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Social Media for Business – 5 Simple Steps to Effective Use

There is no doubt that Social Media represents a huge opportunity for businesses. Indeed, its about fishing where the fish are….your customers are on social media platforms, are you? There is a number of clear advantages of using social media as a communications channel for your business including

  • The ease of access to the platforms – Your business can be up and running within minutes and through the use of the multiple platforms that exist for checking the available platforms such as www.namechk.com, you can quickly and easily identify those channels you are missing and get them setup quickly.
  • The reach of sccial media channels – the fact that we talk about the user bases of some social media channels in terms of tens of millions, should indicate the enormous audience that is out there on social media channels.
  • Lastly, (and the bit that brings a smile to the face of most CFO’s and gets the channel approved in no time), for the most part its free or low cost for businesses to work on these platforms.

So, ease of access, massive reach and it’s free – seems easy, right? So why do so many companies fail at social media as a channel for their business? There is not one set answer as to why this happens but by following the 5 simple steps below you may be able to improve your chances of success.

In carpentry they say Measure Twice, Cut Once, in Social Media we say Listen Twice, Speak Once!

1. Understand Your Customers

Your customers are the lifeblood of your business, understanding them should help you to understand how speak to them and how to get them to participate in your brand to a greater extent. You need to know not only, who your customer is, their behaviours, likes, dislikes and what makes them tick; but also where your customer is. You may have the greatest, most attractive message ever for these  customers but if you are pushing it out over the wrong channels your customers will never see it! Companies get this for traditional marketing channels yet seem to struggle with the concept in social media – just because the channel is there, it doesn’t mean that you need to use it!

2. Understand the channels

Once you have understood your customer and what social media platform they are on, the next step is understanding how to use the platform. This includes permitted behaviours, the type of messaging style, norms of interactions on the platform etc. For example understanding the limitations on number of characters on Twitter, use of Hashtags for particular subject matters or how best to respond to criticism or negative tweets is critical to get the best return from the efforts.

3. Content

What most businesses fail to understand about social media is that its about dialogue! Those using it have to think less like Don Draper and more like a curator of opinion, steering the direction of the conversation as opposed to broadcasting a one way message. The hard sales pitch is not appreciated by the social media audience. They prefer the opportunity to participate, express their opinion and guide the conversation. Your role as a business in social media is simply to seed the conversation and steer its direction.

Further, its important that its understood that your customers, particularly those on social media, expect more in terms of  what they can get from your activities. I recently blogged on the subject on blogging for business and touched on some of the options in this area. The main message is that there is value for your brand / business in sharing something more than a marketing message in terms of potential customer perception of your business.

4. Measure

It may seem like an obvious one but many companies have not got a means of measuring the impact of their social media activity. Social media may be a free route to market for your messaging but lets not underestimate the value of the investment of time in the management of this channel. Measurement will allow you to understand what channels are worth most effort in terms of time and save time on channels that do not provide a positive result for your business. However, it is important that you can clearly define what you are measuring and also what represents a success for each channel.  This measurement is not a once off event either. What is critical for a business is to understand their progression over time and hence regular measurement against goals is important to allow you to optimise your activities before they get too far down the wrong route and also to invest further in the channels producing the best results.

5. Refine

So you have listened and understood your customers and your channels, you’ve created suitable content and you’ve measured its impact. So what next? By all means take that pat on the back, business is about building on your successes so make sure that you mark them. However, to stand still is to fall behind the competition, once you have understood how to use the social media channels its important to take these learnings and apply them to your next initiatives. Silence on social media is a means of undoing all of your hard work as your audience see’s that your content is no longer frequent and relevant and thus may be sceptical about your reasons for using the channel and get the sense that your business has got what it needs from the channel and that they are no longer needed until the next campaign. However, as a learning exercise your acitivities in social media should also be measured against their successes vis-a-vis the other needs of your business. Commit to what is right and manageable for your business and stick with it, you need to play the long game tactically to win!

By Simon Bell

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