When it comes to managing your personal social media accounts, you’re a pro. You can create a party invite, complain about your morning commute in 140 characters or less and post expertly instagrammed pictures of your friends, loved ones and even your lunch. Using social media to market your business may seem like an entirely different animal, but building your brand and maximizing your online exposure is easier than your think.
Create a Strategy
Creating a social media strategy is one of the best things you can do for your brand. Similar to a business plan, your social media strategy is a written document that identifies the goals and future outcomes you would like to see from your use of various platforms.
First, identify the tools you will be using. Many companies start by creating a Facebook fan page and a Twitter account. With 1.11 billion monthly active users on Facebook and 500 million users on Twitter (as of March 2013), it’s easy to see why. Master these networks before expanding rapidly into other platforms. Pinterest can also be useful to showcase products sold in retail stores or online, but certain types of products and services benefit more from its image-based approach than others.
Next, ask questions like:
- How much time can we reasonably commit to managing our social media accounts?
- Who will be responsible for updates and responding to messages?
- Who is our ideal audience?
- What goals are we trying to achieve through the use of social media? Examples: Increased website traffic, better brand awareness, gain new customers, network within our industry, build better relationships with existing customers, increase sales.
- What types of content will we share through our social media accounts?
- How will we measure our success?
Once you have determined which platforms you will be using and what your objectives are, you can start to apply your social media strategy and begin to add content.
Are you expanding? Opening new stores? Reviving a discontinued product due to popular demand? Facebook and Twitter make it easy to share news directly with your customers. Link to news and magazine articles, or tell customers about a recent profile in an industry publication. You can also share photos of your team participating in conferences or community events.
Sharing pictures through social media is a great way to showcase your brand and drive traffic to your website or online store. Upload pictures of your products, stores, office and team and attach links to those images that will direct people to your company’s website. High quality photos are important, but photos taken by your customers and staff with their smartphones, tablets or digital cameras can be an equally significant part of your social media strategy.
Encouraging your customers to share photos of a visit to your store or your products in use and in their homes makes their experience with your brand interactive. This creates a conversation between your company and your customers. Contests and prizes offered through your Facebook page, or coupon codes shared in response to tweets can be a useful incentive to get things going.
Don’t Be Afraid of Criticism
Encourage customers to share their experiences with your brand through social media. Though some brands are hesitant to allow criticism to appear on their company’s pages, your customers will notice if you are deleting negative feedback from your site. A better approach would be to implement a policy to respond to criticism, comments and feedback productively and as soon as possible. Let your customers (and the online community reading your public exchange of messages) know that you take their concerns seriously. Invite them to contact you to resolve the issue, offer them a discount on their next purchase and take any steps reasonably required to show you care about customer experience.
Once you have created an identity for your brand through social media, ensure that the pages you have created are not neglected. If you fail to respond to messages or leave month-long gaps between posts, you send a clear message that your brand does not prioritize or fully understand the value of social media. Set some time each day when you or a designated employee is committed to checking your social media accounts, responding to comments and posting news or photos where appropriate. Set a time limit for these activities so that they do not distract you from other important tasks. Observing the number of likes, re-tweets and favourites is a good indicator of the kind of information your community appreciates.
About the Author
Melissa Reiter is a corporate/commercial lawyer in Toronto. Her typical day involves anything from working with start-ups to advising some of Canada's largest pension funds on a wide range of complex commercial and investment matters. Melissa organizes and speaks at events where she teaches businesses and entrepreneurs about strategy and planning. When she was 5, she had the deed to her Barbie Dream House notarized.