Your business strategy addresses key needs such as customer acquisition and retention, sales goals and marketing visibility, with a selection of tools and practices geared towards connecting with the right customers or client base. A growing section of the business strategy toolbox is social media and online marketing.
Even if you provide a product or service that must be delivered in person, your business can dramatically benefit from a strong online presence. The key principle is this: you want to be where your customers are. Rather than exerting effort to try to drag your customers’ or clients’ attention to your product or service, you will see the best results by having an appealing, visible and engaging presence where your customers already choose to spend their time, an increasing portion of which is spent online, specifically on various social media platforms.
Your business needs a clear strategy for how to support your goals by using social media and a prominent online presence to your advantage. While some principles are universal, others are specific to your product or service offering and brand. Here are five steps for identifying, implementing and refining the right social media approach to meet your business strategy.
1. Know your audience
Who are your customers or clients? What do they care about? Understanding your audience is the first step to having an effective business strategy and incorporating social media into that strategy.
Look at existing customers and see if you can further refine them down to high-value clients – that is, customers who have a history of spending more, shopping frequently and returning for your services repeatedly. What can you identify about these people? Do they share similarities in demographic or preferences? Are they from a specific generation, geographic region or gender, or do they share hobbies, titles or other interests? Do they prefer communication that’s informal, youthful and irreverent, or are they more comfortable with formal, sophisticated, luxurious, businesslike and academic modes of communication? Identify who your audience is and what it wants first. As it turns out, social media can help provide this data.
2. Choose your platform
People use social media platforms in different ways and for various reasons. Use those differences to your advantage and take the time to understand where your customers choose to spend their time and why. If your clients are older and settled, then perhaps they prefer Facebook for connecting with family or Twitter for staying up-to-date with news and industry trends. If they’re younger or more trend-conscious, then they may gravitate toward the irreverence of humorous YouTube videos, the in-the-moment immediacy of Snapchat or the curated style of Instagram.
The right social media platform is the one where your customers or client base are already spending their time and on which your brand can offer them value.
3. Target your content
Once you know your audience and the right platform to target, your content strategy comes into play. Content strategies can straddle multiple platforms, but must adapt to the preferences of your customers and the constraints of each platform. A separate website or blog is useful for hosting content and channeling leads toward your brand and often works in conjunction with social media, where you share that content. For instance, Axel Preuss-Kuhne demonstrates content hosting on a blog in the professional services field. In his case, a professional with real estate development expertise shares relevant content on a website that directs potential clients and customers to more information on his services. Integration with the social media platforms Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Google+ provides the points where his content connects with professionals and those interested in real estate development and home design topics in various formats, ranging from brief texts or images on Twitter and Pinterest to more extended, brief blog formats available on LinkedIn and Google+.
4. Measure your results
Track data about your traffic on social media networks and on your website to understand what’s working and what’s not. You may discover that your best customers aren’t who you thought they were, or conversely, that your platform or content strategy is connecting with people other than your target customers or clients. Set up goals to work toward, such as increasing interactions, sales or inquiries for services depending on your business type, but also analyze the raw data to seek out insights.
5. Adjust your approach
Although you’ve taken the time to understand your customers and the available platforms and target your content to customer, platform and business strategies, you may not see the results that you want on your first attempts. Use the data available on networks and through your blog or website to learn and refine your methods for connecting with the right clients or customers and help meet your business goals.
You have an unprecedented opportunity to engage with customers at the time and in the place of their choosing. Take the time to understand who your best customers are, what platform overlaps exist between their preferences and the sort of content that you can use to connect with them. Then, measure the results of your efforts to get social media working for your business.