We’re all at it, you know? Setting up new accounts on Social Media platforms and getting straight into the action. Posting, following, posting, following.
What do we post? Whatever we feel like. Maybe it’s an advert for our products. Maybe it’s a picture of the office. Perhaps it’s the latest blog?
And then, after some time, that question hits us. “What benefit am I getting from Social Media?“.
This is the process a lot of small businesses go through. At the point of the question above, they either decide to spend their time elsewhere or they reach out to their nearest Social Media or Digital Marketing expert and ask for help.
This isn’t always the case. For some of you, a small business owner, you’ll be asking this question before getting started. You ask, “Should I be using Social Media?”, “If so, why?” and “What platforms should I use?”.
Let me list out the 8 reasons why you may need a Social Media Strategy.
1. You know you should be using Social Media but don’t know where to start.
This is a good place to be. “Really Simon? Because I feel kinda confused with it all”. Trust me here.
The best time to map out how you’re going to use Social Media for your business is at the start. You’ve got a blank canvas and you can put the work in early to build a plan.
I’ve called it a “Social Media Strategy” but really it’s a plan. How are you going to take some actions to achieve an outcome? That’s what it is.
A strategy helps answer some common questions:
- What’s your goal or purpose for Social Media?
- What type of content will you create?
- What type of business are you?
- Who are your clients?
- Where do they spend their time?
If you’re at the blank canvas stage you’re in a good position because you can get it right from the start. This will save you time & effort in the long run. If you’re not at that stage it’s ok, all is not lost and I’ll explain more as we work through this questions.
Here is a list of things you won’t say after 6 months if you have a Social Media Strategy in place:
- I’m lost and don’t know what I’m doing
- This isn’t working for me
- I don’t have time to manage all these accounts
- They [competitor] are doing it so much better than I am
2. You’ve created an account on a Social Media platform but don’t know if your ideal clients are using it?
How will a Social Media Strategy help answer this question? Answer: because it’ll enable you to understand the answers to the next two questions:
- Who is your audience (your clients)?
- Where do they spend their time on Social Media?
This is an important activity. Many will choose to create accounts on platforms they understand. E.g. almost every business will start by creating a Facebook Page. But what if your target audience doesn’t spend most of their time on Facebook? What if they’re over on some other channel?
Answering these two questions perform the basis for your Social Media Strategy (or Plan).
3. You don’t know what type of content you should be sharing.
You know, 18 months ago on Instagram almost everyone was posting images with motivational text across them because that was the done thing on Instagram. Did accounts share it even if they weren’t sure whether their audience would like it? Sure they did.
It can be easy for you to look at what other people are doing and copy them. But how do you know what content will resonate with your audience? How do you know what content will result in engagement?
A Social Media Strategy is rarely just a Social Media Strategy. It actually looks at the wider picture of your online marketing efforts.
- What content are you creating on your website or YouTube?
- How are you going to use Social Media to share this?
- What content should you create only on Social Media?
Creating content is a huge part of having an online presence and it can be time-consuming. However, you need to know what you’re going to share on your social channels and there needs to be a reason or a purpose behind it.
Your audience are not all the same. They might be different ages, have different levels of knowledge or prefer to consume content in different ways. How are you going to create content that meets the needs of your audience and how are you going to deliver this?
A Social Media Strategy will help you understand how to approach content, test what works and use tools to manage the process.
4. You’re only broadcasting your own content.
Let me tell a fictitious story.
Meet John. John owns his own Web Design business. John has decided to attend a local networking event so he heads to the venue one sunny summer morning, looking immaculate in his neatly ironed trousers and crisp white shirt.
John enters the venue, an old country pub which doubles up as a conference facility and grabs a cup of coffee before starting to mingle with the other business owners in attendance.
The first person John comes across is Steve. Steve’s an accountant. “Hi, I’m Steve”, says Steve (obviously) as he holds out his hand. “Hi Steve, I’m John”, replies John, as they shake hands. “Would you like a new website?”, asks John. “I can build you a new website that will look great, it’ll be optimised for SEO & I guarantee it’ll quadruple your traffic!”, he announces.
