I would think by now, in 2012, that everyone knows how important social media is to marketing a small business. It comes as such a surprise to me when I hear people tell me that they are spending money (lots of it) on PR, hiring agents to get them speaking engagements or creating expensive print advertising rather than learning and doing social media.
There are others who think they are doing social media and that it isn’t working but what I see is social media done for its own sake, without a plan. We call that random acts of marketing. This shotgun approach results in a lot of time spent on social media without much result. But the first thing to have is a goal. And then to create a plan to reach that goal. With a goal and a plan you will know what to blog about, what to tweet about, where to spend your social media time, and the strategy behind using your social media network channels effectively.
Your plan does not have to be a lengthy, complicated tome that is full of useless boilerplate and gets put on a shelf and never referred to. Instead make it simple and to the point. It can be one page.
How do you go about making a social media plan for your small business? I thought you’d never ask…
Make a Social Media Plan For Your Small Business
- What is it that you do and who do you do it for?
- Why should people choose you?
- What are your short term and long term goals.
- What infrastructure do you need to have in place? Computer, Accounting, Website, Storefront, Mobile Phone, Accounts on the major social media networks…
- What are the baseline business activities that you must do on a regular basis to reach your goals? Checking and responding to e-mails, sending out proposals, creating and sending a weekly newsletter, writing # of blog posts on a rotating variety of topic areas . . .
- What are five top business ideas or activities you have thought of doing to reach your goals. Online and Offline activities.
- Rate and rank the above activities as to their bang for the buck in reaching your goals.
- Outline a short plan with action items and dates to accomplish each of the above activities you have selected to complete. Include how you can use free social media networks to help you to reach these goals.
- Keep doing your baseline activities and then implement your new business ideas, rinse and repeat.
WordPress Website is the Hub of Your Marketing Plan
I believe that before doing any social media you need a WordPress website for your business that you can easily keep updated with current info. It can be very simple but should be designed in a way that tells people what you do and how to do business with you. Only then can you convert visitors, that come to your site because of your compelling social media activities, into clients. Small businesses can’t compete with the larger businesses on a dollars spent basis, but you have the upper hand in the ability to be more personal and to develop a following based on building a business that people want to be a part of. Your website and blog is where that happens. Your social media activities then extend the reach of your message and bring people back to your website where they will be so impressed that they buy something from you or hire you.
Set Up Social Media Accounts
Once you have the website, you will want to set up accounts on all of the major social networks. Don’t worry you will not have to spend time on each of them all of the time. Depending on your goals you may have a focus on one or another in a bigger way. But go ahead and get the accounts, set them up properly and then work to create some content on them, such as some tweets, a video or two, and a completed profiles with photos. (Oh by the way, get a good profile photo taken and use that on all of your social media accounts. And in most cases use your own self and not pictures of your dog or your logo or horrors, you with your baby or spouse.)
Having these accounts set up helps with your business and personal search results because when people search for you or your business you will have an online presence that you have created. Your LinkedIn, YouTube account, or Twitter account will show up and drive other entries off the front page. Second, having these accounts help your website SEO by getting links back to your site from these high ranking sites. And for example when you write a blog post and then create a tweet about it, the search engines are notified and come to index that post right away.
You Must Have a Twitter Account And Learn To Use It
I think most everyone who has a business should have a Twitter account unless something is wrong with you. Was that mean? But really Twitter is like e-mail or texting except you have access to everyone, everywhere. Go ahead and get an account. People won’t follow people back if your account still has the Twitter egg showing up as your profile pic. Write a good bio and mention your business and link to it in the bio. Write a good, clever, humorous or otherwise compelling bio as people will read it to determine if they want to follow you.
To get started with Twitter, go to a app like Tweepi and find people to follow that matter to you. Tweepi shows you lists of the followers or friends of any other person on Twitter. It is really like being able to copy someone’s Rolodex! You can search for people you admire in your industry or neighborhood or market or search for your competitors and find out who they follow and who follows them. Choose people to follow from that list and a good percentage of people you select will follow you back.
You do not have to be on Twitter all day. I check in with it in the morning when drinking my coffee and if I have to wait for anything during the day. You can determine a plan that makes sense for you.
Make Social Media Easier with Apps
There are a lot of apps to make using social media easier. I use HootSuite to view all of my social network accounts and I can send my updates to Twitter or Facebook or Linkedin them that one interface. You can schedule a series of tips to go out on a regular basis with HootSuite or Buffer App. I recommend you spend ten or fifteen minutes a day reading tweets from your stream and interacting with people that you find interesting. Twitter is about creating relationships that can transcend the online world. You will be amazed at what is possible with the connections you make this way.
You don’t need to spend hours a day on these activities. But based upon your goals and the activities you decided to persue above, you will want to create a baseline of basic social media and marketing activities, that you commit to do on a regular basis, that are designed to develop Know, Like and Trust relationships your clients, potential clients and referral sources. Most of these activities should be “engaging” activities that are not all about you. Examples of engaging activities are commenting on other people’s blog posts, responding to or retweeting their tweets or liking their shares on Facebook.
