Everyone is talking about social media and the marketing potential it provides for businesses. What you don’t hear a lot about, unless you’re listening to the right individuals, is how to select the proper social media tools for YOUR business. Just because you only hear about Facebook and Twitter, doesn’t mean that they should be the ONLY tools you use. It may be that you shouldn’t focus on Facebook and Twitter at all…Perhaps LinkedIn and Squidoo are better suited for your business. This post is going to cover the process you should take when determining what social media tools you should be using to support your online marketing strategy.
So, before you jump in and create profiles on all of the latest social tools in the news, do a little planning. Proper planning won’t ensure success, BUT it will significantly increase the chance for success. Below are the steps that we recommend you take once you decide that an online marketing strategy makes sense for your business. If you have any additional steps that you think should be added to this list, please leave us a comment with what the step is and where it fits into the list below.
7 Steps to Choosing the Right Social Media Tools
- Be sure your company is prepared for social media marketing. Social tools allow businesses to interact with customers and prospects on a level never before achieved in business. With that said, you have to be sure that your business is setup to thrive in this environment. For example, customer service is changing with the explosion of social tools. Customers will expect that they can Twitter a question to you and you’ll respond within a reasonable amount of time (24 hours or so). Customers will express their happiness with your service and they will also express frustration if you are not meeting their needs. You should be prepared to use social tools to embrace these types of interactions.
- Determine your goals for social media marketing. It’s always a good idea to establish your goals up front, this way you have something to measure against. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What am I trying to achieve with social media marketing?
- What is a reasonable time frame for me to achieve these targets?
I’d recommend that you go back to your goals quarterly. If anything needs to be changed within your marketing tactics, then you can do so at that point.
- Find out where your target customers are hanging out online. If you are a new business and you haven’t already identified your target customers, then you should definitely do that first. Once you know your target (age, gender, spending habits, interests, etc) then do a little research to find out where those types of people are spending their time online. So if you’re a recruiter, your target market is other business professionals. With a little research, you’ll find that LinkedIn is a great place to find other business professionals who are looking for work and for businesses looking for workers. Make a list of the top four or five social tools that your customers are using. Research each of those tools to find out what they do and how they are benefiting other businesses.
- Align your market research with your goals. Now that you have determined where your targets are spending their time online, you can use that information along with your goals to determine what social tools to use. As we discussed earlier, some social tools make more sense for your business than others depending on your goals and customer information. If your goal is to create an online space where your customers can connect with you and other like-minded people, then you might consider using Ning or Facebook. If your target customers are senior citizens, then Ning is probably better than Facebook because seniors, although a growing Facebook audience, are not using Facebook as much as others. It’s all about matching your goals with your market research to come up with the top social tools to spend your time developing.
- Build your profile. Now comes the fun part. Go ahead and build your social profile on each of the tools. Post as much information as possible. Explain what the site is about and how it will benefit those who sign up. Share images, articles, event information, and special offers with your online followers.
- Promote your social tools. Once you have your social tools to a place where you’re comfortable sharing them with others, then start promoting your tools. Include links to your social tools on your website, in your ads, on your business cards, and within your email signature. Seek out people in your life who are on the same social tools and invite them to join your network. Search for other local business owners who also have sites on the social tool and become a follower of theirs. Hopefully they will do the same with you. It doesn’t make sense to invest the time in social media marketing if nobody is following your moves. Get out there and promote your social tools.
- Continually update your site and interact with your followers. Social media marketing takes time. Success doesn’t happen overnight. Be sure to answer any comments that come through from your network. Try to post valuable information at least once a day. Start discussions. Encourage your network to interact with one another and not just with you. If you stay with it, I guarantee you will have success using social media marketing.
Do you have anything to add to the list above? Perhaps you have a success story that you’d like to share with us? Please leave a comment below OR connect with us on Facebook to share your information.