Jumping onto a social media platform before you understand it is like ordering dinner off of a menu written in a language you don’t speak. You might think you’re ordering a cheeseburger with bacon, but you’re really ordering sautéed grasshoppers in chocolate sauce with a side order of pickled cow’s feet.
The experience can be the same with social media. You’re anticipating something all thick and juicy and bacon-y and when your meal arrives you’re like, “I wonder how much of this I can hide in my pockets?” All you can think of is why you didn’t pay more attention in French class. If you don’t understand how to market via social media, and where you are taking your company’s marketing message, you could end up pretty darn hungry. Hungry for business, that is.
Small businesses that are used to the glory days where they identified the demographics of their customers, ran ads based strictly on data, then waited for the cha-ching of the cash register are slowly realizing those days are over. Advertising was a one-way message then, from you to your customers. The customer listened, because they had no other choice.
Now anyone (which means everyone, by the way) with a FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+ account is talking, and listening, and engaging. Advertising is now a discussion and if you can’t carry on a conversation, you might as well have ordered the pickled cows’ feet.
The Right Customer, At The Right Time, On The Right Platform
Today’s social media requires you to have a conversation with the right customer, at the right time, on the right platform. Not being on the right social media channel is like speaking at a carpeting convention when you sell automobiles. You are clearly talking to the wrong people, at the wrong time, and the wrong place.
To select the right social media channels, you need to first know your marketing goals and who wants to hear it. The process is simple… ask your top clients (the existing “right customers”). Ask your top clients what social media platforms they visit. Ask them which ones give them the most value. And ask them when they visit social media (hint: the right time).
What Do They Want
Birds of a feather flock together. With an understanding of where your top clients are going on social media, you can now roll out your social media strategy:
Step 1 – The Right Social Media Platform
If you’re paying attention in your meetings with your top clients you will know the best social media to use, not only from what they say but from what you also observe. Don’t just use Twitter or Facebook because everyone else is, or because your top client likes to use them to talk with his college buddies. Find out what social media platforms your best customers use to find solutions and to stay current.
Step 2 – Managing Social Media
Use a management system like Hootsuite (http://hootsuite.com) to have a unified platform for managing the social media site you need to be on.
Step 3 – On Schedule
Social media serves two purposes very well – delivering content and having a dialog. For the content part, you must have a scheduled approach. Regularly introduce new, relevant content in social media. Be an active voice, constantly. And to do that, you must schedule it.
Step 4 – On Time
As I mentioned in Step 3, social media is the ideal platform for a dialog. As prospects and customers make comments, you have the ability to participate in the conversation. Use your social media platform to notify you of relevant keywords, and respond in a timely fashion with relevant information.
Social media is a conversation. Don’t beat people over the head with your product just because you can. You would never go to a networking event, meet a person and repeat what you do 100 times during the hour. Don’t do it on social media either. Pretend you’re at a party or dinner and let people know once or twice what you do as part of a much bigger conversation.
Your social media needs to be targeted (clone your best customers). You need to have scheduled sharing of content, complemented by real time dialog. You need to be responding with customers/prospects and your community, and you must be part of the conversation in a way that benefits those you’re talking to, and not sounding like a loud obnoxious ad.
I wrote this blog post on behalf of Visa Business and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s. Visit http://facebook.com/visasmallbiz to take a look at the reinvented Facebook Page: Well Sourced by Visa Business. The Page serves as a space where small business owners can access educational resources, read success stories from other business owners, engage with peers, and find tips to help businesses run more efficiently. Every month, the Page will introduce a new theme that will focus on a topic important to a small business owner’s success. For additional tips and advice, and information about Visa’s small business solutions, follow @VisaSmallBiz and visit http://visa.com/business.