Friday 18 December 2015

10 tips to using social media to grow your business 

Using social media is one thing; using it to grow your business is another thing altogether. Here are 10 tips to help you build a social media marketing strategy.

1. Begin with a plan

Social media can help you market your business by reaching new clients and building stronger relationships with existing ones. But like any form of marketing, social media marketing is pointless unless it ties in with your overall objectives. So before you begin tweeting or posting, make sure you know where you want your business to be and the role social media will play in helping you get there. Better still, formalise this into a social media plan.

Your social media plan should form part of your overall marketing and communication strategy. And it will include things like who you choose to follow on Twitter, which groups you join on LinkedIn, which pages you follow on Facebook and, most importantly, what kind of content you will produce and distribute via social media.

2. Weigh up the risks (but don’t get bogged down in them)

Social media is, by its nature, fast-paced and democratic. And, as with any uncontrolled environment, it comes with risks. Clients - or former clients - may post unflattering things about your business; or one of your employees may use your account to post something that’s unprofessional.

Developing a simple action plan can prepare you for the potential downside of social media – think about potential scenarios and the best way to manage them. Just don’t become so bogged down in the risks that they stop you from capitalising on the enormous opportunities social media can present.

3. Stay on brand

Chances are more than one person at your firm will need to login and post from your social media accounts. But you still want a consistent voice that stays ‘on brand’. Again, that can be easier said than done in an interactive environment, where you’re expected to comment, share and like in real time. So develop some simple, common sense guidelines on how your social media accounts should be used, when and how you’ll interact with others and the kind of language that should be used.

4. Focus

Few advisers have the time or resources to master all social media platforms. And not all platforms will be relevant to what you do. So focus your efforts on just one or two platforms. And don’t treat your social media in isolation to your other efforts to communicate with clients. There’s nothing wrong with using the same – or at least similar content – for your social media accounts that you use for your website blog and newsletters.

5. Engage

Social media is – or should be – a give and take environment where your posts reach new people and audiences through the likes, comments and shares of your followers, connections and friends. So if you want people to comment on, like and share your posts, do the same to them whenever they post something that’s interesting or valuable to you... Think reciprocity.

You should also join and check in with LinkedIn groups or Twitter hashtags that discuss topics or industries you work with. As with real life, if you’re looking for new clients don’t just associate with people from within your own industry.

Being aloof, or ignoring social media for months and then hoping that people will suddenly engage with your post simply won’t work.

6. Be consistent

Speaking of which, nothing is more likely to thwart your social media ambitions than inconsistency. If you only post occasionally, the chances of anyone noticing you or paying attention to what you have to say will diminish significantly. Set aside some dedicated time to check in with your social media accounts.

7. Be realistic

Social media marketing can be extremely effective. But it’s not a magic bullet. No matter how many people read your posts or your updates, there’s no guarantee your social media efforts will instantly translate into more work or new clients. What social media can do is help build long-term, deeper relationships with clients. And that takes patience, time and effort.

Social media marketing can be extremely effective. But it’s not a magic bullet.

8. Use your data

One of the best things about social media is that pretty much everything is measurable. So make sure you’re using the data at your disposal. If people aren’t engaging with something you post, for example, fewer people look at a particular LinkedIn post or you get fewer likes or shares, experiment to find out what does work.

At the same time, don’t get carried away with trying to get likes, shares and retweets at the expense of your business objectives. Sometimes a small audience is fine, so long as it’s the right audience.

9. Be direct

When you write for social media, you’re going to be competing for people’s attention alongside a lot of other information. So make every word counts.

Think long and hard about your headline and what’s likely to pique your target audience’s attention. What are their pain points? What are they interested in? Is there something topical you might comment on? And use sub-headings, bullet points and other techniques to make important information easy to find.

10. Don’t sell

Nothing will earn you a bad reputation on social media more quickly than overt selling. Don’t use social media to talk directly about the benefits of your services or products. Instead, demonstrate your expertise and build your credibility by engaging with your followers, connections and friends and sharing quality content that actually helps them.

And remember…
Social media can be a very effective channel for marketing your business but it’s not without risks. If you follow these simple guidelines and give it some time, patience and consistency there’s no reason it shouldn’t become an effective tool in your marketing arsenal.

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