How to Leverage Your Business with Social Media: a 5-Step Guide

No matter what changes the internet age has brought to the world of business, digital marketing is still about forming relationships. And because social media is first and foremost social, it helps you create and build those relationships -- with colleagues in your industry as well as prospects and customers -- as well as achieve many other business goals.

Social media can help you build brand awareness and give your audience a chance to know you better. What do you stand for and believe in? What motivates you? What problems do you solve? Social media gives you additional opportunities to show your prospects the answers to these questions.

Social media also helps you provide the kind of service your customers expect. These days, a brand that doesn’t engage with its users on social media is an anomaly. Your customers might wonder why that is -- and may even look for a brand that’s more reachable and responsive.

It’s also essential for managing your brand’s reputation. No business will ever make all their customers happy 100% of the time. And when people complain these days, they do it on social media.

You might not be able to prevent that from happening but you can manage and mitigate the damage, simply by listening, responding, and empathizing (and, of course, trying to make it right if you can).

The strategic, targeted use of social media can help you drive traffic to your website or a specific landing page, make or break a launch of your new product or service, help you build your reputation as a trusted expert, form a lucrative new joint venture, and differentiate your brand from your competitors.

An active social media presence can help you achieve several business goals. But it does take some time and effort to implement an effective social media networking plan. Fortunately, an entire professional marketing niche has grown around social media to help you build your network easily and quickly in five simple steps.

STEP #1: Create Social Channels

It’s important to start by selecting the right social channels for your brand and your business goals.

Although most people are familiar only with a handful of the most popular sites, there are over 200 social media networks in existence. Of course, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are among the best known. For example, almost 80% of all U.S. adults are active on Facebook alone. What’s more, they’re really active on the site, with three-fourths of all Facebook users using the site daily in 2016.

But it doesn’t necessarily follow that you should use Facebook, too. Nor do you need to be active on multiple sites to successfully use social media for your business.

The right social media network for your brand is the one where your target audience is most active. Each social media site has a different “culture” that tends to attract a different set of dominant demographics. And since most busy entrepreneurs don’t have time to maintain active presences on several social media sites simultaneously, it’s important to prioritize your efforts from the start.

You can start by searching for and registering your brand name across several social media sites individually, or you can save a lot of time by using a tool such as Why register for multiple sites if you’re not going to use them all? One simple reason: It’s smart to reserve your brand name so it doesn’t get grabbed by another user.

Simply signing up for an available name is just the beginning, however. Each social media site requires different information from the user to create an active account. Moreover, you’ll want to make sure each of the profiles you’re planning to use is optimized with relevant and persuasive brand information, including your website URL, a catchy tag line, and an interesting biographical section.

Insider Tips:

  • The more specifically you can describe the groups of prospective customers or clients you’re trying to reach, the more effective your social media networking plan will be. Think in terms of both demographics (age, location, etc.) and psychographics (their problems, goals, fears, motivations, etc.).
  • If you’re new to social media networking for business purposes, consider focusing on a single network at first. You can always add more networks later, after you’ve established yourself on the first site.

Your Next Steps:

STEP #2: Get Cover and Profile Images

Each social media site allows users to upload different types of images for use as “cover images” as well as profile pictures or user avatars.

These images present a wonderful opportunity for you to further develop your brand, connect with your intended audience, and differentiate your business from your competitors. Dynamic, visually compelling images can convey a wealth of information about you and your brand.

If you’re building your brand around yourself as an individual, you’ll also want to use a high-quality, professional photograph of yourself, with your face in tight focus, as your profile picture or user avatar.

Insider Tips:

  • Search each social media site you’re using for your competitors’ profiles and any leaders in your industry or niche for inspiration and ideas.
  • Make sure you clarify whether you or your cover image designer will be responsible for securing rights to any image files used in the final design.
  • Think about what text, if any, you’d like your designer to include in your cover image, such as your URL, brand name, or tagline.
  • Specify which network the image is being designed for, since each site has varying image size requirements.

Your Next Step:

STEP #3: Create Content for Your Audience

Good business use of social media requires content, and lots of it. Sharing valuable, well-made, and high-quality content of all kinds helps you connect with, attract, and engage the people you’re trying to reach with social media, whether that content is written, video, or image-based.