Would this conversation ever really happen?
No, it almost certainly wouldn’t. But this is how people use Social Media. They broadcast and try to sell and that is all they do.
The thing with Social Media is that there are humans behind those accounts. If you want someone to consider buying your product or service you need to get to know them and for them to get to know you first. They need to trust you before they consider doing business with you. In a conversation at a networking event, you would not go straight for the sell. You would build rapport, ask questions, develop a relationship.
These principles apply whether you are talking to someone in person or via Social Media.
How does a Social Media Strategy help with this? It’ll ask:
- What is your engagement strategy?
- How do you spot opportunities to engage?
- What do you say?
- How to find out if people are talking about your business?
Most importantly, your strategy will help you understand the importance of building relationships online and not using Social Media only to advertise your latest product, service or promotion.
5. You don’t know what tone of voice to use in your communication.
Your tone of voice should reflect your brand. Have you given this much consideration?
If you’re corporate then you may want to choose a plain, matter-of-fact approach to communication (your choice, not mine!). If you’re a startup you might choose something more relaxed. If you’re a charity, you might choose a tone which is friendly and welcomes people into your community.
There are other considerations too. Being professional does not mean you cannot have fun. A monotone voice is not likely to hold attention for long and so would a monotone style on Social Media? Probably not.
6. You have an account on all Social Media platforms and find it overwhelming.
There is always a risk that you feel obliged to create an account on all Social Media platforms. If you’ve been reading so far you’ll realise that there’s thought that needs to go into each and every platform. The more platforms you own the more effort there is required. You also need to consider that each platform is different, e.g. you can’t apply the same approach to Facebook as you can to Twitter.
If you’re in this stage, a Social Media Strategy will help define which platforms are most suitable and focus on those. This might mean retiring or close accounts on platforms which add no value, but that’s ok because that decision would be based on the assessment that there’s no value to be had there.
It is always better to do one or two Social Media platforms very well than to be average across all of them. You’ve heard the term Jack of all trades, master of none, right?
If you’re at this stage then the strategy will help you answer the first two questions covered in this guide and enable you to set a new course for your Social Media efforts.
7. You’re using Social Media but don’t have a clear idea of your goals.
What do you want to achieve from your Social Media channels?
- Sell more products
- Generate more website traffic
- Raise awareness of a product, brand or cause
- Connect with other businesses
- Connect with influencers
- Acquire user-generated content
It’s important you know the goal. If you know the goal you can ensure you have the plan in place to achieve it and also figure out how to measure it.
Your goals also align with figuring out which platforms to be on. They form part of the bigger picture which will help ensure you’re using the right platforms for the desired outcomes for your business or organisation.
8. You have no way of measuring the effectiveness of being on Social Media.
Oh cripes, this sounds like data and numbers. Well, it is I’m afraid.
However, You need to know where to look for this information.
Firstly, you need to know how to review your Social Media analytics. You remember we spoke about content and audiences earlier? When you post a piece of content on Social Media you want it to do well. You want people to share it and engage with it. You don’t want content that does nothing.
How do you know what content leads to engagement? Testing and analytics. Knowing what data to look at will help you identify which type of content resonates most with your audience. Once you figure out what works and what doesn’t (on each platform) you then know where you need to focus your time.
There are wider measurements too of course, entirely dependent on your goals.
Example: Your goal is to generate more traffic to your website through Social Media. You, therefore, need a plan which creates content that directs people to your website. You then need to measure which type of content is most effective at doing that and whether traffic from a certain platform is more likely to buy when they get to your website.
A Social Media Strategy will help identify:
- What’s the goal?
- How do you measure it?
- Where do you measure it?
There is never a silver bullet when it comes to a Social Media strategy. An audience must be built and tested to figure out what works. When you find out what works you will start to see success and momentum in achieving your goals.
As you can see, there are a variety of reasons why your business might need a Social Media Strategy. The word “strategy” makes me think of boring meetings and large documents but this is actually about a process and an activity which will challenge you to think about your business, your goals and ensure you utilise Social Media in an effective way.
Do you need a Social Media Strategy?