It can sometimes be difficult to see the benefits of pouring time and resources into social media for some businesses, especially if the results aren’t effective right away. This is often due to a lack of understanding about the purpose social media serves in the customer journey, which ultimately leads to sales. This same lack of understanding is responsible for why some business owners feel they “should” have a business (insert social media platform) account, but they’re unsure of what to do with it beyond entering business details.
So to help bridge the gap, let’s dive into why your business needs social media.
Why do businesses need social media?
According to a 2018 consumer study, social networks were the biggest source of inspiration for consumer purchases, outranking individual retails sites and price comparison sites, with 37% of consumers finding purchase inspiration through the channel. (PWC)
Social media is necessary for building your reputation, growing your brand visibility and directing potential leads to your website. Having no social presence can make you appear out of touch with your industry and prevents you from being part of conversations about your brand that may already be happening online.
There are several reasons why social is an important part of any marketing plan, but what are the key elements of an effective social media strategy? Before you write your first post, consider the following steps towards social media success.
Set clear goals.
What do you hope to gain from utilizing social media? Why do you think you need to be there? Answers to these questions will help guide you on the path to creating your goals. However, the likelihood of accomplishing the goals you’ve set depends on how they’re constructed.
One simple, straightforward method is to create S.M.A.R.T. goals. These are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.
To illustrate, let’s look at the following list of possible goals.
- Monitor conversations about your specific brand
- Direct traffic to your company website
- Generate revenue
- Increase engagement with your brand
- Provide customer service
- Increase visibility for your brand
Most companies choose a mix of these, but we’ll choose one as an example.
Specific: We want to increase brand awareness within a 20 mile radius of my location.
Measurable: This goal will be considered successful if there is a 10% increase in social shares and our post reach increases by 5,000 views across all platforms within the radius.
Attainable: This is based on previous trends which makes this goal reasonable.
Relevant: We recently opened a new location in this area and believe that local customer growth directly impacts the amount of business we’ll receive.
Time-based: The timeline for this goal is 3 months.
As you can see from the example above, this S.M.A.R.T. goal meets all the criteria to help me begin crafting my social strategy. However, even the most carefully constructed S.M.A.R.T. goals don’t get you far if you don’t know which metrics to monitor to determine your success.
Make decisions about metrics you will use to measure success.
How will you know if your goals have been accomplished without measuring the right metrics? You always want to make sure that you choose the right metrics as this will also help you when you go to make improvements during the evaluation phase.
There are so many metrics available to users that it can be difficult to filter through them all and find the ones that really matter, let alone the ones that make sense for a particular goal. If you really must, you can track a list of primary and secondary metrics but the point is to keep it simple.
See some sample metrics for a few different goals below:
- Increase engagement : likes, comments and shares
- Provide customer service : response rate
- Drive website traffic : total sessions, total page views, bounce rate, most common links shared
- Monitor conversations about brand : # of brand mentions, # of positive / negative / neutral comments
Once you’ve selected the metrics you’ll need to help you determine success, make sure to establish a schedule during which you plan to record your progress.
Know your audience.
Before you begin to create content, you need to understand who your audience is. Knowing who they are - things like job titles, ages, genders, salaries and location - what they’re interested in, where they usually go online, when they look for content and how they consume content are all essential for helping you provide content that is shareable and meaningful for your target audience.
To find this information, it’s highly recommended that you create buyer personas for each type of customer you’re targeting.
There are many great resources out there to help you accomplish this. If you’re missing more specific information about your target audience, consider creating a survey to send to your current customers that asks them questions like:
- What publications, blogs or social media networks do you pay attention to?
- When do you do most of your reading on social media?
You also should consider adding open-ended questions like, “What would you say influences your purchasing decision the most?” Any time you can get the user to answer questions in their own words is best.
Perform a social media audit.
Now that you have your goals and you know your audience, you need to perform a social media audit. This is to help you understand what has worked well so far and what hasn’t. Look for trends and patterns in each type of content you’ve posted so far. Also consider the days of the week and times of day.
For data to provide any meaningful trends, you should look at a period of at least a couple of months. A time frame shorter than that and you’d might as well start from scratch.
Regarding those pieces of content that worked well, you can find out whether you’re reaching the right people or not. Study those content pieces and even consider repurposing them. For example, if you have a blog post that performed really well with your target audience, how can you repurpose in the form of an infographic?
As you move through the audit process, also make sure that you update any images to the correct size as well as any business information that may have changed or may be missing.
Lastly, check for consistency across all platforms. Do you have the same logo and images that follow your company’s branding? Aim to provide information and content that your target audience would recognize as your brand.
Research the competition.
First of all, who are your competitors? You may already have a good idea, but it’s a good idea to always check for updates. Hop over to Google and enter the keywords a user would use to find your business and see who pops up. Try to find at least 5 competitors and record information about them like which platforms they’re most active on, how much time they spend on promotional posts and how many followers they have.
There are also a lot of great tools on the market that can help you dive deeper into your competitive analysis like SproutSocial, HootSuite and SEMRush. These tools can give you a closer look at engagement rates, audience growth, hashtag popularity, types of media posted, social influence ratings and more.
You can opt to go the free, more manual route which can save money but requires much more investment in regards to time. You need to be monitoring your competitors often and won’t have any real historical data that would otherwise be available by using a paid tool.
Once you’ve gathered as much detail as you can about the types of strategies your competitors are using, it’s time to decide what types of content you’re going to produce for your followers.
Create, collect and schedule content.
According to Hubspot, leads nurtured with targeted content produce an increase in sales opportunities of more than 20 percent. This targeted content needs to be specifically created with your target audience in mind to yield the best engagement.
Set goals for each content type. For example, have a plan for what percentage of content will drive traffic to your website, how much will be gathered from other sources and how much will be about your company culture. A good rule of thumb is to make sure most of your posts to inform or entertain your followers. Social media is more about building a community, and while it’s okay to promote your brand once in awhile, overdoing it will turn your target audience off.
You might also consider breaking your schedule up into weeks and focusing on one main area per week. For example, maybe one week you could focus on company culture and how your business is active in the community. Another week you could focus on industry-related news and give your company’s perspective on major events. The idea is that you are providing a good mix of original content and curated content that your target audience cares about.
Of course, your business requires more than just social to form an effective overall marketing strategy. If you have limited resources and you’re unsure how to go about marketing your energy business, let us help design a holistic marketing plan that’s unique to your needs. Contact us to schedule an appointment today.