Basically, traditional marketing methods don’t work so well with younger demographics. If this is your audience you are best off spending most of your time engaging them via social media.
There tends to not be too many differences between male and female audiences across platforms. Pinterest might be the one exception, having a larger proportion of female members.
So hopefully you have some idea of where your audience can be found online. The first thing you want to do is make a plan. You need to figure out how much time you have to spend on social media, how you will measure success, and what some realistic goals are.
For any business starting out, you probably want to start with your own website and blog, and then venture further into social media. Because then you do get people actively following you they’ll want to find out more, or buy, and that more will be over at your site.
It can be very easy to waste time online and your time is valuable. So set designated times for social media and stick to it. The best times are later in the afternoon, when you’re already completed most of your important tasks for the day, but fit it into your schedule where you can.
I recommend setting up a new email address for all your social accounts. It can be easy to get caught up in it all if you’re constantly bombarded with reminders. Make a new email account and only check it once a day during your designated social time to limit the distractions. It is good to engage with the community online but don’t do it at the expense of your personal productivity.
Goals and Measuring Success
You need to figure out what your goals are and how you can measure them. If exposure is your goal figure out where the largest concentration of potential customers is and be there too. If you are selling online, you’ll want to know how much time and money spent on any more platform equates to more traffic to your website, and of that traffic, how much converts into sales.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
Less is More. If you are new to a platform start out really slow. Get a feel for what your audience likes. See what other people are sharing and what is popular. See how other successful businesses are doing it and take notes. Emulate what they do well and avoid what they do poorly.
Don’t Sell. If you are blatantly only there to sell products you’ll be shunned. Provide some sort of value. Answer peoples questions. Ask questions of the community. Share interesting news, tips, advice, anything to get a conversation started and to be a part of that conversation. You are trying to build long-lasting relationships with these people, so that when they do decide to buy something, you’ll be who they go to.
Setting it All Up
Sometime soon, I’ll be creating more platform specific guides and more advice on how to get your business moving forward with social media.