A combination of planned and unplanned online conversations can work wonders.By now, smaller business operators are likely to be aware that social media can be an invaluable marketing, learning and general business tool. But understanding how to apply it may be a different kettle of fish altogether.
As has been recently reported, only 35% of smaller businesses actually use social media for business - a paltry number given the amount of attention given to it in all of the business websites and publications.
Of those, a whopping 52% report experiencing no impact from their activities whatsoever, 48% report a positive experience and a resounding ‘none’ see a negative impact.
That’s right, not a single business operator surveyed reported a negative impact of social media on their business!
This is a remarkable result given the seemingly endless negative ‘chatter’ about social media being a waste of time and money, not to mention distraction for all concerned.
- Which social media activity?
‘Using’ social media can mean many different things to different people. It can mean advertising, or participating in the conversations of business ‘groups’, or posting items of interest to their followers, and so on. It seems that every single business is using social media in a completely different way from the next business.
What is certain is that the greater the social media engagement, the greater the results. This is because the more often you post comments with social media networks, the more likely the chances a customer will be to see it, and in turn ‘like’ or follow your posts.
With more likes comes more opportunity for a post to go ‘viral’; your followers sharing with others and therefore spreading your message.
- Failure to plan
Like all good marketing programs, it’s important to plan and schedule your social media activity.
For some that will be planning and executing a social media campaign around their normal, regular promotions and sales. For others, ensuring that your regular blog posts are in turn announced to not only your followers but the followers residing in your special interest groups.
If you haven’t shared your posts with members of the various groups you belong to, it’s an absolute must for your content program. Because within a matter of minutes, your post can be distributed to literally tens of thousands of recipients - provided you have chosen your groups wisely and judiciously.
Your posts within social networks can either be planned or spontaneous - and both have their place.
- Planning to be perfect
There is nothing new in planning and scheduling marketing activities - that’s the way most successful campaigns are run. Typically you start with defining your strategy for the period, work out how and where you are going to promote the business in line with that strategy and then schedule a program of activity.
For larger businesses, this approach is exactly how they will deal with social media; work out what they are going to say and where and when they will say it.
This strategy has the benefit of ensuring that your posts have the necessary variety of subject matter and timing to maximise interest and engagement with your market.
You can use another variation on this approach by creating a blog schedule, but instead of pre-determining the topic, simply maintain a list of topic ideas and then choose one just prior to writing. This will allow you to choose a topic that might be trending right in time to publish the blog.
- Relevance and currency critical
You need to make sure your posts are topical. Social media is all about the now and if your program is devised too far in advance, it may well be irrelevant by the time it is broadcast.
Conversely, most smaller business operators tend not to take this planned approach, instead marrying it to the personal social networking they are familiar with - unplanned and off the cuff. A quick straw poll of a small business group illustrated this perfectly, with not one respondent claiming to plan or schedule their posts.
While this approach definitely makes its subject matter topical, it can lack the timing, co-ordination, integration and discipline that a well planned ‘campaign’ approach can offer.
- Mix planned and unplanned posts
An effective approach is to embark on a combination of both planned and unplanned postings to your networks.
Feel free to go ahead and plan out a six or even 12 month schedule of promotions or topics that you know will not change. For example, an upcoming conference or workshop.
But at the same time, allow yourself to monitor what is going on both within social networks and the world at large, so you can take advantage of a great opportunity to communicate with your audience.
- Being strategically spontaneous
Say for example you were in travel, and the dollar suddenly went up. A social media aware travel specialist would post about this upward trend, highlighting how it would buy more holiday value for their buck if they were to book today.
Better still, why not aim to explore a topic of the month, which not only allows for planned posts but provides a platform for any other relevant material to that topic for that month as well, thereby designating you (and earning ‘brownie points’ with search engines) as a leader in that particular field.
This combination of planned and spontaneous posts will give you a much greater reach whilst ensuring that your annual promotional goals are achieved.