Create an effective social media plan
Getting your business online
Time to complete:
When it comes to getting your business online, social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest can be a quick way to get started. The two-way conversation on social media helps you connect with current and prospective customers to understand their needs, build trust, and encourage purchases.
While it’s fairly easy to establish your social media presence, it can be time consuming to maintain it. Before you get started, it’s important to create a plan and commit to the work.
This lesson covers the keys to making a social media strategy work for your business:
- Understanding the benefits so you can set goals
- Choosing the right platform(s) and getting started on them
- Prepping engaging content to post regularly
- Responding to feedback to keep the conversation lively
- Measuring success and optimizing your plan
You’ll also get tips for ongoing management of your social media accounts with less stress and more success.
The benefits of social media
There are three ways your business can benefit from being on social media, including:
- Connecting with customers: Post updates, news, offers, and other fresh content to stay top-of-mind with your existing customers and grow your network to find new customers.
- Building trust: When your customers share positive reviews and recommend your products and services to their social networks, it’s more influential than when you talk yourself up.
- Understanding your customers: Paying attention to which posts get the most views, likes, and shares will tell you exactly what your customers want and help you focus future marketing efforts.
Keep these benefits in mind as you create your social media plan, making sure your strategy matches your business goals.
5 steps to success
You could just toss up a Facebook page today, but spending a little time planning will pay off. This video explains five steps to help you minimize frustration and achieve your goals.
Step 1: Pick your platform(s)
Social networks large and small can be effective, depending on what fits your goals.
- Which ones are your customers and competitors using? Are they active on the large platforms like Facebook and Twitter? Also, find out if your industry has a niche platform like TripAdvisor.
- Which platforms are a good match for your business? Is your network personal and well suited to Facebook? Or would a professional platform like LinkedIn be a better fit?
- What types of content will shine for your business? Are photos on Instagram and Pinterest the best way to showcase your wares? Could very short posts on Twitter or longer articles on Medium work better for you? You can also post videos on YouTube, which acts as both a social network and a search engine.
Step 2: Create your business profile(s)
Establish your presence on the social networks you’ve chosen. You can do one at a time or several at once, depending on your resources.
- Choose the name (or “handle”) for your business presence that’s short and easy to remember. If your company name is available, that’s often the strongest choice. If it’s taken, get creative by adding your location or a characteristic that makes you special such as MegaSurfMaui or DiscountSneakers.
- Add basic information like your location, phone number, email address, and a business description.
- Upload the images you need for your homepage such as a logo and profile banner.
Step 3: Start networking
Growing your following takes time, so start right away and don’t get discouraged.
- Invite your customers to visit your page. Try these ideas: Put up a sign in your store and add links to your social profiles on your emails, business card, and website. Hold a contest or offer discounts to get customers to follow your page and share it with their friends.
- Don’t be afraid to directly ask customers to follow your page and add reviews. They may not think of it, but might be happy to support your business.
Step 4: Post and chat regularly
A quiet social media page won’t help you achieve your goals, so it’s important to regularly share quality content.
- Think about the topics your customers and prospects will value, and then share content that is helpful and engaging. As you consider fresh content, here are some ideas to get started:
- Share specialty knowledge that only an expert might know, such as if you’re a coffee shop, show followers how you steam milk.
- Highlight a special or sale. Show your followers what it is or what it looks like.
- Offer a behind the scenes look at your business. Introduce followers to the staff they interact with or tell a story about a supplier or producer.
- Create a calendar for your planned posts. Here is an example to get you started:
- Mondays. Post the weekly special.
- Wednesdays. Post a short tutorial.
- Saturdays. Post about something behind the scenes (a delivery of fresh produce, for example).
- Look over your list and decide how frequently you can post. Can you commit to engaging daily or weekly? Start slowly and see how much effort it takes to create good content.
- Take time to listen to your followers. Businesses get the most out of social media when it’s a two-way conversation. Be sure to read comments and respond in kind. Note which posts create a positive buzz and plan more like those.
Pro tip! Reuse content across different social media platforms to expand your reach. If needed, tweak it to fit the format and audience instead of starting from scratch. Try social media management tools like Hootsuite and Hubspot to schedule posts on several platforms and free yourself from a lot of the work.
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Step 5: Track and measure success
You’re not done until you’ve evaluated the impact of your posts and adjusted your plans to optimize your results.
- Every social media platform has a way to track what’s working well. You can check for likes, shares, and comments on each of your posts or use a social media management tool to report results in one place. Also, try looking beyond likes and shares to better understand if social media is having real impacts on your business. You can use your website analytics to see how users interacted with your website. Ask your customers how they’re finding you, what’s inspiring them to visit or purchase online, and if they’re referencing your social media.
- Use the data and reports to learn which posts are providing the best payoff for your effort. Decide which formats work best, and which days your customers are most engaged. Adjust your plans and check to see if these adjustments deliver better results.
It’s easy to create social media accounts for your business to connect with customers, build trust, and understand their needs — but it can be a lot of work to maintain them. A little prep work can save you from pitfalls by helping you choose the best platforms and design a content plan that’s feasible and effective. Plan to post, listen, and respond on social platforms to engage customers and adjust your plans for the best results.