9 Steps to a successful 2014 social media strategy w/infographic.

Plan your social media strategyDo you have a social media strategy plan for 2014? Not that long ago the majority of businesses were using direct marketing, mail, print advertisements, telemarketing, trade shows and emails to engage the general public and get them interested in the products or services they are selling. Enter the social media era, and everything has changed. According to Statistic Brain, today 58% of all adults worldwide are using some form of social media via laptops, mobiles, tablets, e-readers, and Internet-enabled TVs, and Canada is among the top 10 most engaged countries for social networking.

Just look at these 2013 social media statistics:

–       There are over 1.2 billion people on Facebook (click the Faces of Facebook);

–       5700 tweets are sent out every second;

–       Google+ is the second most actively used social site, with over 300 million users in more than 30 different markets;

–       55 million photos on average are uploaded each day on Instagram;

–       47% of U.S. online consumers are making purchase decisions based on Pinterest recommendations;

–       Over 4 billion hours of video are being watched each month on YouTube.

Last year, Twitter was the most popular platform among the Fortune Global 100 companies, with 82% of them tweeting to their customers, followed by 79% with accounts on YouTube and 74% on Facebook. And every single day, more and more small businesses are discovering the potential of social media as an important marketing tool that helps them reach out and connect with new and existing clients. Watch these amazing small business and social media facts to have a clearer image:

Today, when customers are online researching their every purchase and seeking out recommendations from their friends and family, it is in every small businesses best interest to have an active, lively and interactive social presence. But to see results from your efforts you must first develop a solid social media strategy and implement it as part of your marketing plan. Here’s how to start:

Identify Your Social Media Goals

How can social media help your business? What do you want to achieve? If your goal is to boost your organic search rankings you should definitely get on Google+ and YouTube, but if you want to be social as part of your customer service and support efforts it makes sense to use Facebook and Twitter (though Google+ hangouts can be pretty useful in this area).

Set your goals to be specific, quantitative and realistic. (ie: it is better to have a goal to post twice a week to social profiles than to acquire “X” number of followers. You can control how often per week you post. You can not control how many will choose to follow you. This way you are establishing clear metrics for your business that later will be much easier to track, measure and manage.

Get To Know Your Audience

Who are you trying to reach? Define your target audience – your customers and prospects – the people you want to engage on social media. Know their demographics, locate where they network and spend their time online, understand their interests, activities, priorities and past purchases, and consider their social behavior to easier engage with your readers and get the results that you want for your business.

Check Out The Competition

Competitive analysis is part of any marketing plan, and it’s no different with social media. Deep-dive the web to get a sense of how your competitors are using their social accounts to grow interest for their products and brand. Look not only for their strengths, but for their weaknesses also. There are tons of ways to do this search and via SocialMention is only one of them. While at this tool, you can also use it to monitor and maximize your brand’s social mentions.

Select The Best Platforms For The Information You Want To Share

Your brand must be where your customers are. If you are in the business of home décor and improvement, food and drinks, women’s fashion, or travel, you should definitely start sharing your visual content on Pinterest and Instagram. Business-to-business companies should look for their clients on LinkedIn, and local retailers who want to attract customers with discounts, coupons and promotions must check Foursquare.

Identify Your “Hot Buttons” And Create Value

A strategic social media marketing plan requires consistence, not just throwing out a few tweets and status updates here and there. To be successful in your social efforts you must strive to offer value to your readers instead of overselling to them. Think about your appearance, how you want your brand to be known, and create content that supports that image while at the same time targets your main topics and keywords. Offer a variety of formats, don’t just focus on text – posts with images get more likes, comments and shares on Facebook than those with text, video and links (read how to grow your Facebook following), and check out the number of views on this video that company Blendtec made to promote their products on YouTube.

Define Your Tone And Frequency

People are not on social media to engage with you, but with their friends and personal connections. They don’t appreciate hard sales pitches, and will not enjoy it if you overload their feeds with your promotional content. Analyze your data to identify the best time to share your posts. As part of your strategy define the ideal balance in the frequency and tone of your social media activities, and then adapt this approach through trial-and-error and measuring your results.

Engage On Social Media

Social media is not just a publishing platform. It is built around engagement and it demands your continuous input. If you were there to start a conversation on a social site, you should be there to get involved in the discussion also. Engagement is what these sites are about. To simplify the process and get alerted when your content has been liked, commented, or re-tweeted you can use different monitoring software that allows you to finish everything faster and easier and concentrate on running your business.

Measure And Compare The Results

If you are serious about your social presence, you have to be serious about your analytics too. These days every major platform has its own built-in analytics tool that you can use to track the performance of your posts and the authority of your business page (check out LinkedIn’s). In addition to this you should also closely follow your website analytics, and if your strategy is successful you will certainly notice increase in your traffic and the leads your social sites are generating.

Wash, Rinse, Repeat

To ensure the ongoing effectiveness of your social media strategy, once you realize your goals you must get back to the beginning and start again. Redefine your aspirations, build on what you’ve learned, evaluate your success, and continually go through this cycle so you can achieve great results with your business social media marketing efforts.

What has worked for you in 2013? What are you considering changing in 2014? I’d love to hear form you. Leave your comments below. 

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About Nancy Bain

Our services include building optimized, functional and self managed WordPress websites, Nova Scotia social media training and consulting, interactive full screen high definition virtual tours with lead capture and print advertising. For most of our clients, we are their one stop solution for all things marketing, branding and small business development related.