But not just any kind of content will do. Your content should be carefully tailored to address your desired audience’s needs and interests. Like a museum curator, your job is to sift the truly useful and fascinating from the irrelevant or less interesting, and only share the content your audience wants most to see.

Before you create a social media content plan, think about your goals. What actions do you want your followers and audience members to take after interacting with you on social media? Your content should be designed around persuading your target audience to take those actions.

Outsourcing the collection and publishing of content on your social media networks is a wise investment in yourself and your business. It can take several hours each month to properly manage an active social media presence on just a single site. If you’re active on multiple sites, that effort will only increase.

Insider Tips:

  • Consider best practices for how often to post and share content on your selected networks, which can vary from site to site. For example, most experts recommend posting several times a day on Twitter but far less often on Facebook.
  • Help your social media provider be more effective with a written policy governing the kinds of content they should (and should not) collect, how often content should be shared, and how to handle conversations about you or your brand.
  • Give careful thought to which sources you curate content from, since sharing content from that site might be seen as an endorsement. Only publish content from reputable, authoritative sources.

Your Next Step:

STEP #4: Manage Your Social Community Daily

An active social media network doesn’t manage itself. It requires consistent, regular attention and careful management, especially if one of your goals is to grow your network organically.

You’ll need to join conversations, look for other accounts to follow, and create real relationships with those people as well. And that’s in addition to the time it takes to collect, curate, and publish content.

Another aspect of ongoing social community management is reputation monitoring. It’s helpful to have systems in place to quickly capture and bring to your attention any mentions on that site about you, your brand, and your products and services. That way, if there are any complaints leveled against your brand, you can respond quickly and appropriately so that your reputation doesn’t take a hit.

It’s not unusual at all for a business that’s active on social media to experience at least one complaint from a customer or client on social media. Some of the most trusted brands in existence have weathered serious social media crises. Whether the brand thrives or folds under the pressure of negative attention depends in large part on how promptly the complaint is addressed. In addition, it’s crucial to be as transparent as possible in your response. If you need more time, say so, instead of trying to buy more time with noncommittal replies or half-truths.

Authenticity buys you a lot of goodwill on social media. That’s especially true when you admit to a mistake openly and honestly, and then address the problem promptly. But first, you’ll need to make sure you know about those comments and complaints as soon as possible.

This kind of listening and monitoring work is ideal for outsourcing. It doesn’t take much time and as long as you provide clear guidelines as to what you’re looking for, it’s a task that can be easily performed by someone else in small chunks of time each day.

Insider Tip:

  • Communicate your goals and the descriptions of the different targeted audience segments to your social media manager so they’ll know what to look out for.
  • If you’re a solo business owner, monitor for mentions of your personal name as well as your brand name to make sure you’re aware of all relevant conversations on the social media site.

Your Next Step:

STEP #5: Analyze Your Social Results

The clearest goals you can imagine won’t do you much good if you don’t have a way to track and measure your progress. That’s true of just about any aspect of life, and it’s equally true when building a social media network.

After all, how will you know whether you should revise or change your approach to social media altogether, or whether what you’re doing is working well? The only way to tell is by collecting and analyzing certain metrics, or analytics, that reflect how close you are to your specific goals.

Here’s an example: Let’s say your goal is to drive traffic to your website using Twitter. How can you tell whether your efforts are helping you get closer to this goal?

One way is to first create trackable links using Google Analytics tools, then use them exclusively in your Twitter content. You then measure the clicks for those links over time. If you’re getting more traffic to your site, and it’s coming from those links, then you know what you’re doing is getting you closer to the goal. Otherwise, you know you should probably change some aspect of your use of Twitter.

To measure your progress towards your social media goals, you’ll need to gather and collect various analytical data from your accounts. Then you can assemble that data in a report format that’s easy to read and digest, so that you can track those metrics over time.

Insider Tips:

  • Your goals may change over time. That’s perfectly acceptable! Just make sure that the metrics you’re looking at reflect the current goals.
  • Don’t get too hung up on what experts call “vanity metrics.” Numbers of followers, for example, in and of themselves don’t really tell you anything about your business or impact your revenue.

Your Next Step:

You’re Done!

Follow these five straightforward steps to building an active social media network, and you’ll reach your social media goals in no time.

Just remember to keep the “social” in social media, by engaging personally with your audience on a regular basis. Show interest in others, deliver only the most valuable content to them, and outsource strategically to grow and manage your network.

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