Decide on who you would like to develop relationships with and make sure to focus on them, but don’t just ignore everyone. You never know when those special magical connections may occur. If you are authentic and helpful across the board, people will notice and remember and tell other people about you.
Commit to Your Baseline Social Media Activities
You will need to be committed to keep your website content current by such activities as writing blog posts each week, (the magic number depends on your specific business and goals). Nothing says dead business than a site that is not currently posting. I believe getting people to sign up for your e-mail list is essential and then it is essential to actually send out a weekly newsletter. The frequency, type and content depends on your market and goals but without this your people will forget about you and your website. Really. You may want to create and pre-schedule a series of tips that go out several times a day on Twitter or your Facebook Page. You can link your blog posts to automatically show up on LinkedIn and or your Facebook Page. So there are some activities that you do as a baseline for your business and then your other social media activities should be more targeted and directed towards your specific business goals.
For these more targeted goal related activities you will need to choose the best social media platform and activities for your type of business and your goals. As a small business owner you have to be strategic about deciding where to spend your social media time.
Be Strategic Planning Social Media Efforts
If you have a Bricks and Morter location, restaurant or an online store your Facebook Page is a great place to plan a campaign. Create and use a Facebook Page rather than using your personal account since frequent business updates may cause your friends to get irritated and even hide you. Make sure your page is set up thoroughly with the new Cover Image and a 180 x 180 pixel business profile image. On the Facebook Page, you can create deals of the week or special days with different emphasis, Oyster Wednesdays for example or a martini contest. Be inventive and creative and connect with people. It is like you are having a party so you need to be fun and inviting. We all want to belong to something bigger than ourselves. Use Facebook to give people a way to feel like they belong. We love to feel like we are in the know, have the latest scoop. You can create that on Facebook and reinforce it with your newsletter and blog posts.
You will also want to create a Google+ Business Page ( it was called Google Local Business page) This is like a Facebook Page for your business only better since it will come up front and center in Google local search results for your key words if you do it right and get good content and reviews happening. You can also claim your business on Yelp and receive reviews.
If you are a professional and your clients are in Corporate America then LinkedIn is essential to your business. I believe everyone should have a completed, updated LinkedIn Profile with your blog linked to it so that your blog post excerpts, show up on your LinkedIn page with links back to your website. For certain types of businesses, actively participating in Linked by joining and taking part in relevant groups can be a great source of networking which will build up or remind people of your professional reputation. It is a great forum to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry.
LinkedIn is a great place for people to post recommendations of you for you. These days, we place more trust in testimonials and recommendations posted on third party sites than the those posted by an individual on their own website. While we are discussing recommendations, don’t forget to ask their happy clients to write a recommendation or review. In addition to LinkedIn they can post them on Yelp, Trip Advisor, Bed and Breakfast.com or other sites relevant to your business. Make sure your business has a completed and “claimed by you ” profile on each of these relevant sites and be sure to claim your business on the free Google Local business. These sites are great for search results and you don’t have to do anything on them once you set them up, except remember to go update them with any changes such as your hours or your phone number. Set up Google Alerts with a search query for your business name and you will be notified by e-mail, when anyone writes anything about your business online.
Is your business visual? Or could it be? Upload your extra photos to Flickr and organize them into sets. Link to a certain set from Twitter, LinkedIn or your blog posts. Make sure there is a link back to your website on your Flickr account profile.
Create some videos and post them on YouTube. Even if you think your business isn’t creative, think again. Check out how these young guys with a junk removal service have used You Tube videos to build their brand and a following.
If you have a design firm, or a visual business, if you create art or food, Pinterest is a great way to showcase your brand and to let other people showcase your work. But even if your business isn’t creative in and of itself, use Pinterest to show who you are and what you like and whats important to you or your brand. It is a great source of links back to your site. I recently created a Pinterest Bio Board and uploaded pins that represent who I am, where I have been and what I have been up to.
Make It Easy On Others to Share Your Content
I know you know that you should have Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus share buttons under your blog posts so people can share them on their social media sites, but be sure to add a Pin It icon under your blog posts or product web pages so that your visitors can easily share your images on Pinterest themselves. When they do so they often then automatically share them on Facebook or Twitter. You get some great exposure just for including a button on your website. One rather new food blogger I know got 6,000 hits to her website by pinning a photo of her Peanut butter and Jelly French Toast to a Pinterest board.
For Success – Plan and Work Your Plan
There is so much free exposure out there. But once you have a WordPress website and all of your accounts set up then learn how to use them. And make a plan as to how you want to use these resources to best accomplish your goals remembering to be strategic rather than shotgun since your time is not free. If you have a business to run, you can’t allow yourself to fall into the trap of spending hours on non-goal related social media or live networking events that are not directly pertinent to your goals. If you do waste your time on random acts of marketing, please do not complain to me that social media is not working for your business. In this day, if you are doing what I have outlined above and you are not rolling in business, then you need some consulting that you are doing it right or you need to face the fact that you do not have a good business model. Otherwise, if you have a plan and work it, these activities will work to get you business, and the type of business that you want.